Describe your songwriting and production processes and philosophies. What part does technology play?Technology plays a huge role in my production process since the majority of my work is done on a computer. Usually I will start by sampling a variety of different sounds, melodies, etc. so that I have a stockpile of sounds that I can use to add more texture to whatever piece I end up starting. From there, I generally start with drum programming and rhythmic sounds/samples to establish a foundation for everything else. At that point, anything goes. The rhythm section always drives the rest of the song for me, so once there is a solid drum beat and bass line or 808 kick pattern going, all kinds of ideas start popping up, and it can go anywhere. And thankfully, due to programs like Pro-Tools, Ableton Live, and others, it’s very easy to audition different sounds, edit patterns, completely mangle samples, and be as creative as your mind will allow.
Describe your personal studio and live/stage rig including all M-Audio gear. How do you use M-Audio’s equipment conceptually and procedurally? Why M-Audio gear?My current studio setup consist of a 1.67ghz Powerbook G4, Echo Indigo PCMIA soundcard, an Oxygen 8, Axiom 25, Xponent controller, an MPC 1000, a midisport 2X2, and generally I use Ableton Live for my production and then either Pro Tools or Logic for multi-tracking (depending on who I will be using to mix the songs). I primarily use M-Audio midi-controllers because they offer the combination of features that I want in a small and affordable package. Since I use a lot of effects in my music and change many parameters on the fly, these controllers are an extremely valuable part of my recording process and live performances.
Are there any M-Audio products that have allowed you to replace any older or vintage pieces? Any highlights or positive experiences you’d like to discuss?For me personally, I was a bit reluctant to get rid of my older synthesizers. I owned a Roland W-30 and a Kruzweil K2000, and I loved using both of those to create and play synth sounds. But being able to purchase a small keyboard that was USB powered (the Oxygen 8, and later the Axiom 25) allowed me to fully utilize the potential of software-based synths in my music. I no longer own the W-30 or the K2000, and aside from the nostalgia factor, I don’t miss either one.
When you tour, what does your laptop-based mobile studio consist of? When and how do you use it to keep up on current or on-going projects?Well my live setup is essentially the same as my home setup (I use the same laptop for both), so it’s very easy for me to take an idea from my home and finish it on the road or vice versa. I generally only take the Oxygen 8, my laptop, and a 12-channel Yamaha mixer for my shows, and do all of my performance-based tricks with the rotary knobs on the Oxygen 8. But I’ve recently picked up the Xponent and I am very anxious to fully incorporate that into my live sets.
How has using software like Pro Tools M-Powered, virtual instruments and effects plug-ins changed the way you make music? Which do you use? Have they helped you to better collaborate with other musicians and producers?I have used a variety of DAW’s, Pro Tools being one of them, and it has completely changed the way I approach writing and recording songs. When I started recording my own music, it was on a Tascam 4-track… old school analog cassette. It took a lot of time to learn the best ways to use the four tracks you had, when you needed to bounce stuff down to make space, how to keep your mix clean without excessive tape hiss, etc. And there was no cut-and-paste action, no drag-and-drop options, nothing. But we didn’t expect it; we learned to work with what we had. So to go from that to a fully non-destructible musical environment with all the effects you could ever possibly need (and many you’ll never need) has been huge for me. There really are no limits in what can be created. It’s also very cool to be able to send files back and forth online with other musicians. The entire first LabWaste album was created that way… we never were in the same room, but using Pro Tools and Logic we were able to add verses to beats and edit each others files in separate rooms at separate times.
What comments do you have about the aforementioned hardware and software you use? What usage tips can you share with other musicians?I can’t say enough about my trusty Oxygen 8 (the first version)… I actually got it from my friend Giovanni Marks (complete with stickers all over the bottom) a couple years ago, and around the same time I started using Ableton Live, and the combination for me was amazing. I had this little bus-powered keyboard that fit in my bag with my laptop, and I was able to fully manipulate this program… I would take out my computer and Oxygen 8 at The Coffee Bean and start making music and never feel like I was limited. Then the Axiom came along with aftertouch, semi-weighted keys, and of all things 8 pads… I had to get one for the house. But honestly, I still prefer the Oxygen 8! Not really a fan of endless rotary knobs, but that’s just me. And after only a short time with the Xponent, I am extremely impressed. It is a very well made, thoughtfully designed, and durable controller. And who doesn’t enjoy pulsing lights that sync to the tempo?
As far as usage tips, I’ve got a ton… too many to list here. In the past I have given workshops and tutorials on everything from using the MPC, Reason, Pro Tools, Logic, the AKAI s900 and s5000, etc., and I was invited to the last NAMM convention by Ableton to give demonstrations of how I use Live. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge of music and technology with others, as well as soaking up whatever info others may be willing to give…
How would you describe M-Audio’s role and accomplishments in the music industry?Well, the first midi interface I bought for my G3 tower back in the day was a midisport 2x2, and the first midi controller I ever owned was my Oxygen 8… nearly every electronic musician I know has at least one piece of M-Audio gear, and now that you can use Pro Tools with M-Audio interfaces, it has made that a much more affordable option for aspiring artists. I think M-Audio has played a vital role in making quality music production available and affordable, and that in turn has allowed many talented people to create great music.
What projects are next on the horizon for you? How do you see M-Audio products playing a role in them?I most recently produced an entire album for K-the-I???, an artist on Mush records. This album (“Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”) will be released in October by Mush in the US, and by BigDada in Europe. I’m also finishing my 3rd solo record for Mush, working on a new LabWaste project, producing part of the new Busdriver (Anti/Epitaph artist) record, recording an album with Gingger Shankar (relative of Ravi Shankar’s, contributed to “The Passion of the Christ” soundtrack, and the only female in the world to have mastered the double-violin), as well as various other projects. M-Audio’s products will play a huge role in all of these projects because I use my controllers for all the initial beat programming and production (as well as for later live performances), and I soon plan on getting a Firewire 410 audio interface, which will be great for my preproduction process. My midi controllers are an essential part of my creative process, and the controllers I’ve been using all this time are made by M-Audio.