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Billy Bush—Engineering Garbage

Billy Bush—Engineering Garbage
Billy Bush, engineer and programmer for Garbage

ABLETON: What is LIVE's role in your production process?

BILLY BUSH: Live has been a godsend and has completely changed the way the band, Garbage, writes. The band has historically written using loops and programmed drums, and in the past that has hindered the creative process by not allowing us to change keys or tempos quickly. Every tempo change required re-cutting a loop and a key change required pitch-shifting tracks of audio. Now we can loop musical sections, throw them into Live and not worry about being constricted by the technology. It is now an integral part of our pre-production and writing process. Live’s flexibility allows us to make decisions at any time regarding the tempo and key of the song without having to go back and re-cut the track. It also allows Butch Vig to audition many different loops and drums in real-time before deciding which loop fits the track best.

ABLETON: How does LIVE fit in with other applications during your process?

BILLY BUSH: To me, the process with Live is much more musical and graceful than any other piece of software I’ve used. It doesn't have a steep learning curve and is much easier to jump into than many other programs we've tried. Live is an extension of what we love about Pro Tools in that it allows you much more creative ways of manipulating audio than analog or digital tape. The work process for Pro Tools is more regimented, as we use it for the capturing of our samples whereas Live is much more loose and is treated like an instrument. Currently we run Live on our Powerbooks and have them chase our Pro Tools machine. I use it often with Reason via ReWire, mostly during the writing and jamming process.

ABLETON: How has your hardware / software changed over the years?

BILLY BUSH: We went from Akai S1000's, MOTU's Performer, and Studer 24-track machines on Garbage (the first album) to Pro Tools III, Kurzweil's and Studio Vision Pro on Version 2.0 and then to Pro Tools Mix Plus for both audio and midi during Beautiful Garbage. Now we use Pro Tools HD for audio and MIDI, Live for our loops and a whole stew of soft synths and samplers in conjunction with all our old vintage synths.

ABLETON: What is a special feature or tool in LIVE that changed your way of working?

BILLY BUSH: Being able to time-stretch loops on the fly has made writing and preproduction so much more efficient which in turn has allowed us to experiment more than time would normally have allowed. Live's ease of use is beyond that of any other piece of software I can think of. We literally loaded it into our laptops and started making beats with it in minutes without even looking at the manual. It's ability to use VST and it's own internal plug-ins to shape and effect the loops allows us a creative way to build and stack loops quickly that we didn't have in the past. I use Live because of the fantastic sound quality, ease of use, the effects, stability and OS X support.

ABLETON: Are there tracks / songs that wouldn’t exist in their current form without LIVE?

BILLY BUSH: Definitely. Our writing process for this album has been a much quicker and efficient process due largely to the ability to quickly change the tempos and keys of our loops. All the songs that we've written during the initial song-writing process were conceived with Live as the main rhythmic instrument.

ABLETON: Could you describe this process?

BILLY BUSH: Previously, we would either have our samples in a Kurzweil sampler or in Pro Tools, looped for 20 minutes. The band would then jam over those loops until a song began to appear. Once that happened, we would then figure out if the tempo was right and if the key would need to change. Inevitably a change would be required and i would have to either cut the loops to a new tempo in Pro Tools or pitchshift them in the Kurzweil to the new tempo, so every change would require the time-consuming task that Live does without even a thought. If the samples themselves didn't inspire anything, or if the song needed to have a scene-change, I would then have to load in new ones, figure out the tempo they were at, make them fit into the current tempo and key, and start over the process again. Now, Butch can have a ton of samples and loops in his laptop and trigger them quickly and easily and in whatever tempo and key is needed. It has kind of gone back to a more "organic" way of song-writing in that the rhythm tracks are no longer basically click tracks to play over and instead are instruments that are able to speed up and slow down and change and can be captured as a performance like any other instrument.