Autodidact _ Interview with ad.lib
ad.lib is quickly establishing himself as one to watch, with his exciting live-sets and a succession of stand-out productions. A quick- witted and intelligent conversationalist, we decided to get some words down before his subsekt 010 mix.
subsekt 010 was broadcast on Fnoob on Wednesday 3rd October 2012 @ 2200GMT.
His mix is available from the ARCHIVE.
Ste has been a keen supporter and contributor to subsekt from the beginning.. and is a great guy. This is probably the most serious conversation that we’ve ever had.. haha.
What is Switzerland like Ste? What was it like to grow up there? I know you have a real mix of cultures there – but apart from that I know very little about it…
It’s probably the best and the worst place at the same time; comfortable, beautiful and small, which means you can move from one end to the other within 3 hours. It’s a stable and reliable country and we have a lot of different cultures here and there’s always lots of different things going on. Education and healthcare is fair and there’s 96% employment.
Oh, and our girls are beautiful!
Switzerland is sometimes like Pleasantville. Y‘know that movie where everything seems perfect but there’s this weird latent boredom destroying a lot of rapture and passion? Yeah, sometimes. People here generally have no real problems, so they don’t need to fight and if you ask me, most have forgotten how to fight and don‘t remember what passion feels like.
if there’s a secure job somewhere – most people will prefer to go for the solid career, so there’s few left to engage with the subculture and work for values beyond the accumulation of wealth. I grew up in a family which was the polar opposite of artistic. It took me 16 years to realise that art is what I wanted to live for. I was into painting, photography and music from a young age, but in a world where these pursuits are considered as a kind of elitist entertainment; it’s hard to realise that anyone can do what they love.
Sure, this sounds a bit more negative than it probably is, but to be honest its a great background to have as its a very good source of inspiration and energy and allows me to see the difference between the Pleasantville-world where an everyone seems to be free and my actual world where I really am free.
What got you into music Ste – Was it always Techno? or has there been a broadening of horizons over the years?
I can play piano and would love to be able to play guitar and drums. There’s lots of music beside Techno for me. I love Björk; which is kind of a cliché for an electronic musician, but the music is so intimate and pure. She’s a genius. I also love Depeche Mode. Amazing sound design and two of the most outstanding voices of the century. I’ve always listened to a lot of different music. I love music which is raw and has great content. It doesn‘t need to have expensive production. That’s where the oldskool hiphop, punk and a lot of jazz stuff is quite close to Techno. 4 instruments + one idea = Kick ass!
I did different kinds of music previously.. Experimental electronica, trip-hop, a short dub project with a singer… but Techno is fascinating. It’s about freaking out and loosing control.
How long have you been producing for? I’ve seen your old studio and you have a desk and a couple of Nords & a 303 amongst other stuff, so did you start on hardware?
It’s a long time since the start. I was doing music with Tracker Software in the early days of computer music and i was experimenting with drum machines and grooveboxes for live purposes in 1999. Back then, I was more into performing and DJ‘ing. I wasn’t that serious about getting into production. After a few years and some early tracks being played in public I bought some hardware with a friend. We invested all our money in a mackie desk, a 303, some compressors and synths.. But it was more about jam-sessions and fun.
What tracks or producers first sparked your interest in the early years?
It’s a long time ago… but there are some vinyls I‘ll remember forever. If i’d to chose one single piece of vinyl: Surgeon – Diametric EP. Its got these sad atmospheric sounds and a simple but heavy percussive beat. After 5 minutes of hypnotic tension the atmosphere disappears and there’s just one single rhythm left. That moment is a real eye-opener!
Did it take you long to refine those ideas into smooth technique? Listening to your tracks now, you have a very mature and intricate sound. It definitely didn’t happen overnight.. So what was key to achieving this?
Thanks for those nice words! Well, as I’ve said before I started to produce music about 15 years ago. So it took me quite a while to be where I am today. but it never felt like hard work. There was a good chunk of time experimenting and messing around with hardware and software and field recorded stuff.. so it was a very intuitive learning process. I am 95% autodidact so that’s probably the key to achieving your own sound?
I don’t like to think about how my next record should sound like… I love to experiment and going one step further with each new EP. The first release as ad.lib was Collide which sounded pretty old fashioned, with big reverbs on the kicks and some pretty straight hihats which work against dubby elements… But the upcoming releases are a LOT harder. There’s some broken beat stuff for BCR and some raw and straight forward techno coming out on Gynoid.
You’ve spoke before about keeping the options available to you limited in the studio – having a couple of plug-ins that you know and use well. Was that something that came out of experience?
Oh definitely! I‘ve bought and sold a lot of hardware and I’ve probably used all the software you could name… but why do we need to work with 100 different tools? It’s all about the painter; not the pencil. With Techno, I like the fact that it can be as raw and pure as you want. Of course, there’s production knowledge needed in the process of making a good track no matter what style you‘re into, but there’s definitely no need for 100 of different roomverbs and the best compressor for your drums, the best compressor for vocals and the best compressor for your strings…
It’s all about the rhythm and feel.
You recently played in Tresor – what was that like? I heard the set and seen the pictures and a small video on You Tube. It must have been great – it looks amazing there.
Tresor! Wow… Yeah, what an an amazing night! The atmosphere in this old fucked-up vault is so intense and the people really love techno and are willing to prove it. The sound system is loud as hell and an everyone is up for freaking out. I loved that night with Joseph (iFormat) and Monya and Lui and hope to be back in Tresor as soon as possible. I‘ve played in different clubs with history and seen a lot of different parties but this place is special.
So what is the typical set-up for a Live Set? Do you take a lot of hardware to gigs? or does traveling with equipment around limit where you can go?
Yes, I started with a very hardware-heavy Live-Set last year. Even before Collide was released, I wanted to test some song ideas to the public. It was an amazing experience to be on stage with Ableton, routed to hardware synths, filters, guitar pedals, a space echo and distortion units. But the point of traveling really is what made me rebuild everything. I‘m actually more laptop based now as I want to be able to do Live-Sets without the need to rent gear where i play or bring a lot of hardware with me. So in the end it will be Ableton, my 303 and a Sherman Filter. It’s still some weight to add to luggage, but it’s handy enough to bring wherever they want me to play.
Where do you go from here? The quality of everything I hear from you is incredible… So in terms of releases / future projects – Whats coming up and how far in advance are things being scheduled at the moment? It must be a killer not being able to share stuff for months and months…
I hope you will hear a lot of my music in the next 12 months. and i hope my releases will be more regularly than before. I do invest a lot of time into making music at the moment so this should result in a higher output. There are some remixes being released at the moment… one for Chris Page on Translucent and one for Silvision on Kaputt Musik which is out in October.
Then there is a new ad.lib & silvision collab track called Agoraphobia on the Affin’s amazing label-compilation at the start of October also. Remixes for Stefano Infusino and Julixpo pretty soon after that and then there’s still some unreleased tracks I made with Monya in Berlin. That BCR EP that I was talking about before will be a nice piece of vinyl in early 2013 with remixes by iFormat and Rebekah. Then there’s still some unreleased ad.lib & silvision material like the EP for Gynoid. That will be vinyl as well and has a big Remix by Ascion. So, lots coming up!
Talking about all those collab projects it looks like to me that you’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, like developing relationships and looking for common ground. Was that a difficult task? It seems like the most natural way to do things to me. People talk about “whats the best approach for sending demos” etc. but for some reason the common instinct is to blindly fire the blood, sweat & tears into the night and hope for the best. That’s actually the opposite of accepted social norms from our everyday lives, isn’t it?
Your right! it’s strange how a lot of people try to spread the music with their brains turned off.
I don’t agree about the “blood, sweat & tears part“ though… The people who act that way are most often the lazy guys who stick some loops together and just want to be he next big thing. I guess most people who are genuinely into their own music and work hard to get a certain sound are not so stupid as to kill their reputation with such behaviour. Personally, I’ve tried to develop relationships with people whose music inspires me, but I‘ve only clicked with people I like as human beings. I’m not to guy who tries to become friend with all the label owners for my own good. I never was that much of a business talent but I love to be in touch with people doing good music or good work in general. It gives me lots of energy when I feel this common drive, especially with today’s global techno scene. It feels good to contribute with some releases now and then.
And you are working as an Architect too. I won’t curse you by making a mystic comparison between that and your music – haha – but how are you finding the balance between the two? Does work get in the way much?
A mystic comparison, or even a rational comparison could be quite interesting but would definitely lead us to another 2 hours of talking haha. Finding a balance between work and music was definitely hard over the last 2 years. I did work a lot and had many photography and art projects as well, so it was important to keep something resembling a social life too. Balance implies that there’s some active decisions going on. In reality, I was more into reaction then action. That’s why I stopped working full-time a month ago. Now i can focus on what I want to do.
So whats Techno like in Switzerland in general? Are there artists getting ready that we should keep an eye on? Techno must be fairly popular there, cos I see Hendrik (Opuswerk) playing with Xhin and he seems to play out fairly regularly too.
Well… The Techno scene in Zurich, and Switzerland in general was stronger some years ago. With Rohstofflager, we had one of the best clubs in the world here, with residencies of all big Detroit artists and amazing parties. Since that club went, there is a kind of vacuum. There are Techno parties and some great artists here, but the majority of the electronic musicians in Zurich are House. There are some Techno labels like Motuguzzi or Numbolic which do interesting music and there the scene around Geneva of which Hendrik can tell you more! By the way – Hendrik… if you read this. We should definitely get a Drink in the near future!!
Just to go back a bit actually.. I wanted to ask if you can see a point where you could give up working full time but you already did. So is that a smart thing to do – or do you like having a bit of security? Are you a risk taker?
Fuck security! haha… No seriously, security can be important at some points in life but in general the perverted wish for security kills chance and the ability to hear your dreams and feelings. People should do what they feel like doing and what they believe they can do best. In most cases this leads to a higher level of happiness then the traditional Security / Flat / Car / Tv / Dog / Cat-Plan.
To be fair, it’s not the fault of us, the individuums; it’s a product of today’s system and society. You need a lot of money to be able to live. Media brainwashes everyone and makes them think they need things. Voidloss quoted Charles Bukowski some weeks ago in the subsekt forums and he is damn right! “If you’re going to try, go all the way! otherwise don’t even start!“
Were there any mistakes or unnecessary detours along the way in terms of where you are right now? Is there anything that you would change… or is what doesn’t kill you responsible for making you stronger?
Sure there are mistakes. Almost everyone makes a mistake every day. Perhaps I didn’t take enough risk when I started with my music… But while i really believe in the idea of „being who i am cause of what i’ve done“. I don’t want to miss the faults. I don’t think they‘ve made me stronger but they made me experience things that I wouldn‘t have discovered in a perfect world. I used to hang around with some people who were into philosophy and arts and we often discussed where inspiration and motivation comes from. A certain amount of the bad things or negative things one has seen can be helpful for maintaining focus.
So what would you say your focus is right now then? What do you hope will happen over the next few years? I think you are focused enough to make anything happen that you want…
Wow – that sounds good!
Well.. If I were to have something like a masterplan it would sound like this: I will do more music without becoming one of those annoying 1-release-every-week-spam-producers. I will become better and better. I will restart doing live sets in early 2013 and I will collaborate with a lot of inspiring artists.
Sounds like a plan Mate!
It sure does!
subsekt 010 will be broadcast on Fnoob on Wednesday 3rd October 2012 @ 2200GMT.
Will be available on soundcloud after transmission.