Aesthetic _ Interview with CTRLS
And your setup is purely digital then? Any special plugs that deserve a mention?
Yeah, right now it’s all digital, although I’ve been toying with the idea of analog for a while. I’m on pc and I use a lot of free plugins that are definitely a bit unique. To begin with there’s the Variety of Sound stuff which in my opinion is absolutely competitive with the high end commercial plugins, sometimes better. I also really like the sound of Nebula, seems like the impulse sample players generally do a better job than the emulation plugs. As for synths I’m a total u-he fanboy: Zebra2 is all over my live set, Diva is definitively the best analog synth emulation out there and the free Bazille modular synth is probably my favourite plugin synth. Btw I can go into way more detail than this, if you want?
I very much think you should go into more detail! You mentioned two serious modulars there, Bazille is a really amazing sounding synth, I found the interface odder than I expected, having worked with analogue modulars… how do you go about controlling them?
Well as I mentioned Teleport has some fun midi features since it’s actually geared towards playing stuff live on keyboards and the like, so you can do fun things like setting up rules for different notes that will send various midi to your instruments. I’ve also got a pattern sequencer/arpeggiator and detailed envelopes I can setup but if I’m feeling more hands-on, I can just record and loop midi notes and ccs on the fly. And the midi routing is as good as completely modular so you can really do some interesting things.
But the main reason for me choosing Teleport as my platform is that I can load up entire track templates as I’m playing. This includes midi sequences, effect chains, all the way down to individual presets and even midi controller settings. It’s mega important because there isn’t really a reliable platform that lets you load projects as you’re playing and everyone seems to run into the problem of being confined to either switching presets on a fixed set-up or running stems and groups. Ableton took some great steps towards it so far but Teleport is actually made for it.
The 2nd reason is the take it has on what a time grid should be able to do. It’s by far the best I’ve found for affecting timing as you’re playing and it enables you to interpolate, morph if you like, between various sequences instead of having to hard switch between them.This, in my opinion, is a really big deal. I don’t know of any other software outside of DIY stuff like Max/MSP that will allow you to do that. I’m struggling to think of hardware that can do it as well and it’s so massively important because for electronic musicians this has been outside of our capability; unless we wanted to dedicate our lives to machine-like-precision, as a player. Again, it’s completely modular so you can bring individual elements in and out of time or have the whole track morph to a different rhythmic pattern. Way cool. It can get pretty messy fast and it’s going to take me awhile to learn but it’s such a refreshing and totally different way of working and has already given me some cool expressive tricks. Basically it’s the closest thing to being the conductor of a robot orchestra that I’ve found so far hehe.
At the moment, my controller setup is an iPad running the Beta Teleport app and some of the new small portable controllers for levels and parameter tweaking. This is effectively a “prototype” live set as I’m still figuring out what controllers I want to use, or build as it’ll probably turn out, so I’m keeping things pretty simple and portable. The tablet does make a huge difference to say something like the Akai APC. Teleport goes a fair bit deeper than stuff like that facilitates…, and there’s no way I want to start using keyboard shortcuts and browsing through lists with the mouse as I’m playing. Also setting up midi controllers to spew text and visual feedback at you is a real chore, and for proper control you probably have to go into some pretty intricate DIY. But on the tablet I’ve got presets for everything I need as well as visual control of the loopers and none of that is really timing dependent so it works out really well. As for the actual sounds, since Bazille and Zebra are fairly deep modulars as you said, and my patches tend to be pretty complex as a result, it’s usually pretty easy for me to find a few parameters to tweak that make a big but interesting difference to the sound. There’s so much more you can do other than just tweaking resonant filters and their envelopes. FM amounts, tunings, modulation amplitudes, clock rates etc. is all stuff that can give you great expressive hands on control of a sound or sequence.
I like u-he’s line of thinking a lot. Even Diva which is a fairly traditional synth at first glance has a section that allows you to do a lot of stuff to the modulation signals and so many developers miss that one. They might have really flexible envelopes or a curved step sequencer but getting them to, for example, filter an FM operator or quantize an envelope usually isn’t possible. I like modular systems a lot exactly because they’re their own self-contained systems. It used to be just the synth part but I found out that there’s really no reason why sequencing should be left out of those systems which is where Teleport comes in. When I’m working with electronic sound (maybe not so much the house stuff), manipulating those systems is usually a lot more interesting to me than playing things myself or sampling. You can get them to model things you find in nature (in their own synthetic way of course) or you can go completely robotic in ways that I haven’t found anywhere else. I’m not big on long tedious automation so developments in that direction is what I’m all about at the moment.