Different Purpose _ Interview with Gerard Hanson [Convextion / E.R.P]
Some great records mentioned there and your interpretation of the Starlight track is very beautiful. Echospace is such an amazing label. It seems to come across that you have a great love of working with synthesizers, what is your take on the analog versus digital debate?
There are so many good records. Sometimes I would like to DJ, but I like to lie down or drive around when I listen to music. I do love synths, but I’m not that worried about digital vs. analog. I like both. I like hardware synths because I like the interface and they have a certain sound that makes each unique. Knobs make programming easier and an interface that’s pretty easy to use goes a long way. I like to get lost in a synth and lose track of time. I can have fun just making sounds with no end goal. Some of my favorite hardware synths are all digital actually. But I also like analog and some synths that are a mix of both… maybe something like digital or sample based oscillators with analog filters and envelopes. I use pretty cheap stuff mostly, but I did once sell my car to buy a synth in 1994.
I like the effort that goes into building a synth and it seems like some have been made with a lot of love. Someone put thought not only its sound but the appearance and overall interface. I like an attractive interface. It makes me want to understand what’s below while it’s fun to explore. I also like software. I use Ableton to play live. It’s was the first software I got along with right away. I wasn’t very experienced with computers before Ableton, other than mastering my use of email. The session layout in live reminded me of a sequencer I had been using for more than ten years before.
There certainly is! What is the name of this synth that you sold your car for? I’m intrigued, it must have been one hell of an attractive synth! You are renowned for your live performances Ger, how do you go about preparing for these?
The synth was made by Roland and it was a ROMpler with an analog style interface, but no analog guts. I bought it at a discounted price when they were going on clearance. The sound isn’t by any means huge and analog but I think it’s warm.
I like to start my live performance process by lots of procrastination and dorking around in the studio. Then I get sleepy, drink some sodas, make feeble attempts at Gary Numan Vox Humana presets on a $50 synth, record some tracks and then misplace them. After enough mistakes, I have some isolated tracks like bass, drums, noises, melodies, strings, pads and all that stuff sampled into Ableton. Then I try to play them back as a live mix and not try to be too annoying when I do it. I like to use some effects too.
Can you name a track that you used this synth on? And when you are playing live, how would you describe your interaction with the crowd?
I used it on lots of Convextion tracks… with a DX and some other effects. It’s making the pads on ERP / Vox Automaton. Playing live is a thrill like no other. I get to travel to places I’d never see otherwise. It’s also nice to meet people who know my music. I’ve never really met many people who know about my music until the last few years when I started doing live sets. If the crowd seems up for it I can get lost in playing. I’m happy if they seem to be feeling the same way I do at certain parts of the set. It’s cathartic for me and I hope it’s the same for the crowd. It makes the world feel a bit smaller.
When you play live, do you have a certain theme in mind, or is more of a journey with different stops and changes along the way?
I think most of my music has a theme that I’m trying to describe a setting or world I’ve imagined. It doesn’t matter if it’s live or recorded though. I guess the sound or timbre is the means I use to describe setting. Pitch or melody is the part I use to convey emotion. So, when I play live I just try to make a set that flows through a spectrum of all of my ideas and feelings. I usually try to make it gradual, but I never know exactly what I’m doing until I’m in the moment or sometimes shortly after.