Workshop 15 - Elektron Presents: Hardware Workshop with John Tejada, Cygnus and Devon Huges
Our next workshop is a very special workshop featuring devin use from electron, and he'll be joined by two artists who are who will be playing ah, decibel cygnus is playing decibel festival tonight with attacker and john tejada will be playing tomorrow at new most you should definitely go check them out. They're going to be talking to us of it today about their creative process with electron analog machines. Give it up for john tana devon using signals. All right, thank you very much, everyone. My name's, devon, I'm from electron music machines, just a super quick history. We design and build hardware instruments in sweden. We've been around since nineteen ninety eight. The video you saw there was for octu track, which is our dynamic performance sampler s o we specialize in both pidge digital and analog hardware and w integrated analog hardware. S o I'm very, very pleased to have our guests and I've got some questions for them, all right? So we're just gonna go ahead and jump in. We ha...
ve quite a quite a lot to get through, so I'll start with john. John what what do you consider your musical starting point? And who are your influences? Um, both my parents were classically musicians, I was born in vienna, and I was just kind of exposed to music from birth, so and my experience is kind of like uh you did music every day you woke up had breakfast and you practice your instruments so that was I think just kind of ingrained in me quite early on so since both my parents were classical musicians I sort of just went on my own path first of sort of like the beatles and then then I moved to the states and it was bit of like classic rock and then hip hop early eighties new york hip hop just kind of infiltrating my brain and that was I think still a really big influence because those were the kind of tools that were still kind of fond of today eight awaits ninety nine's big polly since nice equipment channels everything but but that's sort of misuse and just kind of manipulating sounds in a way that no one kind of did it before and kind of happy accidents I think whether it was hip hop or some kind of you know elektronik thriving grisly thing or whatever it was it's all kind of based in that experimentation and that's just kind of what my year always kind of gravitated towards thank you how about she philip? What you consider your musical starting point I grew up playing our kid games and spending a lot of time on the computer I've always been a part of command line culture and video games and arcade games and I feel like there's a kind of a spiritual crossroads between that and making music on electronic music boxes and so, uh there's a kind of commonality between what I'm doing when I'm playing video games which is once it's nostalgic but it's also you know, kind of spiritually liberating tio do and since I was a child I've always had fun just doing weird stuff on elektronik devices excellent. Excellent. So in terms of some early music that you were listening to like music you remember listening to when you were younger um influence you like a video game soundtracks possibly yeah listen yeah, yeah do like make a man really pull santa making man five throw your hands in the air I like these people know I didn't know you before that I like yeah apart from video game music and you know the sort my dad and my mom maybe listen to a lot of yanni and in your in the shunning well, I mean I was a child so I didn't have a choice so angelis and what they we were listening to but israel smooth it was like smooth jazz there was this radio station in dallas called one of seven point five on the laces one oh seven point five on the way yeah, yeah okay okay, okay, yeah that's smooth sounds influenced what you want, what you feel like producing today I like smooth sounds smooth pads and stuff think about that when they think video games sounds though a well there is a game called call is called front mission three for the ps two and has a really smooth sailing traffic it's kind of like it's kind of like a uh smooth has like nice cords and is like saxophones and like eight await beats smooth alright alright excellent actually so now in terms of in terms of the music that you listen to today what non electronic music do you guys listen to today? How about you john a tw the moment and reliving a lot of early pumpkin and missed and even metal and just sort of since nursery conrad schnitzler and um just people who just again just happy accidents exploring and stuff that I missed that is now just kind of easier toe instantly just check it out so I've been kind of on a very retro binge do you think the non electronic music you listen to today influences your current productions yeah absolutely yeah it's its rhythms of melody you know same thing to me really? Okay okay how much you feel like sun raw e got more previously sunrise cool and they're like I like some death metal speed metal but that doesn't really influence my death metal to me is kind of like it's like something you do to yourself don't get it I got it for sure okay what about what about non musical influences on your work because it's not we don't you know our creative inspirations don't just come from listening to other music I mean we had put a lot of things john what sort of non musical influences for example food design, interpersonal connections, architecture you just just mood in general I suppose on then right mood that sort of sparks creative flow in same as everybody else I've never never quite try to figure it out so I'll think about it might have an answer at the end okay okay if it comes to you just blurted out alright philip I like doing meditation like spirituality I'm not very religious person but I believe in something bigger than myself and so sometimes I have feelings about that and I get on the electron boxes and I make songs about it I have I don't know if I brought him no I put him in my bag I have he's cool lotus meditation beads that often I'm twirling around in my hands well I'm coming up with the cool patch so I like uh spirituality and thinking about spirituality so the more the more you cultivate a spiritual connection the more the band with opens for inspiration yeah, well it's like I don't know I don't know if god is real but sometimes when I'm on the machines I'm like maybe that is maybe that's a piece of the pie they got it they got it that's fantastic. All right all right let's go ahead and start tio wantto take our audience into your studios so john what is your studio like today and how did it look before and are there any instruments that you've kept around since day one you still got my first sense which is a casio season one oh one which I still think is great guided for a hundred bucks and nineteen ninety one at guitar center hollywood you know that I'm yeah battles I wasn't sure about the release of one o one but that wasn't brandy yeah in a way of kind of come full circle there was um now I'm gonna see mold because back then we didn't have we were walking through the snow twenty miles way didn't have we didn't have these laptops and things but that's true so you kind of made the best of what you had and things were really limited and that's kind of become a cliche but there is something to kind of spontaneity and making the best of what you have so that that's kind of like my very kind of happy time and I think kind of coming back to embrace that that's something that I still work with today and sort of limitless options kind of stress me out and even kind of downsized recently just because everything kind of has to have a specific job for me so early on I met up with close friend aaron let me stay in ninety one and he had had a season one a one and a juno sixty and sonic gps which was sequence at the time he also had studio vision on the mac um he had a one o six and a nine to nine and a uh h r sixteen so you know, just kind of pulling our resources together. Um and then I think everyone I know way kind of all dumped all that and when digital things were happening and it was like, oh, great aiken I could do this all now with my laptop and then and then something was kind of missing after a while, so there were some things that I that I kept some things weren't totally worth keeping. So then once this kind of became a job and it was really nice to be able to buy some nice instruments again and that's just kind of how I think of them like they're instruments, not simulations of them and again that's just like my happy place because when I started and those exciting times that was kind of what is working with and that's just what I know really so um I've kind of it took a really long time kind of full circle to come back and embrace that and to kind of embrace things that it might seem easy to me and not make everything such a challenge and a lot of friends even let friends that I really look up to like after twenty twenty five years that kinda having the same experience so I guess it's just all kind of part of the ride um and now just kind of settling in on the tools that I find are the ones for me which ahs your question asked just kind of include a little bit of the old stuff I've got the roland's they're still very dear to me have got electrons I've got a your ac system with some bits have got a code polly and a couple other weird things that seven that's part of the rolling team yes everything just kind of has a function and that's just very for my fork flow just very easy toe play around with excellent excellent thank you philip how's your how did your studio start on where is it now? Shit it was oh man I had so many have a lot of I think I I had a lot of gear now we'll uh we'll go back like five years so I had the acid glad lanny andi had a modern machine and they had a knock a track and I was making a lot of tracks with that and using some computer since uh tio kind of accentuate uh those tools and uh recently and last year, the year before that I got teary whenever that came out I was excited about it and then I sold that and I got a rhythm electrons you're supposed to clap and what isn't elektronik way I have one of those now and I have that and the like electron analog for and the npc five hundred one thousand two but for touring the city five hundred smaller and that sequences waldorf blow filled and have ah I slick stuff way definitely get into the current the current life set up I'll ask you about that in a little bit so yeah that's that it sounds like both you have quite a collection of hardware including the electron boxes. John what what specifically do the electron boxes bring to the table pun intended in the studio in the creative process in the studio specifically, um I think each each box studio live they just they reach their unique, um, creative place and and the thing that kind of pulls them all together is the parameter locks which also being a lover of tracker trackers more recently than I didn't start out that way but that idea very quickly be able to change every parameter but just kind of holding a step or or typing pattern commands on the steps essentially same thing and I mean it's easier oh, no on electron, just hold it down and do stuff, but to even change way forms of filter types. O r, if you're working with sample to change that all per step without having to do much more than that, it just becomes really, really powerful after a while and stop. Yeah, for sure, for sure. Thank you. How about you, philip? Question what what what sort of things to the electron boxes bring to the table in terms of the creative process in the studio there, fast, it's, fast, there's there's. So when you're making, when you're making music of any kind of doing any kind of embarking on any kind of creative enterprise, whether photography or video or pornography or whatever, you typically go, the people who laughed or the people who were going around that you want there to be the smallest amount of perceptual and temporal barriers between your thought about what you want to do, what you want to hear and the actual product, right? So with electron boxes, you have a minute up you, you know, you wake up like one pm because you're lazy, you don't have a job, you go into the studio and you turn on your your boxes and then you make yeah, you're all you're all that scum of the earth, this can you you turn them on and then you and open up an empty pattern and then you have some ideas you make a sound school to sound or if you save one is that and you make a track and then you know then your girlfriend calls you and batters you about how bad of a boyfriend you are and all that kind of stuff basically basically you don't have tio you're not distracted by the internet while you're using it like he went on a laptop so wait so speaking of using electron boxes in the studio we've asked the artist to each select a track that they've produced that involved an electron hardware eso gonna go ahead and play the first one play track from john and then we'll talk about a little bit then we'll go ahead and play the track from philip so let's let's start with john goddess trying sorry oh ok so e okay so so what was the name of that track ok and so one of the main ingredients happening that was that was a machine drum that was running internal sands was also sequencing some promoted rooms one of the features as love about the machine drum is if you want you can have sixteen external media tracks if even if you don't want to use the machine itself um the other the main riff on the little bells and whistles they were about to come in are all modern machine and the baseline is ended up being a swim in this one, but was originally also in the modern machine and again the modern machine uh, can do pseudo polyphonic six track external midi sequencing, which is another I think I really enjoyed. So there were there were loads of tracks of time like sweat on the walls, mano a mano and it all that we're all really just machine drum and modern machine calling booth court the ensemble for sure let's go and do philip a sickness is track please, that way they can dot com that was called the unitarians part for and the that track was it that started out is just that's that cord that you heard in the background that's all that is in the base, it all on along for a lot of people think that's just a four voice model for nixon, but I don't know you could do a lot with that, you can how you can use that as the basis for a track and you know, so that was just that and the drum machine and I played that for some people in their life. You had to get all that that space had to feel that space and, like, you gotta be smart like me with with both these trucks are these both tracks that you guys perform live conform that track life slow so it's just a context issue but do you theoretically could bring bring out the boxes and jam it live for the next month with all checker awesome awesome we will mention that as well john, do you bring that track out live as well and it all yeah it's gone through many, many, many versions and then after ten years I finally decided to to stick out a second version but yes, it's fun to kind of I kind of now I'm using them the rhythm in the off the track and I kind of rebuild some of the teams just from memory without listening to him and that kind of freshens him up and make some fun to play right? So moving into your life set up what is your life set up look like right now? In a nutshell, why have you why he designed it as such? It's still changes a little bit depending on where matt and if I could drive somewhere or you know if I could borrow something. So what I've done is instead of using a sinful ivor the mono machine er are and look for which I was using for well, I've decided to dedicate the off the track just two synthesizer so um I kind of pull from whatever I have a home or wherever else and I just kind of can do something a little more maybe layered and then processed and whatever and then just kind of feed the ahca track full of things full of things and now the way of kind of freed it up is the rhythm rhythm side isn't tied to specific songs of patterns so it is mohr kind of jammie than I've ever really done um which makes it a lot more fun for me so um at times I'm using the rhythm with again things kind of collected from from my place or sometimes I'll just bring out nine o nine and keep it like really simple than every song has the same sounds but there's just something really satisfying about a riel ninety nine p a or last weekend brought the you know weight or you know could bring them both or whatever but it's just that that said it frees me up and then also the ahca traffic has external many tracks so if I want to add another kid tio maybe just dedicate two baselines or one idea is to work with visuals and output midi data from the off the tracks many tracks and then that can sink a pate visual cues and yeah, so everything could be run from the two electrons no matter what is kind of connected connected up fantastic fantastic how about chief of what's your current life set up looking like current lights set up is analog ridden uh, did I pronounce that right, daniel, and become a written? Its rhythm is fine. I think that the, uh, analog for er, nbc five hundred for sequencing a waldorf blow filled and that's it awesome. So so, john, you were mentioning that in a live context, one of the things you appreciate is the ability having to separate devices and so that you can mix and match, uh, you can sort of combine things that you wouldn't normally combine because you'd have something a different pattern going on one box and going on the other box. And then, of course, the many connectivity with any other extra peripherals. What did the electron boxes bring to the table in a live situation for you, philip it's actually, fun to be there, it's like it. It's it's actually good like it's actually worth shit it's kind of the main for live performance. And another thing happened just a few weeks ago where the whole sound team was kind of impressed because we lost power and outdoor thing. And and as soon as I got it up, you know, the machines go bling bling, and we're ready to go, and they're like, whoa, like you're ready is like, yeah, you know, already it's fast, like I said earlier, it's fast you can make changes, we'll make it okay so I make changes like to a set or a kid during my life said, and I hit yes and then kit and I actually I say that that's e don't have to think I like I like trump, you don't have to think you don't use your brain, you have to get sucked up in your mental space in the machine is there it's your friend and it loves you, it's going to help you make music and do cool stuff and that's. One thing I was interesting to me is I feel kind of like you always kind of traditional bands kind of working out songs before they go to record them, and I think these days, whether you have abandoned your elektronik don't kind of see that so much so what I've been doing now is like, well, I'm loading up content into the machines, and like I said, things are exactly tied together there's some songs have been playing for six months, and then it becomes like he said on the on the track as well, like if you never reload your set everything to save, save, save, save so if you're making patterns on the flyer changes and in saving kits in the rhythm or whatever um then at the end of six months it's completely mutated and then it's like I think I'm going to record this now which has been really meeting you interesting process for beginning out of that loop of like, ok like let's look at a screen and just kind of whatever it also feels really good when you're using electron boxes you all saw that video right? So like obviously the people that made the boxes actually they're actually have a personality and their actual like dues and people just like you all right? So it's it's different from from buying a piece of equipment from like some random faceless corporation you know and everything looks the same you know, electrons they actually they have personnel and companies personality daniels really cool where is daniel here's some cool look a he's a handsome person to is a very handsome handsome swedish man so basically you know that with the way the reason you feel you feel better buying foreign company was like you when you're using it like look at it like look at that like someone cool design that right there's a bit more personality that goes into a hardware product because of a commitment yeah to talk to a fixed range of features yeah, you know when someone who's like you made the thing that you're using because you're like oh yeah, I want that to happen that's pretty cool and thank you thank you. I should say um yeah yeah so, uh howbout um so let's not let's see kind of talked more about just hardware in general versus software so you guys have us have both been through a software type performance situation? Philip, have you ever brought a laptop out on stage? I have before me a lap time for it for a while because I thought it was a little bit easier but it was I thought I was a little bit less engaging as having a piece of equipment so not really specifically focusing on electron products per se, but just the benefits of performing live with hardware it's fun could you could you go a little bit more into what about the fun aspect? Okay, so tactile touch and points of interest are two things that you ask any neuroscientist or your endocrinologist points of interest in tactile touch our big pretty much what causes we evolve in the way that we did so it's better to be like this and that that whatever and twisting around and doing all that versace that probably because this is more like I don't know this is more similar to being chased by a cheetah. You know what you think they get it, get it, get it? I'm gonna think it got it got it okay and, uh what about sound a sound software sound espn jin's they're like ok I don't know I'm stupid what it seems is less important to you about the sound then about the actual interaction with the machine okay okay all right I think it is again going back to point I think it's an instrument not an emulation of one and it just you know play piano or you want to play a kaleigh thinking I'm a rambler way more like electricity digital sounds more like more like a xerox machine it sounds good thing there's no bias but and always more like electrical it seems definitely to be more of ah of an interaction the motivation for using hardware is more of a new interactive motivation rather in a motivation based on just the sound yes ok ok um could you share with us some uh I'll start with you john were there ever any major turning points in your career as as a musician? Not just you can either choose like professional career turning points or even just an artistic turning point was there ever a major shift and why um it's really hard to think of it just it's just like a long journey that we had some good times and bad times and still going locally so I'm just happy enough about that how about how about early gigs uh can you share with us some early how early gigs like in terms of the types of venues and the environment and your set up it's really all hit miss it, you know, was convicted great one, followed by a really bad one. And it's just it's just really just random. I mean, I kind of did, um, start my own kind of life career, far away from home. Um, because at the time, I wasn't connecting with the local scene, so in a way, it took me like, I don't know, I started traveling internationally and a homicide in ninety seven again, not that old in them, and yet it took a good ten years to kind of just make my way kind of back home in a way, and and now I'm really appreciating that, and I really like being closer to home and like that, I've kind of stuck it out here and that people are generally really excited about music here. Um, so but then again, it was all just you couldn't really, if I'm in a mood, I can definitely gone about something, but it just it could be a really good one night at the same place, really bad the next and same with cities or venues that are really famous. I've had terrible nights in places that are super famous on it just contributes to, if you have, like, a gig that you remember as just fantastic like that was an amazing gig. What are the components for you that make a great memorable live performance for you personally not for whatever the audience might perceive I suppose there's a bit to do with my meat my mood of course which gets me to kind of being that zone and then if I generally like to at least of my perception I like the kind of go a little wilder than expected in a way or maybe from what people know from I recorded works maybe get a bit more tweety with things s o so I think my experience has been like when people um respond to something kind of unexpected instead of being turned off by it that's one like the kind of energy keeps feeding and I get encouragement toe like taking another step and another step and if that builds that's great but then in your in the situations when I feel like I've got the best idea and everybody just goes out for a smoke then you know, like it's it happened so you know told it's all for the right and it's it's it happens and it happens the other way teams so performance there's definitely a risk that things could fall flat oh yeah for everybody all the time thank you know no matter what you do so I mean it depends it depends on it depends on you know how much flexibility sounds like you're really leaving yourself a lot of flexibility on a live content I mean I think it works both ways and even if you're like super pre programmed okay then you don't have room to move but I think if you meaning like you know whatever accusations pressing play whatever you want to say but in that case you don't have very many places to go but if if you were completely open then it can be maybe even more stressful because now you're wondering where to go and it's not going well and you know if you go the wrong direction and makes you least in your state at the moment it could be even worse but I think at the moment what's been really fun with the way have actually the set up now is I'm actually having a lot of fun so if it doesn't go well that's fine and I got another show so that that part of it is kind of eased and I feel like I'm I don't know uh I'm middle east enjoying it I'm I'm honestly enjoying it so if it doesn't work that's all right and if it works even better you know nice that's great philip what what sort of one of the ingredients of a gratifying live show for you I like the sound system has to be good it doesn't have to be super it doesn't have to be much like the best sound system ever but it has to be good and the sound guy has to know what the sound guy or girl has to know what they're doing and that's basically it these things are all dynamic every show is different you know two shows I played have been the same even you know two shows of the same developmental thing I suppose I mean I I always go out and I talk with people and you know if something alive let me can I tell you the truth? I don't understand the question ok that's fine that's fine um uh let's see in terms of limitation limitation in tools was creative limitation in tools mean to you does that contribute to anything having having limitations to the functionality of tools does that does that you some really, really because I mean no matter what I use it's going to be awesome that's going to be dope so I mean I always win in any scenario yeah any is there anything lacking in terms of musical tools just just right off the top of your head anything you'd like to see realized we only have just a couple minutes left would you like to see realized in terms of hardware musical tools so pattern length let's talk about pattern like ok sixty four steps is great it's fantastic that's better than you know the average you know you like just for whatever I'm like one of those chord boxes but I want I need one hundred twenty eight okay it's twenty fifteen we need I need one hundred twenty eight for catherine I don't pattern changing is fine but I'd like to be able to have that in one pattern he'll choose how long one pattern is I don't wanna have to pattern change stop making me do that other than if that's you know that's that's ah I mean out of all possible musical tools that could be created that's the last thing that so many that's fantastic john what I know it's a big question we're almost out of time but just off the top of your head musical tools hardware software or are you uh in the sweet spot? I'm really happy at the moment with yeah even scaling down recently so I'm in a good place you know there's always what you brought to the show and tell for the life of roller case I just figured this out last night actually, um, which probably everyone else has figured out long before I was I'm always scared of checking things, but this will make it a bit easier but thiss case holds my rhythm and my off the track and my, um my space pedal, so I'll kind of yeah apparently it's safe so we'll find out that the trip space pedal we'll pick and pack foam, which hopefully works. And, uh, is the octo and an underneath the well, that's. The cover for the for the boxes. So if you can see, it'll probably all fall out. But you cover on one, no cover on the other. Pedal here, maybe something different later, or cables. But, um, that's, any country. Because of switching power supplies that we include, he can't take it to north korea.