To perform live with controllers: Controllerism

Controllerism Movie Link

There is a huge force of upcoming electronic musicians performing live who use an array of modified controllers. They are not Not DJs. The new buzz word is on the street describing the phenomena: Controllerism.

If you make electronic music you owe it to yourself to watch the video above. Artist Moldover from Brooklyn gives the best example what what Controllerism is all about. He has twisted his Novation Remote 25 to do his bidding. He has some great ideas when it comes to setting up his performance in Ableton Live.

Roland SBX10 Sync BoxIn many ways this reminds me of the early 1990s when John Selway and I as Disintegrator hacked together toys, 303s and a Roland SBX10 sync box and performed live around the New York area. It’s about pushing the limits of gear.

Even if you don’t like the name Controllerism it represents the next big thing already happening. It’s already not good enough to show up and perform live with only a laptop. I am already knee deep in my own wires and ideas. What are you waiting for? Get hacking, soldering, re-knobbing and mapping!

Also check out Remix magazine’s article on Moldover: click here

Top 10 gifts for musicians holiday 2007.


Ableton Live 7. This is my favorite piece of software. Live’s innovative Session View mode gives musicians the freedom to try multiple musical ideas before entering the arrangement process. This fact gives Ableton Live a huge edge over it’s competitors. Each year Ableton has upgraded Live adding in features of legacy sequencers and also eclipsing them with new stuff. Some of the big items in the “7” upgrade include an Enhanced Audio Engine, new Compressor, Sidechaining, Time Signature changes, Rex file support, and an Innovative drum rack. link

Ableton Live 7

Moog Little Phatty. It’s all about the sound! Buy someone you love a Moog and they will be looking at it 20 years from now fondly thinking of you. All Moog’s are classics and the Little Phatty is pure Moog. Beautifully engineered nothing sounds as raw, bassy and loud. It sounds like a teenager behind the wheel of a Lambourgini. Manufactured in the good ole USA. link

Moog Little Phatty

Cognitone Harmony Navigator. The fantastic and large world of chords and scales can be illusive for those with no formal music instruction. During the music making process many musicians search for the right notes for the perfect chorus or bridge. Harmony Navigator is many colorful graphic playgrounds of chord sets. You jump around them in real time, clicking your mouse playing chords. The chords are grouped by colors and distance. As you do your clicks your creative juices explode. Each time I load the program a new song idea pops in my head. link

Harmony Navigator

Yamaha Tenori-On. This is a beautiful new electronic musical instrument designed by media artist Toshio Iwai. You hold it with two hands and are represented with a grid of 256 white LEDs. It has a unique sequencer which allows for traditional step style movements but also pings and gravity motions. The LEDs bounce and fly across the grid. You can add layers sounds. You end up with a gorgeous light show viewable from the front and backside of the instrument. If the musician you love had a Light Bright when he was a child he’s going to freak when he see this. Inspirational and new the Tenori-On. link


Apple Macbook Pro. The early 2000’s saw the music studio make it’s final journey from a room full of hardware into a single computer running virtual software. It is now possible to run practically as many effects and synthesizers as you need to make a nice song all ITB (inside the box). Another paradigm shift is that laptops are now so fast there is no Continue reading Top 10 gifts for musicians holiday 2007.

My father and my Roland S-50 sampler.

Roland S50 - original advertisement

My father bought me my first keyboard, a Roland S-50 sampler. I remember he took me to Sam Ash in Teaneck, New Jersey. He worked nearby as a College Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. It was 1986 and I was lost in Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration album. I was 16 years old. Today, my father is now the president at FDU and that Sam Ash store is long gone.

The Roland S-50 was a futuristic looking black metal monolith with a fluorescent screen. It felt long and had 61 keys. Compare that with the measly cheap feeling two octave Oxygen 8 I use now! You could hook it up to an external monitor. I had mine hooked up to a 13″ green CRT poised on a three tier Ultimate Keyboard Rack. It also came with a digitizing tablet and pen similar to a Wacom tablet. This allowed you to draw waveforms but it was more gimmick than useful.

It was 4 part multitimbral and 16 voice polyphonic. It had a 3.5″ disc drive and 750k internal memory. You could sample at 12-bit at 15-30kHz. I remember actually using the different variable rates to save memory. You could even get some weird cool effects by sampling at the lower rate. Looking back I realize the discs of sounds that came with it were very good. Mostly they were rip off’s of Fairlight sounds. You had choirs, big 80’s drum kits and awesome nature sounds. I used to sit for hours playing with the rain and thunder sounds.

I would sequence it using an Atari 520ST and Cubase. All the multitimbral parts, voices and sample memory were always used. Back then we all dreamed of a day when we would have unlimited sample time (yay today!). However, using a machine to it’s fullest capacity for several years has a certain gratification to it.

The S-50 together with an extern CRT-screen and digitizer tablet – besides from looking real awesome – allowed a lot of cool things to be achieved. The S-50 is a breeze to use, and the sampling quality is nice and free from distortion, even if the bandwidth is somewhat crippled (due to the 30KHz sampling frequency). –

Next time your staring at your 24″ Cinema Display, pirated copies of Kontakt or Halion and 30GB of sounds think of my father on a teacher’s salary spending over $2500 to give his son 28 seconds of sampling time. Now tell me you can’t make music with the technology you have. I dare you.


If you play live your music will be better.

The Horrorist Live - Praezisionswerk

Most of my best live shows take place in East Germany. The people there really go crazy. On Saturday night I played near Leipzig at a club called Praezisionswerk (precision work).

You have to practice what you preach when it comes to music. If you play live your music will be better. It’s a simple as that. No one will be more honest with you than a room of drunk strangers in the middle of the night! Make it work there and you have yourself a real song.

To see the full photo set from Saturday night: click here

Use Twitter to let your fans know what your doing.

Twitter logo

The dynamic between artist and fan has changed in recent years. It used to be if you were an artist you wanted to seem out of reach, high on a pedestal from your followers. However, today fans want a personal relationship with you. It’s not good enough to give them a monthly or even weekly update. They want to know what your doing right now! One of the best tools to give a window into your life is Twitter.

Twitter - Things to Come RecordsSo what is Twitter? To start head to and sign up for an account (it’s free). Click on Profile and give yourself an avatar. Next under where it says “What are you doing?” type up to 140 text characters. In a way it’s like a mini-blog letting the world know what’s going on with you at that moment. These moments you enter are called Tweets.

If you have friends on Twitter you can follow them and vice-versa. Besides the archive of all your own Tweets you can also see a master timeline which shows your Tweet and your friends Tweets.

Now comes what I think it the best part. Click to and create a widget that displays your Twitter updates on any web page you place it. This is great because you only have to put your Tweets in one place but instantly wherever you have badges your updates will show.

I have Things to Come Records studio Twitter badges on my MySpace page (, Facebook page and artist website ( If you notice they all look different because you can customize the badges to fit any site. If you notice on my artist web site’s studio page my Tweets are not even in a widget but customized into the look of the page itself using CSS. You can also have your Tweets injected into a WordPress blog as posts using Alex King’s Twitter Tools.

Twitter Tweet - screenshotIf you find going to a web page to input your Tweets cumbersome and your on a Mac try Icon Factory’s very nice program Twitterific. There is also a nifty Dashboard Widget called Twidget. I am sure there are Windows Twitter applications too. There are also methods of sending Tweets by email and Instant Messenger clients.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that Twitter has some competition. Google has a similar service called Jaiku and Kevin Rose and the Digg crew run Pownce. Unfortunately they are all incompatible. Come and follow my record label on Twitter:

The Kick Boom, Thunderverb song writing element.

Thunder - photo

Here’s a technique I use on almost every song I record. This step gives me a helping hand in making transitions in the arrangement work. It also can add drama at the end of an important verse. I have a few names for this tactic including the Kickverb, Kickboom and the awesome Thunderverb!

Altiverb - screenshotTake the kick drum you are using throughout the track and isolate one hit. Make a new audio track and place the single kick drum on it. Don’t forget to render your kick first if you had some effects on it like compression or EQ. Once on its own channel insert a reverb. I usually go for Alitverb convolution reverb or the Korg MDE-X multi-effect which comes with the Korg Legacy collection. Both those reverbs have colors to them. Next, I render a single kick going through a wash of reverb. Do several bounces with different kinds of reverbs. You end up with Kickverb1, Kickverb2 and so forth. If your song calls for it insert a distortion plug-in after the reverb. This gives you a dirty decaying sound. My favorite distortion plug-ins are Izotope’s Trash and Ohm Force’s Ohmicide. Another thing to try is pitching your rendered kickverb down.

Izotope Trash - screenshotI usually create my Kickverbs after the general arrangement is finished. Then, I place them strategically throughout the timeline. Two places they fit include at the beggining of the chorus and in the verse after you say something shocking or important. You can also start and finish the song with them.

Some other things that maybe obvious that you can do is reverse the Kickverb. Place that “Reverse Kickverb” before the chorus comes in to build up tension. Of course you don’t have to stick to the Kickverb at all because real thunder and explosion samples will also work.

photo credit: caddymob

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening! It’s for you.

Boston Terrier and a Turkey - photoToday is Thanksgiving in the USA. So here is my official thank you for reading this blog and more importantly thank you for listening to my music. Without peers and fans with ears for us there would be little point. We would all just be making music alone in the dark. I don’t let on that I actually care what anyone thinks about my music but I do.

What else can I give thanks for? Fast computers that don’t crash (ok Apple!), Ableton Live’s Session View, The Moog Voyager, Sound on Sound magazine, Matrixsynth, Berlin, Mario Kart, Animals and the promise of a perfect future.

photo credit: Elevated

An introduction to the wild world of music blogs.

Laptop with Stickers on it - photo

We all love blogs because they give us a quick fix of hot info. A little more than a blurb a little less than an article. A break from the sequencer and comping vocals. Yes we all take too many of these breaks but hey it’s fun and sometimes we actually learn something! Do you know about music blogs? MP3 blogs? Blog labels? Honestly I’ve just been turned on to these in a big way. This is where the hip cool people hang (I think?!). I’m not going to delve into copyright stuff here because it doesn’t take too much time viewing any of these blogs to realize you can steal the music off the sites easily. If you want to get into that discussion head over to my post titled “What if music should be free?“.

A great example of a hip music blog is Bright graphics, flyer’s for events where everyone is on cocaine and DJ mixes compressed so loudly your teeth hurt are the norm here. At first the lingo will make you wonder if it’s an English speaking website. Despite that, keep reading because these are music lovers sharing with you! I’ve discovered more new music here than searching by a long shot. I also now have a never ending supply of said DJ mixes for the gym.

Want something more indie? is the place. It’s basically the Austin, Texas, Seattle and any other cool rock town music scene in blog form. The writers here always Continue reading An introduction to the wild world of music blogs.

Resampling in Ableton Live is a creative tool.

Resampling in Ableton Live - image

One of the best things about Ableton Live is it’s mixer’s flexibility. You can route any channel into another allowing for groups, vocoding, Rewire-ing instruments and side-chaining. One often overlooked feature of the mixer is Resampling.

So what is Resampling exactly? This fast and awesome feature lets you record anything coming out of the Master into a new clip. Let’s take a look how this works. First, open an Ableton Live project you have been working on. In Session View hit Command (Apple)-T to create a new audio track. Make sure the In/Out Section is showing. Above the Fader and Send amount knobs and under the Clips you will see “Audio From”. Click to view the drop down menu underneath “Audio From” and choose “Resampling”. Now when you hit play notice underneath where it says Resampling you will see a tiny meter moving with the music. This track will now record anything coming out of the Master.

Why is this good and how would you use it? One example would be to create a crazy fill. Because you Resampled into audio you can now really mangle it. Adding a multi effect plug-in like PSP Audioware’s Nitro or Audiodamage’s Dr. Device will do the trick! Let’s say you have a nice vocal and two back up vocal tracks. They all have different effects on them and also are pulling reverbs and delays from Send Returns. Your 100% satisfied with the vocal sound and want to free up space? You want to have those vocals on together in one audio file so you can create some stutter edits? Resampling is your friend.

How do you use Resampling?

LOL DJs. A website that makes fun of Disc Jockeys.

Invisible Groupies - photo

In my song “Room of Posers” I have a line that says “The DJ spins some records he thinks he is a musician”. I actually think controlling the “wheels of steel” is an art. I have a big respect for many turntable masters. Track selection, mixing, scratching, computer DJ effect controlling and feeding off the crowd all take concentration and skill.

That said, we all need to be made fun of from time to time so. In honor of all the unknown disc jockeys clearing the dancefloor I present to you the LOL DJs website:

Have you ever cleared the room?