Interview with Bert Schiettecatte of Percussa

Bert Schiettecatte

I am pleased to give you another exclusive Wire to the Ear interview. This time I chat with Bert Schiettecatte of Percussa.

Briefly explain what Percussa AudioCubes are.

AudioCubes are a hardware platform for audiovisual creation. For the hardware there exists a number of software applications and development kits. Each of these integrates perfectly with the hardware, and lets you use AudioCubes in different situations. For example:

LoopShaper – a VST host that runs without needing other software – it lets you use 2 audiocubes for sound design. you can use hand gestures with the audiocubes. per cube up to 4 parameters can be controlled. The software records your interactions in a loop, and you can output the results as WAV files which you can use in your favourite DAW. It’s a very powerful application because it gives you access to a parameter space of your plugins which is hard to reach using knob boxes (try turning 4 knobs simultaneously!) The software works with professional audio interfaces through ASIO or CoreAudio. LoopShaper was made specifically for people who make sounds or loops.

MIDIBridge – our original software to use audiocubes with MIDI compatible instruments and software, for example, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Propellerheads Reason, EnergyXT2, Cubase, Logic, etc… The software lets you generate MIDI triggers and controllers based on interaction between cubes and your hands. You can use it to trigger clips or control FX parameters in Live, for example. At the same time you can control the full colour RGB LEDs in the cubes, so you can create visuals tightly synced to the audio clips in Live. Of course you can save your setup in presets. The app is perfect for live performers.

PluginWrapper – this is a great little VST instrument/FX plugin that hosts other instruments or plugins, and communicates directly with audiocubes. it automatically maps cube sensors to plugin or instrument paramters. You can drop it on a track in Ableton Live for example, select your plugin inside the PluginWrapper, connect a cube, and you’re ready to control parameters of the instrument or FX. You an use multiple PluginWrappers. You can also control colours of the cube using MIDI CCs or notes (one colour per note).  PluginWrapper is perfect for music production people or live performers, or even for vocal performers who just want to apply some VST FX to their voice and at the same time control the FX using their hands and a single audiocube.

AudioCubes Box

DeckaBridge – this is a variation of MIDIBridge to use audiocubes with Deckadance, DJ software made by Image Line here in Belgium. Deckadance is great DJ software with unique features, like beat slicing, VST hosting, MIDI clip playback, DMX features, vinyl and MIDI controller support, etc. We decided to make a special app to use AudioCubes with Deckadance, because this way people don’t have to MIDI-map anything. They can start the app, select MIDI ports, load the preset file in Deckadance and it works. Cubes can be used in pairs to control the relooper beat slicer, or to control the EQ section, CUE/seek functions, or X-Y FX control. DeckaBridge was made for new skool digital DJs who do more than pressing “play” and actually want to put on a real and challenging performance.

Modulor – this is the most recent application we made and was in development for more than a year. We developed new firmware for the cubes that let you detect any kind of network configuration of AudioCubes. the cubes can detect each other and communicate wirelessly, and forward their info in their own network and to the computer. The computer can also send info in the other direction, to control colours for example. Modulor takes advantage of this new functionality, it’s a VST host application with MIDI effects and sequencing features. You can connect your ASIO or CoreAudio interface to it, connect your favourite MIDI keyboard or other controller, host your VST instruments in a rack, and you can then record and play loops onto AudioCubes, and put the loops together simply by putting physical cubes together. At the same time you can route MIDI within the wireless cube network, and set a MIDI effect per AudioCube, and create processing chains, e.g. MIDI input => transpose => arpeggiate => make chords => VST rack.  Modulor is basically a very minimal but powerful sequencer, focused on musical idea development and improvisation. What’s great about it is that you can physically touch and manipulate loops through physical objects on your table, so you listen more and explore more, and pay less attention to the computer.

Of course, all software is free and runs on both Mac and windows, without needing drivers. We use the high speed USB HID protocol, so speed and resolution are better than MIDI.

For developers and hackers we have a C/C++ library available, so you can make your own software that works with AudioCubes. If you are a Max/MSP or PD user you can use the kit we have for those applications. Finally, if you prefer to use OSC (OpenSoundControl), we have a max patch for that and are developing a standalone software app for OSC.

Richard Devine - AudioCubes

Are there any famous artists using the AudioCubes?

Richard Devine, Nortec Collective (latin grammy award nominees), … see http://www.percussa.com/artists/

Did you own a Litebright and play with Legos when you were a child?

I don’t know about Lite-Brite .. I don’t think it was in the toy stores here in Belgium. I did have a very big lego collection, I was primarily interested in the Technics series.

I used to get all the technics kits for my birthday as a kid, especially the very complicated ones, like the computer controller plotter kit. I didn’t care so much for the lego cities or trains.

Do you find artists using AudioCubes in the studio or are they solely for a live performance situation?

Up to now artists have been mostly using them Live I believe, but now there are more and more people using them for various applications, because we’ve released all this new software for the hardware, so the applications are now really wide and people are really enthusiastic about it.

Can you pick up an AudioCube and throw it? I could use a studded black leather AudioCube in my show maybe? Imagine if I lift it up and it triggers a sample that screams “hit me hit me!” or “watch out!”.

Not really, because AudioCubes were not made to throw around. Also, they’re not a gadget, but more like an integrated hardware-software solution to use in your workflow, whether live or in your studio…

Percussa AudioCubes

I am really enjoying the music apps on my iPhone and am looking forward to an Apple Tablet. What do you think of multi-touch touch screen technology?

I think it’s great technology and a big and important step in user interface innovation. Many companies have been working on multi-touch technology over the past years. I don’t think Apple is the only company that should get credit for multi-touch, as many came before that made important contributions. However, I do believe Apple is one of the first that made it work well enough that it would be generally accepted and used …  I have to say though that some user interface tasks are not ideal to perform with multi-touch technology. I got this iPhone a while ago, and I’m not convinced about sending SMSes using the multi-touch keypad. Also, dialing numbers when you’re in a hurry is also not that easy. If the screen is smudged it becomes harder to use the interface, etc. And then there is the fact that the screen is fragile. However, it does have its advantages, like navigating with gestures, or zooming in and out. I guess it depends on what you like to use it for.

What’s next? AudioSpheres? Something else?

That’s top secret :-) I think right now we’re focused on developing more software and perhaps a few hardware addons for AudioCubes too. We’d also like to get more open source developers involved from non-music areas, maybe visual artists or game developers.

New Percussa AudioCubes

What are a few websites you visit regularly?

I’m on Facebook quite a lot these days.  I do like to visit createdigitalmusic.com, xlr8r.com, cycling 74’s website, lifehacker, rhizome, soundcloud, …

What is a typical Belgian dinner like? What food and drinks are on the table?

There are a few typical belgian dishes, like steak and fries … or mussles with fries..  there are also some desserts, like chocolate. waffles is not very much a breakfast or dinner thing, you eat them in the afternoon maybe around 4pm or so. of course, lunch or dinner should be with a belgian beer, like Leffe or Duvel.

Do you make music yourself? If yes where can we hear it?

I was making music when  I was about 16-17 years old. I was into ambient music quite a lot, listening to Biosphere, etc. I had a Korg wavestation, Akai sampler, etc. I have a classic music education, unfortunately the jazz and pop schools developed after I got into university and by then I had little time to continue playing  or making music. Also, the gear was super expensive, you could not get anything done if you didn’t have 10,000 EUR to buy all the gear for a home studio. By the time I got into university I was also very much interested in music technology itself and developing software and hardware. Lately I’m getting back into it though, I think the development of computer hardware and availability of software these days has made it easier to make music.

Big thanks Bert! We are looking forward to all the new toys you make. For more info: www.percussa.com

The Great Bleep Forward

The Great Bleep Forward

The BBC has posted a four part audio series about the history of electronic music titled, “The Great Bleep Forward”. Thank goodness main stream Europe “gets” synth and computer music.

“The story of modern music is one of subversion and experimentation, of heroes and villains. But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if the real subversives didn’t wear leather and denim but smart suits and white lab coats? What if the true experimentation wasn’t with LSD but with DX7’s and S900s? What if the real heroes of music aren’t John, and Paul, Mick and Keith, but Ralf, Florian, Robert and Wendy!

The Great Bleep Forward is a series four programmes, presented by Andrew Collins exploring the history of electronic music. Hear the first baby’s cry of the moog synthesiser, embrace the difficult childhood of prog rock, grapple with the ‘experimental’ teenage years of the New Romantics and discover the middle aged maturity and nostalgia of the present day. You’ll also get a sense of the sound of the future.” – www.bbc.co.uk

Don’t forget to also catch the superb BBC Documentary Synth Britannia:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNiGnTSrL5o

It drives me crazy to listen and watch these type of things because they were so integral in my own life. I love this stuff. What about you?

For more info: www.bbc.co.uk

Interview with Tom Oberheim

Oberheim SEM

An interview with synthesizer creator Tom Oberheim. He recently re-created and re-released his classic synth the SEM. The SEM does sound different than a Moog or Roland and Tom explains a bit about why that is. You can get the new SEM in a few flavors (panel/Midi) ranging from $600-$900 USD.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1FsCGyx1YY


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEy5jfC5h_g

“Mitchell Sigman of audioMIDI.com interviews analog synthesis legend Tom Oberheim about the new SEM analog synth module. The new SEM is available exclusively from audioMIDI.com.” – audiomidicom

Did you own a classic SEM? Do you plan on buying one of these new ones?

For more info: tomoberheim.com

Moby’s Drum Machine Collection

Here’s a nice look at Moby’s Noahs Ark of vintage drum machines. He also goes into the virtues of replacing your band with electronic instruments. I agree completely. I once performed at an early “rave” in Washington DC with Moby. Before fame he used to DJ a small bar near Suny Purchase (my alma mater).

“Motherboard heads deep into the bowels of Moby’s Manhattan apartment-studio, where he unveils his prized assemblage of rarified gadgets, bizarre synthesizers, and outré drum devices.” – Motherboard.tv

For more info: www.moby.com

Dieter Doepfer Totally Wired


Doepfer Sneak Peek
from niamhguckian on Vimeo.

A wonderful clip from the documentary Totally Wired featuring Dieter Doepfer. It’s nice to know Dieter is listening to his fans on the Doepfer Yahoo Group. We also finally know the reason why Doepfer modules are silver. Check out all the amazing modules from Doepfer at: www.doepfer.de

An interview with the great man himself, taken from the documentary ‘Totally Wired’. Dieter talks about the inspiration for the A100 series, his collaborations with Kraftwerk, and the future of modular. Unmissable! – niamhguckian

For more info: Totally Wired (Amazon link)

Wire to the Ear Interview with Klaus Suessmuth of Acidlab

Klaus Suessmuth from Acidlab

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Klaus Suessmuth of Acidlab. He is the man behind some killer Roland hardware clones. Not only does he replicate the sounds of the originals to the extreme detail he also takes the time to extend the feature sets of these ancient machines. To top it off Acidlab hardware looks great!

I think the Roland TR-808 is the king of all drum machines sound wise. How close does the Acidlab Miami sound to a vintage TR-808?

Closer than any other 808 clone. Without a direct comparison not possible. The differences of the sounds are just in the pitch and in the range of the variation of the original. The Bassdrums decay is increased.

Does the Miami have a fully analog signal path?

The Miami has the same analog sound-circuits of the TR-808. The components are replaced with new components. In some sound-circuits, the original parts were used to achieve the same sound.

What features does the Miami have that a vintage TR-808 does not?

  • programming on the fly (tap-write)
  • all the modes (track write, track play, pattern write and pattern play) can be changed without stopping the sequencer
  • two shuffle-modes
  • synchronization with midi-clock
  • midi mode (instruments can be played with midi notes,
  • less noise and less 50Hz, because of newer opamps and no transformer in the housing

Acid Lab - Miami

Let’s talk about how you make your wonderful toys. Do you manufacture all the Acidlab products by hand in Germany or do you outsource some of the labor to a small factory?

The electronic is assembled from a factory, I do the calibration and the rest of the assembling.

How long does it take to make a Miami?

Too long! Have to do a lot improvements on the production workflow.

Have you ever been to Miami Florida?

Yes, once in the airport on the way to costa-rica, with no money left (all was gone for the fly-ticket) …..

You have created some very nice clone machines. Have you thought about making an all original design? For example, I love my Vermona DRM1 MKIII…

The Bombass is an all original design! I have done a lot of  special moduls for my modular systems as prototyps…

Acidlab Bombass

Do you also keep another day job? Exotic dancer? Software developer? Sherpa?

Of course – Design and research as electronic developer in a big German firm. Main topics are powerelectronics and low noise sensor systems with highest resolution.

If you caught someone in your home stealing all your music equipment would you: A) Kill them.  B) Forgive them and give them 20 Euros for food. C) Tie them up and make them watch DJ Scooter videos for 24 hours.

They will get crazy from using my equipment !

Tell us some links where to find your products, websites, videos and anything else!

www.acidlab.de

In the US, contact: analoguehaven.com

MySpace:
myspace.com/acidlab_bassline
myspace.com/acidlab_bombass
myspace.com/acidlab_miami

Avocet Studio Controller

Crane Song - Avocet

In the 90s I used a Tascam M1600 mixer. As studio life went ITB (in the box) most of the large mixer sat unused. After I while I got sick of cleaning the dust off it and switched to a Presonus Central Station to handle my monitor controlling. It’s passive which means my audio doesn’t take a trip through DSP chips. The “passive” bit was the selling point for me and why I recommend it over a Mackie Big Knob. It’s nice but the Avocet from Crane Song is the Lamborghini of monitor controllers.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc1Z6BIoGk0

“If you’ve been following Gearwire’s visit to Boiler Room Mastering, you know that Collin Jordan doesn’t have any lousy gear anywhere near his mastering suite. Here, he shows us his jewel from Crane Song, the Avocet Class A Studio Controller.” – Gearwire

The Avocet is $2800. For more info: www.cranesong.com

Les Paul the Electric Guitar Man


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssDLe3Tlvg0

Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar and 8-track died this week.

“Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009) was a musician and innovator, famous for being a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar which “made the sound of rock and roll possible.” He is credited with many recording innovations, including overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects, and multitrack recording.” – Wikipedia.org

For more info visit his official website: www.lespaulonline.com

Swayzak Video and Ableton Live pack


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taAh1_xIfsk

I found Swayzak by their single I Dance Alone (iTunes link). Later I found the album Some Other Country (iTunes link) to be perfect office work background music. They have released a free Ableton Live pack. It’s a 50MB download available now: click here

“Swayzak is a tech house duo from the United Kingdom that consists of James S. Taylor and David Brown. They live and work in London and released their first 12″ single “Bueno” / “Fukumachi” in February 1997 to much acclaim. It was followed up by the 12″ “Speedboat” / “Low Rez Skyline” to become part of the burgeoning tech-house scene in the UK.” – Wikipedia.org

What does the word “Swayzak” mean anyway? Is it some kind of UK thing?

NPR chats about “Appetite For Self-Destruction”.

NPR

Appetite For Self-Destruction is a great new book by Steve Knopper about the crash of the music industry. NPR (National Public Radio) has a 38 minute interview with Mr. Knopper and it’s a must listen for any musician. The interview, which aired on NPR’s superb show Fresh Air was posted yesterday so it’s a fresh look back at all the simultaneous ways the record Appetite for Self-Destructionindustry blew it. Greed, laughable negotiations with Apple and CD-R manufacturers, and top level execs not listening to their younger underlings yelling “Napster is the future!” are just some of the things that contributed to this spectacular crash. As a musician it maybe painful to listen to because this was once a valid livelihood but it’s time to re-tool the workshop and produce a different product.

“In the sub-sub-genre of books about rock music and the industry, I rank this right up there with classics like “Hit Men” and “The Death of Rhythm and Blues.” We think in terms of “industry,” but through his deftly drawn portraits of industry leaders, Knopper helps us see clearly how we got to here from there: simple bad decision making and a blatant refusal to consider, first, that the world had changed and then a stunning lack of curiosity about how it had changed. Highly recommended. Enjoy!” – Patricia Romanowski, Amazon.com (book review)

The interview is online so head over and listen now: click here

Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age (Hardcover) is available at Amazon for $17.16: click here

photo credit: alwright1