Last week my father called me and said his wife Yoshimi wanted us to all go to see a concert at Irving Plaza (also called the Fillmore). The band was called Vamps and like Yoshimi are from Japan. I had no idea what to expect and was surprised that when we reached the venue the line was around the block reaching Union Square! Most of the people online where Asian or NYU students in their early twenties. The music itself seemed like some sort of very safe rock n roll copy. However, as you can hear by the audio recording these guys have a serious fan following.
I was at Irving Plaza twice before the Vamps concert. The first time was 1988 Halloween night. I went to the West Village Halloween parade with my first girlfriend and after to Irving Plaza to see Skinny Puppy live. There was a cheesy new wave opening band and then Skinny Puppy came on and dissected a fake dog with blood gushing and all. Some of my friends in the front where covered in blood by the time the concert was over. Thinking back it must have been the VIVI Sect VI (iTunes link) tour. Year’s later I looked at my ticket stubs and noticed the name of the opening band: Nine Inch Nails.
The other time I was at Irving Plaza was to see Granddady (iTunes link). I heard them on WFDU 89.1 earlier the same week for the first time and fell in love with the music. I had no idea if they had any fans or not but went by myself to see them play. I was pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of hipsters also knew this band was incredible and it wasn’t too long after that they became very popular. Too bad they broke up because I sure would still be buying their tunes.
Let me know if you would like more video discussion posts. I’m thinking more is a good thing solely to give my typing fingers a break once and a while. Sorry the audio in the live show is distorted. I just pieced together a bunch of clips of the show I found on YouTube. I had a great time!
Today I fly to Germany to perform two live shows this weekend. Friday night I play at Triebwerk in Dresden. Dresden is probably the only German city I have not been to. I land early Friday morning so I’m looking forward to checking out the city. During World War II it was mostly destroyed and later the city was re-built to look almost like it was never bombed. I’m playing with a friend of mine Swedish techno producer Johan Afterglow. I met Johan in New York City in the late 90s and one night he saved my life (long story!). It’s true that if someone does save your life you never forget it. Last year when I was living in Berlin I put some vocals on a few of his songs. My favorite of the bunch was one we did called Incinerate (iTunes).
There is one nightclub I performed at more than any other. It’s called Club Prag and I must have dropped a bucked of sweat there about twenty times over the past decade. This Stuttgart club fit my music persona perfectly. The walls are red, the ceiling is low with speakers shooting at you right above ear level. It’s the right size, when you stand on stage you can see and scream at everyone in the place.
This weekend they close the doors forever. Club Prag will open on Friday night and stay open until Sunday evening. My set time is 11:00 AM Sunday. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a lunatic asylum and I’m more than happy to provide the soundtrack. I’ve met some of my best friends in that small place. The owner Alex and the different promoters who booked me year after year have always been generous with my fee, great hotels and unlimited booze. Club Prag is already a legendary place and I am so pleased to have been part of it.
I’m not a “love anything Iggy ever did” kind of fan. I love the same Iggy and the Stooges songs every hipster goes for such as I Wanna Be Your Dog and Gimme Danger. If by some bizzare chance you don’t know those two song do yourself a favor and click the titles and listen to some greatness. Today’s video shows you there was a time it was perfectly acceptable to be high on cocaine and on television. I remember watching an interview with Iggy in the 90’s where he went off on David Crosby for being fat, eating meat and being “establishment”. All press is good press.
I always like to have a proper soundcheck. In my contract I state that I have to be driven to the venue before the event starts and test my set up. However, in the real world there are many times I don’t get the chance. Sometimes my flight lands so late I have just about enough time to get to the venue to make my time slot. So how do I avoid sounding weak? More importantly how do I make sure I sound better than anyone else during the evening?
I have a special pre-recorded intro which I simply call “Soundcheck Intro”. It’s about thirty seconds long, starts with a dirty pad sound and then two loud kick drums play. After the two kicks go boom da boom I scream “Check Check!” and this repeats. During this time I’m making sure those booms are loud as f___’n possible and my voice at its loudest is not clipping the music or any limiters attached to the house system. Lastly, a snare comes in so I check the high end. A few other things worth screaming include the city your in, the name of the event, your record label’s name and whatever year you happen to be in. Be warned that if you mess any of those slogans up your screwed!
I also use this intro time to double-click the title bar of my video window on the second screen being displayed by my LCD projector. This brings my live show video that is running in Ableton Live full screen. A quick touch of the projector’s size and focus rings and the wall behind me is ready to entertain too.
Of course this is a painfully obvious thing everyone should do but think about how many times you see a band start and they sound bunk. Clearly they are not “braining on it” and doing any little intro diddy warm up. Another positive side-effect of a soundcheck intro is you clear or refresh people ears away from whatever monontanus boring DJ who was on before you. Yes, it’s a competition and the best act of the night gets paid the most, signs the most autographs and get’s the best looking ladies. The runner up can have all the booze.
Considering most computers come with video editing software I think it’s a requirement bands should have a nice video show going along behind them as they perform. I don’t think it matters if it’s HD footage shot with a new Canon 5D Mark II, a Flip or even a built-in cell phone camera. As with audio it’s the content that counts. Last year I did a post titled, “The best codec for video in Ableton Live on a Mac.” in which I discuss which codec will tax your CPU the least. My finding was a bit surprising and there is a good discussion in the comments so check it out: click here
Most of the time I bring my small but powerful Casio XJ-360 LCD projector with me. I also bring a scrim which is essentially a see through cloth that doesn’t have any wrinkles when pulled tight. An advantage of getting a proper scrim is I can shoot back towards it or I can place the projector behind it (aka reverse projection). You could put a projector in your rider and rely on the club to have one for you. However, I’ve found that most of the time the projectors they have waiting are ancient and the bulbs are dim. Another issue with using the club’s house projector is many times their units are attached to the ceiling in front of the stage so you would have to run a long cable to your computer.
“A scrim or gauze is a very light textile made from cotton, or sometimes flax. Its light weight and translucence means it is often used for making curtains. The fabric can also be used for bookbinding and upholstery. Scrims have also seen extensive use in theatre. The variety used for special effects is properly called sharktooth scrim. However, in theater a scrim can refer to any such thin screen, and are made out of a wide variety of materials. Scrim has a rectangular weave that is similar in size in its openings to a window screen.” – Wikipedia.org
When I play huge events I leave my projector at home. When there is more than 20,000 people in a stadium my own set up is pretty useless. I do come prepared though bringing with me two types of adapters allowing the visual crew to hook into my system. My Macbook Pro came with an Apple DVI to VGA Display Adapter connector and I also purchased the Apple DVI to Video Adapter. With these two adapters my computer has inputs any proper video crew should be able to utilize.
Here’s a bonus tip: If you want a cheap fast way to have a slick video produced for you head over to Animoto.com, upload a bunch of photos of your band, pay $3 and viola they shoot you back a pretty good looking video.
Now that I am living in New York again I decided to go from a two person live show to a solo act. However, if I perform alone how can I still walk away from the computer and approach the audience? For one thing, I will put the table close to the edge of the stage and have the laptop facing sideways so I will be standing on the side of the table, not behind it. Yet I still want to be able to walk around, even into the crowd.
I just bought an iPhone this week so I’ve been searching for a way to control Ableton Live with it. Since I haven’t been following iPhone apps very closely I’m throwing the question to all Wire to the Ear readers: What’s the best way to do this?
Am I correct that TouchOSC needs a Wifi network to work? That would take it off the table as an option. Few clubs I play have a solid WiFi network running. Or could I somehow serve/tether my own mini network up? Or would that require an international data plan?
Thanks for any advice. I’ll be searching for answers and reporting back to here too.
I’m playing live tonight at Tresor. It’s one of the more well known clubs in Berlin. On stage tonight I will be keeping a secret from the audience. Don’t tell anyone ok? The secret is I will have a cheat sheet with on it lyrics in front of me. In fact, I will play a song tonight where as I sit here right now typing this I can’t even remember the opening line! My lyric cheat sheet won’t be on a Textedit or Word document. It’s built right into Ableton Live. Remember when you first opened Live there are those Lessons that pop up on the right part of the interface? If you forgot about them and want to see them again just open Live and under the View menu choose Lessons. See them now? Let’s hack these Lessons and get our own text in there. Here’s how to do it:
Create and save a Project (song) in which you would like to have some of your own text in the Lesson area. Next, find the Project folder that was created when you saved your song. Inside that folder create a new folder with the exact same name as your Project followed by the word “Lessons”. Inside this folder create a plain text document and name it LessonsEN.txt
I use TextWrangler (free!) but you can use the plain old Mac TextEdit too. Type your lyrics or whatever reminders and notes you need. You can create separate pages by using the following syntax:
$Page Name of Song
If you add a: / before text it makes the text italic and bold. I like to make most of my text like this because it’s easier to read. Save the LessonsEN.txt and open Ableton and your Project to see your lyrics. Click on the screenshots in this post to view them larger.
I’m in the midst of a few live shows. Recently I performed in Stuttgart at a really cool underground club confusingly called Prag. I must have played there 10 times and sadly they are closing down next March. Porsche bought the land the little club sits on. I learned a few things at Prag. First, I clearly prefer playing to small crowds. Second, drinking an entire tray of Jäger shots is actually a lot of fun.
This coming week on Thursday I play in Berlin at Tresor and then Saturday night in a East German city called Halle with DJ Westbam. If you are at any of the shows say hello!
I performed live Saturday night in Malta (photo above). It’s a great island below Italy and above Lybia. It’s in the EU, has ancient Roman ruins and amazing blue water. I’ve been performing there about once a year for the past five years and it’s a real treat. These are the kind of gigs everyone dreams about. Our hotel had a large terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. The hotel also had four swimming pools! Ok back to the music…
The most interesting aspect of the trip music tech wise was at sound check. Scottish techno producer Neil Landstrumm (photo below) was also performing and he brought some nice toys. Besides his Mac laptop with Ableton he had an Elektron Machinedrum and Korg ESX1 Electribe SX. My interest really peaked when he pulled out a FMR Audio Really Nice Compressor and Boss RE 20 Space Echo. Needless to say Neil’s sound was very punchy and he had the crowd going. We are old pals (he used to live in NYC) and he went on about how much he liked both the RNC and RE 20.
I ran into some problems at sound check. After making the club check all their equipment for about an hour Neil pointed out the issue was my fault. It turns out my mic was on and even though none of the Ableton channels had the input on the mic was so loud distorting it was bleeding through causing some nasty zapping sounds. I graciously apologized to everyone and luckily redeemed myself later in the night by managing to crowd surf without looking like an idiot.
What? Crowd surf? Unfortunately yes. I like to be really connected to the audience so usually I jump down off the stage however remaining on my feet and walk through people singing. This time it was so packed when I hit the floor without me being able to stop them the kids picked me up! By some magic grace of god I didn’t look too stupid and they floated me back to the stage in one piece. In fact no one even messed up my hair… whew!
I played two songs which are totally new; stuff for my next album. Both worked however I need to make “Lightning Strikes” less synth full for a club setting. “I Stand with You” made me very happy. Only by playing your songs in a live situation can you be ever sure if they are great or not. That’s the tip of the day.
The next show is Stuttgart. To see the flyer: click here