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Electronic musician Enjoyed, talks us through his weird and wonderful world of harps, whistles and fruity percussion...
My drum kit is where most of my music starts. I’ve been drumming for about 10 years now and still try and hop on the kit once a day to just jam different things and keep proficient. It’s during these jam sessions that I come up with most of the beats for my tracks. I’ll usually jump straight into Pro Tools after drumming so I’m still feeling the rhythm but if I stumble upon something good early on, I’ll record myself playing on my phone then carry on drumming and see what else happens. My kit is pretty old and it’s in a room with awful acoustics, so I’ve never really had a good opportunity to actually record it, which is something I really want to be able to do at some point. The challenge then is to try to recreate the groove on the kit using samples and recordings of individual hits and sounds. I find that a whole lot of fun though and always end up developing and bettering the original beats with new patterns and poly rhythms.
I have an electronic drum kit as well, a Roland TD-8KV, which I took with me to Uni. That was great for trying out drum patterns with already electronic sounding samples. And obviously didn’t cause as much disturbance in halls (though I did get several noise complaints anyway) but it’s been a little neglected recently. You just can’t compare velocity sensitive samples to real metal work.
The second place that I get a bunch of song ideas from is my piano. I am in no way a pianist, and despite having lessons, wouldn’t exactly call myself proficient, but I can play yummy chords and work out the best way to get from one yummy chord to another. This is what normally begins a domino effect in my head of me trying to combine rhythms I’ve come up with on the drums with chords and melodies I’ve plonked out on the piano. There’s not always an easy link to make and a lot of the time I will have to get into Pro Tools to really explore the accompanying beats. ‘Paws’ was probably the most involved track that began as chords on the piano. It was my attempt to work with a proper chord progression and when I came up with the order I immediately jotted it down on some paper. I would love to record the piano properly but unfortunately the ‘music room’ that both it and the drums inhabit, has some awful tones in it which I couldn’t avoid capturing. There’s also the issue of the piano being about 26 cents out of tune…
I’ve had this preset synth for as long as I can remember. I never really appreciated its warmth and tone before I started really getting into making music but I use it for pad sounds all the time now. Feed it through a few effects and it just cradles your tracks. It’s one of those textures that you can hide in the background without too much going on but when you mute it, the track just loses something.
The Oboe sound is my favourite preset. With the Electric Piano a close second; it’s a really warm percussive sound that works brilliantly with a touch of delay. I also love that it has a manual tuning dial on the back. You can actually physically add vibrato with your fingers, or tune things slightly out for that all too popular ‘lo-fi’ vibe.
It’s a bit of a shocker but apart from the Casio, which my Dad bought way back when, I hadn’t actually used a real synth until the start of this year. I used to rely mostly on samples, which I would manipulate into various sounds and textures, then I stopped hating on MIDI and discovered its vast potential. I find writing in blocks and using the pencil in Pro Tools great for developing ideas and experimenting with chords and melodies, but everything was always the same velocity and I found myself working in a very samey way with sounds. So I concluded that I needed something physical to play with, and something a bit more versatile than the Casiotone and the other more basic keyboards I had around the house. I went onto Vintagesynth.com and searched for synths used by some of my favourite artists, and one synth which came up a few times (and was relatively cheap!) was the CS1x. I had a quick search on eBay and there was one going the following day. Which I won! I’ve used it in every single track since. Every sound in it is brilliant and although the customisation can be a bit fiddly, there is a lot you can do with it. The internal metronome also drifts around in time which makes arpeggios a whole lot of fun to record.
My live set up took me a while to get right. Making sure everything was as adaptable as possible was crucial. I hated the idea of just having a backing track and it’s always been important to me to make sure that I have something to do at all times when I’m playing. No one wants to watch someone just standing around while their music plays.
I bought a Roland SP-555, like a lot of people did, after seeing Animal Collective playing Taste for the first time. For a couple of very early Enjoyed shows I was using just my sampler to play tracks but when I started making 10 minute songs with 40+ tracks, 6 samples became rather limiting. Especially as those 6 samples took up 3/8s of a whole bank. So I started using the sampler solely for its effects and as a sound card. It’s now the central hub through which everything goes. It’s also got the patented V-Beam, which seems to go down well at shows. I use it like a theremin to play melodies over some of the instrumental parts of songs. There’s only really 2 sounds on it that aren’t proper cheese, but those two sounds seems to fit with everything.
My APC40 was another gig triggered purchase. I’d been watching my friend Seams playing live for months with his Novation Launchpad and it just made sense to get something like that for myself. He was also using a separate slider and rotary mixer for effects and levels but I decided to go for the all in one package and found myself an APC40 on Gumtree. As soon as I got it I knew how big a change it was going to make for my live show. Combined with Ableton, it can basically do everything. I’ve customised it a bunch and mapped out some really useful shortcuts including a whole section dedicated to live looping.
For extra effects; mostly delay, reverb, pitch shifting and distortion, I also use a Boss ME-50. It was actually my Dad’s and he’d be annoyed if I claimed it was mine but the fact was, he never used it. The effects aren’t superb, but the space delay and the pitch shifting in particular are quite tasty. And it allows me to quickly and easily make adjustments to my vocals with my fingers on a familiar pedal. I actually use it more like an FX send with the left channel of my Behringer UB502 Mixer going straight to the sampler, and the right channel going to the effects pedal and then on to the sampler. The panning knobs on the mixer for each channel strip then act as a kind of make shift wet/dry. I can then hook up my guitar to the mixer and use the effects in the same way.
So that’s the top shelf, then downstairs I have my M-Audio Axiom Pro 49, mainly used for vocoding in Ableton and the odd bit of chord jamming. I also have some of the buttons mapped in Ableton to turn on certain instruments, switch channels and stop and reset the playhead to 0 (really useful as it resets the clip quantizing after a sound check). I also use the hi-hat control pedal from my TD8KV as a sustain pedal. It’s perfect for those long-held-chord vocoder moments!
MISCELLANEOUS INSTRUMENTS (CHARM HARP, TRAIN WHISTLE, SHAKERS)
The charm harp was a recent acquisition. I immediately tuned the strings into a tasty chord when I got it and chucked it straight into a new track I was working on at the time. I really like over plucking it and getting that metallic, slightly dissonant sound. It works well with the reverse delay on my effects pedal. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to owning a koto too.
The train whistle is one of those things I really want to put into every song, but there’s just never the right moment. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember along with a healthy appreciation for all things locomotive. I like to think my music is designed for long train journeys. Hopefully, one day, I will find the perfect tune to stick it in to and it will be amazing.
The tin whistle is also a brilliant sound which I like to get in there as much as possible. You can get that wonderful octave breaking effect with little to no skill, which can add a nice ethnic touch to your
You’ve got to have real shakers. There’s so much more freedom when you can shake in exactly the way you want to. And there’s nothing better than labelling a track in Pro Tools, ‘Pear’ or ‘Banana’.
STUDIO SET UP
I’ve only really had a dedicated studio space for 5 months or so. I used to make tracks in my bed, on trains, in the kitchen, outside… but having everything in one room coming through my Tannoy Reveal 601s has really helped me in my process. Having a dedicated place to go and make music really makes all the difference. I know I can be in there for however long I want to be with no distractions or disturbances and I can just get on with things, which is important because I find I write best when I can sit and jam out ideas for a good solid block of time.
The Tannoys were only bought this year, along with my M-Audio Fast Track C400 (so I can use Pro Tools M-Powered, properly… or so I thought at the time) but have really improved the sound of my mixes, I think anyway. I took Underworld’s ‘Pearl’s Girl‘ with me when I was trying out different speakers and it was incredible hearing a track that I’m so familiar with in such a different way. Loads of extra stereo detail that I was losing out on and such clarity with all those beats! It’s weird to think I used to mix with my crappy desktop speakers but, as they say, it’s what you’re used to, and I didn’t know any better. I would never go back though, I love the sound of the 601s and hate listening to music through anything else now. They have an awesome TRON look to them too and a nice blue light which I always appreciate. I write and record everything in Pro Tools, which I love. Despite constant battles with it running properly on my laptop, it really is a fantastic piece of software and I love the feeling of opening up a new session and building something completely from scratch. It truly is a blank canvas and after spending the last 5 years working in it I feel super comfortable and streamlined when moving about in it and I still feel like there’s so much more I have yet to discover. I love it.
I come up with a bunch of rhythms on this baby, which nearly always end up back in the tracks in some form or other. It’s also the best quality control for my music… If I’m uncontrollably tapping away while I’ve got my track looping, then I know I’m onto to something alright!
The Sugar EP is out now.
Enjoyed plays live on July 13th at www.fieldsldn.net.