Coming out at night
Spektre aren’t just DJs – they’re also famous for their live act, which has entertained crowds around the world. Recently, though, the live show has been put on ice while the lads develop something new. We sat Paul down to find out what they’re cooking up. Computer Music: Tell us about the first version of Spektre Live. How was it different from your regular DJ set, and how come you decided to update it? Paul Maddox: “The original incarnation of it was basically a kind of hybrid DJ and live set. What would happen is, we’d have two laptops, one running Traktor with our tracks and sometimes some other people’s as well… and then I had another laptop with Ableton Live, so I could add extra loops and bits of different tracks on the fly.
“We went with various controllers over the years, including a Novation SL for a bit, an Akai Pro APC40 for a bit… but keeping everything in sync was always the big bugbear. We had a box from a company called Innnerclock Systems which did a pretty good job – you fed it an audio signal into a special plugin, and it sent out a really tight MIDI clock signal. It worked most of the time – a lot better than doing it manually – but it was still never quite there.”
: So how will the new live show work, in a technical sense? PM: “It’s an evolution of the old idea really, but there are bigger possibilities brought in by Ableton Link – you can take something like Traktor… or two copies of Ableton, and keep them properly in sync. At the moment, we’re still at the R&D stage, and what we’re looking at now is using Traktor and Live, but with Traktor’s Stems feature – so it’s going to be all our own material.
“We’ll split all our tracks down into the Stems format so we can mix the backing part… almost as you would a DJ set. But you can drop specific parts out or in, like the drums or the high percussion. Then we’ll have another laptop running Live with Push 2 attached to it, and we’d basically use that as a big drum machine, using Push 2’s step sequencer and the Drum Racks as a kind of super-deluxe 909, with lots of effects and things like that.
“I think the plan is for Rich to be on the Traktor laptop, and I’ll be on the Ableton laptop so we could play a track almost as it was originally… but with different effects. We could, say, loop just the bottom end and have me doing a 909 jam on Push, and then we can bring the rest of the track back in. I’ll tell you if it works in a couple of months!”
: It’s been out for over a year now… so after all that time, how do you think the response to NI’s new Stems format has been? PM: “From a DJ’s point of view, it’s been fairly lukewarm to be honest. I’ve not seen many people using them, or talking about them in terms of a ‘normal’ DJ set.
“Until you can get almost all music in that format, I don’t think it’s really going to be that appealing, because you’re going to have to do the Stems thing only on certain tracks, and that’s kind of limiting for a DJ. To me, it doesn’t massively appeal, but being able to make our own Stems files is definitely going to be quite a useful feature for our new live setup.”
: It’s hard to sell regular digital files, let alone Stems versions. PM: “I’d be interested to know what the numbers are like, to be honest! Personally, I can’t ever see it taking off to the point of it being ‘the norm’, but I hope it does because it’s a really cool format and it’s a cool idea. I think there’s probably some element of the producers not wanting to give the parts away, because if you’ve got vocals on a track, you’re effectively making the acapella available… and as we know, when acapellas are available, people rip them off!”
“The plan is for Rich to be on the Traktor laptop, and I’ll be on the Ableton laptop”
Indeed! Should all go to plan, the new and improved Spektre Live will be returning this summer and demolishing the dancefloor at a club or festival near you.
The two computers running Ableton Live are synced and stream audio via Ableton Link