The stu­dio seems very er­gonom­i­cally de­signed… you seem to know your own work­flow very well…

Future Music - - IN THE STUDIO WITH -

“Yeah, I do… [ laughs] af­ter all th­ese years! When I switched to hard­ware se­quenc­ing in­stead of play­ing it into the com­puter and at the same time, switched to five rows of patch­bays, it was a lot of math­e­mat­ics and I won­dered how I’d ever deal with it all! The guy who helped me set it up is a real troubleshooter so there was al­most a year of chang­ing things around and ex­per­i­ment­ing un­til we got the fi­nal lay­out that works for me. When you’re con­fi­dent with that then it’s worth keep­ing.”

You have so many dif­fer­ent jump­ing-off points in your set-up, how do you de­cide what to start us­ing on a project?

“It can change on the fly. I might have an im­age of a bass sound in my head so I’ll try to cre­ate it but maybe not quite get it so I’ll switch to another synth. My main thing is de­cid­ing what the ba­sic rhythm is go­ing to be and get­ting the per­cus­sive el­e­ments right and then I’ll come up with the melody. That can be mak­ing a string sound or bleeps and basslines. Of course, I have favourites… when I fi­nally got my Me­mory­moog that was the synth to go to but I know with cer­tain things I maybe need a more sta­ble synth. So, if I need a square sound bassline I’ll go to the Wal­dorf Pulse as I know I can get it quickly there. It kind of all de­pends on where I feel the track is go­ing, if that makes sense.”

FM as­sume you must have a se­ri­ous amount of main­te­nance to keep the older hard­ware work­ing at its best…

“I re­cently had a lot done. I didn’t used to be into tak­ing good care of my synths in the be­gin­ning so, when I fi­nally had the fi­nan­cial means to have ev­ery­thing cleaned and tuned I found a guy at Xtended in Ber­lin who is re­ally nice and good too. So, I started tak­ing things in one by one and it made me re­alise that that is what you must do as part of own­ing a hard­ware stu­dio. You should put a lot of main­te­nance into look­ing af­ter ev­ery­thing.

“I fi­nally de­cided to have an ex­tra func­tion put on my 808 so I can switch from the original 808 to a MIDI-fied 808 with­out los­ing proper swing. It makes it more con­ve­nient for me to pro­gram it on my Cirk­lon. As soon as you get se­ri­ous about your stu­dio then you re­alise that it’s im­por­tant to make it hap­pen in a way that works for you and not re­ally giv­ing too much of a fuck about what other peo­ple say about cer­tain bits of equipment.”

How do you take this al­bum out live? Will much/any of the vin­tage hard­ware go out of the stu­dio with you?

“I’ve only done one per­for­mance so far, for the re­lease of the al­bum, and I just took the ba­sic stems and used a con­troller and lots of ef­fects to jam it out a bit more. I’m not sure if I’m go­ing to tour this al­bum… I think I will but it needs a good en­vi­ron­ment to com­mu­ni­cate with the crowd so I’ve kept it a bit low key un­til I de­cide just what I want to do.

“This type of mu­sic asks for a lot of im­prov so I’m con­sid­er­ing tak­ing a hard­ware se­quencer out on the road. I want it to be very hands-on with a few se­lect ma­chines as I don’t want to take too many things out of the stu­dio as it would be a bit of a night­mare! I’ve gone on the road with hard­ware in the past and it does break down. Th­ese old ma­chines are very sen­si­tive and peo­ple at air­ports don’t al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate what you’re car­ry­ing.

“This al­bum is all about mod­u­la­tion; it con­stantly changes. Even the drums are con­stantly chang­ing and there aren’t any sounds that re­peat them­selves for seven min­utes. So, to bring this al­bum out to a live au­di­ence I have to work out ‘how

do I com­mu­ni­cate in the proper way’. I’m go­ing to dive into it in 2018.”

How do you man­age to bal­ance your var­i­ous roles of la­bel man­ager, DJ and artist?

“Be­cause it’s all about mu­sic it is one thing and it’s all con­nected. What I’ve learned over the last three years is that I’d rather sep­a­rate DJing from mak­ing mu­sic be­cause when I’m in the stu­dio and I know I’m go­ing to have to go on the road a lot, I feel the pres­sure of hav­ing to leave the stu­dio. If I did a full week­end of DJing then I’d take the Monday off which would only leave me Tuesday, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day to pro­duce… even though, by Thurs­day, I’ll al­ready have some­one breath­ing down my neck say­ing I need to pack my records and get on the road Fri­day.

“What I’ve done the past cou­ple of years, es­pe­cially with this new al­bum, is to take big­ger pe­ri­ods of time off where I’m not tour­ing and not leav­ing Ber­lin and I’m at home con­cen­trat­ing on mak­ing mu­sic. That re­ally clears my mind and I’m able to de­vote my­self to stu­dio time. I guess it’s more like how a band would do it – to write an al­bum in the stu­dio, then tour it and when the tour’s over I’m go­ing to go back in the stu­dio. That works for me as I take DJing very se­ri­ously but I also take mak­ing mu­sic in the stu­dio very se­ri­ously.”

And all your var­i­ous record la­bels…?

“Yeah, you do need a day per week to get the la­bels run­ning and I do all that on my own. I haven’t got any­body who does that for me but I run a non-promo pol­icy so, ba­si­cally, when the re­lease comes out I don’t send the files to any­one… it doesn’t go to the press. It’s just there for the lovers, re­ally. They see the phys­i­cal prod­uct in the record shops and they know that two weeks later the files are go­ing to be there so it’s all pretty man­age­able. It would be nice to have some­one help­ing… [ laughs] but I can’t lose con­trol of cook­ing in my own kitchen!”

Some­thing FM of­ten ask artists (very pos­si­bly out of a vested per­sonal in­ter­est) is what is the se­cret to know­ing when some­thing you’re work­ing on is fin­ished?

“It’s in­ter­est­ing you’re ask­ing this as when I was start­ing to make mu­sic, around 2000/2002, I could never fin­ish any­thing. So, there was a long time of me throw­ing things straight into the bin. When I started to write my sec­ond al­bum I knew that there needed to be less pres­sure so what I did was I started to do a ‘two jams a day’ prin­ci­ple. So, I’d go into the stu­dio in the morn­ing, do a jam and make a good foun­da­tion for a track, which I’d then multi-track into the com­puter and record ev­ery­thing… dry sig­nal, ef­fects tracks, seven min­utes of tweak­ing how I thought it could be de­vel­oped. It’s like you’re prac­tis­ing the track but you’re record­ing ev­ery­thing into the com­puter then I’d lock it away af­ter a while, go for lunch then do a sec­ond jam and not touch it. Then, the next day, do the same thing un­til, af­ter a week, you’re lis­ten­ing back to what you’ve done and be­cause you haven’t re­ally over­heard it you have a fresh take on what you’ve done. Work­ing like this, tak­ing a week or even two away from some­thing new then lis­ten­ing to it back, in­stantly lets me de­cide what sounds great and what doesn’t work at all. If some­thing was good I’d write down what it needed, maybe a bassline or a lit­tle bit of ex­tra drum­ming. I’d then do another ses­sion with the track, again multi-track­ing ev­ery­thing back into the com­puter and then, when I felt like I’d got ev­ery­thing I need and I was start­ing to edit the ar­range­ment of all the au­dio files then it would be­gin to feel fin­ished.”

That makes a lot of sense…

“At some point you need to over­come your fear and I had a mas­sive fear of ar­rang­ing a track… ‘I don’t know how to do this’ or ‘it sounds like shit’. Un­til the ice breaks and the wa­ter pours out and you re­alise that this is how it works! For me, to cre­ate a cer­tain dis­tance and not go in­sane work­ing on the same loop for days I would record it, fin­ish the ses­sion then go back to it. It’s such a good sys­tem.”

Did the won­der­ful Cease To Ex­ist that closes the al­bum come to fruition that way?

“[ laughs] Well, some tracks do take the piss be­cause they’re so dif­fi­cult to mix. So, if I lis­ten to it now there are lots of lit­tle bits I wish I’d done dif­fer­ently on it. Out of ten tracks there are usu­ally about three tracks where you wish you’d done some­thing dif­fer­ently but, I guess, that’s a nor­mal crit­i­cal state of mind.”

want to know more? World Of The Wak­ing State is out now on Ostgut Ton. Check out­bel/record/201 for reg­u­lar up­dates.

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