Talking Shop: Housemeister
Over the years, the infectious, hardwaredriven jam sessions of stalwart Berlin producer Housemeister have led to releases on esteemed labels including BPitch Control, Detroit Underground and Boysnoize Recordings. This month, he releases the inaugural EP from new label Unreel Records. FM caught up with him to find out more about his hardware-heavy studio.
When did you start making music?
“I’ve been a DJ since ’94 and producing electronic music since 1998. My first gear was an Atari computer, a JoMox XBase, a 606, a 505, a Korg MS-20 with sequencer, a Quasimidi Sirius, an Access Virus, a Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro and a MOTU 828 soundcard. Not too much later I switched to Apple and Logic.
“My influences come from Berlin techno in the ’90s, from the club scene and my friends, who produced music too, people like Toktok, Modeselektor, Paul Kalkbrenner and others. We had a lot of fun and spent a lot of time talking tech.
“My first record, the WakeUp EP was released in 2001 on Ellen Allien’s BPitch Control.”
Tell us about your studio…
“The heart of my studio is my Midas Venice F32 analogue mixer with 32 channels, full parametric EQs and an integrated soundcard. All channels are connected, because I work with a hardware-only setup. It’s more fun.
“The master is the Elektron Octatrack, which sequences all the synths and provides the MIDI clock. It’s also my re-sampler; when I route any instrument to bus 3/4 it goes into the Octatrack input.
“The gear is always synced, so I can press start on the Octa and all the machines start running. Some of the machines have their sequencers and effects inside, like the Elektrons and the Dreadbox Erebus. I love sequencers and I’m super good at programming them!
“I like real machines, as I can touch them, learn how they work and program them blind. It’s like a pinball machine – you get better and better the more you play, and then you can cross the borders and do things no-one has before.
“I buy and sell gear regularly. It brings new energy. I don’t get that with new plugins.
“Sequencers are the base of my studio and there’s no better sequencer than those in the Elektron machines. I also love the internal sequencer of the DSI Tetra, which is pretty old school, with four 16-step tracks that let you choose what they sequence, from notes to LFO or filter. It can be really interesting. For example, you make a Tetra sequence with eight steps for the melody, a five-step LFO line, 12 steps filter pattern and maybe six steps for decay… so the sequence will change forever. I then sequence the DSI sequencer from my Octatrack, which is always surprising.
“I love today’s small machines. In the last few years I’ve sold many bigger ones and got the smaller version, like 909, 808, 101 or the Juno.
“My whole studio setup is built to work standing. When I’m recording I like to dance.
“As for aux effects, I use the Eventide Space, the Strymon Blue Sky and the Ensoniq DP/2.
“My monitors are the Tapco S8, which I’ve had for years; I love them. It was a sub-company of Mackie and they’re good for party mode. They have a lot of bass, but I like that!”
What DAW do you use, and why?
“I’ve worked with Ableton Live since version one. I was fascinated by the clip mode, the mangling of samples and loops, and the automation possibilities. That’s all still great, but at the moment I only really use it for 32-channel recording. In my personalised Live template, all the channels are set up with names of the machines and record is already activated. That means that when I open Ableton, it takes over the master clock and is ready to record. It’s important for a quick workflow.
“Sometimes I use some plugins, like Reaktor or Synplant to make some samples for my Octatrack. I also use it to cut up samples. I like to record with my wav-recorder out in the streets, creating sounds with some wood and metal sticks.”
What one piece of gear in your studio could you not do without, and why?
“That would be the Eventide Space – a reverb from another planet with many knobs and the ability to save your own presets. I got that box some years ago, and it changed my life. It adds another dimension to every instrument. I use it as an aux effect, so I can use it on any of my gear.”
What’s the latest studio addition?
“I just got the Behringer Neutron synth and I’m super happy with it. It’s semi-modular, paraphonic and has loads of knobs too. I couldn’t believe how good it sounds and how many different sounds it can make. I also love the look.”
What bit of gear would you love?
“I think next additions will probably be the Elektron Digitone and the Moog Drummer From Another Mother. Both are small but powerful!”
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
“I’ll have days where I just program patterns and sounds. For example, I might sit for a day just playing on the Analog Rytm programming beats. When one pattern is done, I don’t start a track, I just go to the next pattern and do it again – and so on.
“I’ll do that with all the machines, more or less. Then another day I’ll switch on the studio and a track is already there… by accident. I’ll find a nice hook made with a synth, then I already have loads of beats to choose from. It’s then a bit like a DJ set – all the instruments are the records which I mix. I’ll change some things, take sounds out and add what’s missing.”
“In my studio so many things are based on coincidences. It’s great! Eventually I record everything as a live session, including all separate audio tracks, effects and the master.
“Mostly I just use the master recording. I don’t like to do everything again in the computer, like EQ, compressing and mixing. I did it all already outside the box in my Midas mixer, and that sounds amazing. The separated parts are mostly just for potential remixes.”
What are you currently working on?
“This year I’ve already had two vinyl releases, the first was my StandUp! EP on Boysnoize Records and the second is the LateAtNight EP on Accidental Records. There’s also my
SooGood EP, including a fantastic T Raumschmiere remix, on Unreel Records. Also a track on the Christmas compilation from Pan Pot’s label Second State.”