I'm Back in Chicago and it feels good! This tour was sickening, both in the slang driven 'neat' way and the literal pray-for-death way. There are too many thanks to dish out so I simply won't. Now it's time to beg for work in the hotdog city. Freelance for life!
In more interesting news and probably the sole reason you come here is: Workspace and Environment! The fine gentlemen of Realicide somehow got these amazing answers to me while in the midst of their U.S. summer tour. Come and read a extensive interview with Mavis Concave, Robert Inhuman and Vankmen of Realicide!
How long have you been involved with making music?
Robert Inhuman: I started really primitive programming and tape collage work in my teens, but it wasn't until I was out of high school that I started working in bands. I became interested in creating music for its slightly more immediate process and effects versus what I'd focused on prior, drawing and painting. I have stuck with it because it is most closely related to a socially acceptable catalyst for physical public interaction; live shows and the dialogue that is attached to them. I've stuck with music and bands because it is still a lingering platform for ideas, especially in "underground" culture, for now at least.
Vankmen: I have been involved with Realicide for a few years. It went from collabing on releases to from performing with the band, collabing live, and contributing beats for material.
Mavis Concave: I've been officially writing music for ten years now. I started when I was about 13 or 14 years old with a primitive IBM desktop computer and a general MIDI program. I would program entire instrumental songs and pretend I had a band with some friends at school who played guitar and bass. When I was 15 years old, I accidentally saw the band Mr. Bungle live. I went to see Incubus, Puya, and System of A Down because at the time I was way into that whole nu-metal thing or whatever. But that concert changed my life. Mr. Bungle was the first band to radically change my view of listening to and creating music. Within a year of seeing them live, I had discovered endless new music that I really enjoyed... not just the bullshit my friends enjoyed, therefore I enjoyed by default. Also within that year, I wrote and record about four or five collections of solo music on four track tape machines and computers.
I stayed motivated throughout high school because I went to an arts school. I majored in instrumental music, trumpet, but was heavily involved in the composition and jazz departments. I was very fortunate to have teachers supporting my growing interest in composition. I ended up going to college for music composition with the intentions of writing film soundtracks. After a year of officially being in the music conservatory, I dropped out of that program and designed my own liberal arts degree in audio engineering and related media. This is where I really started to become heavily involved with electronic music production such as digital hardcore, gabber, speedcore, harsh noise, etc. Although I felt rejected by most of my peers in college, I was again very fortunate to have professors and mentors supporting the direction I was heading in music and in life.
My main motivation now is mixed. I truly love making music as an art form, I always have. But I also feel a calling to communicate to people on an individual level. Although music is the same message broadcast to a large population at once, it is the individual listener who initially choses to receive and interpret the message, thus resulting in and individual interaction. I have a responsibility to communicate messages that will instigate positive change for individuals, even if that change is a temporary or small one.
What is the name you work under and where can we find your work?
Robert: I tour with Realicide and you can find it at www.realicide.com or any number of places that distro / feature abrasive contemporary hardcore music. But above anything online, you can find it face to face in as many cities as we can get to.
Mavis: I work under my own name as well as DJ THUMPER!, which is my project based in popular music breakcore, gabber, cut-ups. Generally, I always have tracks on the usual channels such as MySpace and Soundclick but lately everything is outdated as much new solo material is long overdue to come out. In the near future, I hope to start a video blog about experiments with hardware and software music production and performance.
Vankmen: Vankmen - www.myspace.com/vankmen
What is your current favorite piece of hardware?
Mavis: Since Spring of 2006, I've been consistently using the first edition Korg Electribe ES-1 sampler as my main hardware drum machine. If you aren't familiar with it, most people just call it "the green Electribe" and that usually clears things up. This is the first sampling drum machine I ever bought and it has remained the best piece for my style. I really enjoy the simplicity and obvious limitations of the machine because it forces me to be creative with my hardware setups and performance tricks. For example, the ES-1 only allows you to store up to 100 mono samples with a total of 90 seconds sample time. I have to carefully pick and choose what samples to store in the machine so I can efficiently perform old songs as well as have breathing room to create new songs. I like the hands-on interface with lots of real-time knobs and step sequencing, but also the advanced meticulous editing that can happen after your ideas are put down. I also love that you can store several different complete memory sets on Smart Media cards. I can fill up the entire machine with samples, patterns, and songs... then back everything up as one file on the memory card. I can then create a completely different set of samples, patterns, and songs, back all that up, and switch between the two sets. This is really great if you are in multiple projects that have contrasting music styles. I own two of these machines now, both of which I'm working into my live rig for Realicide's upcoming US tour dates this Summer/Fall. One machine will be loaded with only breakbeat kits and the other will be loaded with gabber and hardcore kicks, snares, cymbals, and synth tones.
Vankmen: Circuit bent DR-550... When used as a sound module, it's great for really harsh gabber like drums and noises.
Robert: I mainly use a microphone, but sometimes not even that, honestly. Speaking for the group as a whole, I'd say we've benefited overall the most from the Korg ES-1, sampling drum machine, because of its affordability and easy adherence to live manipulation.
What is your current favorite software or plugin? What makes this your favorite?
Mavis: My favorite piece of software, pretty much the only real software I use these days, is Ableton Live. It's a fully recordable digital audio workstation (DAW) as well as an excellent live performance tool. Similar to the Korg ES-1 sampler, I can put my ideas down quickly and accurately and then go tweak all the fine details later. I use Ableton Live to record, mix, and produce all of my tracks now. I really enjoy that it consists of one window workspace with the only pop-ups being VST plugins. I also use this program to perform as DJ THUMPER! in conjunction with one or two simple MIDI controllers. Triggering loops and rearranging music on the fly is so easy and natural. Don't take it from me though... There are so many other people who say everything I just mentioned and more. I'm just another supporter of the program. Research it.
As far as software plugins, I really dig the distortion VST made by Shuriken called "Berrtill". Most importantly, it's freeware... quality freeware. The distortion is modeled after circuit bent electronics and it hits the nail on th head. Fuzzes, glitches, overdrives, bit reductions, ring mods... Check it out. I much prefer hardware synths over plugins but the ArcDev Mainliner X2 is a pretty hardcore mono bass synth in VST form. I highly recommend it if you dig rave synths and lots of modulation capabilities. And again, it's good quality freeware.
Robert: I mainly stick with CoolEditPro, again because of familiarity and a fast easy process of collaging digitally. But again, for the group overall, I think Ableton Live is currently the most beneficial software.
Vankmen: I love Reason 3.0. It's just quick to get ideas down and the multiple ways of routing devices is great.
How does your physical space and surroundings influence your workflow?
Robert: For me, not a lot because I have had to make due with very little in terms of comfort and convenience, especially when I do not have a home, or am usually in a very temporary home. It is somehow not uncommon for my workspace to be the floor in the corner of someone else's room, or someone else's studio space just for a day or two... But I think for the other members of the band, the nature of their space affects their productivity and focus much more. I have just had to learn to cope with very limited resources.
Mavis: Where ever I live is generally where I work and it has a huge impact on my workflow. A few months ago, I lived in a pretty nice, cozy house in southwest Cincinnati, right on the Ohio River. I moved in thinking I would be super productive with my small studio setup on the second floor and no neighbors that would complain about high volume music all day and night. Something about that house prevented me from completing over half the tracks I started recording while living there. Now I live across town in a smaller apartment with less roommates and more neighbors. I work on music of some kind everyday.
I need to have enough physical space for my gear and be surrounded by people who encourage the work that I am doing. I can't be surrounded by people who write off my music production as a nuisance to have in the household. That is probably the biggest creativity/productivity block there is for me.
Are you involved in any music/sound work outside of your own projects?
Mavis: I would very much like to be a sound designer for a hardware based company, such as Korg, Roland, or Yamaha. I'm interested in designing the architecture of the sounds in drum machines and synthesizers as a profession. Who knows if it will ever happen, kind of a dream job I guess.
Other than that, I casually offer independent audio engineering services to anyone interested. From recording, mixing, producing complete tracks to simple MIDI programming or adding electronic elements to music to composing film soundtracks. I'm available, rates are negotiable, and I won't compromise the client's vision for the project, they get the final say. The more I work shitty day jobs to pay bills, the more I want to push this kind of audio work harder and make a living.
What was the first piece of hardware you remember obtaining? The last?
Robert: Tascam 414 Portastudio; my first 4-track tape recorder; it went through a lot and I remember it being a serious investment when I was in high school. The most recent is probably the Korg ES-1 I'm borrowing from Kyle Parker (Infinite Body) with Mavis's patterns loaded onto it to use during times he's not around this year.
Mavis: The first piece of hardware I ever bought for electronic music was a Boss SP-303 Dr Sample. I got it for dropping electronic beats on intros and bridges of Realicide songs during live shows with a drummer in 2002. After we parted ways with the drummer, I bought my first drum machine, the Alesis SR-16. I used the SP-303 and SR-16 is nearly every Realicide show I was a part of from 2003-2006.
The last piece of hardware I obtained was a Korg Electribe EA-1 analog modeling synthesizer... AKA "the blue Electribe". I picked up this machine for experimenting with using external effects pedals as oscillators after seeing Jon Prunty use one for the European tour Realicide did in Spring 2008. This is the second time I've owned this machine, which is really rare for me. I just wasn't ready for it the first time I owned one.
Vankmen: The first piece I ever got was my Boss DR-550. It's been used in the performances with Realicide on the westcoast last year and is in several upcoming recorded tracks with Realicide.
What is on your current 'wish list' for new hardware or software?
Mavis: I would very much like to buy a Korg R3 for my main hardware synthesizer. I've been looking into it a lot and saving up my money by selling large amounts of other gear. Bills keep piling up and other priorities prevent me from getting one right now. I really look forward to getting one though.
Robert: I'd want to get a great PA that we can take anywhere, so that we never have to deal with sound guys EVER again. That would be great... Otherwise, I really need to get a working laptop cos it's been hard to stay in constant communication in LA without my own source of internet or a space to work in regularly.
Do you have a mobile studio setup?
Robert: Everything about my life is mobile this year. I have my car which contains all my stuff. None of that is studio gear though, I just mean boxes of books and records + a few clothes.
Do you have a setup for live performances?
Vankmen: the setup I used for the Realicide performances is the Boss SP-505, Boss DR-550 (circuit bent), and various circuit bent guitar pedals.
Mavis: My setup for live gigs varies over time. The last live setup I had in Realicide consisted of two Korg ES-1s for drums and blasts, a Boss SP-505 sampler for synth/guitar loops/riffs, a few effects pedals for feedback, and a Behringer mixer.
Robert: My mouth. I have to run drum machines and tapes this summer when I'm in between bandmates, but it is a last resort. I normally don't touch anything at shows besides a mic and people.
Robert: I am from Cincinnati, but now I'm basically nomadic between there, Los Angeles, Saint Louis, New Orleans, everywhere... I had some great times struggling in Ohio, but ultimately got done studying the dead end it is for the kind of work I am interested in pursuing.
Mavis: I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to college about 100 miles northeast in Columbus, Ohio. That's the only other city I've lived in at this point, something I'm not proud of. Post-college now, I live in Cincinnati again, temporarily. I'm planning on leaving Ohio at the end of 2008 to move East, possibly Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. I haven't made solid arrangements yet but I'm looking forward to the change in location.
Have you ever heard your music being played at a random/public place?
Robert: All our shows feel like that to some degree, to me anyway.
Vankmen: One time I heard a DJ play my song off Teen Suicide 01 at a random party. That was pretty cool.