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is it true Go Plastic by Squarepusher featured no computer wizardry?


PhylumZunami
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  • 1 month later...

From RDJ soundcloud:

 

Ive been very kindly asked to clarify to whether or not TOM squarepusher used a PC on Go Plastic and I feel like I should coz I think its important. He didn't use a PC and I remember hearing that interview with Hrvatski, cracked me up that he was so presumptious about how Tom had made it, wish I could have seen Keith’s face for that one, sorry Keith, classic. So yeah Tom made it on a QY and Eventide FX, no pc, he’s an absolute beast programmer, pretty untouchable, fucking Don, amazing work ethic. I remember at least one live gig he did with that setup, off Oxford street I think and it blew my fucking mind, all those ‘edits’ that people think were actually programmed or manipulated live using Drehbank and Eventides with all his own custom patches, wish he’d done more using that setup.
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@user18081971: Really inspired me, thanks Tom, he gave me some of his patches, awesome stuff, wouldn’t want to use them of course, they are his. He made some synths on them which was some great lateral thinking at the time. Never rinsed my DSP4000 anywhere near as much as he did but I’ve been recently been giving the 8000 a REALLY hard time with the Cirklon! inspired greatly by Tom.

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Damn he's so close to clarifying the unreleased SP Rome tracks. Collab or just Tom?!!! Tantalizing!

That's been confirmed a handful of times on different places and by different people as just Tom. No reason to doubt anymore.
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Damn he's so close to clarifying the unreleased SP Rome tracks. Collab or just Tom?!!! Tantalizing!

That's been confirmed a handful of times on different places and by different people as just Tom. No reason to doubt anymore.

 

 

someone should make an IDM FAQ

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Damn he's so close to clarifying the unreleased SP Rome tracks. Collab or just Tom?!!! Tantalizing! 

 

I guess when the Rome tracks drop it will be the closest I'll ever get to experiencing the myth of the effect of a full-moon in a lunatic asylum, right here in watmm HQ.

Edited by beerwolf
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Really cool to see Rich comment on this and verify the claim.

 

Since this topic was brought back up I though I'd post this Go Plastic-era interview with Tom that isn't widely available. It's with Keys magazine and it's in German. I got it from Sepix over on Xltronic awhile ago.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2620795/WATMM/Keys%20Interview.pdf

 

Some of it was translated in this Xltronic thread, but if someone who knows German wants to tackle the whole thing, that'd be awesome. 

http://xltronic.com/mb/14152/squarepusher-keys-interview

Edited by weakmassive
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KEYS

Die Vorgängeralben zu Go Plastic klangen allesamt sehr warm und analog. Einige der Stücke, etwa Coopers World sind vom Feeling her sogar so überzeugend, dass man meinen könnte, sie seien von einer echten Jazz-Combo eingespielt worden. Das neue Album hingegen hat einen ganz anderen Charakter: digital, kühl, maschinell, sehr präzise und quantisiert. Wie kam es zu dieser radikalen Umstellung?

 

TOM

Das liegt wohl an meinem neuen Studio und der dadurch bedingten Umstellung der Arbeitsweise. Vor etwa eineinhalb Jahren habe ich mich entschlossen, mein Studio von Grund auf neu zu gestalten und einen kompletten Neuanfang zu machen. Ich hatte vorher fast ausschließlich von mir selbst modifizierte Geräte im Studio, wil es mich gelangweilt hat, mich mit den Interfaces, die andere Leute designt haben, rumzuschlagen. Gerade die Geräte aus der Zeit zwischen Mitte der 80er und Mitte der 90er haben so unglaublich schlechte Bedienoberflächen und geben einem kaum die Möglichkeit die vorgegebenen Pfade zu verlassen. Als ich noch mit Analog-Equipment gearbeitet habe, gab es kein Gerät im Studio, an dem ich nicht irgend etwas verändert hätte. Nur ist es bei digitalen Geräten ungleich schwerer da etwas dran zu drehen, es soll ja auch noch funktioneren.

Irgendwann hat es mich dann genervt, mit dem alten Equipment zu arbeiten, obwohl es auch seine guten Seiten hat, da man lernt mit einem Minimum an Equipment, das Maximum an Sound herauszuholen. Als zum Beispiel die ersten HipHop-Tracks auf dem Akai S900 mit nur einem MByte Arbeitsspeicher produziert wurden, waren die auch nicht viel schlechter als die Nummern, die heute mit 128 oder meht MByte produziert werden. Durch die geringen technischen Möglichkeiten muss man sich automatisch mehr auf die musikalischen Strukturen konzentrieren. Bis zu Go Plastic habe ich tatsächlich mit nur 1,5 MByte Sample-RAM produziert.

 

KEYS

Aber doch wohl einen Atari oder Ähnliches für den Sequencer?

 

TOM

Nein, ich habe ausschließlich mit einem Boss DR-660 einer Fostex 8-Spur, einen Octave-Cat-Synthesizer (Nachbàu des ARP Odyssey), einem Sampler und einem 12-Kanal-Pult von Spirit produziert.

 

KEYS

Das kann man sich fast nicht vorstellen, die Rhythmen und Arrangements sind derart komplex.

 

TOM

Ja, aber das ist alles mehr oder weniger Live eingespielt und bis ins Unendliche überreinander gebounced worden. Bis zu Go Plastic hatte ich ja noch nicht mal Ahnung von MIDI. Ich wusste nur, dass das irgendetwas mit Noten zu tun hat. Im Nachhinein kommt mir das wie eine sehr lange Lernphase vor, durch die ich mich einfach durchkämpfen musste, um musikalisch und produktionstechnisch dahin zu kommen, wo ich heute bin. Gegen Ende dieser Phase habe ich mir dann auch ab und en einen Mac von einem Freund ausgeliehen, um wenigstens zwei Spur-Master schneiden zu können. Aber auch das war immer auf einem sehr niedrigem Level, da ich mit der Sound-Edit-Software gearbeitet habe. Als der Mac dann wieder bei meinem Freund war, hab ich mir eine analoge 2-Spur-Maschine gekauft. Das mag sich jetzt ein bisschen verrückt anhören, aber ich wollte einfach von Grund auf lernen, wie man schneidet und das geht am besten mit einem Analogband. Man bekommt ein besseres Gefühl und es gibt einem doch eine viel größere Befriedigung, da man mit Material arbeitet, dass man anfassen kann. Obwohl es anfangs unglaublich schwer ist - man verwechselt die Schnipsel, oder schneidet zu früh und muss dann wieder komplett von vorne anfangen. Wenn man über seinen Sampler-Tellerrand blickt, bekommt man außerdem eine Ahnung davon, wie die zur Verfügung stehenden Mittel die Produktion und natürlich auch die Komposition beeinflussen. Für mich ist dieser physikalische Ansatz, das Fühlen der Musik, sehr wichtig. Ich spiele ja auch Bass auf meinen Stücken, das ist auch ein sehr physisches Instrument, man spürt die tiefen Töne mehr, als dass man sie hört.

 

KEYS

Wie kam es dazu, das Du dein Studio komplett umgestaltet hast?

 

TOM

Eines Tages hatte ich einfach die Nase voll und sagte mir: So, jetzt werde ich mir einen richtig geilen Rechnes kaufen und den ganzen teuren Hardware-DSP-Kram. Ich habe alles aus meinem alten Equipment herausgeholt, jetzt wird es Zeit zu schauen, was man mit dem neuen Kram so alles anstellen kann.

 

KEYS

Die früheren Alben hatten einen höheren Gehalt an melodischen Strukturen, wohingegen Go Plastic sehr abstrakt wirkt. Ist das aus deiner Sicht eine Entwicklung oder eher Reduktion?

 

TOM

Klanglich mag es reduziert erscheinen, vom Kompositorischen her gesehen ist es auf jeden Fall eine Weiterentwicklung, da ich vorher all die Stücke machen musste, um jetzt diese Musik machen zu können. Die Strukturen und Sounds sind ja nicht aus einer Laune heraus entstanden, sondern aus einer Entwicklung, die sich über einen langen Zeitraum erstreckt hat. Ich habe gelernt, mit meinem alten, begrenzten Equipment zu arbeiten. Die neuen Geräte geben mir die Möglichkeit, in andere klangliche Dimensionen vorzudringen - das wirkt sich natürlich auch auf Melodik und Struktur aus.

 

KEYS

Was benutzt Du denn jetzt in deinem neuem Studio?

 

TOM

Die erste Software mit der ich mich richtig auseinander gesetzt habe war Reaktor von Native Instruments. Das ist mein absolutes Lieblingsprogramm. Nachdem ich den Entschluss gefasst hatte, mein Studio neu aufzubaunen, war das erste Hardware-Gerät, dass ich mir gekauft habe, der FS1R von Yamaha - ein geiles Gerät, wirklich, aber die Bedienoberfläche und die MIDI-Implementation ist der absolute Horror, wie bei den meisten japanischen Geräten. Da hab ich mir gedacht, jetzt bastele ich mir selber einen FM-Synthesizer, bei dem ich direkten Zugriff auf alle Parameter habe und alle operatoren so miteinander verschalten kann, wie ich es will und vielleicht noch einer Filter dahinterschalten.

Da kam mir Reaktor wie gerufen. Obwohl ich sagen muss, dass mir die Oberflächen der bei Reaktor mitgelieferten Instrumente auch nicht gerade zusagen. Das schöne an Reaktor ist ja, dass es so einfach zu bedienen ist. Das schwierige ist, die Oberfläche und Kontrollmöglichleiten so zu gestalten, dass man sinnvoll damit arbeiten kann. Bei einer gut konzipierten Oberfläche sollte man den Klang mit acht Fadern oder Knöpfen, komplett auseinander nehmen und wieder zusammensetzen können. Bisher musste man sich immer der Benutzerführung eines Gerätes unterordnen. Bei Reaktor kansst Du das Gerät deiner Arbeitsweise anpassen und wenn Dir das dann immer noch nicht gefällt, bau Dir eins, dass Dir gefällt. Das ist meiner Meinung nach das Revolutionäre daran.

 

KEYS

Die FM-ähnlichen Sounds auf Go Plastic, die wie ein zu kurz gelooptes Sample klingen sind auch aus Reaktor?

 

TOM

Teils, teils. Ich hab noch einen Eventide DSP 4000 und einen Eventide Orville. Sehr teuer, aber was für Maschinen! Der Löwenanteil der Verfremdungen und wirklich kranken Sachen, die man auf Go Plastic hören kann, sind mit dem DSP 4000 oder dem Orville entstanden. Aber auch hier ist es genau das gleiche, wie bei den anderen Geräten: Für den Sound, den ich machen will, sind die Presets und Programme einfach nicht geeignet. Ich habe einfach kein Interesse am besten 3D Hall. Das ist mir ehrlich gesagt schnurz-piep-egal. Ich will ja Musik komponieren. Deswegen gefallen mir Effekte, die sich in einem musikalischen Kontext einsetzen lassen viel besser. Die Qualität ist dann wirklich zweitrangig. Bloß keine Effekte, die man pauschal auf den Sound oben draufklatscht, damit es edler oder besser klingt.

Der Effekt soll die musikalische Idee an sich beeinflussen und verändern, wie etwa bei rhythmischen Multitap-Delays und das kriegt man mit den Eventides sehr gut hin. Das Tolle an den Dingern ist ja, dass man die Algorithmen und Programme sehr gut am Gerät selber editieren kannst - man braucht also keinen PC oder Mac-Editor. Aber auch bei den teuren Eventide Geräten gibt es einige Bugs. Wahrscheinlich ist das noch keinem aufgefallen, weil alle nur die Presets oder vorgegebenen Algorithmen verwenden. Ich habe auch bei Eventide angerufen, um mich zu beschweren, aber irgendwie wollte mir da keiner glauben.

Für Go Plastic hab ich mir als erstes mit dem Orville einen Synthesizer gebaut. Eine Menge der FM-Sounds sind tatsächlich von ihm erzeugt worden. Ich habe mir da einen ganz speziellen FM-Additiv-Synthesizer gebaut. Das traurige ist, dass man die Programme mit niemand austauschen kann, wil kaum einer einen Orville oder DSP 4000 besitzt. Und die, die sich einen leisten können haben kein Interesse daran, ihn als Synthesizer zu benutzen.

 

KEYS

Wie darf man sich diese Art Synthesizer vorstellen?

 

TOM

Auf dem Orville habe ich einen Synthesizer gebaut, der seinen Signalfluss und teilweise auch die Module permanent verändert, abhängig von Logikschaltungen, Pegel oder Modulationsquellen. Zum Beispiel sind die Sounds, die sich wie eine Mischung zwischen Delay und extrem eingestelltem Timestretching anhören über eine Peak-Detector-Schaltung realisiert worden. Sobald ein Loop einen bestimmten Schwellenwert unterschreitet, wird das letzte Segment des Loops so lange wiederholt, bis der Schwellenwert wieder überschritten wird. Die Länge des Segmentes wird über eine Mittelung zwischen Pegelabfall pro Zeit und Modulationsquelle bestimmt. Das würde jetzt zu weit gehen, die Algorithmen und Logik-Elemente zu erläutern, aber das kann man alles auf dem Album hören.

 

KEYS

Welchen Sequencer hast du auf Go Plastic benutzt?

 

TOM

Ich habe einen QY700 von Yamaha benutzt. Vor Jahren habe ich mal Cubase ausprobiert, aber das hat mir überhaupt nicht zugesagt. Ich mag eher den numerisch-pattern-orientierten Ansatz von Step-Sequencern. Beim QY700 sind es eigentlich nur Edit-Listen, das mag ich am liebsten. Ich bin allerdings gerade dabei mir meinen eigenen Sequencer zu basteln. Das ist für mich natürlich immer noch die beste Lösung. Ich denke, das Step-Sequencer oder auch Tracker-Programme viel besser für elektronische Musik geeignet sind, als die etablierten Sequencer, die sich am traditionellen Bandmaschinenkonzept orientieren. In Reaktor habe ich auch schon Step-Sequencer, Sampler und irre Schaltungen kombiniert, nur gehen einem da ziemlich schnell die Prozessor-Reserven aus. Aber im Moment bin ich vollauf zufrieden.

 

KEYS

Warum benutzt Du so gerne FM-ähnliche Sounds?

 

TOM

Das hat vielleicht auch mit einem Hobby aus meiner Kindheit zu tun. Als kleiner Junge saß ich oft stundenlang vor dem Radio und hörte das Kurzwellenband ab. Man kennt doch den Effekt, wenn man langsam durch die Frequenzen durchfährt, ergeben sich abgefahrene Frequenzmodulationen zwischen Rauschen, der Trägerwelle und den Sprachfetzen. Mich hat diese Musik aus dem Äther, wenn Du so willst, schon als Kind unheimlich fasziniert. Gerade dadurch, dass man Dinge nicht genau oder nur sehr verzerrt und moduliert hört, wird die Fantasie unheimlich angeregt. Mit der Frequenzmodulation bin ich in der Lage, diese Ätherwellen in Reinform zu generieren. Ähnlich wie bei den Radiowellen, weiß man auch bei komplexen FM-Algorithmen nicht, was am Ende dabei herauskommt. Kleine Veränderungen können den ganzen Sound kippen. Das ist es, was mir daran so gut gefällt. Auf Music is Rotted One Note habe ich im Hintergrund einiger Tracks Radiosignale zugemischt, ganz knapp an der Grenze der Wahrnehmung. Man muss sehr genau hinhören um es erkennen zu können. Wahrscheinlich kann man es nur auf wirklich guten Monitor-Boxen heraushören. Das ist auch ein sehr faszinierender Aspekt, der sich mit Musik realisieren lässt: Klänge, Melodien oder Geräusche dem Haptstück, an der Grenze des Hörbaren zuzumischen, so dass man meint, man höre etwas, einen Ton, kann aber nicht genau bestimmen, was es ist. Das erzeugt einen unheimlich subtilen Effekt, der den Charakter eines Stückes komplett verändern oder mystifizieren kann.

 

KEYS

Verwendest du virtuell-analoge Synthesizer?

 

TOM

Nein, das hat den einfachen Grund, das die meisten Geräte nicht meinem ästhetischen Empfinden entsprechen, ich finde sie einfach hässlich. Ich muss ja jeden Tag mit den Geräten arbeiten und da will ich Geräte um mich herum haben, die mich auch optisch ansprechen. Das mag sich jetzt völlig verrückt anhören, es ist einfach so. Wenn ich in mein Studio komme und die Eventides anschalte, gibt mir das ein warmes Gefühl in der Magengegend. Ein anderer Punkt ist, dass diese Geräte versuchen, etwas zu imitieren, was sie selbst nicht sind, ich empfinde das so. Deswegen kling das Album auch so digital. Viele Produzenten versuchen mit allen Mitteln ihre Musik, die sie digital produziert haben, so klingen zu lassen, als wäre es auf Analog-Equipment produziert worden. Das ist doch eigentlich eine Lüge. Go Plastic ist digital produziert worden und klingt auch so. Man braucht sich doch nicht zu schämen, dass man heute lebt und sich das Equipment verändert und verbessert. Ich denke, dass das auch viel mit Hörgewohnheiten zu tun hat. Wir müssen uns erst an die digitale Ästhetik gewöhnen, an die pure Freude am Geräusch.

 

KEYS

Deine Stücke klingen, vom Aufbau her, sehr konstruiert. Komponierst Du noch oder programmierst Du schon?

 

TOM

Es ist nicht so, dass ich mir vorher überlege, was ich machen werde. Das macht man, wenn man ein Programm schreiben will. Da muss man ganz genaue Vorstellungen davon haben, was man mit dem Programm erreichen will.

Der Prozess des Komponierens ist für mich eher ein Aufdecken von Strukturen und Ideen, die bereits da sind. Ich begebe mich in diesen virtuellen Klangraum und decke Ideen auf und wische Rhythmen frei. Es ist ein Echtzeit-Prozess, bei dem man nie weiß, wohin einen das nächste Element hinführen wird. Ich habe ja früher in Bands gespielt, die Regeln des Songwriting sind mir also geläufig. Das ist aber etwas völlig anderes. Mit den Maschinen und Möglichkeiten von heute sollte man sich einfach vom Equipment leiten lassen. Das heißt natürlich nicht, dass man wie ein Idiot vor dem Computer sitzt und irgendwelche Sachen ausprobiert. Man sollte sein Equipment in und auswendig kennen, man fängt einfach mit einer kleinen Idee an und der Rest ist ein Fluss, ein kreativer Strom in den man förmlich hineingezogen wird. Das funktioniert natürlich nicht, wenn man ständig im Handbuch nachschlagen muss oder die Oberfläche eines Gerätes einen unnötig lange aufhält. Ich habe selten das Gefühl, dass ich ein Stück komponiere. Es ist der Track, der sich Stück für Stück selbst zusammensetzt - die Musik schreibt sich selbst. Ich bin nur eine Art Katalysator.

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KEYS

The predecessors of Go Plastic sounded very warm and analog. Some of the songs, such as Coopers World, are even so compelling of the feeling that one might think they were played by a real jazz combo. The new album has a completely different character: digital, cool, machine, very precise and quantized. How did this radical change take place?

 

TOM

This is probably due to my new studio and the resulting change in the way of working. About a year and a half ago, I decided to redesign my studio from scratch and make a complete new start. I previously had almost exclusively modified devices in the studio, because I was bored with the interfaces designed by other people. Especially the devices from the time between the middle of the 80s and the middle of the 90s have so incredibly bad user interfaces and give you hardly the possibility to leave the given paths. When I was working with analogue equipment, there was no device in the studio where I had not changed anything. Only is it with digital devices unequally heavier since something turn to turn, it is synonymous still function.

At some point, it annoyed me to work with the old equipment, although it also has its good sides, as you learn with a minimum of equipment, the maximum of sound to get out. When, for example, the first HipHop tracks were produced on the Akai S900 with just one MByte of RAM, they were not much worse than the numbers produced today with 128 or more MByte. Due to the limited technical possibilities, one has to concentrate more automatically on the musical structures. Up to Go Plastic I actually produced with only 1.5 MB of sample RAM.

 

KEYS

But probably an Atari or something similar for the sequencer?

 

TOM

No, I have produced exclusively with a Boss DR-660 of a Fostex 8 track, an Octave-Cat synthesizer (NachbÃU of the ARP Odyssey), a sampler and a 12-channel console from Spirit.

 

KEYS

This can hardly be imagined, the rhythms and arrangements are so complex.

 

TOM

Yes, but this is all live more or less live and has been bounced up to the infinite. Up to Go Plastic I had not even a clue of MIDI. I only knew that this had anything to do with notes. In hindsight it seems to me as a very long learning phase, through which I had to fight myself just to get to where I am today, both musically and productively. Towards the end of this phase, I have also borrowed a Mac from a friend to cut at least two track masters. But also this was always on a very low level, since I worked with the sound edit software. When the Mac was back with my friend, I bought an analogue 2-track machine. This may sound a bit crazy now, but I just wanted to learn from the ground how to cut and this is best done with an analog tape. You get a better feeling and there is a much greater satisfaction as you work with material that you can touch. Although it is incredibly difficult at the beginning - you mix up the snippets, or cut too early and then have to start completely from scratch. When you look beyond the sampler box, you also get a sense of how the available means influence the production and, of course, the composition as well. For me, this physical approach, the feeling of music, is very important. I also play bass on my plays, which is also a very physical instrument, you can feel the deep tones more than you hear them.

 

KEYS

How did it come about that you completely transformed your studio?

 

TOM

One day I just had my nose and told me: So, now I'm going to buy a really horny calculator and the whole expensive hardware DSP stuff. I took everything out of my old equipment, now it's time to look at what you can do with the new stuff.

 


KEYS

The earlier albums had a higher content of melodic structures, while Go Plastic was very abstract. Is this from your view a development or rather reduction?

 

TOM

It may sound reduced in terms of sound, from the composer's point of view it is definitely a further development since I had to make all the pieces before I could make this music. The structures and sounds have not been created on a whim, but from a development that has lasted over a long period of time. I've learned to work with my old, limited equipment. The new devices give me the opportunity to penetrate into other sonic dimensions - this of course affects melody and structure.

 

KEYS

What do you use now in your new studio?

 

TOM

The first software with which I am really concerned was the reactor of Native Instruments. This is my absolute favorite program. After I had decided to rebuild my studio, the first hardware device I bought was the FS1R from Yamaha - a cool device, really, but the user interface and the MIDI implementation is the absolute horror, like In most Japanese devices. Since I thought to myself, now I base myself an FM synthesizer, in which I have direct access to all parameters and all operators can connect as I want it and perhaps a filter behind it.

Then the reactor came to me. Although I have to say that the surfaces of the instruments supplied with the reactor do not exactly agree. The nice thing about the reactor is that it is so easy to use. The difficult thing is to make the surface and control possible so that one can work with it meaningfully. With a well-designed surface you should be able to take the sound with eight faders or buttons, completely disassembled and reassembled. So far one had always to be subordinate to the user guidance of a device. At Reaktor you can adapt the device to your working and if you still do not like it, build one that you like. In my opinion, this is the revolutionary thing.

 

KEYS

The FM-like sounds on Go Plastic, which sound like a too short looped sample are also from reactor?

 

TOM

Partly, partly. I have another Eventide DSP 4000 and a Eventide Orville. Very expensive, but what machines! The lion's share of the alienations and really sick things that can be heard on Go Plastic have arisen with the DSP 4000 or the Orville. But here, too, it's exactly the same as with the other devices: the presets and programs are simply not suitable for the sound that I want to make. I just have no interest in the best 3D Hall. That's honestly, I do not care. I want to compose music. That is why I like effects that can be used in a musical context much better. The quality is then really secondary. There are not any effects that can be cluttered on top of the sound so that it sounds more noble or better.

The effect is supposed to influence and change the musical idea itself, as with rhythmic multi-tap delays and you get very well with the Eventides. The great thing about the thing is that you can edit the algorithms and programs very well on the device itself - so you do not need a PC or Mac editor. But also with the expensive Eventide devices there are some bugs. Probably no one ever noticed, because all use only the presets or given algorithms. I also called at Eventide to complain, but somehow nobody wanted to believe me.

For Go Plastic I first built with the Orville a synthesizer. A lot of the FM sounds have actually been generated by it. I've built a very special FM-additive synthesizer. The sad thing is that you can not exchange the programs with anyone who hardly owns an Orville or DSP 4000. And those who can afford one have no interest in using it as a synthesizer.


 


KEYS

How can one imagine these types of synthesizers?

 

TOM

On the Orville, I have built a synthesizer that changes its signal flow, and sometimes also the modules permanently, depending on logic circuits, levels or modulation sources. For example, the sounds that sound like a mix between delay and extremely adjusted timestretching have been realized through a peak detector circuit. As soon as a loop falls below a certain threshold value, the last segment of the loop is repeated until the threshold value is exceeded again. The length of the segment is determined by means of a mean between the level drop per time and the modulation source. That would go too far now, to explain the algorithms and logic elements, but you can hear everything on the album.

 

KEYS

Which sequencer did you use on Go Plastic?

 

TOM

I used a QY700 from Yamaha. Years ago I tried Cubase, but it did not tell me at all. I prefer the numerical-pattern-oriented approach of step sequencers. With the QY700, it is actually only edit lists, which I like best. But I'm just about to make my own sequencer. This is, of course, the best solution for me. I think the step sequencer or tracker programs are much better suited for electronic music than the established sequencers, which are based on the traditional tape machine concept. In Reactor I have already synonymous Step-Sequencer, Sampler and crazy circuits combined, only one go pretty fast the processor reserves. But at the moment I am completely satisfied.

 

KEYS

Why do you like FM-like sounds?

 

TOM

This may have something to do with a hobby from my childhood. As a small boy, I often sat for hours before the radio and listened to the short wave. You know the effect, if you pass through the frequencies slowly, resultant frequency modulations between noise, the carrier wave and the language shreds. This music has fascinated me from the air, if you like it, as a child. Just because you do not hear things exactly or only very distorted and modulated, the imagination is eerily stimulated. With the frequency modulation I am able to generate these ether waves in pure form. Similar to the radiowaves, one does not even know with complex FM algorithms what comes out in the end. Small changes can tilt the whole sound. This is what I like so much about it. On Music is Rotted One Note, I have mixed some radio signals in the background of some tracks, very close to the perimeter of perception. You have to listen very carefully to be able to recognize it. Probably you can only listen to it on really good monitor boxes. This is also a very fascinating aspect, which can be realized with music: sounds, melodies or noises, the haptic, at the limit of the audible, so you think you hear something, a sound, but can not determine exactly what it is is. This creates an incredibly subtle effect that can completely alter or mystify the character of a piece.

 

KEYS

Do you use virtual analog synthesizers?

 

TOM

No, this has the simple reason that most devices do not correspond to my aesthetic feeling, I find them simply ugly. I have to work with the devices every day and I want to have devices around me that also appeal to me. This may sound completely crazy now, it's just like that. When I get to my studio and the Eventides, this gives me a warm feeling in the stomach area. Another point is that these devices try to imitate something they themselves are not, I feel that way. That's why the album sounded so digital. Many producers try to make their music, which they have produced digitally, sound as if it were produced on analogue equipment. This is actually a lie. Go Plastic has been digitally produced and sounds so. You do not need to be ashamed that you live today and the equipment changes and improves. I think that has a lot to do with listening habits. We have to get used to digital aesthetics, the pure joy of the sound.

 


KEYS

Your pieces sound very, very well constructed. Are you still composing or programming?

 

TOM

It's not like I think about what I'm going to do. This is done when you want to write a program. You have to have very precise ideas about what you want to achieve with the program.

For me, the process of composing is more of a discovery of structures and ideas that already exist. I enter into this virtual sound space and cover up ideas and wipe out rhythms. It is a real-time process where you never know where the next element will lead you. I used to play in bands, so the rules of songwriting are so common to me. This is something completely different. With the machines and possibilities of today one should simply be guided by the equipment. This does not mean, of course, that you sit like an idiot in front of the computer and try out some things. You should know your equipment in and out, you just start with a small idea and the rest is a river, a creative stream in which one is formally drawn into. This does not work, of course, if you have to consult the manual or the surface of a device for an unnecessarily long time. I rarely feel that I am composing a piece. It is the track, which is composed bit by bit - the music writes itself. I am only a kind of catalyst.


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Not to step on sweepstakes' toes, but a few things in that text made me think it was machine translated. Plus I was 3/4 through this translation when the first one was posted. Neither English nor German is my first language, so feel free to comment.
 

KEYS
The albums previous to Go Plastic sounded altogether very warm and analog. Some of the tracks, like Cooper's World, have such a convincing feeling that you'd think they were recorded by a real jazz band. The new album has a quite different character, it's digital, cool, machine-like, very precise and quantized. How did this radical change come about?


TOM
That probably comes from my new studio and the consequential change of work flow. For about a year and a half I shut myself in in order to rebuild my studio from the ground up and to have a completely new start. Up until now I had almost exclusively self-modified gear in the studio, because I got bored with banging on interfaces that other people designed. The equipment from the period between the mid 80s and the mid 90s have such incredibly bad user interfaces and give you no opportunity to leave the predetermined paths. While I was still working with analog equipment, there was no device in the studio on which I hadn't altered something. With digital gear it's just more difficult to change anything and still have it work.
 
At some point I got annoyed with working with old equipment, even though there were some good sides to it -- like you learn how to get the maximum in sound out of a minimum of equipment. As an example, the first Hip Hop tracks that were produced on an Akai S900, with just one MB of working memory, don't sound much worse than the tracks that are being produced today with 128MB or more. Through the narrow technical possibilities you automatically focus more on the musical structures. Up until Go Plastic I have mainly produced with only 1,5MB of sample RAM. 

KEYS
But you still used an Atari or something similar for the sequencer?

TOM
No, I have exclusively worked with a Boss DR-660, a Fostex eight track, an Octave Cat synthesizer (similar to the ARP Odyssey), a sampler and a 12 track Spirit mixer.

KEYS
That's hard to imagine, the rhythms and arrangements are so complex.

TOM
Yes, but that's all more or less recorded live and the tracks are almost infinitely bounced over eachother. Before Go Plastic I didn't even have a clue about MIDI. I only knew it had something to do with notes. In retrospect this period strikes me as a very long learning phase, through which I had to fight my way in order to arrive where I am today, musically and technically. Towards the end of this phase I sometimes borrowed a Mac from a friend, simply to be able to edit some two track masters. But I always worked on a very basic level with the Sound Edit software. When I returned the Mac to my friend I bought an analog two track machine. It might sound a bit crazy today, but I simply wanted to learn from the ground up how to edit and that's best done with analog tape. It feels better and it gives you a much greater satisfaction, since you work with material that you can touch. Even though it's unbelievably difficult at first, you confuse the snippets or cut too early and then you have to start from the very beginning again. When you look beyond your sampler, you also get an idea of how the available means influence the production, and naturally also the composition. To me, this pysical approach, being able to feel the music, is very important. I play the bass on my tracks too, and that's also a very physical instrument. You feel the deep tones more than you hear them.

KEYS
How did this completely rearranging your studio come about?

TOM
One day I was just fed up and said to myself, now I'm gonna buy a top sequencer and all the expensive hardware DSP crap. I threw all my old equipment out, now it's time to see what you can produce with the new crap.

KEYS
The earlier albums had more melodic structures, while Go Plastic is more abstract. In your opinion, is that a development or a reduction?

TOM
Sonically it might seem reduced. In a compositional regard it's in any case a development, since I had to make all the previous tracks in order to be able to make these tracks. The structures and sounds don't arise from a mood, rather from a development that's been going on for a long period of time. I have learnt to work with my old, limited equimpment. The new gear gave me the possibility to penetrate other sonic dimensions, which naturally influences the melodies and structures as well.

KEYS
What are you currently using in your new studio?

TOM
The first software that I properly pulled apart was Reaktor from Native Instruments. That's my absolute favourite program. After I decided to rebuild my studio, the first hardware I bought was the FS1R by Yamaha, a super piece of gear. But the user interface and the MIDI implementation is completely horrible, like on most Japanese gear. It made me think now I'm gonna hack together  my own FM synthesizer with direct access to all parameters and have all operatior inteconnect like I want, and perhaps throw on a filter at the end of it. Then came Reaktor as if I had called for it. Although I have to say the interface of the instruments provided with Reaktor don't exactly appeal to me. The nice thing about Reaktor is that it's so easy to operate. The hard thing is to shape the surface and the control possibilities so that you can work with it in a meaningful manner. On a well designed interface you should be able to completely pull the sound apart with eight faders or knobs, and then put it back together again. Earlier you always had to submit to the user manual. With Reaktor you can adapt the gear to your work flow, and if you still don't like the instrument you can build one that you like. That's the revolutionary part of it, in my opinion.

KEYS
The FM-like sounds on Go Plastic, which sound like a sample with a too short loop point, are they also Reaktor?

TOM
Partly, partly. I have yet another Eventide DSP4000 and an Eventide Orville. Very expensive, but what machines! The lion's share of the alienated and really sick things that you hear on Go Plastic have been made with the DSP4000 or the Orville. But it's exactly the same thing here as with the other gear, the presets and programs are simply not suitable for the sounds that I want to make. I simply have no interest in the best 3D reverb. Honestly, I don't care. I want to compose music. Besides, I like effects better when they can be utilized in a musical context. Then the quality is really secondary. There are no effects that you can throw on top of the sound, so that it sounds purer or better. The effect must influence and then change the musical idea in itself, like with a rhythmic multitap delay, and you get that very well with the Eventides. The fun thing about the gizmos is that you can edit the algorithms and programs very easily yourself, you don't even need a PC or Mac editor. But even the most expensive Eventide gear has a few bugs. Probably nobody noticed, since everybody just use the factory supplied algroithms. I called Eventide to complain, but somehow nobody there wanted to believe me.
 
For Go Plastic I started by building a synthesizer with on the Orville. A lot of the FM sounds were actually generated with that. Then I built a quite special FM/additive synthesizer. The boring thing is, you can't exchange programs with anyone, because almost nobody owns an Orville or a DSP4000. And those that can afford one, have no interest in using it as a synthesizer.

KEYS
How can we imagine this kind of synthesizer?

TOM
On the Orville I built a synthesizer which permanently changes its signal flow, and partially also the modules, depending on logic circuits, levels or modulation sources. For instance, the tones that sound like a mix between delay and extreme time stretching were realised with a peak detector circuit. As soon as a loop falls between a threshold, the last segment of the loop is repeated, until the threshold is exceeded again. The length of the segment is decided by an average between level drop over time and the modulation sources. It would be too much to explain the algorithms and the logic elements, but you can hear it all on the album.

KEYS
Which sequencer did you use on Glo Plastic?

TOM
I used a QY700 from Yamaha. Years ago I tried Cubase, but that didn't appeal to me at all. I prefer the numeric pattern oriented approach of step sequencers. The QY700 really only has edit lists, that's what I like the most. Anyway, I'm in the process of hacking up my own sequencer. That's naturally always the best solution for me. I think step sequencers or even tracker programs are much better for electronic music than the established sequencers that are oriented towards the traditional concept of the tape machine. In Reaktor I have already combined a step sequencer, a sampler and some sick circuits, but you quite quickly use up the available processing power. But at the moment I am completely satisfied.

KEYS
Why do you like to use FM-like sounds so much?
 
TOM
That might have something to do with my hobby from childhood. As a little boy I often sat for hours in front of the radio listening to the short wave band. You felt the effect when you slowly travelled through the frequencies, yielding insane frequency modulations between whistling noises, the carrier wave and speech fragments. To me this music from the ether, if you like, had an eerie fascination already as a child. By not hearing the thing exactly, or hearing it very distorted or modulated, the imagination was animated creepily. With frequency modulation I am able to generate these ether waves in their purest form. As with the radio waves, you don't know what will come out of the complex FM algorithms. Small changes can tilt the entire sound. That's what I like so much about it. On Music is Rotted One Note I mixed in some radio signals in the background, on the very edge of perception. You have to listen very carefully to be able to recognize it. You can probably only hear it on really good monitor speakers. That's also a very fascinating aspect that can be realised with music -- timbres, melodies or sounds can be mixed with the main piece  bordering on the audible, so that you think you hear something, a tone, but you can't recognize what it is. This leads to an uncannily subtle effect, that completely changes or mystifies the character of a piece of music.

KEYS
Do you use virtual analog synthesizers?

TOM
No, for the simple reason that most of the gear doesn't appeal to my aesthetic preferences, I simply find them ugly. I have to work with the gear every day and therefore want to surround myself with gear that also appeals to me visually. That probably sounds completely insane, it's just the way it is. When I get to my studio and switch on the Eventides, it gives me a warm feeling in my stomach. Another point is those instruments try to imitate something that they are not, that's how I feel. Besides, the album sounds so digital. Many producers try by all means to make their music that they produced digitally to sound like it was produced on analog equipment. That's really a lie. Go Plastic is produced digitally and sounds that way too. You don't have to be ashamed that you live today or that equipment changes and is improved. I also think that's got a lot to do with listening habits. We have to get used to the digital esthetic first, for the pure joy of noise.

KEYS
Your tracks sound very constructed. Are you still composing or do you rather program?

TOM
It's not like I plan in advance what I'm going to make. That's what you do when you want to write a program. Then you have to have some precise vision of what you want to achieve with the program.
 
The process of the composer is rather the discovery of structures and ideas that are already there. I venture into these virtual sounds spaces and uncover ideas and wipe rhythms free. It's a realtime process in which you never know where the next element might lead. I used to play in bands, and the rules of song writing are so common to me. But that's something completely different. With the machines and the possibilities of today you should simply let yourself be guided by the equipment. Naturally, that's not to say you sit in front of the computer and try out whatever things. You should know your equipment in and out, simply start with a small idea and the rest is a flow, a creative current which you're virtually drawn into. Naturally, that doesn't work when you constantly have to look up in the user manual, or when the interface of a piece of gear delays you unnecessarily. I rarely have the feeling that I'm composing a piece of music. It's a track that constucts itself piece by piece, the music writes itself. I am just a kind of catalyst.

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thanks for posting that. nice read. Go Plastic is one of my fav records.. []pusher's peak imo though who's to say what comes next. selection 16 and venus 17 are certainly excellent pieces of music. 

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Their attention to detail, knowing what they want to do and knowledge of their gear is what makes Squarepusher, Aphex and Autechre still stand out in the world of electronic music. 

 

Inspiring but depressing. 

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