I’ve been spending the last few months developing and practicing a live set of Psychetropic music. Which is a new thing for me. I’ve played live a bit as a drummer and bassist, but never my own music, and never electronic music. For many reasons, from lack of scene/venue to tech hurdles. But also because live electronic music a little problematic. Keith Emerson said performing live on synthesizer is a desk job, and he’s got a point. It’s even worse with laptops, and the perennial question is: is he just checking his email up there after pressing play?
To solve this and make what I do a true performance has been the problem but I think I’m getting somewhere. My approach is to only have pre-programmed sources for things that are predetermined to begin with: drum patterns, samples and sequences. Everything else, chords/bass/melody, will be played on live keyboard, with live looping as needed.
Equally important is that I’m able to change, in the moment, the shape, direction and form of the music. On the spur of the moment, I should be able to completely reverse or scramble the sections of a song, begin with the end, if I feel like it.
All this so that each pass through a song will result in a unique moment, a unique presentation of that musical idea. And as I said, I’m starting to get there, which is great fun.
Here’s an example, this is a take of a performance of the song China Radio Sunshine, from the 2003 album of the same name. It turned out rather ambient, but that wasn’t in my mind when I pressed record – this just happened.
China Radio Sunshine – Live Ambient Take:
And this is the original recording:
Also coming into nice focus is the equipment setup, a MacBook, a DAW controller, Midi keyboard and audio interface – simple as can be, sets up in minutes and everything runs on USB power. The complexity is built into Ableton, where it’s hidden away. My goal is to never look at the computer screen except to load project files.
As for when/where I’ll actually get out and play, there are some things brewing, so stay tuned.