Controllers in live performance - a question...
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  1. #1
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    Default Controllers in live performance - a question...

    I'm trying to get my head around how extensively controllers are being used as PRIMARY control devices in live performances. I'm not worried about what software is used, but what I'm looking for are people who interact with that software with controllers and not more traditional means. So to be clear, if they use CDJs or turntables I'm not at all interested in them - even if they use controllers in a cool way (Shiftee is a great example of this - amazing routines but primary "controller" is a turntable).

    So who do you guys know of?

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    Hey nem0nic... been a while. (for me anyway...old stanton forum member)

    By "live performances" does that include straight up DJ gigs, or do you mean live performance as in performing musically?

    As far as DJ gigs go, I did my first controller-only gig this past Friday... no CD players, no turntables, just a laptop and controller. Probably not very unique considering the multitudes that own hercules, Kontrol S4, S2, etc...

    Is this what you had in mind?
    Last edited by Nosferatu; 10-30-2012 at 09:48 AM.

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    Hey man, I remember you!

    Well, I was more talking about artists that play out as a career. The whole TokiMonsta article got me started thinking about it, because she's definitely in the category of artist that I've been wondering about. Sasha and his Maven, or Ritchie Hawtin and his plethora of controllers, Tim Exile, Ill Gates... Those kind of artists.

    I have a good understanding of how well controllers have penetrated DJing in general, but now I want to get an idea of where we are at the upper end of the user spectrum.

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    I remember seeing pete tong a couple years ago using X1s at a pool party during WMC or Music Week or something like that. I have no idea if you'd consider him "upper end" as opposed to just famous. And he was just DJing. I also don't know if he's still DJing like that.

    BT's used a plethora of controllers to control Live, though I'm sure you knew that.

    I believe VNV nation uses controllers, but they're likely just playing soft synths and drum synths/samplers with pads.

    The Crüxshadows use MIDI keyboards for synths and have drum machines running, but I don't know exactly how they do it. The drums are not live, though a lot of of the sounds are coming from instruments (guitar, violins, voice).

    Underworld uses Maschine & Live.

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    VNV and Cruxshadows... Didn't know you had goth tenancies, m00. Nice!

    I guess the lack of activity kind of backs up my suspicion. Even on this forum, where controller use is the whole point, people still don't seem to see the use of controllers as aspirational. This question was kind of a gimme, because the answers are plentiful (EVERY Ableton Live artist is a candidate for example). Yet with over 200 views I've received one actual response.

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    Tom Cosm.
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    Not to detract from your original post, but IMO, the 'community' does it to itself. People feel like they have to fit into some type of mold as to what DJ'ing is/was. I respect the form of old with the understanding that there are somethings that just cant be replaced. Yet it seems far to often that controllerims(ist), get the short end of the stick.

    Kind of ironic with the various amount of music/sounds we have available that you really only see a couple of ways of 'performing' it.

    Not sure if you'd call all the artist upper echelon but:
    Dubfire
    Chris Liebing
    Pete Tong
    Magda
    Lance Blaise
    Dub FX
    Pinnpinalle (known as a cover band which really incorporates a lot of electronics into a instrumental live performance) . Really think there should be more this kinda music being produced (more then covered)
    Last edited by DarioJ; 10-31-2012 at 09:08 AM.
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    +1 for Pinn Panelle, they are extremely talented.
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    Most of the techno/minimal dj's use controllers ... such as the CLR guys as well as the M-nus guys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nem0nic View Post
    VNV and Cruxshadows... Didn't know you had goth tenancies, m00. Nice!
    I don't look goth/industrial, but I love the music and the scene. It's just not my style.


    Taken by my girlfriend at Dragoncon 2012 after their show.

    We also saw Manson & Rob Zombie last week. (side note: Manson's off the wagon hard core and was so wasted that he didn't even know his own lyrics……Rob Zombie was freaking impressive for a 47 year old rock star, and John5–playing with Zombie–was the star of the show as far as I'm concerned……I joke that metal/industrial guitar is nothing but sweep picking and weird scales, but he made it look effortless and actually had some emotion to it…which is awesome)

    Anyway………

    In general, I think there's actually more "controllers" in use in the goth/industrial and "modern punk" scenes than the dance scenes. Bella Morte uses mostly live instruments, but keyboards are playing synths. Combichrist has fun destroying keyboards on stage. What does Caustic perform with? I'm not sure he's top-tier by anyone's definition, but he's also on the forefront of financing his career with Kickstarter as opposed to a Label, which is kind of cool. And AFAIK, it's just one guy. I'd imagine he's either using backing tracks or some kind of controller setup.

    Quote Originally Posted by nem0nic View Post
    I guess the lack of activity kind of backs up my suspicion. Even on this forum, where controller use is the whole point, people still don't seem to see the use of controllers as aspirational. This question was kind of a gimme, because the answers are plentiful (EVERY Ableton Live artist is a candidate for example). Yet with over 200 views I've received one actual response.
    I think the "issue" is that there aren't really that many people who've clawed up to top-end artist status in the dance scene since controllers became popular. And the ones that have made any in-roads are people who are just doing the DJ thing differently or doing the live set thing with different equipment.

    Ritchie Hawtin isn't really doing anything in his Traktor+Maschine DJ sets that he didn't do with his decks, effects, and mc-909 sets from a few years ago……except that he's not beat matching anymore and the setup is all centered around computers. It's probably a lot easier to set up & tear down. And it's probably more consistent. The tour he did with other Minus artists a few years ago (forgot the name) and his Plastikman shows are probably the most controller-centric performances in the dance world right now (from top-tier artists). And to my knowledge, it's still just the same kinds of things people did 30 years ago with sequencers, synths, & drum machines during the rave days.

    Daft Punk's Alive tour is another example of using controllers……but AFAIK, they were basically just replacing all the equipment of their old live show with controllers for Live.

    The problem–as I see it–is that these controllers, mostly, just make live sets like that cheaper. They haven't added that much in terms of what you can make, and they haven't really changed how you do it. They haven't even really made it easier, as there always were ways to keep notes in key/scale. And with the dance scene being so much more evolved than it was during the rave days–and appealing to people with shorter attention spans and less of a desire for "new" music regardless of quality–the barrier for entry isn't any lower either. That's exacerbated by the proliferation of big clubs and big festivals……it takes a lot to break into them.

    There's probably a few guys/groups out there with APC40s or Maschines and vocalists/instrumentalists that are capable of putting on a Live Set that rivals anything from the rave days……they just don't have the same avenues to get out there and might have gone in a different direction as a result of it.

    I mean………you and I talked a lot about Live back not long after I started DJing. You're right. It's not DJing anymore if you're doing anything more interesting than what Skrillex did. Even people I like–Felix Cartal comes to mind–tend to use it so they can "just press play" because their focus was on production. That is DJing, but it's nothing you can't do with 1200s. Taking it from that world into the "actually performing music" world means that you have to write enough music–and learn to perform it–to entertain people for an hour or more……where you're responsible for everything.

    It's a lot easier to learn to play guitar. Or drums. Or anything else. Then, you just have to find people you like and write songs together.

    Then you have to figure out where you can play it. And you have to keep it fresh enough that people don't get sick of it. Imagine playing the same 10 songs every week at a local club? You might get asked back a second time, but by the 3rd week, you'd get dropped for some random DJ who has 1000 local facebook/twitter fans.

    Who wants to write 10 songs/week? And get them up to performance level where they're responsible for everything from sound design to mastering.

    The barriers to entry for those types of performances haven't changed at all. If anything, they're harder.

    I think that's why they haven't taken off, at least the performances you're talking about.

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