As many who know me are aware, I spent much of 2011 focusing the limited time I get for making music on my band Kether. In that time Kether has released two singles, played three very-well-received shows and been featured on the excellent TC Electropunk volume 6 compilation. Definitely time well spent!
But what of my other music? By this I refer to 17hex, which is my “solo” project and the namesake of this blog. The plan had always (or at least since 2005 or so) been to finish and release an EP called “the Roots of Coincidence” (after the Arthur Koestler book of the same name), and that is still the plan.
So what is changed? Well, for starters, it is almost 7 years later and I still haven’t managed to release even a 7 song EP. Even going slowly, that is one song per year! Secondly, what has (ironically) changed is that Kether has done well, but more specifically, we have defined a set of working parameters using Reaper (and the DX7s) over the scope of two years that has helped us “get our sound”.
The net result is that if I want 17hex to not just sound like “kether without guitar”, I need to do something differently. After playing shows using a fairly “state of the art” computer setup, it has become apparent that:
1. Regardless of.. some peoples’ opinions.. computers can be used to a great effect in a live setting. We have (*knock on wood*) has ZERO issues with freezing, crashing, or any of the reasons that people can actually come up with when you press them for why they don’t think computers are fit for live use, save for…
2. Having said all that, if you are going to use a computer for live performance, you have to make sure there is actually a performance involved, and not just someone standing behind a laptop. There is a LOT of room for creativity here, and it is definitely not so black and white as “so no laptops on stage”. Have it onstage off to the side doing something while your band plays. People will see the band not the computer, and it will work just fine. Or, if you in one way or another “play the computer” live (as in, not from a MIDI controller, but from the computer keyboard/mouse/trackpad/touchscreen), maybe you should have a camera aimed at it so people can see what you are doing, or maybe just run a copy of the computer’s video out to a projector so people can see that there’s more going on than just a backing track playing on the screen.
It’s this second point that prompted me to change. The computer works live for kether because we are a BAND, in which we play instruments and dance around on stage and perform as a band. Even though all of our music is synthesized live (no iPod backing tracks for us! iPods are computers too, anyway!), as far as anyone seeing the computer sitting onstage is concerned, there’s no difference, so we keep the computer off to the side.
But for 17hex, it would just be me. There’s no whiz-bang guitar player to watch. Just me doing my best to run a sequencer live and make it interesting. For this scenario, I decided to not use a computer for 17hex at all anymore. Instead, I got a Yamaha RM1x. It is an amazing sequencer/synth/drum machine with LOTS of potential for live use.
Basically the songs will all be cut up into loops and then triggered and mangled from this box, which will also send MIDI to outboard synths (and possibly a circuit bent Alesis HR16B if I can get it working). It will be more gear to carry to live shows, and likely my music will end up sounding a lot “grittier”, but I hope the result is more interesting live…