INTERVIEW: TAYLOR DEUPREE: ABLETON ARTIST PROFILE (2002)
How did you get into doing what you do?
I became interested in electronic music because I love sound and love technology. I like minimalism because I love the purity of objects, design and form . . . I appreciate a sparse aesthetic to help ease the craziness of life. My sound, design, photography and personal space all revolve around this belief.
What part of electronic music do you really enjoy?
The thing I enjoy most is sound design. I spend long hours crafting sounds and keeping an archive. I also really like new technologies, new synthesis methods, the endless possibilities . . . and exposing people to new sound spaces. That's why i like sound installations and gallery performances so much. It comes down to the art of listening.
What are you currently working on?
I'm finishing up a collaboration with a long-time friend, Kenneth Kirschner. Ken has composed some very minimal piano works, using a single 8-bit sample. I'm processing and manipulating his pieces for a CD which will not only contain the finished compositions but a data partition with MP3's of his original compositions, as well as the single piano sample as an AIFF file. There will be a connection, from beginning to end, as well as opening the works for others to manipulate. I have also been working on a solo CD called Stil for over a year now . . . I hope to finish that soon.
What keeps you motivated?
Architecture and interior design, buying books, 12k, nature, water, the city, technology . . . they all keep my mind racing and me dreaming up new projects.
What do you like / dislike about electronic music software these days?
I like the software that explores new or different synthesis techniques: granular or the powerful FFT and new agregate synthesis in KYMA. I also like to be able to work with sound in a visual way, like viewing the waveforms to edit or compose. It offers a level of abstraction from the traditional twelve-note-octave of a keyboard and an abstraction from the notion of "music" in general. It's more like painting or sculpture . . . visual composition . . . as opposed to music. I also like how my hard drives become the single storage location for all of my work, no more worrying about which patch to load on which synthesizer and making sure the MIDI chain is all working properly.
I dislike bad and ugly interface designs or buggy software, as well as the lack of hands-on control. On the otherhand, a good MIDI knob-controller goes a long way in fixing that.
Do you feel like you've succeeded at doing what you originally set out to do?
I'm always setting new goals for myself. So, I don't think I'll ever find a point where I can say "ok, I'm done now." When I first started making electronic music, seventeen years ago, my goal was to create music alone and with others, to become a professional musician and to release it on labels around the world. So, yeah! I've accomplished that original goal and, of course, I'm constantly trying to challenge myself.
What kind of live setup do you use?
I have a powerbook that runs Live and does the bulk of the show. I use a Doepfer pocket-dial (the silver one, not that horrible looking blue and yellow tiger striped thing . . . ) to control levels, panning, sends and other parameters in Live. That works really well. The audio for that powerbook goes through an EMAGIC 2/6 interface. I have another powerbook running Reaktor 3, to run live granulation patches, melodic patches and loops. I have an NI 4-control controller hooked up to that. Running two powerbooks live gives me more to do, more control and offers a backup in case one of them crashes; which, unfortunately, has come in handy.
Do you focus on live playability while producing your tracks?
No, not really. I always have fun pulling the tracks apart, later on, and using bits and pieces when I play live . . . I try to make my live performances unique . . . So, I usually prepare, from scratch, a week before the gig . . . I don't try to exactly reproduce any of the studio material.
How has your hardware/software changed over the years?
My setup is mostly software now; though, I still use my Nord modular quite a bit, as well as a Doepfer modular, to make sounds which later go into the computer for processing. I still keep some hardware samplers around because I've been unhappy with the stability of software samplers (maybe I need a faster computer...) and, every now and then, I'll pull a synthesizer from my closet to program and sample. I still find a lot of inspiration from the KAWAI K-5000 and have kept a lot of my hardware synthesizers; even though, I don't use them now. Sentimental reasons, I guess.
What motivates you to play live?
Besides what I said previously about meeting new people and seeing new places, playing live often results in some sort of inspiration or recorded bit that ends up becoming a new work in the studio. Since I approach live performance different than studio recording, it often leads to new ideas that I might otherwise not have come up with.
What's more important when playing live: playing the tracks "clean" or jamming them?
Definitely jamming and improvising. No two of my live sets are ever the same nor are they ever like any of my CD's. When people want to hear the CD's they can buy them, to listen at home. I want to give people something unique at every show, to make it challenging and fun for me each time. The only drawback is that some shows are great and some aren't so great. I suppose that's just the risk, when playing live.
How do you prepare your live-set?
I assemble a large number of soundfiles from my works or new ones that I've created for live shows. I then mix and process them in Live. Additionally, I prepare melodic loops to use on the second powerbook, in Reaktor. I try not to practice too much. I prefer to just find a good starting point and take from there.
What do you think about Ableton's Live?
I was very excited about Live from the first day I heard about it. I was especially happy that Robert (Henke aka Monolake) was in on the development because he's a performing electronic musician. So to me, it had that "for musicians by musicians" feel to it . . . I figured, Robert would know what we need and want . . . and he did! Live really filled a wide gap in the Macintosh music-software market. We needed a tool like this and, because it's sample-based, it can sound like whatever you want it to. It's not simply for one segment or style. It's very flexible.
What ideas, features or functions would you really like to see in Ableton's Live?
My main concern with the future of Live is that it doesn't add too many more features. I equate Live with my MPC-3000. It's stripped down and simple, yet wide open for creativity. It's very fast and intuitive. As soon as AKAI put out the MPC-2000, the charm and simplicity was gone. It must be hard, as a developer, to resist adding features . . . but in Live's case, I think simplicity is the "best" feature. The bottom line, for me, must be stability. If I'm going to use Live on stage, then I want it to be a-hundred-percent stable . . . more and more features would make me more nervous about that.
Having said that, there are a few things I'd like to see anyway . . . one would be, the ability to take snapshots in the Session view. Then, you could have certain sounds "play enabled" while having everything set up. You could save that as a preset and have presets of different sets of "play enabled" files. Often, before live performances, I'll have a great combination of sounds playing, only to find them all switched off when I reload. I've worked around this a bit by color coding sounds that go well together. It would still be nicer to be able to save snapshots. I'd also like to have the pitch control for each sample MIDI-controllable . . . Ultimately, I'd like stability and speed to be the main focus . . . with attention given to playing live . . . I don't care if there are any more features added . . . as long as it stays simple and clean.