Native Instruments heralded the release of the Komplete 11 audio manufacturing suite with Komplete Sketches: a set of 24 commissioned compositions by a range of artists, all of which were made specifically with the new software. We’ ve linked up with five of the enrolled Sketches artists—WIFE, Chino Amobi, Tossing Shade, Jlin and Deru—to go ahead deep on their workflow processes, the useful tips they’ ve discovered throughout their career and the strategies they use to create their own distinctive audio. In the final installment, Los Angeles-based producer Deru talks about the strategies he used to make his last two albums: Bid farewell to Useless (2010) and 1979 (2014).
What is your own setup?
At the heart of my studio is a personal computer. Everything gets funnelled through it, and it’s my main instrument. Then I have a collection of outboard gear, analog synths and acoustic tools surrounding it: an acoustic keyboard; dulcimer; kalimbas; a modular synth; analog distortion; tape decks.
How did you get into making music?
I grew up playing piano plus trumpet but was never super interested in either of them. They were just skills that I learned and got better with. The first thing that I did get passionate about was DJing. I was a DJ for years, and that eventually led me to wishing to make my own music. The first part of gear that I got was an Akai MPC2000, and after that everything clicked for me. I fell in love with making music and manipulating sound. I became fascinated with documenting something and pitching it straight down or filtering it—really simple adjustments that could have a drastic impact on requirements. The ability to manipulate sound is something that’s driven me for my whole career. It’s something that I actually still love and think about every day.
Has your process changed since the release of your last album, 1979 ?
I’m just finishing my new report now, and the approaches between this particular new one and lates 1970s couldn’t have been more various. When I wrote 1979 , I was simultaneously working on two Television shows, and I was overworked. At night I would write these stripped-down ambient songs plus record them straight to a cassette deck. Lots of those songs were recorded on their first take, and some of them took only a matter associated with hours to write. The album flowed away from me without too much thought towards the procedure. This new album has been way more challenging to write, partially because it is taken me a long time to jump deep enough to figure out exactly what I desired to say and also because I’ve learned new techniques. The process started with traditional recordings; I wrote for a little group of musicians and recorded them as an ensemble. At some point in the process I discovered about a style of microtonal composition that I became very interested in.
Do you find it difficult to begin focusing on something when you know that the final version may be entirely different?
I don’ t thoughts that something might end up in different ways then planned. The hardest portion of the writing process for me is starting, so anything that I can do to get started is great. The smallest idea can get me personally going in terms of engaging in the process of work, like putting some samples in a granular synth like Form or messing around with a new plugin or melody. Or maybe I suddenly feel like writing some thing for a particular instrument. I maintain a running list of little things that I want to try. It’s hard to sit down plus say, “Okay, I have to write music now, ” so I try to have something to start with.
I have a buddy who is a painter. When the girl starts a new piece she usually dips her hand in the paint and puts it on the canvas. It’s hard for her to stare at a blank canvas, so she makes a mark to have something to fix. As soon as she has something, she can start the work and transformation. Even if it is just, “No, I don’t like that, so I’m going to remove it and consider something else, ” the important part is that the ball is rolling.
How do you overcoming creative difficulties?
In terms of writer’s prevent, I have two main approaches. The first is learning, which tends to spark brand new ideas. The second is perseverance. The author Haruki Murakami has a great book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running . He’s a long-distance runner, and it’s a book about his running practice, but it’s also about his discipline towards the creative procedure. He said that he goes into their writing room every day for a few hours each day. He only writes for all those three or four hours, but he attempts to be totally uninterrupted and focused during that time. He does that every day time, even the day after he’s completed a large project. If he does not feel like writing then he goes down and sits. If nothing comes to your pet he’ll just sit there for 3 hours or he’ll write the letter to a friend or a grocery store list—or anything. The point is that he is there every single day, because motivation is really a fleeting thing, and to get through the particular bad parts you also have to be presently there to capture the good parts. You have to work through all the crap—all the bad ideas, all the false starts and everything the frustrations—to get to the other side.
When you start a monitor, is it important to get your sounds from the beginning, or do you prefer to get the musical ideas down first and take care of sound design later?
Sometimes I’ll begin manipulating a sound and figure out exactly where it wants me to go centered off of the results. It can lead myself down a path, and I might end up somewhere very different from exactly where I started. You can’t always forecast the outcome. A lot of the time I’ll allow sound direct me and then write the music around that. One of the more deliberate approaches I’ve taken lately is writing for a group of instruments while thinking of how I’m going to transform it after I have the recordings—in other words: designing and composing my own source material to manipulate later. It’s very satisfying because the results generally have the qualities that will I’m already looking for with some joyful accidents mixed in.
There’s one track upon Say Goodbye To Useless that features a sample from a girl known as “The Singing Nun”. Just how did that come about?
Records had a big effect on my early musical output. While i was DJing, I would go to thrift stores and buy records by the pound. I was constantly looking for odd, fascinating sounds. One of the things that’s great regarding sampling vinyl is that you end up with artifacts of the recording process and moderate. That’s one of the reasons I like to record my very own samples now. Once you get a bunch of players in a room with a microphone, all these interesting things will occur, like the noises of the microphones, the pitch drifts and people shifting in their seats. Say Goodbye To Useless was the last record that got any samples on it; lates 1970s didn’t, and this new report doesn’t either. I think sampling can be an incredibly powerful place to start because you do not need to start from zero, but I’m now at a point in my profession where I’m more exciting to start from the ground up. I still love records, though. I love the noise, the static and the imperfections.
When you’re dealing with a computer you have fine control over nearly every aspect of the sound. Do you feel just like you surrender some of that control when you commit a project to tape?
I did give up lots of control when I recorded those songs to tape, but that’s the things i wanted at that time. I wanted the message warbles and the noise and the saturation. The lo-fi qualities of the mp3 were something that I accentuated as much as possible. Till Say Goodbye To Useless , I’ d been very careful with my mixdowns and the things I put on my master bus. I tried to do everything in a technically “correct” method to get as pristine a sound as possible. Ultimately I came to the realization which i was being overprotective. There’s a whole globe of sound available if I take the two-track and feed it via a tape deck or blast it into a room and record this with a mic. Compressing and distorting the master can sound excellent as well. It’ s hard to control, however it can sound very alive, that is really what I’m after finally.
Read past installments of the Native Instruments Komplete Sketches interviews with Jlin, SPOUSE and more here. Cover photo simply by Tim Navis.
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