Preview :: Ableton Liveschool Presents: INPUT

July 26th 2013

Abelton Liveschool INPUT

Whether your new SoundCloud account houses a couple of sketchy remixes with under a hundred plays, or you’ve been doing this production thing for years and aren’t getting where you want to be, Ableton’s doctors are here to help.

Four times a year, INPUT brings a handful of those doctors (or more accurately, electronic music experts) into the same room as a bunch of Sydney’s upcoming electronic music producers. Through a bunch of in-depth presentations and Q&A’s, all the lucky ducks in attendance will gain invaluable knowledge that they can use to hone their craft and carve out a place in the industry.

This INPUT session sees Gotye‘s right-hand man Tim Shiel speaking alongside Future Classic boss Nathan McLay, the boys from Gardland, and Ableton virtuosos Adam Maggs and Vaughan Allen. It’ll all go down at FBi Social on Saturday August 10, with tickets available through Resident Advisor for $35.

Ableton Liveschool had an in-depth chat with Tim Shiel, and we’ve picked out the best bits for your perusal below. Sneaky production tips without paying a cent? Yes please! Oh and here’s what went down at the last INPUT event.

Ableton Liveschool :: What is your usual gear setup for making music?

Tim Shiel :: I use Ableton Live, and a bunch of soft synths, drum samples and virtual multi-sampled instruments that I’ve collected from around the place. I use a combination of Ableton’s native effects and third party plugins. My primary source of note input is a Nord Stage 2, which was also my touring keyboard with Gotye, it also has some good sounds inside it. In addition to this, I make noises predominantly with the following items: a guitar which I use in combination with a Roland GR-30 MIDI pickup system, an iPad with a few apps on it (at the moment I’m in love with an app called Samplr), my voice, and a Teenage Engineering OP-1, which I use not just for synth and drum sounds but also for frequent FM radio sampling and effects.

AL :: Name your two most memorable moments from your recent touring as part of Gotye.

TS: Its almost impossible to pick just two – so I will pick just one.

When we were sound checking at Letterman, Paul Shaffer literally appeared out of nowhere, gestured at my stage setup and said “Hey man, cool setup, I really dig it.” I was so stunned by the fact that he was real that I didn’t realise that he simply wanted to have a conversation until it was too late, and he vanished into thin air.

AL :: Playing live, what is your most used piece of gear and why?

TS :: I have a beaten up Akai MPK mini keyboard which I’ve had for a few years now. I was using it as my main controller for the Gotye show before upgrading to the Nord, and it was also the main controller for my solo shows in 2011. Though obviously you wouldn’t (and couldn’t) play Rachmaninoff on it, its such a useful little battler of a device -having access to two octaves of a keyboard, eight drum pads, and eight faders, all on a controller whose footprint is only slightly larger than the spread of an outstretched hand – it allows for some pretty flexible and adaptable setups, and means I can move from playing keyboard lines to triggering samples to adjusting parameter values very very quickly. Its also super portable and reliable. Plus they are cheap and easily accessible in most cities which makes replacing them on the road really easy. The Nord became my main keyboard with Gotye once I started playing more keys parts lives, but still have a big soft spot for the Akai and I use it all the time when writing too.

AL :: What are some of your favourite features of Ableton Live?

TS: Probably simply its ease of use and flexibility. I now feel like I spend very little time battling the software – even right from when I started working with Ableton Live, I felt like it was simply enabling me to be creative, and never getting in my way. And its such a deep program that I’m always finding new tricks and features, just by talking to other users or watching the way they work (no two people approach Ableton the same way). I’m looking forward to learning a few new tricks when I come up to Sydney for Input!

AL :: The desert island question – if you could only have one plugin, what would it be? (both Ableton and 3rd party – one of each)

TS: Ableton – It has to be ping pong delay doesn’t it? I’d find a way to hack it to have infinite feedback and just listen to those triplets bouncing back and forth until I died of starvation or sunstroke or being eaten by something or someone.

TS: 3rd party – SoundToys Echoboy.

AL :: There’s a lot that goes into making music, in 2013 the producer is often also the engineer, performer, programmer, session player, mixing engineer etc. What part of the music making process do you enjoy the most? Explain.

TS: Because I don’t have a linear workflow and because of the nature of the music I write, I don’t tend to think of myself as having different roles that I can delineate. Writing, producing, performing and mixing all sort of happens simultaneously when I’m working on something, I tend to shift in and out of these modes constantly without even thinking consciously about it. It all happens at once, and at the end of the process, there’s “some music”. I do very much believe in the idea of ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone’ – the trance-like state when you are so immersed in the energy of what you are working on that time seems to stand still and it feels like you are just living inside this moment that you’ve created. The goal for me is always to get into that zone as quickly as possible, and maintain it for as long as possible – it is when I’m at my most productive and its always in that mindset where I have ideas and make connections that resonate with me long afterwards.   Its addictive, that feeling – its magic. Its also, perhaps not coincidentally, the same feeling that I’m chasing when I’m listening to music. Not so much spiritual but definitely transcendent.

AL :: Describe the process for getting one of your songs from conception to completion. (how do you start writing, how does it develop from there – basically a chronological log of a songs journey).

TS: I think its really important to not lock into just one method of working, but having said that I guess I generally tend to start with a sound that inspires or intrigues me, whether its a field recording, or a preset on a soft synth, or an old sample, a guitar line, it really could be anything. It could be a fragment of an idea sent to me by a friend, a vocal line or a beat. From that initial point its just about following wherever it takes me – the sound might suggest a melodic idea which I’ll investigate, or some manipulation of the sound might bear out a rhythmic loop, or often I’ll just slam it against another sound I have in the vault and it’ll be the juxtaposition of the two that excites me and then suggests another direction. It is very difficult to describe the creative process, but I guess I know from talking to other people that I tend to approach writing perhaps in a more non-linear fashion to others – I don’t start at the start of a song and work to the end, I just start with a sound, then add more sounds, and eventually an internal logic emerges. I do liken it to sculpture even though I’ve not really pursued sculpture in any way – its just a matter of throwing things together and then shaping it into something that feels right. I tend to succeed in making things that I like when I am not thinking so much about why it is the way it is – I try not to think much at all really, and just be guided by my instincts and trust that my intuition is going to lead me on to something I’m happy with. Am I engaged, do I feel something? I try to follow that feeling always.

WHAT :: INPUT: Industry Insights for Independent Producers

WHERE :: FBi Social

WHEN :: 1pm Saturday 10 August 2013

HOW MUCH :: 35 bones from Resident Advisor


Read more from FBi Radio