Akai are the O.G’s of the Pad Controller game bringing to the market the original MPC way back in 1988. The device is quite simply iconic and has been used by some of the all time greats such as Madlib, Kanye West, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and the late J Dilla. The 4×4 pad layout makes Akai products ideal for finger drumming with their devices being present in some great performances.
5. Finger Drumming In The Office On An Akai MPD218
Starting things off with a dope video from our office as our Designer and resident finger drummer takes on one of our Thugli – Overtime lessons on an MPC218. Check out this short clip and watch out for the ‘Woo’
4. David ‘Fingers’ Haynes Making It Look Easy
Their are many great finger drummers on the internet however David Haynes is among the best. His technique and relaxed hands can be make some of the most complex arrangements look easy.
3. Spinscott playing Jungle beats live
180 BPM with one-shot samples and no loops? No problem! The immensely skilled Spinscott has carved niche following on social media with his breath taking MPC performances. Spinscott also has a range of lessons now available to learn on Melodics.
2. You are now listening to araabMUZIK impersonating Skrillex with only an MPC
Probably the most high profile ‘finger drummer’ in the world araabMUZIK is an absolute beast on the pads. Back in 2011 he absolutely went in and provided a live finger drumming impersonation of Skrillex. The Warsaw were astounded and with many claiming it to be the greatest musical performance Poland has ever seen.
1. Beats By J Black breaking necks with his skills on the MPC
Atlanta based beatmaker ‘Beats By J Black’ has been having an incredible 2016 already and is on the verge of blowing up. His finger drumming videos of him playing his flipped beats on his collection of MPC’s are the reason why. Always with a smile on his face and impeccable timing make sure to check out his channel and watch this space.
Maschine is the flagship device for Native Instruments and has sold millions of units worldwide. The 4×4 pad layout reminiscent of the MPC is sleak, modern and a common item in many producers studios around the world. Maschine has also been featured in numerous finger drumming videos on the web. Lets check out our top five.
5. Tim Kroker Drum Solo on Maschine
Tim Kroker has been a professional drummer for 25 years. So the transition into finger drumming on Maschine was relatively easy. Check out his drum solo video as well as some of the other work he has done at events such as the Sample Music Festival.
4. David “Fingers” Haynes vs Maschine
David “Fingers” Haynes is a Grammy nominated drummer who like Tim Kroker has taken to finger drumming. Currently living in Berlin David continues to refine his path and pull of patterns on the pads imitated by very few. In this video he lives up to his nickname “Fingers”.
3. Strofik – The Maestro of Maschine
Strofik is an Melbourne based finger drummer and DJ who has produced some incredible finger drumming videos over the past year. What sets him a part from the previous videos is the way he can finger drum his entire set via Maschine. Have a look at Strofik doing what he does best in this 15 minute live finger drumming set.
2. Emiliano Torquati
What is harder than finger drumming on one Maschine? How about two Maschines? Emiliano Torquati is able to do just that. Playing the drums with his right hand and a range of samples with his left he is able to create a truly unforgettable performance worthy of our number two spot.
1. Jeremy Ellis performs on Maschine Mikro
For our number one spot we could not go past the O.G Maschine performance video. Jeremy Ellis captivated many in the music production world when he released this video on Maschine Mikro back in 2011. If you have not seen it yet prepared to be blown away.
Had to be number 1. The video that opened many peoples eyes to finger drumming as a whole. Jeremy Ellis.
Thought our Dubstep Office Sessions video deserved and honorable mention. This lesson has proved to be very popular on Melodics, and we hope this video is part of the reason why.
Native Instruments have a lot of my fans. However this video takes the cake. Watch as Dominik Petzold takes you through a typical day in his life. That includes finger drumming on his Maschine while on the toilet, at the beach and brushing his teeth.
Created in 16 years ago in Seattle. Laptop Battle is an event that pins bedroom producers against each other in a competitive format. As the years have gone on the event as risen even further in popularity with the boundaries of live performance electronic music consistently being stretched. We were lucky enough to talk to the Laptop Battle team ahead of the 16th edition of the Seattle competition.
When was the idea for Laptop Battle created and what was the inspiration behind it?
Kris Moon originally got the idea from events some local producers were traveling to perform at. He brought the idea to Zapan aka Zach Huntting of FourthCity, which was a thriving arts collective in Seattle. Ableton was in version 2 and already changing the way producers were creating and performing music. And there was lots of experimental computer music that was unique in Seattle at that time. Not long after, Sean Horton (an early competitor) was starting Seattle’s innovative Decibel Festival, which has grown to selling out nearly of it’s shows every year, while booking extremely fresh world-wide talent. It was a hotbed of creativity at the time. Playing live on a Laptop was fairly novel and the computer was just starting to be adopted by DJs on stage with various early control setups.
This year marks the 16th edition of the event. Are you able to list some of Laptop Battles most famous alumni since it started?
There’s been some seriously amazing artists. Some of my favorites include Vytear, Starkey, Velepean Screen, Cygnus, Pezzner, m.O., and tons of others. Most of those are champions…It’s crazy how many bad asses have lost in their first or second round. I’ve seen KJ Sawka lose a couple times, and he’s one of the world’s top drummers. It can be such a wild card.
How has the event evolved over the years in terms of performance? Has finger drumming risen in prominence for contestants?
Finger drumming is certainly rising in popularity. It’s very much a stage show, so there’s lots of antics, too. Since it’s on a huge sound system, sound design plays just as big of a role as the instrumentation – and the way your track unfolds is also really important. It needs to have an emotional arc to be compelling. It gets really nerdy. Artists like Vytear and Velepean Screen were triggering their own patches and randomized sequences and creating these generative and programmatic sequences. Sometimes it’s really mind blowing what’s happening. There were times I was felt like I’d time travelled. Originally, the style had a very glitchy aesthetic and I feel like it’s evolved to more of a drop oriented bass sound. I love the chip tune influence…it’s still relevant.
What has been the most bizarre/memorable on stage performance that has happened in the history of Laptop Battle?
We had this contestant from Atlanta who was some kind of weird dark magic wizard emerg from a basement after many years of training. He went by the name Dr. Maximillian Reinhardt…and I’ll never forget him…he was finger drumming on a Korg PadKontrol like a mad man in some sets…and one time he busted out a DDR footpad controller and marched a beat to the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka. It was f*cking mind blowing. That controller was totally illegal according to the rules, but no one cared because it was so dope. We encourage rule breaking. This is kind of the WWE of music.
In one sentence describe what people can expect from this years event?
Bring earplugs, the KV2 sound system will be ridiculously heavy.
So if you are in the Seattle area we suggest you come on down and get among one of the coolest events going on in Electronic Music.
Mark de Clive-Lowe has been involved in music from the age of four. Since then he has gone on to live in some of the world’s biggest musical capitals. Whether it be London’s West End , New York or his current home in Los Angeles, Mark has used each pit stop to refine and at times revisit his craft. This week the New Zealand artist was able to answer a few questions about some of his career highlights so far and his creative approach.
You grew up in good old Auckland NZ and started played piano at 4 years old. In your teen years you became influenced by hip hop and started trying to make your own beats. However you would go on to sell all your looping equipment as you did not see the point of making ‘loops’. How did this affect your musical development and what happened next?
You’ve done your research! I was making beats when I was 14 and didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember waking up one day and thinking that making all these loops wasn’t really fulfilling me. That was my cue to get back to just the piano and Miles and Trane records. Ten years later and the opposite happened – I totally shelved my jazz and piano side and went full force into the beats, remixing and production world. Much for the same reason. Now it’s all come together as one story.
Music has taken you around the world and you have been able to experience many different scenes. Are you able to describe in one sentence how each of these locations has shaped your musical journey?
Auckland – Was where I grew up for the most part. My first experiences playing with other musicians and exploring my own taste. Of particular influence from there were Nathan Haines, Manuel Bundy and back during my round one of early-teen years beat making there was the whole Voodoo Rhyme Syndicate that I was part of along with a lot of great Auckland-based hip hop and R&B/dance artists. We were all influenced by different aspects of US and UK music culture and it was pretty special to be able to incubate those influences so far from those epicenters – it allowed me to be free of any creative expectation but still be inspired by it.
Tokyo – I have a lot of family in Japan, but most pivotally, I spent my last year of high school there. My Buddhist priest homestay host father was a jazz head through and through and we’d go out most nights to check out some incredible live music – often touring international artists, sometimes local artists – which was hugely inspirational to me. I got to see the working musician lifestyle first hand and fell in love with it. I went back to NZ after that year and fairly promptly dropped out of law school in favor of the minstrel life!
West London – In the mid to late 90s I drew a lot of inspiration from the UK’s jungle movement especially. 4Hero’s “Loveless” was a seminal piece of music for me – I’d never heard anything quite like it – and I was regularly consuming the latest jungle and drum’n’bass 12s that would land at the local record store in Auckland. By the time I got to London in 1998 that movement was at its peak and what became the West London broken beat was forming. That whole community blew my mind. They were taking the entire history of everything I loved – soul, jazz, funk, house, jungle, breaks, afro carribean and afrobeat, and creating a new form from all those influences. I quickly became a core member of the movement collaborating with artists who I consider to be some of the most creative anywhere – IG Culture, Restless Soul, Dego, Bugz in the Attic – it was an amazing time. I evolved as a musician and producer there, and really developed my live show concepts touring Europe almost every week.
Los Angeles – I’d visited LA a few times touring before relocating there and was hearing a lot of great music coming from there too – early Sa-Ra demos, J*Davey, Blu and the whole Sound in Color camp – it was like a version of the West London scene but half a world away. When the opportunity came to move there it felt like the right thing to do. A decade in London was plenty for me and it was the right time to start a whole new chapter. LA has been most pivotal for me in that it reconnected me with my jazz roots. I hadn’t played the acoustic piano or a jazz gig in over a decade having been so deeply in the beat scene in the UK. In LA I was able to find my love for the piano again and bring everything together, full circle so to speak. Now the music is riding this line right in between jazz and beats, live musicians and sampling/live programming – really fusing the worlds that I grew up on.
In 2003 you said you had a ‘Jazz Epiphany with a drum machine in Budapest’. Describe this story and what you learned from this epiphany?
Up until that moment I would always pre-program my beats for live shows. The MPC3000 was the heart of my rig and I’d change patterns or say, mute the kick, live, but for the most part it was pre-programmed and I’d be playing keys live over the top. This one time in Hungary, we performed the whole set – including the encore – in the main set. I’d planned on there not being an encore. When the time came though, the crowd insisted on more, the promoter insisted on more, and I felt like I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. I remember walking back on stage and looking at the MPC thinking, “dammit. I guess I’m going to have to program a beat live right now!”. I was nervous for sure. Something I’d never done before and had no idea how it would turn out. I hit record on the MPC and started banging out beats. It was a complete epiphany. The whole spirit of improvisation and spontaneity that I had grown up with in a jazz context now became apparent to me in a whole different setting. From that day on, every gig was programmed on the fly from scratch. Often with no preconceived notions. It was never like performing a routine – it was about using the drum machine as a creative instrument and improvising grooves and ideas that could be sequenced on the fly live on stage.
In a previous interview you described a funny story about your first visit to South Africa, and how you ended up playing a live set on National TV during prime time. Are you able to give a bit of background into this story?
I do remember my very first show in SA – I’d just stepped off the plane and was so hype to be there. For years I’d heard how soulful house was on a whole other level in SA and how the audiences went nuts for it all the time. I was doing a full live production live remixing set and tore into it, tempo wise at a similar bpm to how I was playing peak time sets in Europe around this time – starting around 122 bpm and building up to 130 or so. The frustrating thing was that I could tell that the set just wasn’t connecting with the audience and I couldn’t understand why. The support DJ after me got on when I was done and dropped a jam at about 110 bpm and suddenly the whole room was in the pocket. That was a huge epiphany. In SA, they like their jams slower! My next set I started at 100 bpm and peaked at 122 and had the whole club entranced the whole way. It was great too, because even though the context was house music, when you slow it down, the music has so much more room to breathe. As soon as you get into the mid 120s, it’s mostly the kick and off beat hats that are driving everything. It was great to get away from that and remind myself of the beauty of being outside the box.
I was asked to do a live remix set on national TV on that first SA tour – that was kind of mind blowing. A 2 hr set, live on TV, with no ads, on a Friday night! SA just has a whole other culture when it comes to soulful music. I really can’t wait to get back there again.
How did you get involved with Melodics? What about Melodics do you think benefits its users from a production and live performance standpoint?
Sam hit me up really early in the conceptualising process knowing my interests in both pads as a musical interface and music education in general. I’m big on empowering creative and sharing process. There’s no need to hide any special tricks from the next enthusiast because we’re all going to use the same equipment or interfaces in a different way. Melodics can give the committed student more confidence when it comes to rhythm and the language and conversation that the different parts of a drum kit or beat have with each other. Especially for producers who step sequence or draw in drum programming it helps them work infinitely faster and have a more direct connection between the idea in their brain and the reality coming out of the speakers.
You are releasing your second lesson called ‘The Ummm’ on Melodics this week what can users expect from this lesson?
The idea of ‘The Ummm’ was to take a classic Native Tongues style hip hop vibe but push it up to a dancefloor tempo, bridging those different worlds. I wanted to make sure there was both a rhythmic and harmonic vibe to it so it’s a combination of beat and Rhodes sample. I wanted to use as few elements as possible to create something that sounds pretty complete already. Often simplicity is where the beauty of a vibe is!
Describe your workflow and creative process when it comes to production? What equipment do you use?
I like to start from different places – sometimes I’ll be sitting at the piano composing in a more traditional way; other times I’ll start on the drum machine banging out a rhythm idea; or playing around with harmonies on the Rhodes; sometimes I’ll be chopping up a sample and finding the inspiration there. For the most part though, it is important to me to have fundamental rhythmic, melodic and harmonic elements in any one track so that it has identifiable signature elements – to the point that you could play the same signature elements on a piano or a guitar and the track would be recognisable without any of the production or electronic elements.
Some of my favorite workhorses at the moment are: NI Maschine, Ableton, Logic, NI Komplete, Arturia collection, Fender Rhodes, Roland Juno 6, Korg KP3+… I love analog synths too – can’t wait to get my hands on a new Dave Smith Prophet keyboard.
What advice would you give to someone who has just seen one of your performances or songs and decides they want to be a DJ and producer just like you?
Practice. That’s the only way to be able to execute anything live. So yeah, diligence goes a long, long way. Also to be open to a diverse range of music. If you primarily make house music and you want to find your own sound, then the last thing you should be listening to is house music. The more diverse a range of musical stimuli you have, the wider range of influences and inspirations are there to be drawn from. I’m also a big proponent of understanding music theory – music is sonic mathematics, and the more you understand the rules and formulas that make up the language, the more empowered you are when you create.
“Hip Hops the love of his life yeah that’s apparent / Jazz gave the piano life it’s so exquisite” – Describe how these bars from John Robinson on your song ‘The Mission’ describes your career so far and your album/club nights ‘CHURCH’?
JR really nailed it with his verses telling the story of my musical journey thus far – he’s an amazing MC like that. Hip hop has been at the core for a long time – I’ve always resonated with it and especially in my formative early teen years in NZ, it was everything. I love the whole concept of 90s hip hop production too – sampling the history and flipping it into a whole new context. The mash up before that even became a term. I had a funny relationship with the piano growing up – my dad forced me to take lessons from a very young age so I felt like I never chose the instrument myself. It wasn’t really until I connected with jazz music that the piano started to become my own instrument and not just the one I was told to play.
CHURCH is all about sharing my whole journey with the audience – from the jazz club to the banging dancefloor, blurring the lines between live musicians and electronics, improvised moments and live sampling and remixing – one minute we could be in a jazz groove, the next in a deep Detroit techno-meets-afrobeat vibe. That freedom.
Make sure to try out Mark de Clive Lowe’s new lesson ‘The Ummm’ this week and also follow his work on his website and social channels ->
The legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff shares an inspiring Hip Hop instrumental called “Don‘t Forget” as his debut Melodics lesson. This instrumental was also used as the fourth track on Dayne Jordan’s debut album ‘Memoirs of Dayne Jordan.’
Like what you hear? Learn to play this beat made with one of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s drum kits from his personal collection today! Also check the trailer video we have put together for this lesson featuring some wise words from the man himself.
There is more insight to come as we have an in depth interview from Jazzy Jeff, hopefully arriving next week. So keep an eye out for that.
Our finger drumming video of the week comes from the super talented BeatsByJBlack who flipped our Tall Black Guy lesson in Melodics. This kid is an up and comer so make sure to check out his Instagram page.
Finally the team are loving watching all your performance vids on social so keep them coming. Just post your video with the hashtag #melodics and we will find and regram / share them on our social channels
Spinscott has just released his second set of lessons for Melodics users to enjoy. It has been an awesome 2016 so far for the American ‘Junglist’ with his incredible finger drumming performances at NAMM earning a lot of social media coverage. Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions about his musical journey and share what he has learned so far.
You uploaded your first finger drumming video to Youtube just under 4 years ago, and got an amazing response. What prompted you to upload this video and were you surprised by the reaction?
I originally got my first drum machine for a Hip Hop production project in July 2012, but the first thing I decided to do was to try cutting up and playing classic breaks. (Junglist mentality). I had no idea that MPCs were used for live drumming, and coming from traditional DJ formats had never heard of “finger drumming”. I briefly searched youtube for live jungle, and couldn’t find anyone doing it with all one shot drums, so I decided to cut the breaks into single drums (one-shots) and film a quick video. I didn’t think it was a big deal, and was definitely surprised by the reaction. People requested more, so on it went.
In a previous interview you said “I tend to consider myself more of a music fanatic & performer than anything else really”. Are you able to explain this a bit more?
Sure! In my opinion, terms like “DJ”, “Producer”, and “Remixer” have become largely ambiguous, and at the same time kind of limiting. Some DJ’s mix realtime, others use auto sync, some say “Live PA” and are triggering sequences and loops, others actually play Live real-time sounds, and it goes on and on. From the production perspective, that can mean something as complex as composing an entire track from scratch using all original and custom sounds, to something as simple as combining a couple of sample pack loops together and releasing a track. Regardless, I think it’s cool that there are so many ways that people can experience, create, and share music! For me personally, I think Music Fanatic & Performer best describe who I am, what I do, and how I do it. (although, I certainly consider myself a DJ, Producer, Remixer, Coffee Drinker, happy dog owner, etc.)
What was the first Jungle track you ever heard? What was it about Jungle that captivated you?
The first Jungle I heard was actually on a mixtape my sister brought home from a rave in 1995. It was by a DJ called Mastervibe. Having been a drummer since the age of about 5, I was instantly pulled in by the complexity of the drums, and the way that the melody, pads, atmospheres, etc played smoothly with the beats. Jungle just seemed to have so many different sounds and influences, and SO MANY rhythms that were not limited to what one could play on a kit. The track “I Can’t Stop” by Lemon D, pretty much sums up what I love about mid-90’s Jungle.
You’ve also previously mentioned that you used to drum along to drum heavy tracks in your car and not leave the car until you got every note right. Delve into this story and how it relates to the amount of time that you practice.
Ha! Been “dashboard drummer” since I got my license… probably to the amusement of people who’d pull up next to me on the road. I’ve always played and learned music by ear, even back in the marching percussion and jazz band days in school… so when I got those first Jungle tapes, it immediately became a task to master every note. If you listen to mid-90s style Jungle tracks with Think, Amen, Apache, and other breaks a billion times and drum along, eventually they become burned into muscle memory. It also wears away the steering column and dash… After a while, you can completely freestyle with all of the intricacies of the breakbeats. Each one has its own characteristics, and that all settles in with time. I have never really spent dedicated time practicing, because I am always drumming on something and challenging myself with the beats. Lately my new fun self-challenge has been turning the drum machine around 180 degrees and trying to play my programs upside down.
What advice would you give to a person who has just downloaded Melodics and is wanting to get as good as you?
First point of advice would be to HAVE FUN! People succeed when they enjoy working towards success. What I love about Melodics is that it starts off very basic, and steadily increases in difficulty. I encourage people to focus on the style they like and are comfortable with, but also try the other lessons in styles they are unfamiliar with. Diving into new sounds is how new music and skill is born. If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.
I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born.
How did you find out about Melodics? What about the software intrigued you enough to make lessons?
I got an email from the CEO of Melodics, inquiring about my Jungle videos and a new lesson program, and I wanted to get involved immediately. When you have lots of content out there, people tend to ask how to learn and get started, and until Melodics I really didn’t have a way to show people how to begin finger drumming. The ability to share music and teach through Melodics lessons is something I am very excited about, especially because people can now try playing true 100% Loop-Free & Sequence Free beats.
How have you seen finger drumming evolve since you have been involved with music and where do you see it heading?
It seems to be becoming a lot more common to see DJs hitting pads during sets, which I think is cool. The convergence of traditional mixing and live performance is a primary driver in the electronic music realm, which can be seen as all of the major gear makers are adding pads to their new equipment. Also, the live elements bridge the gap between electronic music performers and other musicians. I predict that it will continue to grow, as there are so many different ways to integrate pads and finger drumming into projects. Just like scratching and creative mixing, it is another tool that can help differentiate a DJ’s performance.
If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.
Your live performances have a bit of everything, with live finger drumming, mixing, a bit of scratching, and real-time remixing being key components. What made you want to incorporate all these skills as opposed to being a traditional ‘DJ’?
Back in the late 1990s when I was spinning Jungle on vinyl, I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born. As I built full routines, I incorporated those into the show. Ultimately, being able to drum, spin tunes, and multitask in the booth makes things very fun, and every set is different and quite unpredictable. Sometimes I bring my bongos to gigs too and play on those with the music.
You are a skilled drummer. How has this helped with your finger drumming performances and what are the key differences between the two?
Thanks! Coming from a drumming background definitely is a great advantage to bring to the table, but I don’t think it is necessarily required to become proficient with finger drumming. Actually, I think hand drums (Bongos, Congas, etc) are more closely related to finger drumming than kit drumming is, however the standard drum rudiments apply across the board. Any experience with drums helps build chops, so where it really comes into play is from a stamina and endurance perspective, and obviously the rhythm is helpful!
You absolutely killed it at NAMM this year getting a lot of social coverage from the likes of DJ Tech Tools and Pioneer DJ. Tell us about your NAMM experience and how it has impacted the rest of your 2016.
NAMM was an amazing experience, and something I have wanted to attend for quite some time. When Melodics asked if I would do demos at their station in the Pioneer DJ booth, I decided to book the trip. I spent a lot of time working the booth and showing folks Melodics, and was asked to do finger drumming demonstrations on the Pioneer DJ stage and the AKAI booth. That was awesome, and it was definitely a highlight some of the DJ Tech Tools guys. NAMM was a great demand creation opportunity, and has led to several opportunities with manufacturers and for booking opportunities for 2016.
What has been your musical highlight so far since getting into the DJ game?
There have been so many great highlights with music, it would be hard to pick just one or two. Overall, the highlight in all of this for me has been the opportunity to share music with people, and meet other music fanatics through traveling to shows, releasing tracks, and pushing limits on my video routines. In 2015 I was able to tour through 15 cities/states in the US, and it has been great to see the audience on my channels expand at such a nice pace.
Name one place you have always wanted to visit and why?
Well, I have been to the UK twice, but not for performances. That would have to be the place I’d most like to bring Jungle Plus Drums sets to this year, as it is the birthplace of so many of the styles of music I love. As for visiting, I have always wanted to see the Phi Phi Islands.
In preparation for this interview I have watched a lot of your videos. In almost all your performance videos I have noticed there has been a gold beetle and a coffee cup or thermos in shot. What do they mean?
Ah, you saved the most popular question for almost last! There are many strategic and subliminal reasons why I use those objects in the videos… watermarks for authenticity and brand imaging are two of the primary ones. You may also notice that many videos have electric clocks in the background. That is to show that the video was recorded in realtime with no speed alterations. As for the Beetle, that one’s gotta remain a secret.
Eskei83 is a German DJ and producer that was the winner of 2014 Red Bull Thre3style World Championship. His victory has catapulted him to the upper echelons of the DJ game which sees him tour the world doing what he loves. This week we were fortunate enough to ask him a few questions about his DJ journey, touring the world and get insight into what inspires him creatively.
Your hometown is Dresden, Germany. Tell us about the city and how it shaped you musically?
I started my club DJ career in a local club in Dresden. At this time it was the only club for hip hop, RnB, funk, soul, etc. I came there with just Rap records to play my first show, but the manager said I won’t need my records – they had a whole collection built in the DJ booth. I discovered a lot new music, new & old. I learned about the history of the music and about the tracks that made this club so popular. They had some tracks that nobody else in the city played. I learned a lot about selection, building a night & became creative because I was DJing Friday & Saturday each and every week for 4-5 hours straight. I tried to come up with a different set every week. All on vinyl records.
What made you want to become a DJ? Was it a particular moment,artist or song etc? How old were you?
I started getting interested in Hip Hop culture & Rap music when I was 14 and wanted to become part of it when German Rap got popular. I wanted to be part of the movement and was impressed by the DJs for each group. So I made my own beats and got turntables to record scratches on my beats.
What was the first DJ equipment you ever bought? What equipment are you using now for your live sets?
I started with belt driven Turntables and a 2 channel mixer with no EQ, only 2 up faders & 1 crossfader. That’s it. After my first gig on Technics 1210 turntables I knew I had to get them. I also got a Cassette deck to record my mixes.
Now I use a Pioneer DJM S9 mixer with turntables & Serato DJ, after rocking years with the Rane 62 in combination with a NI Maschine MK2.
What was the hardest thing about learning to become a DJ when you started out?
Bringing records from A to B But honestly it is to stay focused and rock the party no matter what. You’ll never have a crowd in front of you, where everyone knows you. So it’s about making people happy and showing them your way of putting songs together. I like to catch their interest with interesting songs, new techniques and live performances. Staying motivated every night, even when you play for a half empty club or your equipment is not working – That’s the hardest.
You won the RedBull Thre3style in 2014 in Baku! Your winning performance had everything from Kanye West to Lenny Kravitz and even a shout out from Grand Master Flash. How long did it take to build that set and what is your process when creating your DJ performances?
I didn’t create a specific set for Thre3style in 2014. I learned the hard way in 2013 what happens when you are stuck in your set and not able to react to the crowd/venue/judges. Everything I had for Thre3style 2014 were routines that I had been playing in my previous shows. Some of them I had been playing for years already. In regards to my winning set I decided to put it together in Baku after watching the other DJs & judges playing and made last minute changes after soundcheck. I had my bits & pieces ready and just had to squeeze it into 15 min. And that’s the way I prepare my sets all the time. Also when I come across new ideas while improvising during my shows & live streams I try to perfect them in the studio later.
Describe what winning the 2014 Red Bull Thre3style felt like.
I’m very happy about the title. I’m even more happy about all the interest I have received since entering the competition. It opened many doors internationally and it helped a lot with promoting myself as a live performing turntable act than a regular DJ just playing tracks. They book me on stages now, give me space to do my little tricks here and there. The promoters that book me, know what they will get and its cool to get booked for this type of DJing.
How did you hear about Melodics? What did you like most about the program?
I know Sam Gribben from back in the day when I was working for Serato on trade shows like Namm & Musik Messe. We stayed in touch and I was really excited to see what he will come up. Last year he wrote to me about his new app a couple of weeks before the launch to get my feedback on it. I think this way of learning is awesome. I’m a big fan of the DJ Hero game, that is similar to Melodics – however Melodics is more professional. More about learning. In my first few sessions with the software I became better at finger drumming and had so much fun learning. Some people say I’m good at this – Melodics showed me that I’ve still got a lot to learn. And to practice on Melodics with the hardware you’re also performing on stage with is awesome. You learn new patterns daily and can practice them to internalize them. The cue point drumming lessons teach how other DJs flip classic drum loops. The lessons from DJ Day introduced me to a new way of breaking down a loop. Really dope.
How do you use cue point drumming in your live sets? How do you see this skill evolving in the future?
I use it very often to create surprise rhythm changes to popular tracks, do tone play or just jump through the track. People love it when they can see what you’re doing. I like creating something with the sounds they just heard before and understand easily. Plus it’s a dope visual element too, easier for them to understand: you hitting a pad and a sound comes out the speaker.
Scratching is more complex to understand for the regular viewer/listener, because you are moving records & fader. I love both techniques though.
I think Finger Drumming is famous already and people are interested in learning it. There are big names like Araab Muzik that made it to festival stages “just” with finger drumming. That’s amazing. To incorporate a simpler style of finger drumming into my Dj set makes it more unique and I think more & more DJs are catching on.
You have released a set of cue point drumming lessons this week for all Melodics Users. Can you give a bit of background about these lessons and what users can expect?
These lessons are actually the rhythms that I use when I play live. In these lessons I use a track from Elènne who is on my label Crispy Crust Records. The song came out late 2015. The patterns work with all kind of tracks and I use them couple of times in my sets with different tunes on all kind of tempos.
If you could give advice to a DJ just starting out what would it be?
Have fun learning and don’t get distracted when some techniques you’re trying are not working. Sometimes it takes repetitive learning to master a new finger drumming or scratching technique. I’m learning all day and try to get at least 10 minutes practice a day.
You perform over 150 shows a year all around the world. However you have previously said that you ‘rarely get to see the city you are playing in’. Is this one of the hardest parts of being a world famous DJ? Are there any other downsides?
I travel a lot and I have so much fun doing what I do. I’m blessed to be able to go and party with crowds from all over the world. The positive feedback on my shows is what keep me going. But yeah – it’s sad not having enough time to catch up with friends in the city or do exploring/sight seeing. I’m at the airport in Vancouver at the moment and didn’t managed to see my Thre3style family Kenny MacIntire & FlipOut. Another downer is to not being at home with your family. I wasn’t home to spend Valentine’s Day with my girls this year. But I’m on the way home now and happy to see them soon.
What is the most rewarding part of being a world famous DJ and touring?
Going to places you never been to before and realising that people already know who you are and who love what you’re doing. Also to inspire people and get a positive reaction is what really keeps me going. If I’m down & exhausted from touring I need just one cool track, idea, inspiring video, or positive email/post from fans to go back to being creative. It’s cool to see that I can give something back to the scene and keep people inspired.
Tell us about your label ‘Crispy Crust’.
Crispy Crust is the label I founded end of 2014 with the Drunken Masters from Munich. We met each other in 2013 and had the same vision. I’m a big fan of them as DJs but also as producers. It was logical to team up and to create an outlet for the music we make, love and want to support. That’s Crispy Crust.
Final question. If you were stranded on a desert island for a year and could only bring three records what would they be?
I think it would be a Q-Bert Super Seal scratch record and two J Dilla instrumental sampler to cut over it. After a year practicing I think I would be a lot better than I am now.
THUGLI made up of Tom Wrecks and Pat Drastik, are an exciting production/DJ duo from Canada. Joining forces back in 2012 the pair have taken the trap scene by storm. Their unique live shows and affinity to Trap music long before it went mainstream are one of many aspects that set them apart.
This week THUGLI are releasing their first ever lesson on Melodics called ‘Overtime’. We wanted to ask them a few questions about this lesson as well as get some pointers on their music production process.
How did you find Melodics and what intrigued you about the project?
Tom: We discovered Melodics at Jazzy Jeff’s Playlist Retreat this past August. As soon as we heard the concept we were down. It’s such a creative an innovative way of learning pads, timing, flow etc.
What hardware and software do you use in your production and live shows?
Pat: For our production we use Ableton with a slew of plug ins. Live show were on 4 X Technic 1200’s, 2 X Rane 62’s and 2 X Pioneer SP-1.
A mix Thugli did for DJ City in 2014 showcasing their unique DJ set up and scratching prowess.
How have you used finger drumming as apart of your creative process?
Tom: It’s definitely starting to change our live sets creatively. It’s allowing us to incorporate more routines, tone play into the mix. Making us think outside the box a bit more about what we’re going to play and how we’re going to deliver it. Melodics has totally helped keep us sharp on the pads as well.
What is the most important bit of advice you can give to aspiring producers and DJ’s?
Pat: So cliche to say this, but be true to yourself. Make the music you want to make. Play the music you want to play. Let your personality shine through it all.
Tom: Also practice a lot!
You are about to release your first lesson on Melodics called ‘Overtime’. Tell us a bit about the track.
Tom: This track was originally a remix we did for ASAP Mob. It became one of our more popular remixes so we decided to make an instrumental version of it. It’s one of our personal favourites so we’re really excited about being able to recreate it with the lesson!
The remix that THUGLI did for A$AP Mob back in 2014. Click to around 0:55 to hear what part of this track has been used for the instrumental.
How did you guys first meet?
Pat: We both met in our teens at a park near both of our houses. We used to skateboard there with all the neighbourhood homies.
Tom: We were both really into music, Pat had already begun DJing and I was into making beats. I started DJing, Pat started making beats. It’s been quite a ride ever since!
What was the craziest gig you ever performed at and why?
Pat: We’ve had some pretty crazy ones. Really hard to pinpoint one. If we had to, maybe Digital Dreams in Toronto. It was one our first big shows at home to a crowd of a few thousand all going absolutely bananas the entire hour set. Very surreal.
You both have been producing Trap style music long before it hit was popular. Have you been surprised about Trap’s rise into the mainstream? Where do you see the sound heading to next?
Pat: That sound has had its feet planted for some time now but as it started to really grow it was surprise. Not that we didn’t think it could, We just didn’t think it would so fast. Not sure if there’s a definite route for it. It’s taking shape in many forms and heading down all kinds of different paths. That’s what’s dope about it. Constantly evolving and changing.
If you were stranded on a deserted island for a year and could only bring three albums with you what would they be?
Tom: Only a year. That’s not too too bad. We can at least return to more music later so… Home Alone soundtrack, Cast Away soundtrack and Survivor the TV show soundtrack haha.
THUGLI’s new Melodics lesson ‘Overtime’ is now available to play for Melodics users. So login now and learn one of our best trap lessons yet.
Ever since launching back in October our design guru Adam and the rest of the team have had a goal to revamp our play screen. We are pleased to announce that we have done just that. The purdy new layout is now available to all Melodics users. We put together a quick video to give you a glimpse of the play screen and also steps on navigating through Melodics.
If you are still seeing the old layout do not fear it just means you are on one of our older builds. To update automatically just leave Melodics running for ten minutes. Or go to this link and re download the app.
The new play screen design is the first of series of additions we are making to the user interface to make Melodics even better. If you have any particular ideas or feedback feel free to provide it in the comments section below.
For the next five days all Melodics Premium DJ content has been unlocked and can be played by all our users. In these lessons you’ll learn the art of cue point drumming and how it can be applied across a range of tracks in your library, to create interesting flips of an original beat. These skills will set you a part from all the other ‘laptop DJs‘ out there and make your next DJ set fresh to death.
When applying our techniques to your own tracks make sure to keep these steps in mind.
1) In your DJ software, choose a bar within the track and set 4 cue points
2) Set the four cue points on the 4 beats of the bar – typically the 1st kick, 1st snare, 2nd kick and 2nd snare.
3) Make sure you’ve practiced the pattern you want to use in Melodics and your timing is on point
To give you an idea of this in action we have included videos of three very different songs all using the same pattern from our lesson ‘Cue Point Drumming Lesson 1′.
Cue Point Drumming Lesson 1 – applied to Jay Z – Dirt Off Your Shoulder (82 BPM)
Cue Point Drumming Lesson 1 – applied to Disclosure – White Noise (Featuring AlunaGeorge) (120 BPM)
Cue Point Drumming Lesson 1 – applied to Led Zeppellin – Kashmir (81 BPM)
The pattern used across these examples is one of many that are included in Melodics waiting to be tried out. Melodics will teach you these different patterns through lessons that gradually increase in difficulty.
Once you feel all trained up the next step is to try what you have learned with your DJ controller/software. So set the cue points to the pads on your controller and get drumming. We recommend also looking at the Serato Flip which will help you to capture and loop your cue point drumming live.
We would love to see what kinds of flips you are able to do with tracks in your library using the techniques you have learned in Melodics. So send us through some videos using the hashtag #Melodics and we will find you on Instagram and Facebook.
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