Tuesday, February 22, 2011
British techno rebel Alan Fitzpatrick stands against technological progress on his new 'Insurgent Series' EP on Drumcode. Opting to mix three of the EP's tracks in his studio in one live take, the Southampton-based producer worked in a way reminiscent of the earliest days of techno.
It is his first EP on Drumcode since his debut album 'Shadows In The Dark' captivated critics and techno fans alike in June 2010.
"I wanted to do something a bit different to my normal stuff," he says, about the EP. "I didn't just want to make another record of classic Alan Fitzpatrick sounds. I had wanted to do some tracks live in the studio for quite some time so I thought this EP would be perfect for it.
With the 'Insurgent Series' EP out this week, we sat down with Alan to find out more.
Three of the EP's tracks were recorded 'live'. What does that mean exactly?
Usually when you write a track you have the bass, kicks, hi hats, and sounds all running through a sequencer or audio workstation like Ableton and then you can work on it as long as you want, tweaking stuff as you go over and over it.
For three of the tracks on the 'Insurgent Series', I got all of the sounds and percussion that I wanted running through a midi controller, and then jammed out in the studio recording the output.
Because it was recorded live all in one take, I couldn't fix the mistakes or turn up the hi hats or bass if I got it wrong, so it resulted in a lot rawer of a sound. Also the EP can't be remixed, as there's no individual parts.
That sounds like a pretty scary approach to making electronic music.
Well, I jammed for a long time with the tracks before hitting record so I knew where I wanted to take them during the mix. I also did some re-edits afterwards, cutting out some parts that were too long, or moving the arrangement slightly.
I just wanted to try something different for once. I know a few producers write their music in this way - just going on feeling. And because it was me jamming out in the studio, some of the tracks went on quite a bit. You can get carried away in the moment when you work like this.
Why did you decide to make music in this way?
I wanted a challenge really. After I finished my album, I took a break from producing solo tracks and then I thought, 'why not do something a bit different'?
That's why I decided to call it the EP 'Insurgent Series', and Adam [Beyer] was the perfect person to release it with as he's always up for new ideas, and always willing to take a punt onnew music.
I won't be making music like this very regularly though, as it keeps it special that way.
Tell us more about the production process for the live tracks. How did you have it all set up?
In Reason you can bring up racks of drum machines and samplers, so I assigned each component to a channel in the mixing desk, and then sent all the outputs to Ableton Live.
You can just hit record in Ableton and that will record everything into one WAV.
I used an Evolution MIDI controller for controlling all the channels and sounds. It's only a small controller, but it was all I really needed. A lot of techno guys like Paul Ritch use the Evolution controller.
Why do you think that is?
It's nice and easy to use, compact, and the sort of controller you can take with you on the road for a couple of weeks during a tour.
Which three tracks on the EP were recorded live?
Lost And Found, Sub Dubbed, and Redline, which was the first 'Insurgent Series' track. Lost And Found was my first ambient experiment on an EP, and it's an afterhours, ambient sound. I really enjoy making stuff like that.
At some point in the future I would love to make a whole album of that kind of sound - I call it 'headphone techno'. You know, it's something you can chill to. It's not boomed-out-in-your-face techno anyway. It's nice to be able to break out from that sound sometimes.
Have you ever DJed that kind of sound before?
I'm normally booked for techno sets, but I do sometimes play those sounds at places like Berghain. I DJed there for 5 hours for the launch of my album, so I was able to throw some of those sounds into that long set.
For my set in Room 2 of Fabric last month, I played some ambient stuff in the last hour. At techno clubs, you can experiment towards the end of your sets and people will usually stick with you.
Sub Dubbed is a pretty interesting sound for you and Drumcode.
I never would have expected that to come out on Drumcode, and that's the good thing about the EP. My name on Drumcode has been pretty successful so far, and I've had various EPs on the label, so people know me.
I always listen to King Tubby and mad dub stuff like that. I thought I'd make some tech dub fusion for fun, and I was playing 'Sub Dubbed' at the end of my gigs which a lot of people were asking me about.
I think as an artist, it's good to step out of your envelope. Especially with the amount of music that's out there at the moment. A lot of the time, people know what they're gonna get with me, and even on this EP there are three typical Alan Fitzpatrick tracks.
But I think it's dangerous to always write the same thing, and never experiment on your EPs because the minute you put out an ambient track, or some wacky electronica, people won't like it. But if you're always putting out different sounds as well as your main stuff, they are more likely to accept your experiments. Ultimately, it's nice to show off different sides of your sound.
You mentioned King Tubby as an influence. What other non techno artists have influenced you?
When I go to festivals and check out different stages, I always hear music that inspires me and makes me want to learn how to make it. I'm influenced by different stuff.
I writing some mad tracks at the moment, that were influenced by the Tron Legacy soundtrack that Daft Punk did. I think that's an amazing soundtrack. Also the soundtrack from Bladerunner, that has been really inspirational for me. I've tried to write mad stuff like that too.
You said that 'Red Line' was the first one of the live recordings.
Yeah, it was the guinea pig that started it all. I recorded three versions of that track, and after playing them out, I settled for this one.
I tweaked bits before each new version. It's actually the longest track I've ever written, at 10.5 minutes. That's mainly because I wasn't looking at the clock, like I do when I normally use a sequencer. I was just listening to the music and going with it.
I really enjoy making music in this way, although it's easy to get carried away and put the hi hat up too loud whilst recording. When you do that, you can't suddenly bring the hi hat down as it would sound weird, so you just have to stick with the mistake.
And what about the non-live tracks on the EP?
Tinitus, Xenomorph, and En salada are classic Alan Fitzpatrick. They're my usual pumping raw techno vibe.
En Salada is a little percussive, Xenomorph is quite stripped back, and Tinitus is pretty solid.
Finally, how do you feel your 'Shadows In The Dark' album did overall?
It was a really nerve racking time when we put it out, as I was going to be the only person other than Adam Beyer to have put an album out on Drumcode. And considering the label is 80 releases strong, that's a lot to live up to.
But Adam seemed really happy with it, and he called it a "masterpiece" which made me really proud. I've got a plaque of the CD album in a black frame outside my bathroom door actually. Every time I go to the toilet, I see it.
(Words: Terry Church)