SOLID DOSE SPOTLIGHT – TERPSICHORE
Terpsichore is the name and formulating sumptuous tunes, that deal balanced doses of euphoria, atmosphere and face-melty side effects in equal measure, is his game…We’re very glad that he’s decided to join us here at Solid Dose.
So without further ado…Standing, arms raised high, ready to drop into illumination under our Solid Dose Spotlight; here’s Terpsichore, a.k.a Mike, to tell us about his music, his Ableton Live advice and much more. Read on folks!
Q – Great to have you on Solid Dose Mike! Can you set this one off for us by telling everyone out there what you, your music and performances are all about under your pseudonym, Terpsichore?
Hello there! I’m an ex-vinyl turned Ableton DJ & Producer from Hastings. Drum & Bass is the centre of everything I do having been into it since my Mum drummed it into me playing old school Ed Rush tapes in her car. I’ve been going to Drum & Bass raves since the turn of the century, started DJing on vinyl in 2003, started producing in 2006 then made the switch from vinyl to digital in around 2009. My performances vary a great deal depending on where I’m playing but recently Trap, Footwork and Drum & Bass feature heavily in my sets.
Q – I’ve done some Google-ing (I like to call it research) and found that Terpsichore derives from the ancient Greek word for ‘dance-loving’, and is the name of the Greek goddess of art and dance. (We’ll presume the former describes you more accurately!)
Do you try to reflect this artistically and are there any other themes you like to explore in your music?
The name came about as I was booked to play at a festival at a charity I worked at a few years ago called Pestalozzi. I’d never really played out before then other than at house partys so hadn’t really given it much thought. The festival organizer gave me a deadline of that day as they were going to print with the flyers. The organizer said if I didn’t give them a name they would put “DJ Dinky Tongs” because earlier in the day at the play I was relatively impressed with an order of small tongs we’d received! I wasn’t having that so I rang my father who is a bit of a linguistics enthusiast. I asked him for a suitably pedantic name that had something to do with music and without a seconds thought he said “Terpsichore” so I went with that!
I’ve never really thought much about whether I try and reflect this artistically but I do tend to dance quite a lot during my sets haha. The way I see it if the DJ isn’t moving then it looks like they aren’t really into the music. I only play music I love so when I hear it loud I naturally want to dance. When I see other DJs who are fully into sets I absolutely love it and it makes me listen to their music in a differently way if they’re feeling it so much.
Q – Does this directly influence your choice in instrumentation for your performances then, i.e. Ableton rather than the conventional wheels of steel?
Or was this decision a result of some other influence?
My choice to move from vinyl to Ableton was over frustration more than anything. I’d played so many nights where the needles were terrible and it just ruins everything as you spend your entire time worrying about that rather than the set. I considered getting some CDJs but I thought that if I’m going to use something else I may as well use something completely different, rather than emulating vinyl on CD. At the time I was massively inspired by the way Tim Exile played and whilst he didn’t use Ableton it showed me the potential of using software to manipulate and play music live. That said, I still have my Technics and all my vinyl! I’d never sell it all and I miss going to the record shop and picking up new tracks, a certain magic is lost when you are downloading an MP3 to your machine!
ON TERPSICHORE’S ABLETON SETUP AND GETTING STARTED
Q – Awesome, so before going into further detail; what was your musical background before Ableton?
Before Ableton I used Propellerheads Reason. In fact I still do now as it’s an absolutely amazing piece of software. When I started using Reason I was curious as to how sounds were made more than anything so I didn’t really make any tracks as first, just played around with sounds. After a while things started making sense and tracks began to form.
Q – Really appreciate you showing us your toolkit here – Your set up may easily look confusing to the untrained eye, can you talk us through what we’re looking at for anyone coming to this fresh?
So for DJing I use Ableton Live 8, an Akai APC40 and an Alesis IO2. I’m looking to incorporate TouchOSC on an iPad with Ableton but I’ve been having some latency issues that I need to resolve before using it live. For production I use Ableton Live 9, Reason 5, standard midi keyboard and I’ve got a Roland D-10 synth with a broken key!
Q- What would be the basic set-up you’d recommend for anyone wanting to get to where you are now?
At the absolute basic level a laptop and Ableton Standard 9 is enough to get started! There are so many great free VSTs out there to play around with and get a feel for your sound. I’d recommend getting a basic midi keyboard too.
Q – As someone who’s experienced it; How easy or difficult would you describe your learning curve to be from when you first ever booted up Ableton Live?
For me it was a bit weird as I use Ableton in two completely different ways. For DJing once you get the hang of warping it is relatively easy to pick up. It can be as simple or as complex as you like though. My live set up is relatively complex but I strive for stability so I try not to overload Ableton too much when playing out. For production I began to use Ableton for things that I couldn’t do in Reason (on lane audio editing, VSTs, etc). So my introduction to Ableton as a production tool was quite slow. I do know though for some people Ableton can be quite daunting but I find it a lot more user friendly than a DAW such as Cubase or Logic.
Q – …and how about your key advice for any noobs (Counting myself as one!) who want to get going with Live? Perhaps you have a favorite info resource that has helped you?
Don’t be afraid to click things! There’s so much hidden away in Ableton that you really have to explore to uncover new functionality. Do things outside of your comfort zone too, don’t just use traditional samples, try everything! The best music is born from experimentation! In terms of resources http://www.djtechtools.com/ is a great site for digital DJs, http://www.freesound.org/ is a great place to pick up sounds.
Q – Do you have any specific Artists, using Ableton or otherwise, that have particularly inspired or continue to inspire you?
Tim Exile is one of my biggest inspirations as he has fused production and live performance in such an incredible way. He’s not only a fantastic performer who makes fantastic tracks but he also WRITES the software that he creates his music with! Other than that I could go on for days with the huge number of people who inspire but I will try and condense it down to: Noisia, The Panacea, Andy C, Squarepusher, Ed Rush & Optical, Aphex Twin.
ON TERPSICHORE’S PRODUCTIONS
Q – Right, now’s your chance to show us your inner creative beast – what motivates you to get in the studio and how do you maintain that energy?
I recently bought myself some new headphones for production and they sound so good just hearing sounds through them is enough to keep me going back! The main motivator though is hearing other music. I listen to a lot of different genres and sometimes I hear an idea in one genre that I’d like to apply in another. Other times it can be as simple as hearing a sample I like so much that I begin to create a track around it.
Q – What’s your basic workflow when laying down a track initially? This can often be the hardest part so those motivations really have to be there right?
I tend to create the initial “drop” first then work my way outwards. I normally start with a break and deconstruct it around other percussion then I start working on the main idea itself. Once I have a loop that I am happy with I build an intro to this point, then create a breakdown and edit the track so it flows right.
Q – What’s your stand out track right now, the one you play people first and want everyone to hear?
My newest one, Lacunashim. It’s the first track born out of using Ableton only, prior to this I was using Reason ReWired into Ableton.
SD – I’m big fan of Chunch myself, so I’d like to share that with our readers right about now too…
Q- With respect to Chunch and relating back to Ableton now – what were the vital strokes you applied in making the track via Ableton and what were the key moments when you though ‘Yes! Now this is turning into something’?
It was when I first heard it back with the stabs! Before then it was sounding a little bland so I was looking to put something in the mid range to lift it up a bit and it worked perfectly!
ON TERPSICHORE’S PERFORMANCES
Q – I’m yet to see you in action, so for all our benefit can you describe how you bring it as a performer in the clubs or otherwise? What gives you your edge?
I skank out a lot! I can mix between 100-180pm very easily so can suit my play style to fit the mood of a night very quickly. I like to play high energy, aggressive music in a way that it sounds so ridiculous it’s not too aggressive, if that makes sense?
Q – I’m sure our folks will be able to figure out what you mean! So, how does Ableton Live translate into the club for DJ’ing? What are the key techniques and how would someone go about finding out more in this area?
Ableton gives me so much freedom when playing out. I can draw on so many tracks, loops and utilities in an instant. Ableton allows me to seamlessly mix from Glitch-Hop to Drum & Bass which is phenomenal. The main technique I use for mixing is to use filters rather than EQs, and I use delays and reverb when mixing out of a track so the mix sounds more seamless. This can all be read up on but the best way is to try it yourself and listen closely to DJs you like. I’d say this mix is a good representation of how I play out:
Q – And finally, what would you say to someone wondering if they should book you or not?
Have you got enough room for my APC40? Hahaha!
THE SHAMELESS PLUG! (Because we can!)
Q – At Solid Dose we’re all about promoting you as artists and letting everyone know where they can catch you next; So, tell us the dates we should be adding to our calendars…
I’m playing next at Gecko on 21st March in St Leonards (UK), part of a new monthly series run by Bunch
Q – Any talented friends and/or artists you’d like to plug or recommend to us for a future installment on Solid Dose?
SD – We’ll keep them in mind! Again, thanks very much for joining us at Solid Dose Mike!
YOU CAN FOLLOW AND SUPPORT TERPSICHORE BY TAKING A JUMP VIA HIS LINKS BELOW
We want to thank Mike for joining us at Solid Dose – we’ve no doubt his Terpsichore project is bound for success in the future!
We’ll be keeping in contact with Terpsichore, so you can keep yourself posted on his upcoming gigs and key dates by keeping locked in to Solid Dose and checking our SOLID DOSE SELECTIONS CALENDAR at the bottom of the site!
Thanks for supporting the blog! – SD CREW
Dose Delivered by: Ben