Using Ableton 8 in a live situation

April 14th, 2010

There are many recording studio software programs available today, and the competition between DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) manufacturers has resulted in them all now offering very similar features. Some of the more popular ones of the last few years such as FL Studio, Cubase and Logic all offer advanced audio and MIDI editing tools, as well as compatibility with a host of third party plugins. But since its launch in 2001, Ableton Live has become increasingly popular amongst both bedroom and professional producers, and this is partly down to its extremely easy to use and intuitive interface. But where it really leaves the other DAW packages behind is in its use with live performances. With its newly improved warping engine, it is now possible to drag loops into a project which will nearly instantly be set to the tempo of your track, and can be altered in pitch and tempo without warbling, stuttering or other artifacts. This is great for DJ’s performing live, who can easily synch their tunes together in perfect time by simply dragging and dropping, or using a MIDI controller. In this review, I will mainly be looking at some of the ways in which you can combine live instruments (guitar, bass, drums) with Ableton for live performances.

Firstly, lets get some of the prices and computer specifications out the way – now in version 8, Ableton Live (or just Live as its often called) is available for both Mac and PC users, and costs around £400.  It requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later or Windows XP/Vista/ DVD-ROM Drive and a minimum of 1GB Ram. It comes with a host of powerful instruments of its own– synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and effects, and is compatible with VST (for PC) and AU (for Mac) instruments.

When you first open up Ableton, you will notice that there are two views you can have of your project – the Arrangement and Clip views. The Arrangement view will look familiar to those who have used a DAW before, with the timeline across the bottom and your instruments/tracks listed vertically. But with a simple click of the tab button, you will be taken to the Clip view. The clip view page is designed to be used with loops – either ones from your library or ones you can make on the fly. Here, your software instruments or tracks are shown horizontally, and variations of your loops can be arranged vertically on each track. Each track has its own mixer channel, onto which you can drag effects, or send to an effects bus. This clip view may seem like a simple idea, but by having all your loops set out in front of you with the option to trigger any combination of them in real time, perfectly synched, is what makes Ableton great for on the fly music production.

So how do you combine Ableton’s features in a band situation using say drums and guitars? Well the first thing to check is whether your drummer is comfortable playing along to a click track or not. Some may prefer to listen to a click using headphones whereas others may just want a looped beat loud in a nearby monitor. Both options are easy to set up with Ableton as it allows a separate headphone and monitor mix to be set up as you please. But not all drummers are comfortable playing along to a click, so using pre recorded loops with a drummer that is varying in tempo can cause all sorts of problems. One way round this is to use the tap tempo function in time with the drummer. This can easily be assigned to a key on your qwerty keyboard or MIDI controller. If you need both hands available for other instruments, its handy to assign this to a foot controller. A cheap way top do this is to attach a foot controller to your MIDI keyboard (using the switch or sustain pedal inputs), and then to assign this to tap tempo using the MIDI learn map in Ableton. The Nudge up and down feature is another way of altering the tempo of Ableton during a live performance. This allows you to temporarily speed up or slow down Abletons playback to match what you hear, especially useful if you are just slightly speeding up or slowing down during a performance.

It’s worth quickly mentioning MIDI controllers at this stage. For a live performance with a band, you want easy accessibility to the controls within Ableton. These are commonly connected to your computer with a USB cable. There are many available that have been designed specifically to work with Ableton. Novations launchpad for example is designed to work with its clip view, making it easy to see what loops you are launching. At the cheaper end of the market are Korgs Nano controls. There are three available, so you have a choice of knobs, sliders, pads and XY pads to choose from to suit your needs. If you need your hands free to either play the keyboard or guitar for example, you may want to consider a foot controller. Again there are many available, but have a look at Rolands FC 300. This has plenty of foot switches and two expression pedals that are easily assigned to Abletons parameters.

Rather than using pre recorded loops during a live performance, you may want to record your loops on the fly. With Ableton 8, they have the Looper, an extremely easy to use device in which you are unlimited with the number of overdubs you can make. Simply assign the record button to a MIDI control of your choice (again, I find a foot controller is best), press record, play your loop, press it again and Ableton has detected its BPM and you are now looping. You can use the tap tempo or nudge controls to keep everything in time. The only limitation with this however, is that you can only delete the last loop made, so once several loops have been made, you are stuck with them. But there is a way around this. Say you wanted to record a loop (this could be guitar, bass or vocal beatbox), then create several harmonies on top and then take out the first loop you made. Well firstly you need to get the right MIDI controller. If you are looking to have control over say 8 separate loops, you will need a MIDI controller with 8 buttons. Both the korg nano kontrol and Roland FC300 I mentioned earlier will do this for you. Simply set up a separate track for each loop you want to make within the clip view, and assign your MIDI controller to record/stop record for each of those tracks. You will also need to assign a control to mute the track. When you press record, Ableton will wait for the beginning of the bar before recording, and if you press stop record, it will wait until the end of the bar. This ensure all your loops are all synched together. It will then instantly play back your recorded loop. Then its a case of simply layering your loops on the 8 separate tracks and muting the ones you don’t want to hear as you go along.

Ableton also allows you to route your audio where you please. Taking another example, lets say you want to record guitar loops over a pre recorded drum loop, but have the guitar sounds coming out of your guitar amp and the drum loop through a P.A. This is down to the soundcard that you are using and how many inputs/outputs it has. You will need to have at least one input and 3 or 4 outputs on your soundcard to do this. All of this can be done on the mixer channel shown in the clip view page. Simply assign the audio input to the input of your guitar, and the output to say output channel 3 (for mono) or 3 and 4 (for stereo). Then connect these outputs to your guitar amp. Any other sounds that aren’t routed to the guitar amp will automatically play through outputs 1 and 2, which you can connect to the P.A.

Another great feature in Ableton is that by simply pressing record at the top of the clip view page, your performance will automatically be recorded in the arrangement view which can then be edited later if you wish. This is great for recording all the ideas you come up with during a practice.

Ableton is a hugely powerful DAW, and can be tailored in many ways to suit your needs. If you want to use it just as a composing tool without the use of loops, Ableton has all the features that you would expect from a music software program. But with the right soundcard and MIDI controller, you will find new ways to intuitively incorporate your software music production in a live performance.

The Computers

March 22nd, 2010

The ComputersI witnessed a gig by Exeter band the Computers the other night and was pleasantly surprised to hear a current rock band with a different look and attitude to the generic emo/heavy rock that currently proliferates. They describe their music as being like a kind of hardcore Elvis Costello with elements of Black Flag and Rocket From The Crypt, but i also hear influences like the Jesus Lizard and John Spencer Blues Explosion and the Hives in there somewhere. They are also unbelievably tight and polished in an aggressive punky way. Song titles like ‘Teenage Tourettes Camp’ and ‘Love The Music, Hate The Kids’ suggest a suitably post ironic attitude and an endearing refusal to take themselves too seriously; they even have musical punchlines to complement the humour in the lyrics. Its good to see a rock band with such a refreshing approach; The Computers even address image and stage show by making an effort in a way that few UK bands bother to try; on the night I saw them they resembled rockabilly zombies, wearing white jeans and t shirts, white pan stick make-up and quiffs.

With a live session for Radio 1 under their belt, releases on Fierce Panda and Freakscene, and a UK tour currently underway, hopefully it won’t be too long before everyone has heard of The Computers and had a chance to enjoy their blend of exciting, attitudinous rock and roll. Check out their myspace for more information:

What’s Wrong With The BRITS?

February 25th, 2010
Ironic Host Peter Kaye

Ironic Host Peter Kaye

Watching the annual BRIT awards last week, a few thoughts struck me which I thought I would share with you.

Firstly, in the current economic climate, is it really a good idea to have the event sponsored by Mastercard? The majority of the audience demographic for the Brits is surely young people and students, who are already likely to be swamped with debts like student loans. If we are meant to be tightening our belts and addressing the issue of irresponsible borrowing, this is not an appropriate message.

The recipients of the awards this year came as no great surprise; I have no complaints about Kasabian receiving their just desserts as best British Group.. its been a long time since a band of this quality came to prominence. Dizzee Rascal, Florence and the Machine, Lily Allen, JLS and Lady Gaga have also all proved themselves over the past year and display a good variety of talent. However, there did seem to be a disproportionate number of female victors and nominees this year which prompted me to wonder why?

Could the increase of female artists in recent times also be related to the economic climate? Personally, I believe this to be the case. Due to the changes in the music industry over the last few years, there is now much less money to be made by the artists. Being a rock and roll star or a pop star is no longer a guarantee of millions in the bank, with sales being a tiny fraction of what they were 20 years ago. A number one single will no longer make you rich overnight. So is the preponderance of females to do with the fact that music is now seen as a more suitable career for girls? The issues that make women lower paid in the workplace compared to males, like the risk they will leave to have babies, or be less reliable due to childcare issues mean that women in the music industry are less likely to complain about the lower rewards. Also the majority of female pop acts keep a whole host of other people in work, from songwriters and producers to stylists and hairdressers. The traditional male band is likely to do much more of the writing and producing themselves, and have less need or desire for hair and make-up!

I could be way off the mark here; the other possibilty is that the large amount of women is merely a reflection of the band-waggon jumping done by A&R men following the success of Lily Allen and other female artists like Little Boots. If that is the case, I can reliably inform you that A&R departments everywhere have currently been briefed to seek out ‘proper bands’ rather than solo artists, so in the next couple of  years the Brits should be full of young mixed sex bands.

Finally, a word about poor old Robbie Williams (as he shall be known in future!). Is it just me, or has he completely lost it? In the past I would be the first to defend Robbie against his critics, on the grounds that he had charisma and showmanship if nothing else, but now he seems to have lost these qualities and has been reduced to providing a Karaoke backing track for the audience to sing along to. The look in his eyes is a bit desperate; he acts like a parody of himself and the conviction he used to have seems to have evapourated, as though he knows he’s selling us a crock of s**t. Poor old Robbie!


February 5th, 2010

propellerhead-recordPropellerheads Reason programme has been at the forefront of music technology for years now, providing a self contained electronic music package that has been used by millions of home producers as well as a host of professional artists and producers. With its intuitive interface and powerful synths and samplers, Reason set the standard that other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) had to meet. This was great for dance music production especially, but if you wanted to record audio on your tracks, this would have to be done using another software package, as Reason could not support this. They got round this by creating the Rewire system, allowing you to synch Reason with your audio recording software (such as Cubase, Logic, FL Studio and Adobe Audition). This seemed to work fine, but you would still have to flick between programmes, or bounce your tracks down and transfer them, which is not ideal for the creative music producer.

But now, Propellerheads have released Record, a multitrack audio system with both audio and MIDI capabilities which allows you to record, edit, mix and master your music. Like most DAWs available today, this has a host of effects, EQ’s, filters, compressors, and supports both audio and MIDI recordings. Record is, however, a self contained programme, so is not compatible with 3rd party plugins. This seems to be part of Propellerheads ethos, and works in cutting down on your CPU and it also means everything seems to work well together, with few glitches.

There are three main pages to Record – the sequencer page, the effects rack and the mixer. Each track you create (whether audio or MIDI) will show in each of these pages. Like Reason, you can flip to the back of your effects rack and rewire your set up as desired. As its all based on the old rack set up, with each track having its own channel in the mixer, it is extremely easy and logical to use.

Looking at the MIDI instruments it provides, Record itself comes with just one synth, the ID8 workstation which has just a few preset sounds that you would expect such as bass synth, piano and percussion. And as it does not support 3rd party plugins, your only option to build on your MIDI instruments is to add Reason to it, making it (you guessed it) Reason Record. Reason will run as normal, and you can open all your old projects providing they were made on version 4. You will then get all the same synths, samplers and MIDI editing tools that are available in Reason, which are extremely versatile and intuitive to use. You can build on your soundbank by purchasing some of the Refill packs that Propellerheads provide. Abbey Road Studios, for example, gives you all the vintage keyboard, melotron and piano sounds sampled directly from the studios, which can be loaded into one of their samplers. MIDI editing is very similar to that of Reason, in that you are working with clips, and there are plenty of editing tools allowing you to chop, copy, paste your clips.

Recording audio is made very easy with Record, and shares some similarities with Logic particularly with its comping facility. Set the section you want to record on a loop, press record, and it will create a separate file for each take, which you can then piece together to get that perfect take. Like their MIDI editing, the audio editing works in clips. Again, you can chop, copy and stretch your clips.

The effects that comes with Reason will provide the music producer with pretty much everything they could ask for, and these same effects are included with Record. One of my favourites is the Scream distortion unit, which has 10 different types of distortion available, all of which can be tweaked to your liking. For you guitar players, Record have also included guitar amp simulation pods for both bass and guitar, provided by guitar emulator specialists Line 6. You can choose your amp, cabinet, drive level and EQ, and you can even assign a MIDI pedal to be a wah for example. Finally, there is something called the combinator device, which allows you to combine several different effects into one device providing much better control over your sounds.

The mixer they use is based on the SSL’s 9000K, and its simple layout makes it very easy to use. Each channel has 8 effects sends, with some precise Eqs and filters you can apply on each. Routing your tracks to buses is extremely easy, in the same way that wiring your devices is. Simply press the tab key to see the back of the rack or mixer and you can wire up pretty much any input to an output.recordback

Pretty much every parameter you see on record you can automate, and this is again done using clips on which you can draw your automation. Again this can be copied, pasted and edited to your liking.

If you are looking to record mainly audio, Record will do everything that most DAWs can, and when combined with the effects rack and editing, this is an extremely versatile suite. Combine it with Reason and you get a full music production programme with some of the best software instruments about. Bugs and glitches are common for brand new software packages which tend to get ironed out as they upgrade versions. But as a self contained programme, Propellerheads have minimised this, and very few problems have been reported. As its interface is based on a hardware rack set up, Reason is easy to use and nothing is hidden from the user. This makes things simple and easy to use and also allows the user to get creative with routing and combining devices together. Record have maintained this easy to use interface and so the user can make projects as simple or as complex as they like. For someone who is new to computer music, this is definitely a good package to start with. Reason is taught in many music colleges around the country because it is based on hardware, and once you grab the basic concepts, other DAWs will make much more sense.

Now the prices. Record itself (without Reason) costs £169. If you are a Reason owner already, you can upgrade to Reason Record for £99. (If you are on an older version of Reason, this upgrade package will upgrade Reason to version 4 anyway). The full Reason Record package costs £332.92.

But don’t take my word for it. You can download a demo version from the Propellerheads website for free and try it for yourself at

The Transpersonals

February 2nd, 2010

m_e13e337d91a2422e85a6b925e4bf6420If you’re a fan of 60’s influenced psychadelic and garagey music, look no further than Bristol based band The Transpersonals.

This unique and talented 3 piece manage to blend retro jam band influences with a thoroughly modern lyrical sensibility. Their songs reference recent popular culture and politics sprinkled over eastern-tinged rocking tunes. The band admit to preferring the environment of the studio and the experimentation this allows them to performing live; consequently their gigs are a bit of a rare treat.

However, when I have managed to catch them live, the results are hypnotic and fascinating to watch. Extensive jam sections evolve seamlessly into quirky 60’s style pop and back again. The Transpersonals’ music sounds like an eternal personal cinematic soundtrack, which we are temporarily permitted to share for the duration of the gig.

Band members Timothy Hurford, Luke Barter and Matt Bane are accomplished musicians with a humble demeanour which belies the subtle genius of their material; they are clearly all devoted to the cause and have that rare focus and unity of direction that many bands seek.

Their songs and blurbs include quotes from Plato, Aliester Crowley, Noam Chomsky and David Icke to name but a few, and the band are clearly into the odd conspiracy theory, expressing interest in hallucinogenic drugs, UFO’s and aliens. All of this is delivered with a humorous undertone so you’re never quite sure if they really mean it, or whether it’s just a means to amuse themselves.

Signed to Guerilla Music Records, a small independant label founded by 2 ex-members of the major label A&R establishment, The Transpersonals have released an EP entitled ‘Hello Hello’ which is available on itunes, and has been critically acclaimed. BBC Radio 2 recently featured one of their tracks as a single of the week, giving the band some much needed exposure. Let’s hope that it’s the start of things to come… if only there were more bands like this; intelligent, steeped in evocative influences, and built to last. The Transpersonals isn’t about ‘making it’, its just who they are, and who they will continue to be.

Mark Thomas – Many A True Word Spoken In Jest

January 22nd, 2010

imagesIf you haven’t yet witnessed one of Mark Thomas’s live shows, I strongly recommend you try and catch him next time he plays a town near you. He truly is one of the most original performers you will ever see. For the uninitiated, his act consists of a unique blend of information you really ought and need to know accompanied by a scathing wit.  Audiences leave his shows inspired and ready to take on the more corrupt elements of the establishment… hopefully this will last longer than until the next morning!

Born in South London in 1963 to a mother who was a midwife and a father who was a self employed builder (and ex lay preacher), Mark did a degree in Theatre Arts and cut his teeth doing shows in miner’s soup kitchens and fund raisers during the strike, which must have given him a grounding in the hypocrisy of modern politics and helped to develop his radical mind set.

He became a professional stand-up in the mid 80’s, and has since had several of his own TV series on Channel 4, as well as writing for Private Eye, fronting human rights related documentaries and being featured frequently on Radio 4.

Mark’s current tour is about creating a people’s manifesto, which he intends to promote by having people stand for election. At the gigs, audiences have been invited to suggest policies, which Mark then discusses, and an audience vote decides which ones will be included in the manifesto. Policies so far have included declaring all Tesco’s car parks to be common land, making offenders convicted of homophobic crimes serve their sentence in drag, and holding open days at MP’s second homes if paid for by expenses. Mark is a mine of information about corporate and government corruption; at the gig I saw, he informed us of such gems as the fact that many top government buildings, including the Inland Revenue and the MOD are leased from tax dodgers with offshore accounts. Often his shows and TV programmes feature demonstrations against whatever organisation he is exposing.

All this does provoke the question ‘how does this man sleep at night?’ Although his delivery is very amusing, the issues Mark is dealing with are extremely serious, and somewhat depressing. His current tour really does highlight the fact that the country we live in is a democracy in name only; you only have to listen to some of the inconsistencies and corruption he has exposed to realise that.

Mark has been arrested and detained by the police on many occasions; one hilarious part of his routine involves an anecdote about evoking his legal right to have his fingerprints and DNA removed from police records… apparently we all have the right to do this if we are innocent, but most people aren’t aware of the fact, so the police continue to hold them on a register.

The main point here is that it is very important that brave pioneers like Mark continue to examine and expose the hidden mechanisms of our major corporations and political systems; its unlikely to change the world overnight, but his very existence ensures that at least some of the perpetrators of bad ethics are held to account. If only there were more like him!

For more information on Mark Thomas, or if you are interested in contributing to the People’s Manifesto or in representing the policies in a local election, go to

Celebrity Big Brother 2010

January 21st, 2010

imagesThis year’s Celebrity Big Brother is allegedly the last so I’ve been watching it despite my best intentions. For once, it’s quite an interesting group of people; some of them actually have brains, and are quite famous! Interestingly enough this particular group seem to be responding to the format in a similar way to the first ever Big Brother contestants in that they seem aware that the objective is to conduct a social experiment, based on the concept in George Orwell’s  book 1984.

The group very quickly started behaving like a group of apes; Vinnie Jones is the undisputed alpha male and his directives are usually obeyed unquestioningly, with the exception of the now evicted Lady Sovereign. ‘Sov’ was a bit of a rogue element, and a not particularly good advert for her generation, which is a shame as she initially had a lot of support outside the house. Stephanie and Ivana are both contenders for the position of matriarch, with Ivana playing the ‘trump’ card of greater wealth and notoriety to consolidate her status.

Poor old Alex looks set to become this year’s casualty; I will be very surprised if he escapes with his sanity intact as Stephen Baldwin seems determined to f**k with his head at every available opportunity.

On the subject or Mr Baldwin, I find it interesting that the former addict, like many others, only managed to clean up his act by replacing his addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to religion. This seems to be a common phenomenon; the addictive personality cannot be easily cured, it merely transfers the addiction to something ‘safer’. It is truly cringeworthy watching him justify his petty gripes and surpressed anger by finding validation in passages of bible scripture. Hopefully he’ll be the next to go and Alex will escape a prime-time tv conversion… not sure what Jordan would think of that!

The other contestants are an amiable enough bunch, though their celebrity status is considerably less. It will be interesting to see their reactions when they leave the house on finding that their fees for the programme are about 10% of what Vinnie Jones is allegedly getting. So far it looks like a forgone conclusion that Vinnie will win, but he seems increasingly irritable and nit-picking, so maybe one of the more happy-go-lucky contestants will pip him at the post.

It is interesting how the eviction process works; it doesn’t seem to be based on keeping in the most fascinating characters. If that was the case, Heidi would still be there. I think the public vote ends up being a mixture of factors ranging from pure popularity to a kind of surge in irrational emotion that gains momentum through the media.

Finally, let’s hope that the non-celebrity Big Brother comes to an end in the near future as the original concept does not factor in it any more; its just a showcase for sad, attention seeking losers who will do anything to get on TV!

Logic 9 Review

January 18th, 2010

imagesSeptember 09 saw the release of Logic Pro 9, the latest complete home studio software from Apple. This has everything that a music producer could need to create professional sounding recordings, whether you are a dance producer using MIDI instruments, or you have a live music set up you want to record. Here we look at some of its editing tools and instruments that I have found particularly useful, as well as some of the new features they have introduced for the latest version.

Now its only been a year since they released version 8, so it turns out to be an expensive hobby if you want to keep up to date with their latest software. Apart from forking out £408 for the complete package, you of course need to be a smug Mac user with all the right specifications (click here for details). Now I’m a Logic 8 user and am quite happy with its audio and midi tools for the music I make. But after trying some of the new features of version 9, and being a sucker for new technology, I’m seriously thinking of upgrading. I’d better start saving…

Lets start with some of its audio editing tools. Here we find there are some nice features that can make life a lot easier. Set a loop on the arrange page, plug a guitar or microphone in, press record, and Logic will take multiple recordings of each loop, which can then be edited or copied and pasted throughout your track. This really helps in perfecting your takes and requires nothing more than setting the loop of the section you want to record.

But Logic have taken audio editing a stage further with version 9, and have introduced a new collection of tools that allow you to quickly manipulate your recorded audio. This is called Flex Time, and it allows you to speed up, slow down, stretch and shrink your audio. Logic will detect the correct algorithm to use to change the audio (stretching drums, for example, will need a different algorithm to that of vocals) giving you complete control over the tempos of your songs. You can even quantize your audio if you want it to be tighter, or fit a specific groove. These tools are available in Logic 8, but the new version has its own page dedicated to Flex Time which gives a good visual representation and will cut down the number of clicks it takes to perform a complex task.

Another new feature of Logic 9 is its guitar amp simulation and pedal board. Choose from 25 amp heads, 5 EQ’s, 10 reverbs, 25 speaker cabinets and 3 mics to recreate some classic guitar and bass sounds. You don’t have to use this with a guitar – some of the distortion and effects are great to dirty up your drums, synths or samples for example.

For those that like to use MIDI instruments in their music making, Logic 9 has a selection of powerful synths, a drum machine and sampler built in, and is also compatible with AU instruments, if you are looking to build on your home studio using 3rd party applications. Its drum machine, Ultrabeat, is a beast, and gives you complete control over your sounds. You can select Logics drum sounds, or drag and drop your own samples into the machine, and each hit then has its own pitch control, filter, distortion unit, envelope, noise generator, and all of these can be modulated, and routed to its own mixer channel. Although it looks like the Millenium Falcon (as they have crammed so many ways of manipulating each drum sound into one machine), after a bit of getting used to, you will find this an extremely versatile instrument.

Even if you like to use other software programmes to create your music, by routing your tracks through the mixer section of Logic, you can really bring your recordings to life. The effects that come with it include several delay, reverb, distortion and EQ plugins, as well as all your modulation effects (phaser, chorus, flanger) amp simulations and a host of other nifty units. The Enveloper is one of my favourites, you can quickly change the gain of the attack or delay of a drum hit (for example) to give it some real punch, or to soften it up. It’s compressor is also a favourite of mine, in that it has many features including side chaining capabilities (great for those dance producers who want that sucky volume effect), and a mix dial of your compressed to dry sound, which is very useful when experimenting with compressing a full drum kit. The Channel EQ that is on every channel strip is extremely easy and intuitive to use, and will give you complete control over the shape of your sounds. Of course, you should always use your ears when mixing, but it has become increasingly popular recently to use visual aids to help you in your mixing. Just one click on Logics Channel EQ will bring up its analyser will give you a visual representation of the sound that is being generated, which many find helpful for finding problem frequencies.

Every parameter in Logic can be automated. Just press the A button on your keyboard, and a separate arrange page dedicated to automation is shown for each track. You can easily assign a knob or fader on your MIDI keyboard to a parameter by selecting the parameter you want to automate, press control and L, turn your knob/slider, and its assigned. Keyboard shortcuts I have found to be particularly useful in speeding up workflow, and you can quickly find out and tailor your shortcuts in just a few clicks.

Logic 9 comes with a huge collection (around 37Gb) of loops, sound effects and sampled instruments that you can quickly add to your music, which can be great if you are looking for some creative inspiration even if you end up not using the loop for your final mix. They are filed well under name, category (beats, kits, FX, for example) and its original BPM, allowing you to quickly find what you are after. You can search on a keyword, or scroll through the category until you find what you want. So if I wanted a congo loop for example, I can quickly type congo in the search engine, or scroll through the percussion category.

This is just a taste of what you can do with Logic 9 – its a hugely versatile and powerful programme with a manual as thick as War and Peace. The upgrade from 8 to 9 isn’t a huge leap, and I do wonder whether Apple will release a new version every year, just when the students are about to start term. The new features they have introduced are particularly useful for those that work with audio rather than MIDI. I’ve been a Logic user for a year now, and my only complaint (apart from cost) is that it is not particularly intuitive when compared to something like Reason. But after a bit of time with the manual and with some help online (check out Logicninja on youtube), you will find that Logic can pretty much do anything you want it to.

Forgotten Heroes: Mark Perry and ATV

January 13th, 2010
Mark Perry with John Peel

Mark Perry with John Peel

Few people can claim to have been the spearhead and true instigator of a scene. The birth of Punk is usually attriibuted to Malcom McLaren and the Sex Pistols, but there is a person who was the true underground voice of punk; Mark Perry of ATV.

The young Mark Perry was working as a bank clerk in 1976 when a Ramones gig inspired him to start a fanzine called Sniffin Glue.( One of the collaborators on the fanzine was Danny Baker, now known as a TV presenter and about as divorced from his punk roots as you could get.) Sniffin Glue became the UK punk scene’s bible and Mark Perry quit his job and did numerous TV and radio appearances acting as an articulate spokesperson for the emerging new phenomenon.

Early in 1977, Mark Perry hooked up with a young Miles Copeland to form Step Forward Records, releasing tracks by Fall, Sham 69, Chelsea and the Cortinas amongst others. Mark was also involved with Miles’ other labels, Deptford Fun City Records and Illegal Records.

The first incarnation of ATV was born shortly after, with Mark Perry on vocals and guitar. They released their first single, ‘Love Lies Limp’, as a free flexi disc given away with the last issue of Sniffin’ Glue (no.12), August 1977.

Mark with Mick Jones

Mark with Mick Jones

From then on, the various line-ups of ATV read like a Who’s Who of musicians who would become influential or famous during the next decade; collaborators included Joolz Holland, Genesis P Orridge, and Jammo and Dobbo (World Domination Enterprises).

Following a brief unsuccessful flirtation with EMI, ATV released their first proper single, ‘How Much Longer’/'You Bastard’, on Deptford Fun City Records. Their first album was released in May 1978.

Ever at the forefront of innovation, Mark quickly became disillusioned with the limitations of the punk scene. He can be heard on a live recording berating the audience for their thug-like behaviour and disinterest in the ideological messages that he and other intelligent punk front-men were trying to convey. This led him to mutate ATV into the Good Missionaries, a more experimental project influenced by the nascent industrial scene.

From then on, Mark sporadically made departures from, and returns to the music industry, always somehow managing to be involved with the major faces of the future, like a young Alan McGee. In 1996, Mark got back into writing by providing the text for Erica Echenberg’s photo book, ‘And God Created Punk’, which was published by Virgin. In 2000, Sanctuary Books published ‘Sniffin’ Glue: The Essential Punk Accessory’, which compiles all the issues of Mark’s fanzine along with lots of new writing and photos.

ATV has gigged as recently as 2003, but it remains to be seen whether Mark will return to the live scene again in the future. ATV cds have recently been available through but check first to see if they are still available.

ATV members included:

Alex Fergusson – guitar, vocals. Went on to play in Cash Pussies and Psychic TV,

Micky Smith – bass

John Towe – drums. Was in Generation X. Went on to play in Rage and the Adverts.
Tyrone Thomas – bass, guitar. Also in Convent Nuns and other bands.
Chris Bennett – drums. Went on to play in Secret Affair.
Dennis Burns – bass. Also in the Reflections.
Kim Turner – guitar. Played drums for the Andy Fraser Band.
Mick Linehan – guitar. Went on to play in the Lines.
Dave George – guitar, other instruments. Kept the Good Missionaries name going for a few years in Hastings.
Anno Graver – vocals. Sang with Gong and Here & Now.
Henry Badowski – drums, sax. Also played bass in Chelsea, the Damned and King. And solo as ‘Henry’.
Gillian Hanna – vocals.
Alan Gruner – keyboards.

Ray Weston – drums.

Karl Blake – guitar, drums. Also in Lemon Kittens, Shocked Headed Peters and the Reflections.
Nag – bass. Also in the Door & The Window and the Reflections.
Protag – guitar. Went on to play with Blythe Power.
Steve Cannell – bass. Went on to play in Danielle Dax’s band and others.
Allison Phillips – drums. Also played in Ut and Taboo.
Clive Giblin – guitar. Also in Shocked Headed Peters and other bands.
Fish – drums.
James Kyllo – guitar, vocals. Also played in the Dropkick Me Jesus.
Dave Morgan – drums. Also in the Weather Prophets and the Rockingbirds.
Bob ???? – drums. Also played with the Cardiacs.
Luci Bocchino – guitar. Also played in the Long Decline and the Flips.
Rob Ugly – bass. Also played in the Long Decline and the Dole Claimers.
John Isaac – drums. Also played with Christian Death.
Dick Ugly – keyboards. Played in the Dole Claimers.
Lee McFadden – bass. Played in the Long Decline and loads of others.
Tony Barber – bass, guitar. Played in Boy Wonders, Buzzcocks and others.
Kevin Mann – drums.
Grahame Hullett – bass. Played in Yacca and others.
Steve Carter – bass – Played in Sad Lovers & Giants.

Forgotten Heroes: World Domination Enterprises

January 8th, 2010
Digger, Keith and Jammo

Digger, Keith and Jammo

There are a few bands in the world who completely encapsulated the mood of their time and influenced a host of other musicians, but who sadly never achieved a place in the global public consciousness and never reaped the rewards they should have been due. One such band is World Domination Enterprises.

WDE were formed in 1984 by Keith Dobson, (a former member of trippy jam band Here and Now) from the ashes of a notorious project called 012, famous for their chaotic, and some would say unlistenable 10 minute guerrilla sets. He embarked on a poster campaign of bus shelters in West London, searching for ‘Gutterfunk bass and drums’ and was soon joined by Steve ‘Jammo’ Jameson, a stalwart of the West London scene where punk clashed with dub sound systems on bass, and a feisty talented young chap by the name of Digger Metters on drums.

World Domination Enterprises had a completely unique sound; Keith (Dobbo) would detune his guitar to a kind of edgy dischord and max out the treble, Jammo tuned down to what I believe was a low C sharp on bass, and wore it lower than any bassist before or since, and Digger was a tight, groovy powerhouse who had mastered the art of hitting his cymbals hard enough that the stands rocked, but never quite fell over.

The sound was like Elvis on PCP meets a very dark Beastie Boys; a kind of 50’s influenced rockabilly but with industrial and punk sensibilities underpinned with grooving subby/dubby basslines. Their live shows were electric, eclectic, angry and funky all at the same time. Jammo’s sinuous basslines provided the perfect complement to Keith’s frenetic bursts of guitar noise and savvy vocals, all performed with an attitudinous hip-swinging, leg-trembling stance. Audiences would go wild for their first single “Asbestos Lead Asbestos” and their unusual cover of “Funkytown”. The lyrical content spoke to a generation disaffected by Thatcher; intelligent youngsters who had left school with little hope of a job or a place in acceptable society. World Domination Enterprises gave these people a voice and fitted perfectly into the late 80’s squatter scene, playing gigs in West London with the Mutoid Waste Company (alternative artists who pioneered making sculptures from scrap and found objects, pre-empting the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin by nearly a decade) and at squat venues in places like Hackney. Although their sound was unique, WDE were compatible with their contemporaries, bands like Swans, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Test Dept, Einsturzende Neubauten, Crass, Psychic TV and The Birthday Party but with the added sexier ingredients of Rock n Roll and Reggae.

Their initial intention was to release only singles; 5 were put out in the late 80’s, “Asbestos Lead Asbestos” (1985); “Catalogue Clothes” (1986); “Hotsy Girl” (1987); “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” (1988); and “The Company News” (1989). They eventually bowed to pressure and released 2 albums as well; “Let’s Play Domination” in January 1988 and “Love from Lead City” (late 1988).

The band were championed by the late great John Peel, and featured on the covers of both Melody Maker and the NME, and their material maintained high positions in the UK independent charts. Inroads were made into the US college radio scene that was influential in America at the time, and in Europe where they toured three times; they also toured the USSR.

Despite their popularity, WDE were shunted around between different labels, never really finding their spiritual home in the industry. Perhaps this was due to their uncompromising spirit and refusal to commercialise their sound; they stuck to their guns and never betrayed their roots.

In the late 80’s during a depressed period, drummer Digger was recruited by Jehovahs’ Witnesses and things were never the same again; its hard to play tracks like “Hotsy Girl” when a band member has objections to material on grounds of immorality! Despite Keith and Jammo’s best efforts to reclaim him, Digger left the band. He was reluctantly replaced with a young drummer called Simon Doling, but Digger had been such an integral part of the band that it was hard for the other two to continue without him; proceedings eventually ground to a halt in 1990.

Luckily it’s not too late to hear this seminal band; The remastered CD album “Let’s Play Domination” was released on 1st September 2009, and it still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did the first time around. The re-release features all World Dom’s singles as extra tracks, plus one unfinished track. It includes a 12-page CD booklet with photos, lyrics and band-story. The album is available direct from the label’s website for £7.99. Buy it now and hear an amazing piece of forgotten UK music history!