Welcome to our newest exclusive installment, Do It Live, where we breakdown the live setups of your favorite performing artists to see just how they do what they do so well. This isn't just an artist using Ableton and a MIDI controller. While there's nothing wrong with that, this is a look into fully live, multi-piece hardware setups from artists who are pushing live performances to the edge. Everyone's setup is different, and no two performances are ever the same.
This time, we sit down with Mat Playford, to discuss his new live setup for his brand new album Solar, out now on Carl Cox' Awesome Soundwave. He started writing the album at the end of 2016, and he describes it as a long journey. On top of that, his studio, and thus this album, was powered by solar panels.
Words by Mat Playford
Live performance in electronic music has changed very much over the years, and the use of analogue sequencers to digital sequencers is a huge step in how you program your live set. Also, the fact that technology is getting cheaper and some will say easier to use, (I’m not sure about that though) again is changing the landscape.
I have tried and tested many options in what technology to use and sometimes the performance and venue can dictate what I’m taking to different places. I love using my 1978 Rhodes but I can’t take that abroad unless I can drive. I’ll be using the Rhodes in Amsterdam at Awakening's A.D.E. but I will be driving with a tech and a tour manager. I’m also using a V6 Allen & Heath which I found a few years ago and it has been completely reconditioned by the original designer who is now freelance and helps build Richie Hawtin’s mixer, as well as the world-class MasterSounds products. I will be using a Master Sounds Effects unit, and if I wasn’t blessed with the v6 I would be using their rotary mixers.
I have a festival gig abroad next year where I will be taking some musicians with me. During this gig, I will be using protocols within a laptop with sequenced tracks, which will allow me to concentrate on playing live synths and effects. Keeping the backing track safe and rigid like that, helps me perform sharper on keys and remain focused. There is more musicianship than creating the whole thing on the fly.
For the majority of my gigs, I’m using the Toraiz sp16 sampler x 3 and cutting five hours of music into sixteen beat samples, and there is also an option of doing one minute long samples. Using these samples as a basis, you can create new music from your repertoire of tracks. Sometimes you won’t even need to use a laptop which I enjoy, as no one wants to see the performer looking at the computer (excuse me sir are you checking your emails or performing for us!)
The main synth I often use is the Moog Sub 37. Its colour is perfect for dance music and the arpeggiator is very vibey, and I love using it on the fly. It’s had quite an impact on modern dance music, and since I’ve used one I can often hear it used by other artists in their music - it’s a real go-to synth at the moment. The last bit of the live set up is the Toriaz squid, and it’s a very interesting bit of kit that syncs really well to a lot of different DAW clocks With a live perforce tool the possibilities are endless, as are the options of live performance!