Making music is tough enough on its own. Taking that to the stage and performing the music live to an audience is a whole different ballgame. The decisions on what gear to take and which to leave in the studio, how much of the music is to be played live vs as loops or backing tracks. Every artist has a different vision and different needs. With our exclusive feature Do It Live, we sit with the artists and break down their decision-making processes and see exactly how they are able to create the magic they do. This time, we are joined by Atelier, who's emotive and moody brand of electronic music is all their own.
Words and photos by Atelier
Our live-set and setup are constantly evolving and being updated, however, the way we perform live is really just an extension of how we make music in the studio - albeit on a smaller scale. The basis for each track is a few loops and phrases separated into different elements that are played via Ableton. On the hardware side, it’s been stripped down to the essentials and basically what can fit into our carry-on baggage.
The Akai APC40mk2 is the controller for the loops and phrases in Ableton. A click track is sent via audio out the soundcard (RME Fireface UC) to an E-RM Multiclock which syncs the rest of the hardware setup to Ableton. The E-RM Multiclock sends a converted signal (now in din sync) to a Roland TR-606 drum machine. One of the trigger outs on the TR-606 is used to send trigger sequences to a Roland SH-01A. The outputs of all of these are sent to an Allen & Heath Xone 96 - the synth and drum machine on the mono returns, and the soundcard on a stereo channel. The stereo out of the Allen & Heath is essentially a sub-mix that gets sent to the main mixer.
The vocals are sent through a TC Helicon Voicelive 2 split into two outputs - one signal, with effects, goes to the main mixer and the second signal, which is dry, goes only to the stage monitors in order to avoid feedback. The guitar chain goes through a pedalboard with Boss TU3 (Tuner), Caroline Haymaker (Dynamic Drive), Boss GE7 (Equalizer), Boss DD3 (Delay), BOSS BF3 (Flanger) and a Strymon Flint (Reverb & Tremolo) which, in turn, gets sent to the main mixer.
The main midi controller that I use for triggering loops and phrases from Ableton. It really does exactly what one needs to fire off loops, add effects and easily bring in and out elements with the faders. Build quality is, unfortunately, a bit questionable, but its functionality is perfect.
This is a clocking device that keeps the other hardware instruments in sync with Ableton. It has four channels that can be switched between midi or din sync, so it’s perfect for syncing older drum machines and synths. Also, having the ability to start/stop independent channels and to adjust milliseconds (both forwards and backward) on each channel seamlessly during playback is a seriously handy feature.
A good drum machine and live tool for a number of reasons: it’s small, sounds great, the layout is very simple, and it has two trigger outputs which is perfect for sequencing other gear. Being able to set the last step of the 16-step sequencer is a great feature, making poly-rhythms a possibility.
The SH-01A, although not playing as much of a role in the studio as it’s an older brother (Roland SH101), is still a workhorse during the live set. From white noise snares and hats, to arp lines, it’s sound seems to compliment our other elements well. All that gets sent to the SH-01A is a trigger signal from the TR606 via the click in. There's no midi in this setup at the moment (besides the APC40mk2 via USB), meaning that the patterns on the SH-01A are always programmed live.
Boss TU3 (Tuner), Caroline Haymaker (Dynamic Drive), Boss GE7 (Equalizer), Boss DD3 (Delay), BOSS BF3 (Flanger) and Strymon Flint (Reverb & Tremolo).
Pedal Chain Favourites:
Caroline Haymaker (Dynamic Drive)
I really love this pedal because of one switch that moves from A to B to C that gives you three different drive sounds. So for songs like "Something To Fill An Hour" where I don't want too much distortion but just a little lift to the signal I'll use the B setting, but then on certain changes between songs where I want a distorted wash I'll flick to the C setting which has a very similar sound to a standard fuzz pedal.
Strymon Flint (Reverb & Tremolo)
This is a truly fantastic pedal. Usually, combination pedals end up losing some quality on one of the sounds but this one really holds it all together. Each effect has three different options of sound, for example, the Reverb on the pedal has a switch which says '60's, 70's, 80's' that shows off reverb examples from the different era's. The '60s is a classic spring reverb, 70's more of a tube amp feel and the 80's just has a longer tail. This pedal can really create beautiful soundscapes when you push the decay and mix knobs all the way out - this is a solid base for many of our tracks.
TC Helicon Voicelive 2
This vocal pedal is a love/hate situation for me. I think some of the presets are really useful for some artists, however, I just make my own presets that are as simple as possible - a standard reverb, standard delay, and simple doubling and harmonies. The issue for me comes with the number of parameters on offer - there is just so many. Of course, I could downgrade, but I think to put in the time with this pedal now will pay off in the future because we're constantly experimenting as a band and who knows what sound my catch my ear one day.
When the event/club caters for it, we like to play our own visuals whilst performing. Currently, they are a series of wave clips shot by Jaś and his longtime film collaborator Robert Wisniewski. They were shot on a RED Dragon at 100fps with Zeiss CP2 lenses during an intense storm that came in heavy through Cape Town. In the future, we aim to make this and similar footage shot by Jaś & Rob an integral part of all of our live shows.
Special Moment During The Live Set:
We have a track called ‘Ave’ that didn’t make it onto our album but is a staple during our live performance. It sounds almost unrecognizable from the studio version during the set and is almost completely improvised with us feeding off one another. For the first half of the track, there is no kick drum and is rather built up with Jas playing higher range guitar riff on guitar and Alex playing a low-mid arp line on the SH-01A. Alex will be building the arp intensity with resonance until it becomes almost acid-like, and Jas bending the strings of his guitar to create tension, a moment is found in the peak of all this to bring in beat and restart the riff. It’s a necessary moment for both of us to experiment and to essentially just jam together.
Grab their new album here.