If you're a fan of deep, progressive and melodic techno/house, you'll be more than familiar with the name Rodriguez Jr. Over the past 20 years, he's established himself as one of the top live performers in electronic music, mastering all different genres, and was even a former padawan of the legend that is Laurent Garnier. Performing live is no easy task, and we are extremely excited to have him be apart of our Do It Live series. Below, he breaks down his evolving setup and the thought process that goes into each iteration.
Words by Rodriguez Jr.
I’ve been playing live for over 20 years and I’ve had many different configurations that have evolved alongside my music. Regardless of what happens, in my opinion, a live set-up should fulfill these three basic requirements:
- The live set-up should be able to technically translate what you have created in the studio. The sonic palette should be executable in the equipment you bring along. At this point, there are already big decisions to make regarding your music, such as: what are the core essential elements and what is not so necessary to express on stage.
- The set up should correspond to the logistical reality of travel. Unless you are traveling with a team of technicians, you have to be able to set-up in a very short time and keep things light and portable.
- No matter what music you make or what instrument you play, it should be FUN and it should bring you to a place where you can create a real moment with your audience. Meaning that at some point you should be able to forget about what you have in front of you and make a moment out of it.
That said, here’s the story of my actual configuration and what I’ve been taking with me on the road for the past few years. The core of my set-up is a laptop running Ableton Live, a couple of Allen & Heath K1 MIDI controllers, an RME sound card, a Roland TR8S drum machine, a Roland SH01A synthesizer, an M-Audio MIDI keyboard, and a XONE 92 mixer (latter two provided by venue)
In Ableton, I created a sort of tracklist in which the tracks are broken down into stems as well as patterns. Each part of each track is its own isolated loop which I can trigger as I wish. I can make an intro or a break last as long as I want and therefor be more sensitive and reactive to what’s happening with the audience. I inherited this kind of workflow from the MPC 2000 on which I began performing live in the ’90s.
The TR8 in and of itself does not generate the main rhythm. I use it to create layers that I add on top in order to adapt.
For example, if I want to be a bit more house or sexier I add more shuffle percussion loops, syncopated snare drums and stuff like that.
If I want to be more techno I add open hi-hats, rides, distortions, etc.
It’s Like adding the missing ingredient; finding the right spice depending on the time of the show, the location, the crowd, etc. For example, if the audience is composed of only Italian men, you can play open hi-hats from start to finish. Just kidding.
In my Ableton session, I have a stock of stems, extra tracks, sounds and samples which I can release for adventurous performances whenever necessary and most importantly to escape my own frame.
Overall, what I search for is adrenaline; that moment that everyone will remember. Sometimes I will stop the music, suspend the flow of what has been happening and restart with basic elements like a piano solo followed by the drum machine before slowly building it back up. I’m not the greatest pianist but what’s important is to create the moment that people will remember, a moment of communion with an audience is a second inside eternity.