Avant Gardner, one of New York's elite venues, will be hosting their third annual Cityfox: Live music festival, made up of only live-performance acts. This year, names include the likes of Eelke Kleijn, Hannes Bieger, Innellea, KiNK, Monolink, Paraleven, Recondite, and WhoMadeWho. Seeing as we have a feature literally called 'Do It Live', we teamed up with the venue to bring you two exclusive features with the artists. First up is none other than studio wizard Hannes Bieger, whose immaculate setup is as tight and tidy as can be.
Words by Hannes Bieger
When I started releasing tracks again a few years ago, after my long break, it was clear to me that I would play the songs live at some point. I never played electronic music as a DJ, but I had been playing guitar and synths in many different bands since I was 14 or so, and then up until 2006 or 2007. This was my musical upbringing, and I have the feeling this way of performing suits me the most.
In the meantime, I had gained a solid reputation as an engineer and producer, and when I started putting my live set up together in the summer of 2018, I decided that I wasn’t going to cut corners, in the same way, that I am handling my studio work. Being kind of renowned for the sound quality I can achieve at the studio, my objective was to take the same approach on the road. I wasn’t buying into the notion that it’s “just live“, and sound quality therefore wouldn’t matter as much. My challenge was to translate this studio thinking into the live world while having a few high-quality synths at hand, some effects units, and a very solid and good-sounding setup. Currently, I am bringing everything myself, and that means I have two large Peli flight cases full of equipment, plus a few items I bring in my hand luggage.
The heart of it all is a MacBook Pro which runs Ableton Live. I am playing back audio stems from Ableton, I have samplers with one-shots and other things, I have a number of MIDI channels feeding the synths, sending program changes to the effects, etc.
For the interface, I chose a Universal Audio Apollo 8. It is not the most lightweight option, but it offers enough channels and sounds fantastic. All outputs, alongside the synths and the hardware effects returns, are being combined in the SSL X-Desk. I may be the only artist using an SSL live, but I actually find this a bit surprising, as the mixer really checks all the boxes: it sounds absolutely fantastic, it is very rugged, fairly lightweight, and it offers all the routing options I need – including a fantastic monitor section, which can make my life so much easier on stage.
If possible, I run the FOH and monitor signals directly from the SSL, bypassing whichever DJ mixer is in the booth, and the result always blows my mind. Playing the Moog through the SSL directly into a big sound system just feels soooo good! The only problem with the SSL is, that it has been designed for studio use in terms of cabling – most connections are running into and out of the mixer via DB25/DSUB connectors. It would be a nightmare for me to work with custom DB25 snakes, as this would also be a huge maintenance liability in the field. So I decided to build my own custom breakout panel for the mixer, so that all delicate custom wiring stays under the hood, so to speak.
In terms of synths, I could not leave the house without a Moog. I chose the Sub-37 for my live set, just like many other artists, because it sounds great, it has preset memory, it again is fairly compact, and it has a ton of modulation options. The only thing it doesn’t have is internal effects, and so I designed this custom effects tray which can be attached to it, and which currently holds two OTO Machines BIM and BAM reverb and delay units. I am playing the Moog always through these effects. And then I am also using the DSI Prophet-6 as the desktop version (one keyboard is enough to carry...), and I chose it because, again, it sounds fantastic. It’s also a very versatile machine that’s good for basslines, lead synths, chords, pads, and everything in between.
There also are two Strymon Timeline and Big Sky pedals: Delay and Reverb, and these are connected into the send/return loops of the SSL. This means I can use them for everything: stems from the computer and both synths.
Finally, I am using an AKAI LDP8 controller. With the pads, I can fire loops and one-shot sounds, and with the encoders, I can do a number of different things – setting certain signal routings inside Ableton, controlling soft synths and plugins.
Essentially, I am bringing a small studio setup, and that comes at the price of two heavy flight cases which I need to take on my trips. But for me, it delivers everything that’s important to me – versatility, inspiration, sound quality, and solid instruments which just feel great when I touch and use them.
Grab your tickets here.