Name: Andy Martin
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Andy Martin's "Revolution" featuring Lee Scratch Perry is available for pre-order on Mole Audio, a Berlin-based label dedicated to issuing hard-hitting dub music on vinyl. The release also includes remixes by Nit Yardman, Turmspringer and Legowelt.
Equipment Recommendations: I would recommend two softwares which for me are vey useful and they are free. VCV RACK; VITAL
If you enjoyed this interview with Andy Martin and would like to find out more about his music, visit his Facebook account and Soundcloud profile.
What was your first studio like?
My first studio was in my bedroom at my parent's place when I was a teenager.
It was a very basic setup, I had some cheap computer speakers, a PC, and some small controllers. It was quite simple but I had a lot of fun doing my first sound experiments there.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Definitely, I think the main gear in my studio is my monitors. I have had a pair of Dynaudio BM12A for 9 years already. Having a good pair of monitors to which you can experiences sound in a proper way is very important.
I have a Maschine MK3 from Native Instruments that it’s the brain of my productions and a couple of semi-modular synths like the 0-coast from Make Noise, the Mother 32 from Moog, and a modular system from Pittsburgh Modular. All the synths are connected to an Allen & Heath ZED R16 where I have a couple of external effects to process the signals.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
For me the best is to focus on creating a piece of music with the minimal amount of sounds that works very well together instead of just adding infinite layers to it. In the same way I try to work the tecnical process of the track, focusing in creating a good sound design from the beggining so I don’t have to over process the sounds when a do the mixdown trying to fix something from the sound desing.
Also having some knowledge of sound synthesis helps a lot to pick a type of synth that works for what you are looking for, so you dont get lost in the infinity amount of options.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
I grew up in the digital era, so I’m very use to work with computers. If I have to chose a setup, I could work with a good pair of speakers, a fast computer and a MIDI Keyboard. I also love the hardware synths but nowadays I feel fascinated by all the possibilites that the digital work offers.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
For my productions I use the Komplete Kontrol A49 from Native Intruments which is super handy and also the expressive pedal Touché which has four diferent axis of modulation. One of the elements that's been missing in electronic music was the expression compared to traditional instruments where your physical tension, movements, postures are part of he sound. Now with these tools we can add another dimension to the sound.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
Technology definitely has a big impact on my music. Sometimes I find myself programming sequences and modulations on the synths that always make the sounds different more than playing an intrument in a traditional way. It's as if the sounds were kind of alive.
Of course the creative part is assigning all the modulations to sound the way you imagine it. a good example of it would be my work of "Pedro Paramo" where all the sounds are moving around and talking between them.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I usually try to make a couple of sketches every week and after 2 or 3 weeks I check what I have done and I choose the sketches that I feel have some potential to develop the full idea. I have all my sketches named with the date I created them and in folders from each month.
Sometimes I may not have a good sketch for a track but I have a good sound that I designed or a FX chain, so I try to save them in my library to use them in other projects. That's how it has worked for me in the last years.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
I think this is a matter of creativity. In the process of creation, we design paths and ways to find our sound, but that paths and ways can become redundant after some time and we find ourselves in a creative cage.
For me it's important to start every work from scratch. I avoid working with templates and with the same creative tools. I try different routes on every track. I have my technical tips and tricks that I usually use but also I try to break them from time to time. Sometimes it can become a mess but sometimes you can find better and different ways.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
Nowadays most of my compositions have a concept behind them. I think that makes music more solid. Even if I have an idea before going to the studio and it doesn't translate 100% of what was the initial idea, the concept remains and it helps me as a guide of what I'm looking for when I'm working on the studio.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
Besides creating everything from scratch I think that the most important thing is to create a piece where every sound has its place and a reason to be in the composition. For me, music is a dialog between sounds and it can become very interesting if you do it right.
The origin of the sounds is relative for me, it could be a sample, a preset, something that I did on the modular synth from scratch or from VCV Rack in a virtual modular. I like to find interesting sounds. I do all of the rhythm programming myself to keep that proper dialog between the sounds the best as I can and also I do the mixdown to give everything the proper space.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
When I was a teenager and I discovered DAWs the idea that in your computer you could have a full studio in your bedroom blew my mind. It shaped the way I approach creating music.
Currently, I am using Bitwig as my main DAW and I find all of its possibilities of modulation that can make very complex sounds without too much CPU and in an easy way interesting. It has changed the way I make music.
What excites my about the future are probably DAWS that would be integrated with touchscreens or even expressive new ways of touchscreens with distant, pressure, movements, etc.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative provess. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
In my opinion it's a complex situation. For me art is the creative reflection of the emotional history of a human being. Music is also a mathematical concept and for sure an AI could be able to create a composition. But it would probably be lacking the emotional and conceptual part which is essential for music and art in general.
On the other hand, I think AI could be a very good assistant suggesting ideas that could help with the composition.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
Yes of course, I imagine an AI, DAW or AI VST that could learn our process for creating music, the music scales that we like, the sound design and synthesis, the rhythms, and from there, this AI could suggest different ideas that fit in our way of composing. Instead of having the same massive preset libraries for everyone, we could have the same DAW but the sounds would be very different because of this individual learning process of feedback between the artist and the AI.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
Taking the last idea further of the AI DAW, it would be interesting if we get to a point where we could find a way of translating the sounds that we imagine into a DAW. In that way everyone could have access to create music.