Name: Beth Lydi
Occupation: Producer, label owner at SNOE
Current release: For Burnheart Remixed, violinist and composer Johanna Burnheart has asked some of her favourite electronic artists to rework select pieces off her self-titled 2020 full-length. Beth Lydi is one of them. The EP, which also includes contributions by Acid Pauli, Nesa Azadikhah, and Pilo Adami, is out November 19th 2021.
[Read our Johanna Burnheart interview]
[Read our Acid Pauli interview]
[Read our Nesa Azadikhah interview]
Equipment Recommendations: So absolutely the Arturia V-collection. I don’t think I could live without this one. And actually for the second one I thought I’d let you in on a little secret. For working with vocals I use Quadravox a lot. I think I got it for free from Plugin Boutique once. I spent a lot of money on plugins, so I just took it with me randomly and have been so happy about it. This is one of my go-to tools when working with vocals. Also, sorry I know this is a third, but I would absolutely recommend the Model-D if you are looking for a not too expensive and great piece of hardware. Especially if you are in the beginning / mid-way of producing this is a fantastic tool for understanding and exploring synths.
If you enjoyed this interview with Beth Lydi and would like to stay up to date with her music, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
My first studio was my study desk and my laptop with Ableton in my bedroom. (laughs)
It was not very glamorous but also in the beginning I was not sure if I wanted to produce music. I was more curious and just thought I’d try it out. So the very basic setup was enough to get a first whiff of what was going on.
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?
My set-up has evolved quite much since the beginning. I have invested a lot in good plug-ins and some hardware.
One of the first pieces I bought was the Model-D. It is really a great way of understanding and learning the basic functions of a synth and also sounds very nice. I also got the Moog Theremini quite early on as a birthday gift, and it just because an instrument that fascinates me. It is a great way to come up with unexpected elements in a playful way. The TD-3 and Wasp Deluxe are my two most recent investments and I absolutely adore both.
One of the most important plug-ins in my life is the Arturia V collection. I use a great variety of synths here in every production and experiment a lot with the different possibilities.
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?
I actually think I don’t think too much when I produce. Most of the time it is an ongoing intuitive process where one sound leads to another so I don’t dwell on what to choose next for the track. And then a lot of the best stuff happens by accident as well.
But I love to watch tutorials and see what others do with similar gear for instance. Sometimes it is far off from how I want to work and sometimes I pick up tricks I can use in my routine.
At the end of the day I just really need to know what my chosen gear does so that I can use it well.
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 would say it depends a bit on the situation. At the moment I have my studio in my flat without speakers and this really gets on my nerves sometimes.
I love my set-up although it is quite simple, but would of course love to have the space and facilities that a bigger studio can offer.
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?
My Arturia The Factory Controller is so important when using plugins in the creative process to just jam around a bit. I think it enables creativity in its simplest way: play.
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?
It can be a blessing and a curse. It is so important not to get lost in the endless possibilities that technology provides. But at the same time, it enables ideas and new ways of working with material.
I think “One Girl Orchestra” is a great example of that. I just sat down one day and wanted to make something different. After working with the groove, I thought “Oh, maybe I should try out some violins. I played it as a kid but never use it in my electronic music productions. Might be terrible but let’s see”.
Most of what I do is spontaneous ideas that I luckily can try out thanks to the endless technological options.
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.
(Laughs) Yes it is. And it generates a lot of crap as you can work so quickly as well. I have an archive folder, but I doubt this is stuff I will ever finish. I have one folder called “album” where the really special sketches and tracks go that I could see on an album. I have one folder called “WIP" (work in progress) where I save the current stuff that I feel has potential. But I usually try not to work longer than a week on a song. If I haven’t gotten a fantastic main idea or even finished it by then I probably never will and it will just be this annoying thing hanging around. I had to learn this the hard way.
Luckily I have a boyfriend who is excellent in having a listen to my productions and giving a second opinion to tell me if it's crap or has potential. If it goes into the crap category I put it in my “no” folder and I will probably never listen to it again. And then it is the “done” folder for the finished tracks ready to be released.
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?
This is a funny and also difficult question. I think one of my biggest elements of surprise are the small, weird elements in my tracks. If you pay attention there are usually sounds bits playing around the main elements. It is fun to spend time with sound design that adds a little something extra to the music.
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?
I try not to have too many ideas before entering the studio. I can find it quite frustrating to try to recreate something from my mind. Sometimes it happens, but mostly I try to just sit down, make a groove and then take it from there.
So almost everything develops from what my equipment and software allows me to do in just that moment.
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?
So, I would go with very important here. (laughs)
In the creation phase I think it’s a given. For my mix downs I go to a professional studio and sit next to the engineer so I am part of the final touch as well. (www.henmountain.com) Only the mastering I am usually not a part of physically, but of course you can always give feedback if the master does not sound right.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I have a very challenged relationship with arps. For a while it seemed like such an easy solution for amazing ways to come up with melodies, but at the same time it felt easy to get a bit lazy. So I don’t use it. I like to compose the melodies and set the notes myself.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. 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?
Yes and no. I think it can be creative in a sense of making new music, but I don’t think personally it can create happy accidents. The human emotion that is behind music is hard to replicate with technology. But it can definitely recreate music in the conventional paths.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
I mean yeah, maybe in the form of a correctional assistance. This is a very interesting topic but I have not thought too much about it to be honest.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
I would love, love a way to work simultaneously on a project across different softwares.