Name: Florian Kruse
Occupation: DJ, producer, lecturer, label owner
Current Release: Florian Kruse's new EP "Glow Ignition: The Missing Piece", a collaboration with Julian Wasserman, is available via Spectrum.
If you enjoyed this interview with Florian Kruse and would like to find out more about his music, visit him on Instagram, Facebook and Soundcloud.
You can also read our Julian Wassermann interview to find out about the persective of his recent collaborator.
What was your first studio like?
My first studio was completely analog as there was no computer involved. I had two sampler (akai s-20 and s-1000), a roland jv-1080 synthesizer, a mixer (mackie 1402 vlz pro ), two turntables (technics mk2), a master keyboard, a microphone, alesis mkII monitors and a tape deck for recording the live sessions. I was mainly doing hip hop and trip hop back then.
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?
I started doing music in the late 90’s and it was a big step for me buying my first computer with Cubase installed. From that time on, software plug ins and instruments were more and more present in my productions. Technology changed the game and things were possible for less money. Delays, reverbs, compressors, all that stuff used to be incredibly expensive. The digital world opened doors and I was able to make music with less boundaries in terms of production.
Nowadays it’s a mixture of both worlds in my studio and I am using a couple of analog machines but still love all the possibilities the digital world has to offer. The mackie mixer is still in use, I love my genelec 1020a monitors and I love to use the roland aira series with tb-3, tr-8, mx-1 and the se-02. Other than that I am a big fan of the Native Instruments Maschine Studio in combination with the Komplete Ultimate series. I have more stuff installed and plugged but those are my cherries.
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 am actually a big fan of all the possibilities the digital studio has to offer. I am reinventing my production process all the time by using different synths, different eqs, different filters and fx and I totally enjoy it when something unexpected happens while adding a new plug on a channel strip.
If I want control I use the plug ins I am experienced with and if there is time pressure on a production I can rely on my favourite gear. Only sometimes will I feel a bit overstrained by new possibilities especially when I have installed a new bundle of instruments for example.
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 think a good sounding room and at least one good pair of studio monitors is needed when you really want to mix your own music and have a good and clean bass spectrum. To mix kick drum and bassline on headphones is nearly impossible in my opinion. I am sure there are some cracks who are able to do it but I like to walk through my room and listen to the music I am making from different positions.
No need to have a complete uncoupled room. A few absorbers and the knowledge how the room sounds is what I need to make my tracks sound right.
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?
It plays a role. I love to make beats with the tr-8 for example and I love to use my Maschine Studio to play sounds as well. I am not using the mouse to draw notes in the MIDI editor of Logic, I am playing every single element either on the keyboard or on controlled pads. I also love to record percussion elements with my microphones.
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?
Okay, let me give an example of the track ‘The Missing Piece’ I just did with Julian Wassermann together.
I was looking for a cool sound for the main melody and played some chords on the keyboard. It sounded a bit boring in my ears in the beginning so I was searching for something that makes it special. I added Logic’s midi arpeggiator on the channel strip and played around with octaves and groove and so the chords started to sound interesting and unexpected modulations started to happen. Room, delay and tape simulation plug ins did the rest and finally the sound had character. That's the way I usually work.
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 am not the kind of guy collecting ideas and putting sessions into an archive. When I do a track I always try to finalise it and make it work. Of course I have an archive of unsigned tracks but most of the ideas are fully arranged and worked out to a final stage.
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 don’t like to use the same instruments just because it worked out on another track. It feels like cheating to me if I would use exactly the same sounds on more than one track. I need to move forward, I need to be creative and need to learn new things.
As I described on my answers above it helps to experiment with plug ins on channel strips to give character to boring sounds and make them your own.
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 love to be inspired by sounds or tracks and with that in mind I start working on a new track. Sometimes it goes into that direction but sometimes there is something completely different happening just because I left the path I had in mind by finding a new sound during the process.
Of course there are great tools to work with and amazing arpeggiator presets that play cool melodies just by pressing one note on the keyboard. If that happens to me I try to make the sound my own and change the pattern or tweak the sound. I think I can’t name a percentage here, things just happen naturally in my work flow.
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?
It’s very important for me. I love to have control. When I collaborate with other artists I love to be involved in every process and at least discuss every step.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Talking about music for documentaries or tv spots for example. The possibility to program an orchestra or to make an acoustic song with guitar and bass without recording those instruments live is something that changed the game. The quality of Native Instruments or East West Software simulations just to name a few is incredible.
If a request of composing a classical piece of music were to come in, I'd no longer be afraif to take it on anymore.
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?
Well, the perspective differs for me. When I make music for myself I like to have my own sounds, melodies and self programmed beats. When I make music on request with given examples or a requested soundalike I can easily 'cooperate' with intelligent tools. It helps me to make my job easier to be faster which always plays a role on those jobs.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
There is always potential to make the production process easier but I think we should not make it too easy for ourselves. Music needs the human touch, the emotions and we don’t want everything to sound the same.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
Good question … Good old sampling from records maybe. The opportunity to have a phono input even on smaller audio interfaces to record snippets from your favourite records and creatively work with them and make them your own … Daft Punk style.