From rocking a crowd of techno-purists to scoring a soundtrack to the next sci-fi thriller, Richard Devine leans on technology as his partner in sound. He's earned his stripes both up front and behind the scene, first establishing himself as a sound designer and then creating several artist titles; his most recent work can be heard on Asphodel/Schematic. Devine is a longtime fan of working with loops, synths and samples, so we recently got together to talk shop about one of his favorite programs, Ableton Live.
How do you use Live?
I have always used Live in a studio situation for building loops of different sounds and beats into something new. Live is the Lego building audio program, where you can stack Legos of sound bars onto each other and they all work perfectly together. It also works great in a live situation and for DJ sets, an area which I have been moving into.
What do you like most about Live?
I love how easy it is to build from totally different loops and sounds, using the intelligent time compression and expansion tools. Everything can be done on the fly and with ease. It even works as a wonderful sound design tool, with the real-time clip envelopes and audio effects.
How did you first learn about Live?
I actually heard about it through Robert Henke, one of the creators of Live and a good friend, who I met through his musical productions as Monolake. I then heard he was making a musical application for live playback manipulation, and I knew it was going to be wicked if Robert was programming it.
How about the new features in Live 4.0?
Wow, there is so much new stuff. I would say the new MIDI track and pattern sequencing are ace, a perfect addition for users like myself that come from the old-school, drum machine programming era. Drag-and-drop sampling is also very convenient and the VST support is amazing too.
Do you use Live in any unusual ways?
I like to tweak the Global Groove for audio and MIDI clips, and I like to take completely different beat structures from sequences I make and purposely throw them into crazy time shifts, and then bring them back into Live and see what happens. Sometimes I just edit everything in Live and do what I call 'collage audio editing,' where I edit hundreds of audio sound clips and then re-warp all these within the audio track view with plug-ins like Grain Delay, and then mash them all up into one track file.
Do you have any favorite trick or tip that you'd like to pass along?
My trick is to automate every possible parameter. I love how you can do either hands on automation or CC automation with Live. I use my Ozonic keyboard to assign parameters like delay time, feedback and modulation to the knobs and faders, then I go crazy with the automation and record all my movements. I do this several times until it's completely crazy, and then bounce down. I keep doing this until I have several interesting slices of automated audio, which I then re-import back into Live for more audio editing in the Track View window... it's completely mad!
What other equipment or software do you use in conjunction with Live?
I typically like to use the Evolution UC-33e and Ozonic keyboard controller. They seemed to work great with Live, with just the right amount of hands-on parameters to map out everything you need with just two USB devices.
How do you use Operator? What do you like about it?
I actually participated in the sound design for Operator. I have been an FM programmer and user for years, and was delighted that Robert created such a wonderful, efficient synth for Live. They asked me to design some of the presets, which come shipped with Live 4 now. I really love how easy and beautifully streamlined Operator is. You have everything you need in one simple interface. Not to mention it sounds great. You have so much flexibility as well. With the wide selection of sine, saw, triangle and noise waveforms, and powerful modulation and LFO capabilities, the sound design capability is endless. I also love the flexible envelopes for drawing in custom-shaped attacks and decays. It makes the envelope editor semi-modular, and really useful for shaping your sounds.
Any other comments about Ableton Live?
I'd have to say that Live is amazing, and really easy to use. I have been messing around with it even more lately, as more of my sound design work gets more intense and demanding. I would rather have an application that makes my job easier, and that's just what Ableton Live does; make life easier, and allow me to be more creative in my musical adventures.