It's as hard to summarize the influence Jack Dangers has had on electronic music as it is to categorize his output. His primary project, Meat Beat Manifesto, has delivered seminal albums ranging from proto-Industrial classics to dark hip hop and experimental electronica. MBM's music comes across like an electrical extension of '70s-era Miles Davis — in other words, dark, grooving, experimental and always on the cutting edge. Jack Dangers has also worked with Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy, as well as being a member of Tino Corp.
In the following interview, Ableton talks with Jack about his unique setup and how he incorporates Live in the studio and onstage.
Meat Beat Manifesto Remix Contest
To celebrate his new tour, Meat Beat Manifesto and Thirsty Ear Recordings have released the remixable stems from the track "Wild," as heard on the album At the Center. MBM's team have split up the files in Session View and included a lesson file.
Note: This remix contest has ended. To download the files, click here. Note: This file will only work in Live 5.
To enter the contest, please send an MP3 of no more than 10 MBs to email@example.com with your full name included. One entry per contestant, and please send your entries in no later than April 15, 2006.
Please direct your questions about the contest to the forum sticky on Ableton's website. For questions on judging and on the lesson file, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thirsty Ear Recordings will be judging the entries.
The contest winner's entry will be posted as a digital release on Thirsty Ear Recordings' site. In addition, the winner will receive a selection of CDs, T-shirts, and calendars from Thirsty Ear Recordings, as well as an Ableton hooded sweatshirt and laptop bag.
Interview with Jack Dangers
How are you using Live?
When we perform, everything is run from Live. We actually run our lights using it as well. I use it in the studio too, running in the background with Logic. I've been using Logic since it came out in '94, so I'm kind of used to how that works. When I discovered Live, I stopped using ReCycle. I used to use ReCycle for those sorts of jobs; now I use Live. It's a lot quicker. What I love about Live is that you can extend things, make them any length. From night to night, it can be completely different.
How are you using Live to trigger lights?
The two light things we have are running from Live to projectors. We have a VJ program called Xovox, which a friend of ours [named C.O.D.] wrote for handling video samples. The MIDI information in Live is controlling video samples on the projectors, which are placed over us, so they cover us onstage. That's aside from the two other video sampler projections, which we use as well.
So you have MIDI clips set up to control video in Xovox?
Two of the video samplers are played live by me and Ben [Stokes], and the other two are controlled by Live. It's just normal MIDI information, notes and stuff that tell the Xovox program when to play particular images, shapes and colors.
Tell me about the song "Wild."
Basically it's a track from the last album on Thirsty Ear [At the Center]. I did a remix for it and so the version that is going to be available is more or less the live version I came up with. So, that sort of made it on to this new release. I think it's a pretty cool idea that you can put your files up so that anyone can get hold of them and jump in and do their own version.
What do you use for audio during live shows?
Live is the main program we use whenever we perform, and the interface I use with my Mac laptop is a MOTU Traveler. Everything comes out of that. We're also running a click track, which is running a Serge Modular synthesizer and an EMS Synthi AKS. They're run in tandem. The Serge Modular is one big rackmount. Its sequencer can read an audio click track, and that generates the tempo and the sequence, and you can control everything in real time.
The click track is running in the Session View?
No, we're using tracks in the Arrangement View. We have a click track doing double time, going to an analog sequencer. The analog sequencer is converting the click into CV and gate, and that's what controls the synthesizers.
Wow. Are you using Operator?
I like using all external synths. The [EMS Synthi] AKS is my favorite. The Serge is good as well. In my own studio, I tend to use just analog synthesizers. I never use software synths. Even though they sound pretty good, there are certain things I'm used to getting out of the Synthi that you can't get out of anything else.
Because it's hands on?
Yeah I like it hands on, rather than using a mouse. I've got a Korg Micro Control as well. Any of the real-time manipulation you can assign to any of the rotary dials or sliders to control stuff like that. You could do the same thing with the software if you want that hands-on touch, but even at that point, you're sort of limited to 8 sliders and 8 rotary dials. With a synth you've got complete control and access to everything. The Synthi AKS has such a good design. It's pretty compact as well; it sits in a suitcase.
I hear you just got a Grammy nomination?
Yeah I did yesterday. That's a surprise. It's sort of like Merzbow at the Oscars. The track was a remix I did for Tower of Power. It's about a year ago, I had sort of forgotten about it and wasn't expecting any recognition for that.
I wonder what kind of competition you'll be up against.
I don 't know. It should be interesting. It's probably going to read like a Neil Simon screenplay. You know that film where Michael Caine wins an Oscar? [California Suite]. Who knows, maybe I won't even go down there. It's all too bizarre for me.
[Note: Louis Vega's remix of Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" took the Grammy.]
Thanks for your time Jack.
All right, no problem, thanks.