Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD Turntable

In the past few years, there have been many attempts to recreate the feel and response of a DJ turntable using audio CDs in place of vinyl. The problem with CD players has been the lack of a “hands-on” way to stop, start, and reverse the playing of the audio in real time, including slowing down the sound with a finger, the way DJs do.

Pioneer has solved this problem brilliantly with the CDJ-1000. It allows DJs to play any audio CD, and apply standard DJ techniques such as scratching, reverse, stutter, and more. It also combines a “hot cue” sampling function with three memory locations for triggering user-defined “bookmarks” from the CD while the song plays; bookmarks can be set anywhere on the CD.

The key to the CDJ-1000 is its realistic-feeling rubber platter and ease of use. Simply load a CD, press play, and once the CD is spinning, you can play the turntable in many vinyl-like ways. If you want to stop the CD momentarily, just press your finger against the platter and hold it there. The music will stop instantly. Let go, and it begins to play again, just like a real turntable. There are also knobs for slow-down (brake) and wind-up speeds.

Once your finger is on the platter and the disc has stopped, you can do traditional scratching by moving your finger back and forth without lifting it off the platter. Within minutes, any DJ who is used to vinyl will be right at home on this unit.

The CDJ-1000 also has a standard pitch-control slider for speed adjustment, and a reverse switch that plays the audio backward – something you usually can’t do with a CD!

In the real world, I’ve found the CDJ-1000 to be a great tool. I can burn vocal tracks or beats of songs that I’m producing onto CDs, and then scratch them. This is also a great tool for bands who travel and want to scratch their own tracks live. Certain groups like Massive Attack have been doing this for years by burning tracks onto vinyl for use in live performances, but this is much quicker than waiting for the pressing plant. And cheaper, too!

If you’re a die-hard vinyl user, I won’t even try to tell you to change, but if you want to have the ultimate in flexibility, and preserve your vinyl collection, you owe it to yourself to try the CDJ-1000.

Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD Turntable

  • Pros: Intuitive, fast, easy to learn – especially for vinyl DJs.
  • Cons: Platter is smaller than 12″.
  • Bottom Line: Make use of all of the CDs in your collection, plus get new life out of your sample libraries.

Creating the market, not following it

In the early ’80s urban music pioneers began artfully scratching, slowing down, and reversing LP records, giving rise to the DJ art form. It was only natural that the turntable would emerge as their primary creative tool: The LP record was still the most widely used format for listening to music, and there was at least one turntable in just about every household. In the ensuing 25 years consumers abandoned their turntables and LP records, first for cassette tapes, then CDs, and now, mp3 files and the immensely popular iPod. Yet the sonic effects achieved by a deft hand manipulating an LP still define the DJ’s craft. Harnessing this advancing digital technology while facilitating analog-based performance techniques has created what Jack O’Donnell describes as a “transitional” period in the DJ market. As CEO of the Numark Group, he enjoys a unique vantage point. Aside from being a leading purveyor of DJ gear, the organization also serves as a corporate umbrella for the Alesis and Akai product lines.

To grasp what O’Donnell means by “transitional,” you only have to take a cursory look at the dramatic expansion of the Numark product line. Fifteen years ago the company effectively served the market with a selection of traditional turntables, phono cartridges, and analog DJ mixers. Today the market requires a much broader product range. Traditional turntables, like the popular TTX model are still very much in evidence in Numark’s product lineup. However, there are also a dizzying number of products that marry traditional turntable feel with various digital storage formats. There’s the new HDX, which combines a removable 80-gigabyte hard-disk and a standard size turntable platter, allowing the DJ to transport thousands of songs to a job and still enjoy traditional turntable performance. The iDJ and the iDJ2 are slick, portable units that turn a standard iPod into a full-featured DJ rig. Debuting at Summer NAMM is the iCDX, a control surface that enables the DJ to scratch, loop, and play songs from any device equipped with a USB port, whether it’s a laptop or a portable disk drive. The HD MIX is a self-contained system combining a hard drive, two jog wheels for scratching, and a mixer, centralizing all DJ controls and music in a single, portable unit. And, then there are over a dozen rack-mounted variants that offer different combinations of scratch capabilities and digital storage formats.

Assessing this varied product selection, spread out in a conference room at Numark’s spacious headquarters in Rhode Island, O’Donnell steers clear of expressing personal preferences and refrains from sweeping predictions about the future of the market. Part of this stance is the by-product of humility acquired in over two decades of product management. “Fifteen years ago I predicted that the phono cartridge would be dead in five years,” he jokes. “It’s still an important part of our business today and I’m a little less willing to make predictions.” More importantly though, his outlook reflects the conviction that DJs, along with the R&D staff at Numark, are still in the process of sorting through the different product configurations and have yet to render a verdict on the optimal format.

The first generation of DJs grew up working with the most common form of playback of the day, the turntable,” he observes. “The newer crop of DJs has grown up in the world of digital music formats and have an entirely different outlook. Our job is to offer products for both groups, as well as those users who occupy a middle ground. That’s why there are so many products in our line. We can’t foresee the next format, so we experiment, listen to our customers with an open mind, and remain flexible.”

While O’Donnell may not be entirely clear about what the ideal DJ rig will look like in five years, he has no doubt about what Numark needs to do to remain successful. In short, it all comes down to a heavy investment in digital technology and R&D. He says that in the “pre-transition” era any distributor could link up with OEM manufacturers in Taiwan, make some modifications on consumer audio products, and come up with a reasonably competitive DJ line. It’s not that easy anymore. Existing consumer audio products no longer lend themselves to DJ applications. (Ever try scratching or reversing a tune on an iPod?) This forces companies like Numark to develop a much higher level of engineering expertise. “The digital signal processing capability that allows you to manipulate a stream of digital audio and scratch, play backward, or change tempo in real-time is not something that you can buy off the shelf,” he explains. “You need a lot of in-house engineering skills.”

O’Donnell was one of the first in the industry to recognize this need for advanced R&D capabilities, and over six years ago, began positioning Numark with series of strategic investments and acquisitions. In 2001, he purchased Alesis, a pioneer in digital effects processing and recording technology. In late 2005, he acquired Akai, the company that virtually invented digital sampling. Akai and Alesis continue as strong product lines in their own right, and a conscious effort has been made to maintain each brand indentity. However, marrying three product lines under a single corporate umbrella has provided a foundation of digital expertise. This capability is evident both at Numark headquarters in Rhode Island and at the company’s engineering facility in England. It’s also reflected at Wavefront Semiconductors, an independent subsidiary based in Seattle that develops digital microprocessors for other music products manufacturers.

Pooling the engineering resources has resulted in a range of potent synergies. Some are straightforward, like being able to order Motorola microprocessors in higher volumes to get better pricing. Others are less obvious, like developing cross-platform operating systems that can manage effects processing in products ranging from an Alesis Fusion workstation to an Akai MIDI sequencer. Most importantly, this collective R&D effort has spawned a steady stream of innovative new products that open creative horizons and generate new sales opportunities for retailers.

Under Alesis banner, the company is offering a line of products that taps into the growing interest in “podcasting”: posting on the internet for downloading. At Summer NAMM, Alesis will be exhibiting two complete podcasting kits, one based on Firewire, the other on USB, that offer everything you need to mix and record eight channels of audio for placement on the web. O’Donnell says that this new product category will appeal to a nearly limitless range of users. “Just about anyone could find a use for this,” he contends.

At Akai, advanced technology is evident in the new MPD24 USB/MIDI Pad Control Unit. The new unit borrows the velocity and pressure sensitive pads that made Akai’s previous “Music Production Centers” the standard among hip-hop performers. However, it can interface more effectively with external storage devices, making it virtually impossible for DJs or producers to run out of space for their assigned sound.

Numark is pushing the product envelope with new applications that enable the DJ to seamlessly incorporate visual images with music. The NuVJ video controller is the first offering in what promises to be a rapidly expanding family of products. Designed in partnership with ArKaos, a leading developer of video processing software, the NuVJ console allows DJs to trigger images and video clips, add effects to them, and mix them with a cross-fader tool that looks a feels like a standard DJ mixer.

The hardware controller works seamlessly with existing DJ gear and the software is compatible with most computers and laptops. “In the past, the ability to incorporate video With music was constrained by the cost of processing power,” says O’Donnell. “Now that that’s no longer an issue, we’re working to create an entirely new video-based product category. Every DJ isn’t going to rush to incorporate video, but for some, video can be a beautiful complement to the music. We think this has tremendous potential.”

Over the past three years retailers have reported that the DJ market has suffered from flat sales. O’Donnell shrugs off the complaint, in part because Numark’s sales have been on a steady upward curve, but also because he feels that the market is on the cusp of significant growth. Drawing an analogy with the consumer electronics business, he relates, “Five years ago, if you talked to any big electronics retailer, they would tell you that their television business was dead. Consumers were content with their Sony Trinitrons and didn’t see any reason to upgrade. Then you had the introduction of these great flat screen plasma televisions, consumers got excited, and all of a sudden, televisions became the industry’s hottest product category.” Can Numark’s expanding array of digital DJ gear have a similar affect on the DJ market? O’Donnell answers with an emphatic affirmative. “We’re not just reacting to market trends, we’re creating trends with innovative new products,” he says. “Our current array of gear, not to mention the stuff we have in the pipeline, will bring people into stores and spark demand. We are giving DJs reasons to upgrade their rigs.”

Throughout his career, Jack O’Donnell has demonstrated an uncanny sense for harnessing technology to address consumer needs and wants. In the late ’80s, as a vice-president of Stanton Electronics, he was one of the first to appreciate the emergence of the DJ market, and tried to persuade his superiors to address it. When they shrugged off his suggestions, he acquired Numark and pursued the market himself. With similar acumen, he identified opportunities at both Alesis and Akai that others in the industry overlooked. Given this track record, his bullish forecast for a coming DJ boom deserves more than a respectful hearing.

Korg Kaoss Pad 2

As obviously ideal as the new Korg Kaoss Pad 2 Dynamic Effects/Controller is for DJs, other performers, regardless of their instrument, the type of music they play, or the nature of their live performances, shouldn’t miss giving it a try. With its unique control interface, the ability to switch easily between three stereo inputs (Phono. Line and Mic) and its capabilities act as both an effects processor and a MIDI controller the device could easily find a home in anyone’s live or studio rig. And gear snobs be warned … it’s a mistake to dismiss the new KP 2 as a toy. It may be small enough to pack along with your average laptop, but it packs a fair bit of power and has a large variety of applications. Beyond traditional live performance use and being a fantastic tool for adding interesting textures in the studio, the machine is perfect for anyone working on live music for dance, multimedia audio-art installations and is simple enough that anyone can use it to great effect.

Overall the options for sound manipulation are impressive – The Kaoss Pad‘s 100 preset areas are divided into five main sections: 50 general effects (Filters. Modulation, Delay, Reverb and SFX), 20 BPM FX/Beats, 15 synth patches, 5 Vocoder settings and 10 preset sample playing options. An actual text list of these presets is printed right on the front panel, making only a simple LED display necessary, so there’s no need to scroll through endless pages looking for what you need and plenty space for a variety of hardware controls.

It’s these controllers that make this unit such a pleasure to play. Particularly its primary controller – a good sized track pad that allows the user to apply effects to vocals, sounds input by other hardware as well as manipulate a selection of onboard synth patches, BPM effects and drum loops in a variety of ways. For all its simplicity, the track pad is an incredibly versatile interface. Alone, or combined with the KP 2’s other controllers, different types of movements and combinations of movements applied to different areas of the track pad allow the user to create rhythms and unique textures from basic sounds generated by both external and internal sources. Thus opening up sonic possibilities that are not easily duplicated using other machines.

By tapping the track pad, or rubbing it diagonally, vertically or horizontally along its X and Y axis and you can control a number of parameters for a given preset. For example: when using the machine’s LFO Wah setting, dragging your finger from side to side will adjust the speed of the effect and dragging vertically will adjust the depth. When using the Filter and Delay effect, horizontal movement controls cut-off frequency and vertical controls delay level. Parameters vary from preset to preset. The track pad also allows a great deal of control over the KP 2’s onboard synth patches, providing the user with a means of controlling such parameters as pitch, speed, modulation, echo feedback, reverb level and more. Similar control is possible when using the unit’s onboard beats; including such parameters as decay time, mod depth and choice of several drum pattern variations depending on the chosen preset.

Additional controllers include a Data knob for switching programs that doubles as a tempo change control for BPM effects and the KP 2’s onboard rhythm patterns, a Tap BPM button, Hold button, effects depth knob, eight assignable buttons to save your most used Kaoss Pad setups and the Pad Motion/Mute lever. This last feature enables the user to save the results of almost four seconds of pad movement temporarily so that the same manipulations can be used repeatedly during performance.

And there’s more – new to this version of the Kaoss Pad are two buttons that allow the player to sample roughly six seconds of sound each, play them back at any time as a raw sample along with other sounds, or use either sample as a sound source to be affected and manipulated using the units effects or its dedicated sample playing presets. The latter allows the player to use the track pad to control a number of options through 10 sampler specific presets, including forward play, reverse play, level, scratch, loop start/loop end times, and time stretch.

Beyond being powerful and having a well-organized performance interface the KP 2 also has great physical details and lights up in all the right places making performance a breeze regardless of the light level on stage. The bottom line it’s sleek, it’s fun and it’s powerful. No, it’s not necessarily going to replace your current FX unit, but that’s not the point. Far more than a FX unit with a unique interface, it’s an instrument in itself: a versatile machine that will inspire far more creativity than your average rack mounted FX interface.

You want to be a DJ?

Get the right gear no matter what you can afford to spend.

The electronic music craze has spawned one of the fastest-growing markets in the North American music industry. In Europe, where the genre is already well established, electronic music is responsible for the conception of countless bedroom studios and such an explosive proliferation of DJs that you can’t swing a record bag without hitting a few. The fame of DJs in Europe is pretty much on par with that of pop stars in North America.

One result of this interest in making and playing electronic music is that DJs–whether in Europe or in North America–have more choices than ever when it comes to gear. The purpose of this article is to help musicians choose the right gear at the right price for the kind of work they want to do.

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to mix records and CDs or whether you want to create the music yourself, taking it from your initial creative impulses to performing the tracks live or seeing them preserved on vinyl or CD. A lot of music producers especially in the dance genre, begin their careers as DJs, buying music produced by others and learning firsthand what makes people dance and what sends them off the floor to get a drink or visit the restroom. By contrast, other producers desire from the start to get involved in every stage of the creative process, making their own music from scratch. Either path you take will involve spending significant sums of money on the gear you’ll need to express yourself musically,

THE ENTRY-LEVEL DJ

When it comes to DJ gear, the beginner’s choices are pretty simple. The basic requirements are two turntables or CD players and a mixer with at least two channels. You’ll also need a sound system and a pair of headphones so that you can hear what you’re playing. (If you want to save money, you can use a pair of home-stereo headphones.)

A range of good, inexpensive turntables is out there. The ones to look for have direct drive and pitch control. Beyond that, just find a model that you like and can afford. You might want to check out the Numark TT1910 ($299), the Gemini XL-500 ($299.95) or the PT-1000 ($499.95), and American DJ TTD-2500 ($319).

To mix CDs, you’ll need two variable-pitch CD players; models to look at include the American DJ DCD-PRO200 ($699), the Gemini CD-9500 ($789.95), and the Next NCD-5000 ($549). Also, Numark offers the CDN-34 ($1,150), which consists of two CD players and a mixer in one compact unit.

The other essential piece of DJ gear is the mixer, You’ll need one that lets you crossfade one track seamlessly into another to create a sensation on the dance floor (of course). The bare-bones requirement is two phonograph channels, each with a level control–but even many inexpensive mixers come with three channels. Most also offer 2- or 3-band equalizers on each channel for more control over the sound. Different mixer-models have different feels to them, and each has-its-own sound. Some less expensive mixers are the Vestax PMC-03A ($160) and PMC-005A MKII ($250), the Next PDJ-22 ($125) and CMX-460 ($290), and the Numark DM2000-X ($240).

THE ENTRY-LEVEL PRODUCER/REMIXER

Novices who have no equipment and little or no musical experience will want gear that is easy to use, versatile, and inexpensive. If you aren’t familiar with electronic instruments, you may have a difficult time with even the simplest operations. Flipping through the user manuals of some synths, samplers, or effects processors, you’ll quickly realize that you might have an easier time reading the complete works of Shakespeare in Sanskrit. Fortunately, some manufacturers do provide user-friendly interfaces that make life easy for the beginning producer/remixer. The Roland Groove Boxes and the new Electrix products are machines that you can use intuitively with satisfying results. They provide a wide array of preset patterns and sounds that can be quickly spliced together into tracks. The WarpFactory ($499), FilterFactory ($479), and MO-FX ($499) from newcomer Electrix offer knobs and switches that you can use to manipulate sounds on the fly for instant results. The Roland MC-303 and MC-505 Groove Boxes ($695 a nd $1,495, respectively) will make you feel like a pro in no time flat.

If you happen to own a computer with decent speed and adequate memory, then you have one of the most versatile and powerful tools available to an aspiring producer. A wide assortment of software can take the place of hardware-based samplers, synthesizers, mixing boards, sequencers, and effects processors. One affordable example is Cakewalk Pro Audio 8 for Windows. For $319 you get a sequencer, a virtual mixing console, hard disk recording, and 32-bit effects processing. Steinberg Cubase VST (Mac/Win; $399) is another powerful tool that can turn your computer into a digital music workstation. Keep in mind that you may need to upgrade your PC’s sound card to make the most of any music software you install.

If you don’t already own a computer, however, buying one might be prohibitively expensive–especially after you factor in the cost of all the software and accessories you’ll need. One of the most versatile stand-alone machines is the sampler. Armed with a good sound library (or with a desire to invent or capture your own sounds), a sampler can replace many of the functions of a synth, a drum machine, a sequencer, and an effects unit. Not all samplers will be able to perform all of these duties, but most can tackle at least a couple of them. Two great all-around samplers that provide a multitude of tools are the Yamaha A3000 ($1,999) and the Akai MPC2000 ($1,599 base model). For a no-fills unit, check out the Akai U40 Riff-O-Matic ($239.95) or the Boss SP-202 ($395). For a sampler loaded with features, check out the Roland SP-808. It costs $1,695 but includes an analog synth simulator, an 8-track hard-disk recorder, a built-in lomega Zip drive, and effects.

Some affordable units, such as Yamaha’s RM1X MIDI sequence remixer ($899) and Korg’s Electribe. A and Electribe R modeling synthesizers ($499 each), provide remix-oriented, real-time controls. Such devices might include an analog-style digital synthe sizer, drum kits, a sequencer, effects, and more.

If you’re using more than one piece of gear, you’ll need some kind of mixing board to control the level, pan, and EQ of each sound. The Mackie MS1202-VLZPRO-($459) is a 12-channel board with a 3-band EQ and stereo bus on each channel; it should suffice for a small personal studio.

You must also consider what-you-will use to record your tracks. As everyone knows, cassette tapes are pretty noisy and lose a little bit of their fidelity every time you play them. You want digital recording. Again, if you own a computer you can take advantage of some excellent software that allows you to digitally record onto your hard drive. You may have to pick up a second hard drive to hold your recordings–digital audio takes up a lot of space. You may also want to investigate a DAT recorder or a CD burner.

THE NEXT STEP

When you’re ready to spend more money on your DJ rig, you’ll probably want to buy components that have better construction and superior sound. For the last couple of decades, the industry-standard turntable has been the Technics 1200 ($699.95). This extremely rugged, high quality deck is found in the vast majority of clubs and party venues. A recent entry that is challenging the 1200’s dominance however, is the new Numark TT-1 ($549) turntable, which offers similar quality and adds some new features, such as increased range in pitch control via a joystick controller, if you’re interested in mixing CDs, look for a professional-quality dual CD player, such as the Denon DN-2000F Mk3($999) or DN-2500F ($1,600). The DN-2500F even offers limited sampling capabilities.

When the time comes to upgrade your mixer, two top-of-the-line models are the Pioneer DJM-500 ($1,199) and the Roland DJ-2000 ($1,495). Both have four channels and allow the DJ to apply real-time effects such as delay, flanger, and filter.

Whether you’re just getting started in deejaying or personal music production or you’re expanding an already successful setup, it’s important to lay out your goals and then look for affordable equipment that will help you fulfill them. Don’t be afraid to talk to DJs, musicians, and equipment dealers, or to post questions on Internet forums. You won’t to talk about what gear they like and don’t like. Advice from other DJs can be invaluable. After all, even the biggest names on the charts were beginners once.

The future of Alesis

After acquiring the Technology Pioneer, Numark CEO Jack O’Donnell outlines his plans for the company.

As vice-president of sales and marketing for Stanton Magnetics and Picketing, two of the leading phono cartridge brands, Jack O’Donnell was one of the first to recognize the potential of the DJ market. Cassette tape and later CDs sent turntable sales into a tailspin. However, O’Donnell managed to soften much of the blow by aggressively catering to a growing DJ market. In 1990, he simultaneously helped persuade Vestax of Japan to create a line of DJ mixers and established U.S. distribution for the product.

Numark Electronics, one of the pioneers of the DJ market, ran into acute financial problems in 1991. While most industry observers gave the company up for dead, O’Donnell saw great untapped potential. In 1991 he acquired the company. Last year, Numark posted sales of $37 million. When Alesis Corp. filed for Chapter 11 in May, O’Donnell stepped in, initially providing cash to keep the company going, and then acquiring the company’s assets outright.

Alesis burst onto the scene in 1985 with a line of high-value signal processing products that utilized RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) technology. In 1991, the company virtually created the project studio market with the introduction of the ADAT digital multi-track recorder. Over the past few years, the ADAT lost market share to newer hard-disk-based recording products and Alesis was forced to dramatically cut prices. Declining sales ultimately coupled with operational ineffiencies pushed the company into Chapter 11. Alesis is in a turnaround situation, but O’Donnell is confident that the company can be restored to its former position as a cutting-edge industry innovator. “I was grateful for the opportunity to acquire Numark, and I’m equally grateful for the chance with Alesis,” he said. In the following interview, he elaborates on why he is optimistic about the future for Alesis.

What was it that attracted you to Alesis in the first place?

Jack O’Donnell: Alesis has great technology. Several months prior to the NAMM show, before I had any idea they were having any financial difficulties, I approached them about using some of their technology. I was very impressed with the AirFX unit and some of their chip technology, which I felt could be integrated into the Numark product line. We were in contact on a number of issues, and then the talks just went cold. After not hearing from them for a couple of weeks, they approached me about an infusion of cash to bring them forward. Looking at the core group of engineering talent and the products on the drawing board, I thought it was a great opportunity.

Are you planning to fold the Alesis organization into Numark Electronics, or will it continue as a stand-alone operation in Santa Monica, California?

JO: Alesis will definitely remain as a stand alone company. At some future point, we might consolidate financial, credit, and logistical operations, but I don’t want to dilute the Alesis engineering and sales and marketing effort. The best ideas come from sales and marketing people talking to end users. To get this kind of input, we need a core group focusing exclusively on Alesis. I have great confidence in the people at Alesis. They are one of the major assets that made the company successful in the past.

Will Aiesis founder Keith Barr continue to be involved with the company?

JO: We’re still talking, but at this point, his future with the company hasn’t been determined.

While the ADAT has been the highest profile Alesis product, the company has also been involved in the keyboard, mixer, and signal processing markets. Are you planning to continue addressing all these market segments?

JO: We are planning to remain in all the markets we are currently involved with: recording, keyboards, signal processing, and speakers. Actually, I would like to make the line even broader. The Alesis semi-conductor division has developed chips that haven’t been fully capitalized on. I look at some of these chips that are on the drawing board and I can envision all types of new product categories that we could tap into.

Could you elaborate on some of the new product categories that are under consideration?

JO: I wish I could, but right now it’s premature.

The Alesis ADAT HD, the hard-disk successor to the successful ADAT tape recorder was introduced at Winter NAMM. Do you plan to go forward with the product?

JO: The ADAT HD was certainly one of the strongest products that was introduced at the NAMM show. If it weren’t the financial difficulties at Alesis, it would probably have been in the market by now. We are very optimistic about the product and I fully expect to have it in the market very shortly.

Even though you plan to maintain Alesis as a stand-alone operation, do you envision any points of cooperation between Numark Electronics and Alesis?

JO: Alesis is dedicated to the recording musician with no particular interest in pursuing the DJ market. However, some of their core technology is applicable to Numark’s customer base. Just as we’ve partnered with Korg to include the KAOSS pad controller on some of our DJ mixers, I can seem incorporating certain Alesis products. The Alesis AirFX is a perfect example. It’s great technology, it’s value priced, and it has an interactive format that is a natural for DJs. On a less obvious level, the Alesis Semiconductor division is producing some outstanding chips that are waiting for broader applications. Some of the chips that have been designed for Alesis products are also applicable to some of the ideas we have for the Numark product line. So to answer your question, Numark and Alesis will be separate product lines with distinct identities, yet there will definitely be some technology cross over.

Are there any OEM opportunities for the Alesis semi-conductor division?

JO: People are just waking up to how versatile and inexpensive Alesis chips are. Right now, almost all the chips are going into Alesis products. However, we have some very well-known OEM customers within the industry. We haven’t fully exploited this business yet, but I think there is tremendous potential.

Introduced in january , the Alesis ADAT HD is a hard-disk based replacement for the ADAT. “We are very optimistic about the product and I fully expect to have it in the market very shortly,” says Jack O’Donnell.

Grab a Partner: Working with DJs

Occasionally I’m asked why I collaborate with DJs when I do a dance remix project. In fact, the question usually comes out like this: “Why do you work with DJs? You’re already a keyboardist and a producer. What the heck does the DJ do when you’re remixing a track?

The answer is as varied as the collaborations themselves. Some DJs have experience with grooveboxes and wave editors. Other DJs have an encyclopedic knowledge of music and beats. Consider how much time you spend learning about filters, sequencers, and the latest effects plug-ins. Well, professional DJs spend the same amount of time honing their craft, perfecting segues, checking out new tracks, and spinning live sets.

While I love doing remixes on my own, there’s a lot of knowledge that these cats bring to the table, and we all know that more knowledge is a good thing, right? So this month, we’ll be covering the various ways that you can collaborate with DJs to break new ground with your sound.

THE COLLEGE OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE

One of the indicators that a DJ is worth his or her salt is the depth of their musical knowledge. If they’re obsessed with having the latest tracks before everyone else and they can rattle off a litany of every significant hit and underground white label record – organized by genre, label and year – then you know you’ve struck gold.

Why’s this important? Well, for one thing, someone with this degree of meticulous attention can turn you on to tons of new tracks that are likely inspire and move you. For another, they can listen to your mixes and make recommendations based on what the current trends are. Like it or not, remixes are to music what fashion is to clothing. If you’re doing something that’s sooooo last month, a good DJ will steer you in the right direction.

What’s more, because of their practical experience in clubs, they know what the crowds like. Accordingly, they can tell you what kind of response your track will get, and what labels will be most receptive to your sound. In a way, knowing a successful and knowledgeable DJ is almost like having a virtual A&R veep around.

ARRANGEMENTS

Arranging a dance mix is very different from writing a three-minute pop song. Often, newbie remixers miscalculate how long the various segments of a remix should be, with introductions that are too short and breakdowns that aren’t long enough. One of the keys to dance floor success is to build momentum with your arrangement.

Because their livelihoods depend on it, good DJs instinctively understand the elements of a good remix arrangement. They know how to hype up a crowd with the right type of breakdown, and how to bring the choruses back at the right time for maximum impact. For example, Licious, one of the DJs I’ve been working with for the past year or so, has helped me develop some techniques for constructing killer intros that are easy for novice DJs to mix into, yet are also interesting enough to keep the crowd’s attention as they evolve. One very simple formula he uses is to start with drums or percussion only, introducing new elements every eight measures. Then he waits at least 24 bars before bringing in the bass or rhythmic synth parts.

MASTERING

Club sound systems often sound radically different than your home studio monitors. It can be hard to get a handle on how to deal with the low end, much less the overall EQ and dynamics of your mix. If you’ve partnered with a DJ who has a residency at a local club, they’ll often let you try out your mixes on the club system before the crowd arrives Better still, your DJ can mix your tune into another song, so you can hear your track in relationship to an established hit. This ear-opening courtesy has saved my butt on more than one occasion. Until I heard them on the club system, I would’ve sworn those mixes were club-ready. While the track plays at the club, grab some paper and take notes. Sometimes there are many subtle adjustments that you’ll want to make, and your notes will ensure that you remember them all.

THE MIX MAN COMETH

Gabriel & Dresden are quickly becoming one of the hottest progressive remixing teams around, reworking tracks from top artists like Annie Lennox and Britney Spears. In a recent discussion with Josh, the keyboard-playing and programming half of the duo, explained how working with Dave Dresden raises his mixes to new heights.

“With over 30 remixes under our collective belt,” says Josh, “I can tell you without a doubt that working with Dave has changed the way I make – and think about – music, for the better. Dave’s 17 years of buying music and DJing gives him a perspective that is unique. His ear is tuned to what will work on the dance floor as well as what will still be remembered when the lights turn on.

“I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to the idea of working with someone who wasn’t a Logic wizard or a synth-programming god, but now that we’ve done so much together, the lines between the technical and creative roles have blurred. We communicate on a musical level, and whatever needs to be done on the computer to make that happen, I just do it. I view him as an equal even though I’m working the gear. It’s sometimes hard for us super-technical geeks to let a bull/DJ into our china shop/studio, but I couldn’t recommend it more. It will seriously change the way you do things in ways you couldn’t predict.” Coming from a source as successful as Josh, this is sound advice to consider.

Techno Tools: Jammin’ with DJs

DJs are starting to be recognized by traditional musicians as artists in their own right. After all, being a DJ does require musical skills. The DJ has to match beats precisely to create seamless transitions between tunes, be a wizard at crossfading between songs and loops, read a crowd’s mood to program the right grooves and songs, and, of course, do that scratching thing. But where does all this leave guitar players? With a nice hole to fill, that’s where!

I recently performed at the Battery Park Festival in Cologne, Germany, playing guitar over sequenced loops. I’ve found that E-Bow, distortion, and feedback work particularly well over dance beats, and I’ve also discovered a few other ways to get the most out of guitar/dance music collaborations.

Let the DJ control your level. Typically, the guitarist will play more or less continuously, and the DJ will bring the guitar in and out of the mix as needed. A direct setup is optimum–given the intense noise levels at the average dance club, miking your amp isn’t really an option.

Voice your EQ properly. Dance music has lots of low end (kick drum and bass) and high end (hi-hat, shaker, etc.). Boosting 1kHz by 6dB to 8dB lets the guitar “speak” and cut through the mix without cranking up the volume.

Be sensitive to transitions. A sustained, distorted chord that swells in and out–or a singing high note with lots of whammy action–can help smooth transitions between songs and loops. As DJs use headphones to cue up one turntable while another turntable is playing, you may want to use a “Y” connector to tap your phones into the DJ’s headphone output. Hearing what the DJ hears will alert you to upcoming key or style changes.

Sync delays to the tempo. Dance music typically hovers in the 120 bpm to 145 bpm zone. This translates to quarter-note echo times of 500ms to 413ms, respectively. If you’re not sure of a song’s bpm, start with a 450ms delay and add just enough feedback for a couple of repeats. (The more feedback you use, the more important it is to nail a precise delay time, otherwise each successive echo will sound more off the beat.)

There’s a whole world of dance music out there, and guitar has only begun to be integrated with it. Check out a dance club, get to know some DJs, and play a few jam sessions to see if you click. You might have a lot of fun–as well as open up a new live-performance option.

How to market to DJs – A guide for mi retailers

The DJ products business is exploding. Sales for the entire market, including CD players, turntables, DJ mixers, and special-effects lighting units, are up 22.7 percent since 1997. But while many music retailers would love to get a piece of the action, for some, the nascent mini-culture developing around DJ performance and technology represents strange, uncharted territory. Being hip (or faking it convincingly) to the ‘clientele in this decidedly youth-oriented medium could provide a material advantage in selling the gear, so Music Trades asked Tascam’s new DJ product specialist, DJ Davey Dave (a.k.a. Dave Arevalo), to help bring us up to speed.

Dave Arevalo was first drawn to DJ’ing when, at the age of 12, he saw a Malcolm McLaren music video that featured a group of New York DJs called the World Famous Supreme Team. “They were using turntables like a new instrument,” he recalls. “I’d never seen anything like it. I got my first turntable a year later, and since then I’ve never stopped.”

In the fifteen years that he’s been spinning, Davey Dave has established himself as a leading DJ artist. He was working on record label radio promotions for Geffen Records, doing studio DJ work with various artists, and producing records when he was recommended to Tascam in 1999. Tascam, the professional division of TEAC Corporation, was seeking the services of an expert consultant to develop its line of products for the fast-growing D Jmarket. Arevalo “proved himself” for a year by demonstrating equipment at NAMM shows and conducting educational clinics at retail stores. Then in January 2001 Tascam hired him as its full-time DJ product specialist.

Retailer education is one of Davey Dave’s primary responsibilities at Tascam. “I show dealers how the products work, give them tricks and tips, and get them excited about selling the gear,” he says. But the lesson that he is currently stressing is that DJs are not all alike. In fact, there are four basic types of DJs, each with distinct equipment needs.

“Scratch DJs use a turntable as a musical instrument, much like a guitarist uses a guitar,” he explains. “They use special `scratch sample’ records that contain popular samples and bits of music to create and manipulate sounds and create percussive rhythms. Dirtstyle Recordings is a popular brand of scratch record. Scratch DJs typically perform at hip hop events, DJ competitions, often within a band. The best scratch DJ right now is an artist named DJQ-bert. A performance/rave DJ uses both CDs and vinyl records in conjunction with other instruments such as a drum machine, a sampler, keyboard synths, etc. to create a musical performance. The style of music they create is referred to as `electronica,’ and their venues include raves and concerts.” [Although Arevalo was too modest to admit it, Uberzone, a duo featuring him and writer/producer Q, is considered a leading proponent of the performance/rave genre.] “A mobile DJ plays recorded music primarily for dancing at weddings and other formal functions. The musical styles they usually cover include current top 40 hits, oldies, or disco selections. And, as its name suggests, a club DJ might perform in nightclubs, playing various styles from electronica to rap depending on the theme of the night.”

Being aware of these distinctions is key to a retailer’s success in selling the right products, Dave emphasizes. “For example, you wouldn’t sell a mobile DJ’s CD player to a scratch DJ. A scratch DJ primarily uses vinyl, and he’ll want, say, a simple two-channel mixer, whereas a mobile DJ might not even touch vinyl. He’ll want a dual CD player. You have to know your customer.”

Tascam is in the process of expanding its DJ product lineup to serve all these categories, but it has already been especially successful in the performance/rave market with its CD-302 dual CD player and X-9 digital DJ mixer. Davey Dave comments, “From a dealer’s perspective, the performance/rave DJ might be considered the prime market, because he’s the one who’s looking to buy the most equipment, and the most high-end gear.”

Dave explains that over the years DJs have pushed the idiom’s technology envelope by demanding more functionality out of the gear. “It’s really taken off over the last three years,” he says. “Five years ago, who would have thought that you could scratch on a CD? And not long ago there was no such thing as a mixer with a built-in sampler. Now there are units with one or two built-in samplers, and more and more DJs are buying those mixers and using audio samples in their performances. In the future, I’m sure we’ll see more DJs incorporating computers and MP3 sets in their setups. I’m experimenting with that right now.”

Keeping up with fast-evolving DJ equipment technology presents a real challenge to retailers, but also an opportunity, since customers will be frequently stimulated to upgrade. Dave points to the advent of scratchable CDs spawning a new market sub-segment called digital turntablists who do vinyl-type scratching on CDs. “Even so,” he says, “CDs will probably never totally eliminate vinyl. First, there are certain specialized scratching techniques you can only do on vinyl. Also, vinyl scratching is just so imbedded in the market. But the CD provides its own unique possibilities, such as looping a four-bar phrase of the music on-the-fly. You can’t do that on a vinyl turntable.”

Tascam’s cutting-edge DJ product development is the factor that most attracted Davey Dave to the company. He is openly proud to represent products like its CD-302 and X-9 to music dealers. “They’re both high-end pieces aimed at the professional performance DJ market,” he says. And by performing year ’round–about every second night during the peak summer season–Davey Dave is a powerful emissary for Tascam’s wares.

“We’re excited to have Davey as one of our product specialists,” says Tascam Product Training Manager Karl Moet. “DJ products are becoming a crucial part of Tascam’s line, and with Davey’s background and 15 years’ experience, he’ll be a tremendous asset to our DJ products development process.”

Traditionalists might scoff at how the DJ equipment has “lowered the bar” for participation in music-making, but retailers would be wise not to. It is precisely because of the craft’s gentle learning curve that it is being swarmed by a previously unreachable population–customers who needn’t be whipped, tricked, or cajoled into practicing, whose motivation is not tied to the vagaries of publicly funded school programs, and whose equipment pricing is being fanned by their high expectations of a young technology.

“You don’t have to be able to read or write music to be a DJ,” says DJ Davey Dave. “When you want to play guitar, you have to learn how the chords and various playing techniques. In DJ’ing, the possibilities are endless. There are no rules; how you want to play the music or scratch the CD or record is totally up to you. You’re only limited by your own creativity. That’s why it appeals to so many people.”

REMIX roundtable

Meet Five-star DJs and producers in this dance-musician summit.

Every genre of music creates new roles for musicians to fill–from the symphonic composer, to the opera diva, to the rock-and-roll star. As electronic dance music surges to new heights of popularity, DJs and remixers are defining the parts they play in the movement. These roles continue to shift, split, and recombine, just as the beats in a DJ’s set merge and flow from one to the next. I talked to five top producers and DJs about the role they play in electronic dance music and the methods and equipment they use.

Los Angeles veteran electronica producer James Lumb of Electric Skychurch has been churning out tracks since 1989. Lumb began as a bass player for the underground psychedelic funk band the Groove Trolls in 1987 and started writing acid house tracks in 1989, armed with a drum machine and a 4-track. In the spring of 1992, working alone, he released the first Electric Skychurch single on cassette. A year later, a party in the desert–Skychurch’s first live show–led to the full-blown Moontribe movement. In 1998, Lumb hit the road with DJ John Kelley and played 80 shows around the world. With a full band including drummer Alex Spurkel and singer Roxanne Morganstern, a light show, and a DJ entourage, they played to more than a quarter million people, proving themselves one of America’s few big electronic acts.

Original recordings such as “Creation,” “Deus,” “Knowoneness,” and the popular Together CD have earned James Lumb a reputation as one of the leading producers of electronic musicians in the world today, and after ten years of creating electronica, Electric Skychurch is still going strong. The group will release its long-awaited new material–preceded by a slew of new remixes–in the summer of 1999.

Chris Cowie produces electronic dance music under many pseudonyms but is best known for his trance act, X Cabs. Six years ago, he founded Hook Recordings, an independent dance label.

John Digweed has become one of the most respected and revered figures of the international dance scene. DJmagazine’s prestigious list of top 100 DJs recently voted him number 7. Since founding Bedrock Records ten years ago in Hastings, England, Digweed has sold hundreds of thousands of mix CDs worldwide. Famous for his extended sets and his residency at New York’s Twilo Club with longtime DJ partner Sasha, Digweed is one of the most sought-after DJs and remixers in dance music.

Paul Oakenfold is a true giant in the world of electronic dance music. From the start of his career as a hip-hop promoter and agent for the Beastie Boys and Run DMC, he has always been on the cutting edge of new music. Oakenfold was there at the very beginning–on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where itinerant Brits first began staging all-night electronic dance parties. He was one of the first people to bring this cultural phenomenon back to England. In 1985, he opened the first rave club in the United Kingdom, called the Fun House, and later he added the Project Club and the Future. All of these introduced emerging electronic dance forms to English music fans eager for a new and exciting form. This in turn led to the birth of the acid house movement in the United Kingdom., and eventually to the global rave movement.

Almost two decades later, Oakenfold continues to break new ground as a producer, remixer, and DJ. Three times he has been voted DJ magazine’s DJ of the year, and this year the readers of DJ magazine voted him the world’s number one DJ. Although he’s one of the world’s most sought-after DJs, Paul still finds time to run his U.K.-based record label, Perfecto. Over the past few years, he has remixed every group from the Rolling Stones and Snoop Dogg, to the Smashing Pumpkins and U2.

Dave Ralph, known for his energetic and uplifting sets, has been deejaying and rocking dance floors for more than two decades. A native of Manchester, England, he recently embarked on an intensive North American tour with Paul Oakenfold.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

LUMB: I’m working on a new single for myself, and I just finished off two remixes. One is the Led Zeppelin song “Whole Lotta Love,” which I produced for the band Quiet Riot. I ended up using the WarpFactory by Electrix and made the whole thing into a kind of dirty sex song. And I’ve just finished a remix of a Bob Marley song called “Mr. Brown.” I’ve been asked to remix a lot of rock bands lately.

COWIE: My current project is under the pseudonym Scan Carriers, and it’s basically an album’s worth of material. I primarily do dance music, but for this I’ll be using guitars and real drummers. I’ll end up sampling everything, but I’ll start out with real people so it’s more organic music, like a proper band. That’s how I started off years ago. I’m not doing the album full time; I’ll do a track here and there in between other stuff for the Hook and Bellboy labels.

DIGWEED: I’m doing a remix for Fire Island. We started work on a couple of tracks about eight months ago, but I haven’t had a chance to finish. It’s not that I’m doing loads of gigs, but I’m traveling and trying to do some remix work as well.

RALPH: We did a party in Panama City last night. We’re doing Tallahassee tonight and New York tomorrow night; then we’re off to Toronto and Cuba.

WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU FIRST HEAR ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC?

OAKENFOLD: Probably at the Paradise Garage in New York in ’84. Larry Levan was there at the time, and the tracks were coming out of Chicago and Detroit.

RALPH: The first time I heard house music was on a radio station called Q 103 in Manchester, played by Stu Allen. The track was “Mr. Finger’s Washing Machine.” This was very early stuff, around ’86 or ’87. They used to scratch and cut things up all over. I loved it immediately, thought it was amazing, and had to go all the way to London to about four shops to find the records. An old woman at Groove Records–she must have been around 70–totally understood house music. She had Traxx records, pressed on secondhand vinyl. They used to take old K-Tel LPs and re-press right on top of them. They always sounded bloody terrible, but you had the music.

DIGWEED: I was really into New Order and alternative stuff like Bauhaus, but at the same time I was into soul and funk and then later hip-hop. As new stuff came along, I was reading magazines and always trying to stay on top of things. I can remember when the early DJ International stuff and the Chicago tracks started coming to the U.K. Things were really stepping up a peg or two. The kick drums were just so in-your-face, and that’s when house music really grabbed a hold of me.

COWIE: When I first got into electronic music, I was still playing in guitar bands. A lot of people will say they heard Kraftwerk first or Jean Michelle Jarre or whatever, but those artists were never really an influence on me. It was listening to people like New Order and Yellow and Shriekback in ’82 or ’83. I was always drawn to music that sounded electronic. Even “Can You Feel It?” by the Jackson Five from the ’70s had a synthesizer sound.

WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES IN THIS MUSIC THAT AT AFFECT PEOPLE SO DEEPLY?

COWIE: Before dance music came along, people would dance to bands like Duran Duran and get up and dance to one or two songs and sit down again. When dance music came along, people got up and danced all night. On some kind of tribal level people just like to dance and jump about. You can basically put on a drum machine in a nightclub, and people will dance to that all night.

DIGWEED: There is lots of emotion in the tracks, and it brings lots of people together. This music has made a lot of friendships, and people have shared great nights and fond memories from going out and listening to it. Electronic music is very powerful. It’s playing a massive part in many films made today. You’ll be watching a scene in a film, and an Underworld track will come on and send shivers up your spine.

RALPH: If you listen to trance music, you’ll hear a lot of emotion and feeling in it. If you are on a dance floor with 600 or 700 other people hearing those lush strings and beautiful melodies, it has a euphoric effect, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of euphoria. That’s what it does for me. These tracks really take you somewhere, and a good DJputs these elements together and creates a journey.

OAKENFOLD: The energy, the melody–it’s uplifting and spiritual. There’s a lot of soul in it, and it really is about the feeling. It’s like soul music; you listen to it from an emotional standpoint.

SOME PEOPLE VIEW THE DJ AS A KIND OF SHAMAN OR SPIRITUAL GUIDE WHO LEADS THE LISTENERS FROM ONE LEVEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS TO ANOTHER

OAKENFOLD: Absolutely. That’s what I mean to do: take you on a spiritual journey.

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES THAT COME WITH SUCH A POSITION OF POWER?

OAKENFOLD: It’s no different from being a lead singer in a band. You’re there to entertain and educate, and there’s a fine line between the two. People pay money to come and see you, so they expect you to deliver. As a professional, I take that very seriously and do my best. Not everyone is going to like everything you do, but at least you can take them somewhere they’ve never been. You just have to be open-minded and go with it.

DIGWEED: The DJ’s responsibility is to give listeners a good time, as well as to educate them. There’s a lot of new music out there, and for me it’s far more rewarding to play a track that no one’s heard before, programming it at the right time so the place goes absolutely mad, rather than playing an obvious record that you know will get a big reaction.

DO YOU PLAN YOUR SETS OR JUST GO WITH THE FLOW?

DIGWEED: Just go with the flow. I think it’s a mistake to plan a set because you don’t know what the night’s going to be like. You could plan a set that’s totally wrong for the crowd.

RALPH: I look at the crowd. At the end of the day, those kids are paying my wages, and have a responsibility to entertain them. I’m not into the idea of putting your head down to concentrate on what you’re doing and ignoring the crowd. I look at the people, listen to the other DJs, and then choose records that will pull people into my sound. It might take me 20 minutes to get them there. If they’re not dancing, I move on. A lot of DJs don’t do that.

OAKENFOLD: The two most important records of the night are the first and the last. Then there’s getting from one point to the other and building an arrangement and structure. A minor key makes you feel solemn, and a major key makes you feel happy. I need to find my rhythm in the journey; sometimes it comes right away, and sometimes it takes time to get the crowd where you want them. I can usually get there in a half hour. A three-hour mix is really one record with an intro, a middle, and an outro. I approach it the same way I would approach mixing a record.

IS THERE A TYPICAL METHOD YOU USE FOR A REMIX?

LUMB: You always start with a kernel or seed from the original piece of music. For the Bob Marley track I’m working on, they sent me vocals extracted from the original master tapes. I find one loop I like; in this case it’s the lines “Mr. Brown is a clown/that rides through town in a coffin.” I load that loop into a sampler and find a tempo I like, or I might use the sampler to change the tempo and the pitch. Then I use it to write drum grooves, maybe along with a drum machine. I might work on that loop an entire day to find the right groove. Then I zoom out and use a computer to start arranging the groove, and change the original vocal sample with some effects units to give it a certain tone. Finally, I glue it all together with a synthesizer, and you have a remix.

DIGWEED: It takes maybe a day or two of pre-production, then two days to mix it down. The method varies each time. If it’s a song, we try and work stuff around it. If it’s an instrumental, we work on rhythms and moods.

WHERE DO YOU START WHEN CREATING AN ORIGINAL TRACK?

COWIE: I could just be sitting in my house listening to something that sounds good, and I’ll get a wee surge of energy and pop into the studio. It’s not like you copy it–you just get influenced, driving down the road. Generally I start with a bass line or a bass drum, but there’s no set pattern. It can start with a sample. Some people have a method of working, but I think everyone is creative in their own individual way.

USING THESE DAYS?

COWIE: I believe in not having too much equipment. A lot of people must buy the latest bit of equipment, and I don’t do that. I use a Roland S-750 sampler, an Atari 1040ST computer, a Mackie SR32-4 mixer, an Ensoniq DP/4 effects unit, a couple of Behringer compressors, and a Roland JP-8000 synth. I don’t have racks of modules and mountains of cables, and I’m still using the Atari 1040 with Cubase. When I play live, I have a Yamaha 02R, which is a much more expensive desk than the one use in the studio, but it has the recall functions I need for live performance. I also use an Akai MPC2000 and a Roland S-760 for live gigs.

LUMB: I’ve been doing this for about ten years, so I have 20 synthesizers and a full-blown recording studio with a Soundcraft console, a 24-track digital audio workstation, Tascam DA-88s, and a bunch of different samplers. For my live show I run two samplers, three sequencers, two drum machines, effects, and vintage analog keyboards. I also have a live drummer and a bunch of Roland digital synthesizers. I have so much equipment that I sometimes get lost–maintaining that much equipment is a pain.

WHAT COMPUTER PROGRAMS YOU USE REGULARLY?

LUMB: I use Steinberg Cubase VST/24 and Bias Peak. I also use Opcode Galaxy–a synthesizer librarian–and Steinberg ReCycle. What I usually do is load stuff into Peak from DAT, chop it up, ReCycle it, load it into my samplers, and then sequence it with Cubase.

DIGWEED: I use Emagic Notator an Atari. Nick Muir, who I work with, knows the Atari inside out, and he does all the programming.

I THOUGHT THE ATARI WAS OBSOLETE.

DIGWEED: [Laughs] Yes, it is. It’s not very fast, but Nick’s very fast. William Orbit did most of his mixes on Atari. It all comes down to knowing your equipment. You can have the fastest computer in the world, but it’s no good unless you know how to use it. When I did the Northern Exposure records with Sasha, we used Pro Tools for edits and filtering, but when we do remixes, we use the Atari.

DOES THE TECHNOLOGY SOMETIMES GET IN THE WAY OF MAKING MUSIC?

LUMB: Yes, that definitely happened to me a couple of years ago. It was great learning the technology down to the microprocessor level, but once you’ve mastered it, you are left with pure expression. What’s happened for me is that these electronic gizmos started out as musical instruments, then became pure technology, and now it’s coming back around to pure expression.

COWIE: It can do. You can spend a lot of time trying out new equipment and wind up forgetting about making music. When I was younger, I went through a period of buying everything, and a lot of the time it let me down. I’ve trimmed the studio to the bare necessities. Too much equipment can slow you down. I know my equipment inside out now, but if you are constantly buying new equipment, you are constantly learning how to use it.

WHAT PIECES OF EQUIPMENT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING TRACKS?

LUMB: The first thing tell people is to look around at what you’ve got, because you may have what you need already. If you have a computer, you can get freeware or shareware demo software and play with it. A computer may not be the most hi-fl way to go, but it’s a good beginning. I started out with an old Ensoniq sampler with a built-in sequencer, and I did loads of mixes and remixes on that alone. A good pair of headphones, a master keyboard that samples, and a desire to do it is all you really need. I did a mix last year for a movie called PI, a track called “Full Moon Generator.” I was on tour and I did it in a hotel room with a Kurzweil K2000, a Mackie 1202, and a set of headphones. It turned out to be the best work I did that year.

COWIE: The absolute essentials would be a sampler, a computer–if you are just starting out, you could pick up an Atari 1040 running Cubase–a mixing desk, and an effects unit that can do more than one effect at the same time, like an Ensoniq DP/4. You need a drum machine like the Novation DrumStation so you can free up the sampler. The last thing would be a sound module that you can get strings out of easily. I worked out the cost to buy a setup like this in the States, and it came to about $4,000. You don’t need to spend $20,000 and get a Mac and a hard-disk recorder and all that to start.

DIGWEED: I would recommend a sampler, a fairly decent keyboard, and a computer. But you could probably start out with an Akai MPC3000, which is a drum machine, sequencer, and sampler in one. You can do amazing stuff on that.

RALPH: It all comes down to how much money you have. There are so many innovative ideas out there now, but they cost a lot. The two pieces of essential equipment would be a mixing desk and a computer fast enough to do what you want it to do. You can find software these days that will do anything. If someone gave me [pounds]10,000 [approximately $16,140], which is not a lot of money to spend on a small studio, I would spend the majority on a mixing desk, a computer with software, and a keyboard of some sort.

COMPANIES SUCH AS ELECTRIX ARE NOW MOVING TOWARD RETRO DESIGNS AND EASY INTERFACES HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE ELECTRIX GEAR YET?

COWIE: Yes, I tried out the FilterFactory, and I liked it very much. I didn’t have that much time to use it, but I could definitely see it has scope Personally, that’s more my cup of tea. Software companies will take any effects unit or EQ unit and make it a plug-in for VST. Some guys love that. If you can buy a brilliant reverb unit as a plug-in rather than spending a thousand pounds on the hardware, a lot of people will buy the plug-in. But then you are tied to the computer, and you still have to put the sounds into it to get the reverb unit to work. I’m more of a hands-on person. I prefer to press buttons, but I’m up for using both.

LUMB: I used the FilterFactory on the drum machines for the Bob Marley remix. It was great because it twisted everything inside out and made it sound really good. The Electrix gear is different because of the sound quality. Most digitally controlled analog gear doesn’t sound right. Any knob you turn on a MIDI system has only 128 notches on it, and you can hear a MIDI-controlled filter jump between step SO and step 51. What I really like about the Electrix stuff is that although it’s MIDI controlled, it’s smooth, so it sounds more like a vintage analog unit. That’s why people search out vintage filters, because they’re smooth and not gritty. When I look for gear, I’m looking for smooth. You can always make it jagged if you want, but you can’t make it smoother.

DIGWEED: A unit showed up on my doorstep the night before I went to Miami, so I didn’t have a chance to get my head around it before I left. I was planning to spark it up tonight and have a go. I’m pretty excited about getting my teeth into it. I spoke to Bruce at Twilo and suggested that he let Sasha and me loose on it, so he is having all three Electrix units installed at the club. By the time they are installed, we’ll both be up to speed on them. That should take it to the next level.

RALPH: I tried one at my studio in Liverpool recently and it looked really fine. I didn’t have time to hook it up to a pair of decks, but I patched it into my mixing deck, It was really interesting, and I would like to see where it can go. You can do a really big filter sweep with very little effort. I haven’t tried it in a working environment, but it worked really well in a studio in the short time I had to play around with it. I like the MIDI features that let you record the sweeps as you go.

WHAT ARE THE MOST EXCITING NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC TECHNOLOGY?

LUMB: Cheap hard-disk recording. If you are using samplers, one of the big limitations is memory. Samplers really lend themselves to drums because a drum hit takes up a small portion of memory. But with a hard-disk recorder, you can record, say, a four-minute passage of music, like a slowly evolving synthesizer passage that’s never the same twice. All of a sudden, a producer with an $899 iMac has the ability to record a studio-quality vocal track, a bass track, or even a sound-effects track. So it can take electronic music one step away from the loop and help you focus on arrangement and composition. Cheap hard-disk recorders bridge the gap between electronic music and so-called real music. The successful hybrid artists are the ones with access to high-end technology-like the stuff from New York, where they put minimal beats behind a full orchestra. Everyone will be able to do that soon.

COWIE: In the next few years, digital desks and mixing consoles like the Yamaha 02R will get better. They are a bit cold sounding right now, but they will improve and have more knobs. Some people say mixing consoles will be obsolete because you can do it all with a computer, but I don’t think computers are powerful enough to do everything. Even if they could, you’d lose a lot of the human element. There will always be hands-on people who like to turn knobs and push buttons.

Of course the biggest developments are with computers. Look at Cubase VST and all the plug-ins you can get for that. The companies that make effects units must be getting a bit worried because you can buy loads of effects plug-ins quite cheaply. I’ve tried some, and they are very good. But you still can’t plug an XLR microphone into the back of a computer. All these things will come, but not every producer wants to sit there looking at a screen all day. I’m not against computers, but I don’t think people want to do everything with a computer.

WHAT ARE THE CONSIDERATIONS WHEN CHOOSING SOFTWARE OVER HARDWARE?

LUMB: The computer-based stuff isn’t really there yet. Computers are a great interface with the gear you already have. When I remix, I use my computer as an interface with my samplers. I digitally load all the information I need. If someone gives me a DAT tape to remix-five minutes of audio and some disembodied voices–I’ll load it into my computer and chop it up really fast, then shoot it down the wire into the samplers and start working on it in a more traditional way. The computer is supposed to do everything, but in reality it doesn’t do any one thing really well.

I’ve also found that the more applications you use, the more time you spend making sure the computer is still running. One of the biggest complaints I hear is, “I’m a musician, not a computer technician.” People are spending a lot of time keeping their computers running-cleaning off the hard drive, checking for viruses, updating and debugging software. There’s a lot to be said for sitting down at a keyboard with a built-in sequencer that works the same way every day and doesn’t crash.

I once did an entire recording session that completely failed because of a timing synchronization bug in the software–we lost a month’s work! The song was so fast that the MIDI port couldn’t keep up with the music, so we had to buy a Yamaha tabletop sequencer, which ran better than the computer. USB–a new interface standard for computers–will hopefully make it a little more solid in the future. At the moment, if you are doing a lot of really fast work, I recommend dumping it into a dedicated machine that doesn’t have to worry about drawing a picture onscreen. You might also find that you like the sound a little better.

IS THERE A TREND TOWARD USING MORE ORGANIC SOUNDS IN ELECTRONIC MIXES?

LUMB: We go out with field recorders and collect sounds. It’s something that the computer is really good for. With electronic music, people use samples and make a track, then the track gets sampled, and so on, until this audio is five or six generations down the road and it gets flat and loses its dynamic range. If you go back and listen to [Pink Floyd’s] Dark Side of the Moon or some classical music, the depth and detail in the recording will blow you away. You wonder how to get that depth back into your recordings. The answer is to get a microphone, record some stuff, and put it into the background of your electronic track. That will create a depth and ambience behind the beats and really open it up.

COWIE: Smart producers use organic sounds. Vocals are organic, and dance music has used them since day one. I don’t think there’s a conscious trend, but smart producers know that a little organic feel helps the track, especially if it’s a good track. In a record store, you’ll probably find nothing organic in 80 percent of the records. Sometimes when you hear an acoustic guitar in a breakdown, you don’t know if some guy came in to play the part or not. The samples are so good that you can barely tell the difference now. I can tell the difference, but the average club goer would think that it was a real guitar.

DO YOU THINK COMPUTER-BASED HOME-RECORDING STUDIOS WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME A THREAT TO EXISTING RECORD LABELS?

COWIE: The biggest threat to major record companies is the Internet. One guy can basically set up his own label in his house, make music, and distribute it anywhere. That’s a few years away, but it will definitely happen. As for the guy in his basement burning a few CDs, that’s not going to bother the major record labels. But the Internet will be a problem for the record stores. If a label like ours could bypass distribution and sell direct to the public, it would make a lot more money.

DO YOU SEE A TREND TOWARD DJS USING MORE EQUIPMENT ONSTAGE?

DIGWEED: Yes, definitely. I’ve had a Numark mixer for ten years now, and it has a little sampler and effects unit. It’s been a great tool, but things like the FilterFactory from Electrix, which can really buck up the sounds, take it to the next level.

RALPH: I don’t see why they shouldn’t. It’s not the most difficult job in the world to put two records together, and if you can make that sound more interesting by adding more technology, then I’m all for it as long as it’s not overdone. Some people with those Pioneer mixers just goon and on and on, flanging and phasing. Sometimes less is more. Ease of use is important, as well as whether you can understand the equipment quickly and put it into effect.

OAKENFOLD: That’s been developing for a long time. I’ve used live guitarists and live percussion. I’ve used vocalists and MCs and programmed drum machines. But it’s a fine line because you can program all your own rhythms, and nobody really knows you’re mixing them in.

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT TRENDS IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC, AND WHERE IS IT GOING?

DIGWEED: I have no idea. It is changing at such a rapid rate that it would be really hard to predict, but I think it will just get bigger. In the past five or six years I’ve seen it become a huge worldwide scene. I play in countries all over the world and get pretty much the same reaction everywhere I go. In the future, we’ll see more and more people making electronic music, taking elements from different cultures and just continuing to grow. The music is truly international. I can play in Russia and not speak a word of the language, but there are smiles on their faces, and they’re enjoying the music as much as anywhere I go.

RALPH: Right now, trance has become incredibly popular in the U.K. and all over Europe and America. A lot of DJsare really getting into that sound, and for me it’s a way forward. I don’t play breakbeat, but I know that people like the Chemical Brothers are incredibly popular. As for where the music is going next, new sounds keep coming in, and people keep pushing the boundaries.

OAKENFOLD: In the U.K. and Europe, youth culture is dance culture now. You have 24-hour dance radio and the biggest rock bands in the world, who all want dance remixes, The majority of the pop charts are dance music. One of the biggest music publications recently reported that turntables are now outselling guitars three to one. So there’s a big shift. Young people want to buy turntables and be DJs. You can make a dance record in your bedroom, and in the U.K. it can sell 2 million copies.

COWIE: My father likes to ask me when this dance-music thing is going to stop, but it’s not going to stop because it is the new rock and roll. I don’t know where it will be in ten years, but I’m 99 percent certain that people will still want to dance.