Droid Behavior interview

Here's where I appear to be all tech-savvy, actually LA's Droid Behavior have a week's worth of things to say and I just stayed out of their way and let a good story unfold. All of this will be appearing as a digested piece in the next issue of Big Shot magazine...

Here's a great mix as well and some live video to enjoy as well:
Acid Circus
Proton Radio mix 3/20/09

First off, please tell me a little about the relationship between Droid Behavior, Droid Recordings, Acid Circus, and Drumcell.

Droid Recordings is the record label headed by Drumcell and home to artists such as Acid Circus, Audio Injection, Dustin Zahn, and of course the Droid Recordings label head himself. Acid Circus = Vidal and Vangelis Vargas, two brothers born and raised in Los Angeles. Drumcell=Mohamed Espinosa also born and raised in LA. We all met at a New Year's Eve house party in 2000 where we were performing as Acid Circus. Moe was impressed by our software/hardware set and immediately we hooked up and exchanged ideas, music and promotional support. Eventually we got organized and gave our group the name Droid Behavior which then developed into a movement to spread techno education and create a fan base for the music through our self produced events, record label, recording artists, DJs, podcast, zine, and all inclusive newsletter which we used to promote and unify all techno happenings and participants in LA not just for our own projects, but as a general support system. Over the last 7 years we have seen our initial passion through Droid Behavior influence the city and help techno flourish in many ways. We are happy to see the music get the respect it deserves and continue to push its message regardless of financial gain or popularity.

It sounds like Acid Circus is more on the production/live PA tip ala Hawtin's DE: 9 series. The obvious advantage it would seem is that even when re-working other people's materials it's always heavily influenced by your own sounds and ideas. Do you create new material for each event you play at or do you re-work existing ideas to meet the needs of a certain club, event?

We have been influenced by the digital mixing techniques of Richie, Surgeon, and Speedy J but we were already doing similar things on programs like Reason (mixing on 4 channels or more using various outputs) before the big boys really made it clear to the industry the possibilities of digital on programs like Ableton and Traktor. We do create new material and rework/remix old material for nearly every set we play. Depending on the gig, whether the club caters to a more a electro techno or house crowd, we are able to re-sequence and re edit our tracks and selections yet still manage to display our wide range of selection and retain our energy and style of performance.

How many years have each of you spent perfecting the software based approach and did you have a background in analog gear or traditional DJ'ing prior to this?
Acid Circus: We both played in bands as teenagers (screaming, guitar, bass, drums, kazoo, trumpet, etc) In the mid 90's we were both completely blown away by electronic music's seamless and continues mix culture. These were the building blocks of our own influences. We started producing and doing live PA's in 1999 solely on computers and hardware always with a dj mixing approach to our sets. During a performance we beat match one set up to the other with out the use of midi and cut, beat juggle, eq and layer similar to a DJ on multiple decks. We never started out on vinyl as our initial goal was to play the music we made in the studio and on the fly. It is only more recently that we have begun to incorporate fragments, edits, etc. of other people's material into our own sets. Drumcell: I have an extensive background in analog hardware and studio experience, as I started off interning in studios at the age of 14. Around the same time i had already been playing in bands and started moving towards recording and producing my own material rather then having to rely on flaky musicians. I naturally progressed into electronic music when drum machines and synthesizers began to pique my interests. By the mid 90s DJing become a huge part of my life and the fetish for vinyl records took over. To this day I have a sincere bond with vinyl and DJ culture. At the same time my passion has always been 100% devoted to technology and what the future of music holds. I was naturally part of this computer age and began replacing clunky tape machines with easy to use computer solutions. I starting off with early versions of Cubase and Digital Performer as was the first version of RE-Birth. The application seemed kind of gimmicky but its limitations were inspiring. When I met the brothers of Acid Circus they were the first people i had ever seen performing live using Rebirth and Acid as well outboards effects, an outboard mixer and midi controllers. When i saw their setup and their live techniques I instantly knew we both shared a common interest in the future of software based production and performance. I was DJing with vinyl records for almost 12 years before I made the switch to digital. Although i am quite content with the many possibilities of software, I am not ruling out the idea of returning to analog and hardware performances.

Drumcell's approach sounds very similar to what Joris Voorn does, it's a radical new approach to DJ'ing. Please describe how you are able to use two laptops-one running Traktor Pro and the other Ableton, run it thru a special Allen & Heath mixer and thus strip away the need to be reliant on the laptop for your DJ sets. It sounds interesting but I need to know more about the process.

Traktor Pro tends to be the main hub of audio for my sets. By using the Audio 8 i am able send each deck to its own individual channel on the mixer for a full hands on experience through the Xone 3D. The Xone has over 105 different assignable midi functions that i can control every aspect of Tracktor with, from juggling loops, to rearranging cue points, to manipulating effects. It really has given me the power to take elements from different tracks, both my own and other peoples, and be able combine them together to create something unique on the fly. The second computer in my set up is running Ableton Live. I am able to host various software plugins for FX processing by using basic aux send and return channels on the mixer . I have built a custom Reaktor patches and chain multiple effects on top of that to create feedback loops. During buildups I like to do weird pitch bending treatments of a track to give the crowd a sense of immediacy and let them know that what is happening is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW in front them live and is not pre-recorded. There are a lot of cables involved and does require me to travel with quite a bit of heavy gear but I don’t think I was ever looking for an easy way out or a compact setup to travel easy with.

Is anybody else in Los Angeles doing anything like this or are you out there setting your own trends?

Acid Circus: I think in LA we are the only ones doing it the way we do. Although multi deck Traktor sets have gained popularity among LA DJs, very few of them are producers and few sequence original material live mid mix. There are people doing Ableton live PA's such, but they do not veer off from their own productions and do not use DJ style techniques to progress through their performances. With Acid Circus we aim to bring all the cream elements of live hardware programming with fast paced DJ transitions to create a unique and exciting digital experience. We do occasionally collaborate with other Droid artists such as Audio Injection, Subversive, and Drumcell to create similar multiple laptop battles that myself and Vangelis have been doing for years as Acid Circus. We sometimes call these projects "Duel" or "Death by Acid."

Drumcell: I'd like to think I've been one of the first people to take control of Traktor's possibilities. Since becoming the Traktor North American specialist at Native instruments , I've held many master classes and trainings on Traktor pro in California as well as all over the US. It's not hard to preach about something your truly passionate about and I've turned a lot of people onto Traktor from big artists to local djs . Lately it's not uncommon to see other people utilizing many of the options in Traktor similar to my own methods. I do honestly feel that there is no one else out here that does it like I do-especially to the extent of using multiple computers, external FX , developing unique patches and creating static feedback. I aim to to push for something totally different when I perform.

What is it like working with your brother as Acid Circus?

When playing live its basically a tug of war for mixer control which oddly enough makes for great entertainment. Talk about sibling rivalry eh?! Hah.

In the studio, it's been a long familial process but we have pin-pointed our strengths, weaknesses, and best methods of progress for production. When composing, I usually develop a basic groove and begin the sequence. making sure to lay down the sketches for our intros, bridges, breakdowns and outro's. Vangelis, being classically trained, adds his musical knowledge to improve the over all sound quality of whatever i have started and gives each track a proper mix down. He also adds intricate details on sequencing, automation, melody, chord progression, etc. resulting in much more musical projects.

Tell me a little bit about your process of selecting and/or making loops, effects, and sounds as they are very unique?

Acid Circus: When mixing digitally we aim to play "the cream" of each song. We only want the best basslines, drum grooves, synth lines, samples, and hooks so we can get a reaction out of the crowd and or be able to transition from one piece of music to the next flawlessly and creatively. As far as production, we make short pieces often for gigs that range from jacking rhythm tracks to electro instrumentals that compliment our own songs well as other producers. Effects wise....I'm [Vidal] all about heavily modulated flanges ala Paul Johnson's "PLAYING WITH A RUBBER BAND".

Drumcell: My studio process is divided into 2 parts: The first part is usually me geeking out with analog and modular synths, software, etc to design sounds that are interesting and weird. After creating a pallet i save and organize them in various folders. These days a lot of musicians are torn between the creation process and technical process. When you try to do both at two at once you can sometimes kill your inspiration to create. For me, after a nice palette of sound has been created, i have endless experiments to begin melting ideas together and begin building a more finished concept. Once i lay down the main sequence its all fun and games adding FX and production techniques to make the song interesting. I also enjoy working in the studio with other people to get a different perspective. I had a lot of fun working with label mate Audio Injection on the last few releases. We melted our ideas together and took the best from both worlds to create a final product. Also the social aspect of hanging a close friend and goofing off in the studio makes making music that much more enjoyable and appealling to me.

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