Custom MIDI Guitar Is Destroid’s Secret Weapon for Playing Live Dubstep

destroid guitar

Dubstep supergroup Destroid — Canadian bass artists Excision and Downlink and drummer KJ Sawka from Pendulum — are taking their live show to the next level and beyond. With costumes influenced by Daft Punk to sci-fi flicks like Alien and Tron, their secret ingredient is a specially designed custom MIDI guitar enabling them to control Ableton Live as they rock out. In an open letter to their fans, Excision explained to the trio’s fans how they’re using new technology to break sonic boundaries.

From the outset, the goal of Destroid’s live show was to have just that.. a live show. To create the real world of these characters, they each needed the ability to perform and react in real time. With that goal in mind, we began designing the interactive system. It’s a tech-nerd’s dream; an incredible synergy of performance & technology requiring borderline insane problem solving, not to mention inventing some new ways to throw control signals around a venue!

Custom MIDI Guitars with LED fretboards, a body full of pads & knobs, and string triggers were being fabricated by Starr Labs in San Diego. They make the most responsive, velocity sensitive, 6-string, 24-fret MIDI instruments we had seen. (Excision Midi Guitar pictured above). To make these guitars behave as we wanted our tech guy Matt wrote a Max/MSP external that allowed us to easily control Ableton Live. This included on-the-fly mapping changes, a multiple output port routing system, pathways for the appropriate LED feedback, and MIDI to Artnet conversion to send commands through to the lighting console (for CO2 blasts & helmet and arm-mounted lasers, and many more “weapons” we have yet to unveil).

Our two redundant Ableton playback systems take MIDI-In (via MIDI Solutions Thrus & Merges) from the Midi Guitars, KJ’s Roland V Drums, and from a pair of Roland FC300 footswitches that Jeff & Sean use to control effects, mapping changes etc. All drums parts & bass samples are played live, in Ableton samplers and drum racks. We had to actually split our 75 minute set in to two separate projects as Ableton could not handle having an entire sets worth of individual samplers/drum racks for each bass sample/drum hit.

The suits are nothing short of amazing. Although they are insanely heavy (something we are working to give us more flexibility and energy on stage) they have on-board power, under-suits that circulate cold water, helmet microphones, and in-ear monitors. All embedded RGB LEDs are individually addressable & controlled by the lighting team on their console via wireless DMX.

There are also a lot of moving pieces to the visual show. We’re sending song unique SMPTE time code from the Ableton rigs to control all lighting and video cues. Some of these cues are built into the structure of each song, others are triggered from the guitars and drums. A video rig running Modul8 sends the video output to a projector that makes post-apocalyptic cityscapes and spaceship control center backdrops come alive.

Together this creates a dynamic show that delivers a unique story to the audience. There’s room for tweaking and improvements in all departments, having only played one show together both as artists and as a 16 person crew. We’re extremely happy with how things went and are looking looking forward to the future as we experiment with this groundbreaking technology to continually develop the most insane experience possible with our fans. We have only scratched the surface, and are excited to see Destroid evolve.

DJs React to Paris Hilton’s DJ Debut on Twitter

They say bad things come in threes. In the world of dance music, Pendulum and Swedish House Mafia called it a day, and socialite Paris Hilton made her debut this past weekend at a party in Brazil. If you’ve seen the video from her performance (see clip below), then you’ll know that it isn’t a stretch to say it was an epic fail on many levels. While some gossip sites have declared Hilton’s set a success, it hasn’t gone down well with DJs and many took to Twitter yesterday to express their disdain. Florida breaks champion DJ Icey called her inroads into dance culture “a mockery” while trance jock Christopher Lawrence wondered, “Is this what EDM has become? Perhaps the best comment we came across was from a fan on YouTube who wrote, “I wasn’t even there and I want my money back.” Have a look below at what a few DJs had to say about Hilton’s maiden DJ voyage. Oh, and if you were wondering what Afrojack thought of his ex’s set, well, his lips were sealed.

Knife Party’s Rob Swire Announces Pendulum’s Breakup on Twitter

Did Australian-British drum ‘n’ bass outfit turned nu metal band Pendulum announce their breakup over Twitter? It certainly appears that way.

Rob Swire, who is currently enjoying massive global success of his electro-house/dubstep Knife Party project with fellow Pendulum member Gareth McGrillen, has updated his Twitter account bio to read: “There will be no further Pendulum live shows. There are no current plans for a new album in 2013.”

According to NME, Swire confirmed that Knife Party was very much his priority in a recent interview with Australian radio station Triple J, saying when asked about the future of Pendulum: “The Knife Party thing is going so well we don’t really feel like going back to junior school anytime soon.”

Swire added: “We’re having too much fun with this project. It’s also great because Pendulum towards the end sort of felt like we were doing it because we had to and that’s never a fun way to do music. Whereas Knife Party is pretty much solely us doing what we want to and if no one likes it we don’t care.”

NME reports that the name Pendulum will still continue to operate in a limited capacity, with members Paul “El Hornet” Harding and Ben “The Verse” Mount continuing to book DJ sets under the band’s name.

Pendulum and their label have yet to release an official statement about the act’s future.

Pendulum image by Darren Ressler

Adam F Talks Dubstep and Fusing Genres

As Adam F heads to Miami’s Winter Music Conference and ponders his next studio move, the British DJ/producer/actor says he’s planning to build off the recent successes he’s had with harder acts he’s worked with, like Nero, The Prodigy and Pendulum.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the label (Breakbeat KAOS) for quite a few years, developing a few acts that we’re real excited about who are now part of the worldwide scene,” he tells Big Shot. “It’s time for me to get back in the studio myself.”

With some prime slots at WMC, and a looming U.S. tour with Caspa later this year, Adam F has given fans a taste of where he might be headed, musically, with his latest single, “When the Rain Is Gone,” a pop-laced, dubstep jaunt, driven by a euphoric hook.

But as the indie mogul who signed Nero and released Pendulum’s first platinum album, Hold Your Colour, he admits a deep dedication to the EDM’s harder, more rock-oriented edge.

“It’s just a different part of me,” he explains. “I like that epic sound — that really edgy, in your face, raw sound, like The Prodigy. It gives me a chance to be less organized within the music. It’s more free to go left with it when you work with people like Prodigy, which is exciting. And obviously people like The Prodigy, they’ve got such a big influence on the dance scene, that you feel you have to step up to the plate to deliver.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together.”

Adam has also worked with some of hip-hop’s top acts as well — from Redman to Pharaoh Monche to De La Soul to L.L. Cool J.

The L.L. Cool J collaboration, which was on LL’s 2000 smash, G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of All Time), was a true partnership in every sense. Adam not only produced the track, but did backing vocals and spent extensive time in the studio in New York with the rap icon, even rounding up girls from the streets to sing backup.

“That was fucking crazy,” he recalls of the experience. “I grew up with those guys, went to see them. I remember when Def Jam did that tour with Run-DMC, LL, The Beastie Boys. I went to that. So to work with him, that was an amazing experience.”

The hip-hop and rock influence has always made its presence felt in Adam’s music. With dubstep blurring the genre lines even further, he’s heading back into the studio, where he says he’ll toss convention aside and meld several styles into what he hopes will be a new electronic masterpiece.

“The new generation of music lovers and club goers have been less genre-specific than ever before. I’m excited now that so many new genres are fusing together,” he says. “And unlike any other time in club music history, people are going into clubs and hearing such a cross-genre of styles.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together,” he continues. “That’s why for me, it’s a good time to come back in to make music as Adam F, because it’s quite open now.”