Product Review | Locked Groove

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Ableton.com Interview with Steve Stoll Dave Hill Jr.
 
Holed up in his Tokyo hotel, and packed to the gills with mackerel, minimal techno artist and veteran synth-tweaker Steve Stoll decided it was time to take manners into his own hands. On a whim, Stoll decided to make the world's first loop and sample CD specifically formatted for his favorite loop spinning and manipulation software: Ableton Live.

"I just couldn't find any sample CDs that I wanted to buy," says Stoll via phone from his New York apartment. "I mean there I was bugging out in my hotel room with nothing to do between shows, when I thought hey, why don't I make the sample CD I wish I could have bought back when I started making records?" Back when playing with loops meant spinning a 12-inch vinyl plate containing a specially designed infinitely cycling "locked groove."

Speaking of records, and infinite grooves, Stoll has been banging around the techno and electronic scene on a worldwide scale since the early 90s (his first 12" was released on Richie Hawtin’s Probe imprint). Since that time, Stoll has followed standard techno artist protocol by changing labels, handles, and partners, only slightly less often than his synth patches. The short list includes collaborations with Ken Ishii, Pete Namlook, Damon Wild, and members of Front 242. His recordings can be found under Steve Stoll, Dark Man, Mr. Proper, or Blunted Boy Wonder and can be found on a range of labels to include Mute (London), Music Man (Belgium), and his own label Proper NYC. Recently, Stoll released two new experimental recordings on a Fax Records (Germany). He is also known for remix work for the likes of Gary Numan, Hardfloor, and DJ rush.

Stoll's music has been compared to Plastikman (aka Richie Hawtin) and Joey Beltram for its warm, dark and minimal nature. But a closer look at Stoll's aesthetic uncovers adventurous synthesizer sounds and funky rhythms. His unorthodox approach to effects also greatly distinguishes his sound. When it comes to taking his show on the road, Stoll now spins an Apple PowerBook and Ableton Live. We caught up with him in his NY:

Ableton: Can you tell us about your concept for the sample CD?
Stoll: Sure. I was thinking back about all the times I would spin on top of records with a locked groove, which is 133.333 BPM incidentally, and thought it would be a great theme for a sample CD. I also wanted to create more complete musical pieces, like mini-records rather than construction loops, one-shots, and generic sounding samples. My original concept was to put a digital crate full of vinyl on a single sample CD. The Ableton Live formatting makes them instantly available for DJs to rely on, right out of the gate (and no not all of the tempos are at 133 and a third).

Ableton: Your loops certainly have personality to them, but I can still imagine making plenty of music with these. How did you approach your CD?
Stoll: Yes, the point is to give DJs and remixers song-starters or backing tracks that can be used in a variety of ways. I imagine a DJ using these loops as segues between songs, song-starters, outros etc. I find that having lots of material at my disposal is key for me.

Ableton: I imagine this is where Live comes in?
Stoll: Sure, the loop previewing is awesome. When I’m in the studio I use primarily analog gear, old synths, drum machines, etc. But when I’m on the road I only take my laptop, and tend to do a lot of experimenting. Live is great for recycling an old loop or song-section, and for creating completely new material on-the-fly. So I thought, hey why not put out a CD full of these ideas for other people to experiment with?

Ableton: What did you use for sound sources for your CD?
Stoll: The sources are a mix of samples, synths and weird patches that I had recorded at home and then transferred them into my laptop. I’ve always loved the sound of old synthesizers. Locked Groove is full of experiments, trippy grooves and samples found only in my unmovable NY studio. Most of these sounds began as an original recording years ago. But have been so reworked, I can't even remember when I made them, or what instrument I used. For me this mystery makes them better. I forget about where they come from and just get caught up in the music of it.

Ableton: Can you tell us anything else about the recordings?
Stoll: Only that I really tried to make something fun for people who are looking for a groove or remix element. These are not generic techno grooves or typical electronica. Locked Groove is 300 separate loops, each with their own creative impulses and musical inspiration. I also worked with Big Fish to keep the price low so that young artists can get involved. The CD is right around 50 bucks I think.

Ableton: Yep its $49.95 and comes out May 12th.
Stoll: There you go. I hope people have as much fun with it as I did making it. See you guys next time I'm in Berlin!

Ableton: Thanks, and yes, please do stop in.
 

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