Network: My Tech - It's just a little cosmic cowpat

The Orb's Andy Hughes talks to Jennifer Rodger about his Notron/Latroni c midi sequencer

When the owner showed it to us, we said: "You're not leaving this room with this machine." I rolled back on my chair and was like, "I want one, I want one." That day we were doing a remix, and we did the whole remix on that unit in a day - the whole lot the first time I ever used it. When he first showed us how to use it, I was like, "Oh my god, how am I going to get my head round this?" But you start trusting your ears and start hearing it.

I use it for programming and keyboard and drum patterns mainly. We use it live quite a bit. You can do really bizarre things, often by accident, which is pretty much how I work anyway. It's not like a computer, when you can see exactly what you are doing. It's a four-track midi-sequencer, four elements and six steps. Each button has got a set of midi-notes, so the velocity and length of each note can be adjusted, and it goes out over whatever midi gear you have got.

I've always been interested in finding ways of composing, without the standard way of doing things because it can be quite limiting. And this sounded ideal, and indeed it was. Absolutely brilliant. The only software- based machine I have used before is a program made by Opcode called Max, just for the midi.

The thing that is really great is that I've used midi-controllers for messing around with sounds, but they are very linear. This is designed so that you can put wave forms and shapes, you can make it go wobbly in a certain shape at a certain rate and can do things with filters and modulations. That is when you are setting yourself up for an accident, because it starts doing things that you can never, ever, re-create on any equipment I have used.

Using it live is fantastic because you can have it hidden, and then bring it in, mess around with it, and get rid of it. So many people stretch necks to have a look, and I can keep my head down during gigs because I hate being on stage! Sitting there going "ha ha"! It's more creative, definitely. But it's like everything: the more you get into it, the harder it gets, and there is so much stuff in there that if you don't use it for a couple of weeks it's not like riding a bike, you can't get straight back on it again.

I take it on the road as well. We have a little sound module and have it set up, and it's about the only way I know to alleviate the boredom on tour.

The manual is written for someone just like me. It says: "For those of you reading this in bed, here's a picture of it." You don't even need loads of gear; I have got this little Roland SC7, a little general midi box I use it with. It's a composing tool as well as a live thing. You work out patterns, that's how I did that remix first time I used it. Then you put it into the computer and can do whatever you want afterwards with the basic structure of what you would have played on the keyboard. But it's done in a way that you would never have been able to do on a keyboard or any other instrument.

It's a lot quicker. I have had a whole studio running off this little cosmic cowpat. I like stuff that's tactile, like this. A lot of old analogue keyboards you can actually grab hold of. Digital discs, I can't stand it, ones that are a 48-channel disc, but you can only get 16 at one time, so you are constantly paging through it. I just don't want to know. With the Notron it's right in front of you and you can just use it.

I always end up mixing live instruments as well with it, but now it ends up mostly on computer. It's cheaper, it's more user friendly - because if you are working on stuff you can actually take chunks of the song and move it around. It's like a word processor. It can be set up in places where it will skip chunks of song without actually getting rid of it, so you can see how it might work.

I think you have to know what you want, what you want to do and what equipment you need to do it, rather than just go out and buy stuff that's the latest. People get screwed up with that.

But everything is changing: we have been using a Mac since '86 and it has been the standard for making music and now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and doing stuff with a PC that you can't get with a Mac. And it's driving me nuts because there is no way that I am ever going to get a PC. I am sorry, because they are a pile of shit. PC is Piece of Crap, that's what it stands for.


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