How Muzik 4 Machines Uses Splice for Open Source Projects and Collaboration

Splice can be a helpful tool for producers to create, back-up and share music. Today, we sit down with one of our most active users to find out what it is about our platform that appeals to him. His name is Muzik 4 Machines, and he’s a Canadian artist blending electronic music with an eye for live performance.

He’s an early adapter that has been using any means necessary for remote collaborations since the days of dial up connections. M4M tells us about how sharing whole project files is the obvious step in open source projects for musicians; his long history in collabing; some of his views on production software programs and plugins; and what it is that draws him to all this.

Tell us about the collaborative album you’re working on.

I’m looking for people to collaborate on an album, that’s about it [laughs]. I decided to do one draft a day, every day I have off from work and just put those sessions in the open for people to either add or remove things, then put everything back together and release the album on Beatport or iTunes. I was doing this album anyway, but only as one day songs. I was just going to pick the best 12 and release them. Then I decided to try and open up all projects. I’ve always been an open source type in my music. As far as I can remember, everything was always free. I give away all the presets I create and sounds I use. I’m not the kind of “secret weapon I need to hide” type. So releasing full sessions was just a step forward in the open direction for me. I’ve used everything, from FedExing hard drives to Splice. I’m also using Bit Torrent Sync and Reaper on a collab with a friend in Nova Scotia.

What’s that about FedExing a hardrive??

The year was 1999… My hi-speed internet was .5mbps upload, so it was faster to overnight a drive to Montreal for the other guy to work on the project. I sent him the drive for him to import all tracks in his session and do some editions, then send me back the drive at the end of the summer for me to mix it. It was really non-real time. Then the internet got faster and faster and it was easier to just MSN/Skype the files and sessions. Since then I’ve used the net for all my collabs.

So is the internet your primary means of collabing?

Yes, even with local friends. It’s just simpler, and with Splice we will be able to track things better. Also, I’m kind of antisocial [laughs]. I mostly stay at home and make music. I used to go out all the time and talk about how I was producing music and stuff, but I never did. I was always out talking about it, so I decided to quit drinking and going out to actually make it.

So how does Splice solve the versioning problem for you?

Let’s say I’m working with a songwriter right now. He makes guitar vocal and send me the files. I do drums, bass, and keys, and send him back my session. He then redoes the vocal, adds some solo and a new guitar, and sends it back to me. With Splice, every time we hit save (which in my case is every three edits), we comment. That’s compared to our current way, like on my last project, which was by Facebook messages, which gets messy and confusing. With Splice I have the whole history. I can load the time I did the super edit but deleted it 12 saves later and now I want it back. I can open that version, and cut and paste that track in the main session. I used to save like every 10 minutes, but it makes the folder a mess and you run out of names and start typing “project97635087023475-2489 gurn” and stuff without meaning. Also, with Logic, projects are HUGE, because they include the whole undo history at each save as (I mean, 100MB per project file 50-100 times eats space pretty fast). Even though it’s less and less a problem these days, what with multi terabyte disks costing like $100. But I like the fact that my folder has one .als file and that Splice has like 200 of those files available for reuse.

Why is open source is so important to you?

It just happened like that. At first, I was like, “My stuff isn’t good enough to ask money for it, so let’s give it away.” Then I started teaching people around me, so when I started my Youtube channel in like 2007, it was just normal to show every detail of my workflow. Then I got back in the software game after leaving it for all hardware – to be more limited I said, to be more creative, to not spend hours scrolling through menus and sounds and infinite tracks – but then 8 tracks was not enough and I moved back in the box, so sharing my sessions was just the normal thing to do. But it used to be harder, host a ZIP file on my site or Bit Torrent bundles, with no central hub or anything. With Splice, you are building a community of musicians that share the love of sharing/collaborating or simply learning for others work. And the new session overview is just too cool, even a noob can just listen to the player and see what parts are playing, the layering and stuff.

What is it about collaborating that interests you so much?

I like hearing other people’s ideas, and sometimes I feel I have a great thing, but I just can’t make it the way I hear it in my head and I’m sure someone out there can. Those songs are mostly the ones I get out as fast as possible, getting 50-90% to where I hear it, then hoping someone can make it go the extra distance. I had this “Make Me Wet Song” in 2008. It had potential, but I was too bored or lazy to make it. So I made all sessions available and got three “remixes” of the songs back. All three were better than what I had in mind when composing the riff and chorus. Those guys reinvented the song in ways I hadn’t even imagined. That made me realize collaborating was really a must do in my life and career. I mean collaborating with random strangers, not working on projects with known people. Really getting random work you would not have thought of exploring. Totally new directions.

How were you using Bit Torrent Sync and Reaper?

So my friend starts a Reaper project in a folder that is synced between our computers (and backup hosting, I’m a bit paranoid about data loss). He’ll record a guitar, and if we are working semi-real time, I’d wait at my computer. As soon as he stops recording, the file uploads to me, he saves the session, and I open it (it’s synced instantaneously – we both have really fast upload). Then I’ll apply some effects and make a drum and save the session. He reopens it and does some bass, etc. But as soon as Splice supports Reaper, we’ll switch for the versioning. This is all more technical and he is not technical at all. So running the Splice client will be easier for him. Just work as usual, no need to sync anything – it’s all done in the background. Just, for example, remembering to copy the folder to the sync folder and not move the files and stuff, that’s best to avoid. So Splice would be really simple for him to use – just install the client and work in the Splice directory.

Tell us about some of the presets you share.

I used to upload everything, like the SYSEX dumps from my hardware, the sample dumps from my samplers. I even shared my gigantic live session I still use to that day, which is the full preset dump of my Junos, DX7, the sample memory form my Electribes – the session I use every show I play. (I know nobody can play it anyway, you need the spaceship for it to emit sounds [laughs], so no worry about someone “stealing” my patterns. You need the actual hardware set up in the exact same configuration and patching.) I even did tutorials on Youtube about how to make my signature sounds (well the 2 sounds I use most). Like my FM saw bass and the Classic Hoover/What The? patch.

What is your main DAW these days?

It used to be Logic, but now it’s Ableton Live. I started using it for live performances and after having to transfer an album I did in Logic to play it live in Live, I decided the next album would be made in Live for easy porting. (I never ported another studio album to Live, they are both their own universe, and they don’t seem to work together for me. So I’m doing both parallel.) I still miss Logic though. It’s got way better plugins and instruments. But I’ll survive and will until I can use 32 bit plugins because I miss the B4 organ, an emulator of the Hammond B3. The Hammond B3 was the real thing, a mechanical drawbar organ from the 50s. Think Deep Purple, or Emmerson Lake, or Palmer, or every house bass from the 90s. The B3 emulator one of the first VST instruments, an almost perfect virtual organ (not sample-based, a pure tonewheel module). It still sounds good 15 years after its release. But I guess by then, someone will have emulated it as good as they did. If I ever do another rock project, I’ll go logic. Live is awesome, but I still prefer the takes in Logic for real life recording. It’s probably the best thing after Protools. Hosts and operating systems were pretty much all 32 bit, limited to 4gb of RAM. Now they’ve all gone 64. But old plugins won’t automatically port. Some adapters will do, but not as good as real, native 64 bit plugins. The B4 has been discontinued for 4-5 years. I’m kind of a purist for those things, coming form guitars and real hardware.

Are there any new plugins you’re excited about?

For organ, no. But Addictive Drums 2 seems awesome (I’m still on 1). I tried Break Tweaker (iZotope’s collaboration with BT), and its really exiting, as it opens many new possibilities. But I’ll wait till version 2, like I always do. It’s great, but it’s not mature yet.

July 31, 2014