With a release catalog that stretches back to the early 90s, Detroit's Aux 88 have seen technologies come and go. Their old school Electro sound was originally created using LED-laden silver boxes and miles of cables. Now that they are preparing for their big tour together with the cream of the Detroit Techno scene, Keith Tucker and Tommy Hamilton spill the beans on their current way of work.
We were lucky to catch up with AUX 88 during a tour break when they were back in their studio preparing new material for the upcoming Electronic Music Tour together with Juan Atkins (Model 500), People Mover, Posatronix, DJ Surgeon and Black Electric.
"We've been using a lot of digital programs and Reason is one of them that we use for live performances and just recently we decided to switch all of our live applications to Reason for live performances", Keith Tucker, aka DJ K1, explains.
"Using Reason has been a true blessing for us", he continues. "I remember back in the days how much gear we used to carry around. We had all those keyboards, you had to tow them with you and hope you would get the same sound."
"Another thing I like about the program is that it's very clean and it sounds massive when played live in a big venue. It's just so crystal clean. We would never have been able to do that with all the analog stuff. It would be all messed up", says Tom Hamilton".
Aux 88 have always focused on playing live. Giving up their old hardware setup for Reason also helped them in developing their shows.
"When we are playing live, we use control surfaces that work perfectly with Reason so we can control effects, mute the music and do mixes towards the end of the song", Keith Tucker says. "Every night it's never going to sound the same, because we're always going to do things a little bit different. It's nice using the control surfaces because you can manipulate and change the song."
Apart from doing live mixing and manipulation, Aux 88 also does a fair bit of playing on stage. "Most people don't know this, but both Tom and me are classically trained. We like to play the string parts live. Like most Detroit techno, we really like to add eerie, beautiful strings to our tracks."
Aux 88 recently released their self-titled album where most of the sounds came from Reason.
"One of the first songs we did on the AUX 88 album was this track called Clones, which we did totally using Reason", says Keith Tucker. "We build a lot of our track around concepts. This is called Clones and it is a track that goes out to all the people who try to clone us. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing! It's about how our sound has become cloned."
"One of the tools that we like to use in Reason is Redrum. The Redrum is just awesome with the sounds ready to go, straight out of the box. The drums are just nicely compressed, the kicks are poppin'", says Tom Hamilton.
We go through the track Clones, track by track. "For the bass line, We're using a basic 303 patch in the NN-19 sampler. It's nice, basic analog stuff", Tom Hamilton continues.
"If you listen to the bass line, you'll hear that it's not just a preset. It's tweaked. The bass line has some attitude to it, some funk. You'll hear that it has some accents in the playing, creating some space in the music", Keith Tucker says. "The style of electro that we do is, believe it or not, is modeled after groups like Parliament and Funkadelic. There is space in the music. Everything is in the groove and you got to hit that groove. It's gotta be in the pocket!"
Tom Hamilton continues: "Yeah, you gotta give every element room to breathe."
"Tom is really the electronic drummer", Keith says. "He's really good at putting together the kits, so we can have a AUX 88 kit that he made to create that same sound, like the "AUX88 kit 01".
"Yeah, they are just some of the sounds that we've picked. Some sound that we would normally use in a drum track", Tom Hamilton explains.
AUX 88 have remained true to their old-school electro sound since they started out more than 15 years ago.
"The first track we did was back in '93 and it was called Technology. We used a Roland R-70, R-8, Juno-106, 909. R-50E. We created this track in the studio using ADATs, a Mackie mixer. When we came across Reason, we were able to reproduce the whole song, exactly like it was recorded back then in '93 so we can play it live", says Tom Hamilton.
Talking about all this is kind of a rare for us because we never let people know what gear we use", says Keith Hamilton. "But now it's like we've been doing this for a long time and we can use the same gear as you are using, but it doesn't mean it's going to sound the same. We have our own sound that I don't think is ever going to change and we don't want to change. It's just going to keep getting fatter and more funky every time we make something."
Published: April 2007
In the interview, Tom and Keith discuss the track Clones. Download the Reason file here!
Also, they have prepared an AUX 88 redrum kit using only Factory Soundbank samples. Grab it here!The song does require 2 additional refills which are both free (Peff 03 and Zuwonga Patch Bonanza) and can be found in the Propellerhead ReFill archive (scroll way down)
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