nowaysj is a tireless sound designer and producer, working on his own and with Ofilia Kayser as Fellah Mengu. We reached out to him when first developing the features and sounds of Tabletop. He was instrumental in the completion of Gridlok, creating many of the presets as well as fine-tuning the functionality. We were excited when he also worked on presets for the M8RX and RS3. To show off his familiarity with Tabletop, we invited him and singer Ofilia to our office to perform a Fellah Mengu song live, "Bullseye." Afterwards, we sat down to talk to him about his experiences and thoughts on the app.
How did you find the experience of creating music for Tabletop?
When I began the sound design for Tabletop my goal was to provide fresh contemporary sounds that any artist could use to make killer tracks. I felt like I was the host of a big party and had to provide something for every guest. My guests included Flying Lotus, Samiyam, and Daedalus from the West Coast, as well as Richie Hawtin and Maurizio/Basic Channel for some austerity, and I rounded the group off with Mala and Loefah of Digital Mystikz, just so we could have a little bass in our face. I feel that all of these producers can pick up Tabletop and find sounds that are instantly useful and inspirational within their particular style and genre.
In terms of writing music with Tabletop, I love it. I've written a variety of beats and songs with it, but when approached to do a demo song, I had the idea to test how flexible Tabletop is and see if I could write a relatively traditional pop song with it. So I approached a singer and we sat down to write a pop song. Tabletop worked perfectly for us. To start out, we began playing with melodies — it was super easy to just trigger sampled chords, or to play chords with the synth. We recorded a progression that we liked, and just moved on to the drums. It was very easy to record our beats, we resampled Gridlok and began layering up and just thickening the beat. Tabletop's flexible quantization really helped tighten my playing. Once we got our basic sections written, we set everything up within Triggerator, and just started experimenting with arrangement and song structure. We tried every structure we could think of, and Triggerator made it really easy to try all of our wild ideas. This enabled us to round out all the rough edges and write a song that moves nicely. As a song writing tool it was awesome.
But it doesn't end there! Once we wrote the song, we broke it back down into pieces so that we can play the song live. Because of Tabletop's flexibility, we can improvise within the song and never miss a beat — it’s a great performance tool. I'm so glad that there are people like Retronyms working hard to bring tools like this to musicians and producers.
What kind of equipment do you normally use in making music?
I use a variety of equipment depending on what I'm doing, including Maschine by Native Instruments, an SP 404sx from Roland, a Tenori-On from Yamaha, an Access Virus, as well as other synths and fx. I also employ a variety software instruments, processors, and fx.
How well did Tabletop reflect how you normally make music?
Tabletop is how I normally make music, the exception being that all the instruments and tools are virtualized, but still tactile due to the iPad's multitouch interface.
Do you think Tabletop will translate well to a live experience?
I don't just think Tabletop will translate well to a live experience, I know it will.
What would be on your future device wish list?
Okay, I need a compressor, limiter and an EQ, no joke, as well as a really versatile distortion or saturation device. I would like to see some type of beat chopper... beat repeat... buffer repeater... glitcher... whatever you want to call it.
Have you used any other iOS music apps? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of the platform are?
I have used ReBirth for the iPad. Weaknesses first: I want a 2 foot by 4 foot iPad, and I want it NOW! Strengths... strength as a term doesn't even begin to describe what is happening now. Multitouch interfaces like the iPad and applications like Tabletop will fundamentally change the way that we create and perform music. It’s as simple and profound as that. A completely new era in music is beginning to unfold right before us.
What's up next for you?
I'll continue working as a producer and sound designer, but working on the demo song for Tabletop gave me the bug to write some pop songs, so it looks like Fellah Mengu will be releasing a vinyl only ep in the near future!