Keith is from Los Angeles and Arthur from Burbank, both towns in California (USA) and virtually not that far from each other. But the LA megalopolis and its speedy life boost distances and these two friends found on online music collaboration their efficient method to evolve their musical duo. Things started in 2002, when they still used to attend high school. At that time Keith and Arthur used to play together in a few rock bands; then the university put the duo apart and both have discovered computer based music, that became a passion ever since. Among their several projects, Cuello Nectar is currently their official one: electronic music with high doses of hispanic vibes.
1 – What is your current method for online music collaboration?
It’s been already a year that we’re using Ableton Live with Dropbox and its fantastic. Before we tried sending sessions over AIM or even sending Mp3 files by e-mail (which gave us some cool resampling ideas) but now with Dropbox we keep all of our sessions for our various projects in a 50Gb account ($10 a month) and we are always in sync and working on the same stuff. Wether I am at work, at home on my desktop, or on my laptop in a cafe. I can add to our music or make up a new track and in minutes its on his computer. I also use it to collaborate with other friends or share samples I’ve made by sharing a folder with them or giving them a public link.
Literally we can work on tracks in a day, and have them be 90% done. I work 2 hours, he works 2 hours, and and back to me or editing and mixing and its done. We just directly share the folder where we save the project, together with all project files and sub-folders, no zipping or unpacking. We’re both on Macs, but I have an old G5 and he’s on a more recent Intel one, so he don’t have some of my old plug-ins that are not UB. Regarding this plug-in issue, I usually deal with by freezing the track if its a synth. If its a processor (compressor, reverb) I usually don’t worry about it because it’s only me who do the final mix and Live has no problem working with sets with missing plug-ins, so it’s Ok for our specific case. So any saves he makes I can open up and my plug-ins are still there with my settings.
Sometimes, when track counts get high, we add tracks to a session with a rough mix to save CPU for and lower latency for recording. Then we import the tracks back into the full session for mixing.
2 – Regarding your current solution (and previous ones) what are the main pitfalls?
Sending files over 100mb on AIM was a joke. Almost always the zip files would get corrupted during the transfer. So you transfer over night, wake up, the zip file doesnt open and you go to work/school and try again the next night. We had to pray to the computer gods to let a session transfer correctly. Mp3s of stems (submixes) were difficult as we would then need to eventually meet in person or mail a dvd to import each others tracks into a final session for mixing. Also sometimes mp3s change slightly in length when encoded so the bpms wouldn’t quite match whcih required extra work to warp in Live. So we switched to wav files later. One good aspect was because we were working with a stem, it inspired some resample manipulation which we use to this day. Mailing a dvd obviously was extra work and time, the only plus side was a hard backup. All these took too much time and effort away from making music. Ableton’s collaboration feature for Live 8 looked promising and we tried it a few times, but is now useless after Dropbox (except maybe for public sharing).
3 – Regarding things you’d want to do and still can’t, what are your expectations for the Ohm Studio?
We would like so much the ability to work on the same session at the exact same time. Though how this would work is hard to imagine. If someone moves the whole verse while another one is recording a synth line on top of it, what would happen? True realtime for audio is virtually impossible so jamming seems out of the question but mixing could be cool as people can turn different faders and eq at the same time. Just like the old days without automation! Also producing someone’s take, to say “try it again” or “try it simpler” would be great. That is the one thing I really would like. (…) Also the ability to ask a friend or stranger who doesn’t own any or the same computer/software/hardware as us, to add a track would be so easy if all that was needed was to email a link to a session. Indaba’s Mantis DAW has no synths so this is great about Ohmstudio. If real time means we can both simultaneously work on a track as though we are on the same computer, then that’s bad ass, and it would be a cool additional tool for writing. Because it is also cool when we take turns, because we get some alone time to do our thing and think and feel.
I don’t think I can switch to another DAW completely (soon we are adding Logic to our workflow as even Live is missing many useful DAW features) but I will gladly use ohmstudio to start a track for the realtime inspiration and export the demo into Logic/live, then send a track with a rough mix to get 3d partys involved in adding tracks. I have a few friends that are just now asking me to set them up with recording equipment and I now recommend Reaper to start out. When Ohm Studio comes out I will get them to start with that instead. In that case, I would be able to work with them at the beginning and teach them the bascis, would be really fun.
4 – What kind of feature do you think that a (new) collaborative music workstation should have?
For a fancy DAW with many features, we already have Logic and Live. In Ohm studio I would be more interested to see the revolutionary realtime features in the early stages. In the beginning we don’t want to compare it to what we have, we want to see how it changes our ability to make music. Once that’s going, adding the features of a full fledged DAW would be nice. Anyway, providing a decent pack of internal audio effects is a key point. The internal chat will be also great, as we’ve been using gmail sometimes to chat in real time while music making.
5 – Have you guys sworn eternal fidelity to each other or would you be open to explore the Cohmunity and eventually find new musical partners?
We think working with new people and opening up collaboration is one the most exciting parts of a tool like the Ohm Studio.
6 – Where the ohmworld could listen to some of your collaborative productions?
Our best project right now is Cuello Nectar - http://www.myspace.com/cuellonectar. Next year we’ll be launching our own record label, to be called Side Projects Anonymous with all of our projects on one place.