Interview with Andrew Tuttle
By Ross Bencina
After three albums and nine years of recording and performance, Brisbane-based Andrew Tuttle is shedding his Anonymeye skin — stepping out from behind the nom de plume to reveal something of the man and his music.
Andrew sat down with Ross in Melbourne for a chat about his musical journey from guitar-band to AudioMulch and explains why the computer is now the most personal instrument he owns.
Part 1: Andrew Tuttle talks about AudioMulch as a musical instrument
In part one of our interview Andrew describes his musical history, how AudioMulch became his software instrument of choice and why he doesn’t perform live with Ableton Live.
Part 2: Andrew Tuttle talks about performing live with AudioMulch
In the second and final part of our interview, Andrew talks in greater detail about his live performance rig. He explains how he combines stringed instruments (banjo and/or guitar), synths, MIDI controllers and AudioMulch in both the composition and performance of his music. In particular, Andrew describes his use of the LoopPlayer contraption to layer both melodic parts and textural effects.
Here's a taste of Andrew's music - a live performance of Brisbane. Check the links at the right of this page for more of Andrew's music.
Part 1: Andrew Tuttle talks about AudioMulch as a musical instrument
A: Andrew Tuttle R: Ross Bencina
R: When did you first start using AudioMulch?
A: I think, I was one of those ones, kind of twelve/thirteen years old, just really getting into things and playing a lot of terrible Nirvana covers in high school and you know, punk bands and stuff like that. I’ve played lots of different music over the years and slowly, after a really traumatic experience with an indie-rock band when I was seventeen or eighteen, thought "Nup! I’m not going to play guitar for a year or so".
I got into electronic music production, was playing around with some other programs and with ‘Mulch, I think it was maybe 2006 that I first starting making ‘Mulch. I’d just finished making my first album under the name Anonymeye, and I’d just sent it to the presses and I discovered this new program AudioMulch. I’d previously been performing with another program before that and I like it as a studio program but not as a live program, but I’ve found AudioMulch to be really fantastic. I think you can kind of pick it up quite intuitively and there’s also so much to learn as well. I really like that as well. So I think from 2006 onwards, in varying degrees, it’s been the main program that I’ve used live.
The things I get out of it - I know there’s so much more you can do with the program - but I think what I’ve got out of it really suits me. The patch here that I use [insert screenshots], it’s definitely changed a lot over the years and I’ve added a lot, I’ve taken away a lot and there’s other bits and pieces that I can see there, that I have there itching to use, if I ever want to use them. I really like the adaptability about it I think it’s definitely influenced the music I make.
R: You said in 2006, maybe, you started looking at AudioMulch and you were using other software before that. What other software were you using and were you following a similar approach back then to performing or...were you performing?
A: I was definitely performing and I’ve used Ableton Live for other things with beats. But for me, I’ll use Ableton as a live thing very much as a loop-based, trigger-based thing and I really enjoyed doing that. But as I was playing a bit more, other instruments rather than just pressing/triggering things - and I know that you can do a lot of things on Live where you can add instruments, and I didn’t really find I was getting that much out of it. I found that for me, I got myself in a bit of a way where I just would trigger things. I mean I do use Live as an editing tool. That’s actually the editing tool I use but I don’t use it for live. It’s that weird paradox.
It’s one of those weird things, I feel self-indulgent when I’m making music in Live, but I don’t when I’m in ‘Mulch. Again, it all comes down to the actual person. Some people might look at this and go, "Actually that’s really, really such a self-indulgent thing. Why wouldn’t you use this Ableton thing with lots of pretty colours?" and it’s like, "Yeah I totally get that", but for me, this maybe looks more confusing than it is. Like this makes total sense to me ‘cos I can just look at the top; starts here, ends here [indicates the signal path through the Patcher Pane]. Usually I have this down here so...starts here, blah, blah, blah, ends here. It’s like Google maps. There’s several ways you can go and I really like that.
I think with Ableton, for me, I feel like I’m starting here...I’m kind of stuck going this way. Sure there’s a great thing on the side of the road, but "No! Can’t go. Can’t do it." Keep going straight to my destination. With ‘Mulch, for me anyway - the way I work with it, I love having all these different options. Like I can end up at these places, and, through developing this setup over a few years, at least I feel like I’ve got an idea of where things are going to go - and that’s okay. If I get a little bit lost I can find a way to get back on the map. I’m not going to be driving into a ditch. I can do a U-turn at some stage and come back.
R: Someone suggested that some people approach music like it’s an engineering task and they know where they want to go and it’s important for the program they’re using to get them there. And for other people it’s more about a journey, a metaphorical journey through a creative process and the tool supports them in that. That’s more important than something that gets them from A to B...
A: Yeah, definitely.
A: I’d definitely agree with that and I think I’d fit into the latter category because again, I think I’ve got a background with being interested in computer and electronic music, but also a background playing instruments as well. So I really enjoy this flexibility.‘Mulch provides me with the capability to do a very serious, set thing if I feel like, but also just kind of go different ways as well.
For me, I guess I love playing with software but I think my background is as a musician so I want things personally that I can have all these limitless possibilities but not spend have to three, six, twelve months diving into code. That’s probably not where my strengths lie. So I think AudioMulch and Ableton for a bit of recording and editing are the only ones I really use any more.
R: Did you get into Max/MSP or those more hardcore programming type options?
A: I tried Max, and then I realised it wasn’t for me. It’s one of those ones where I’m not a programmer. I liked to think that I was sometimes, but I gave up that pretension a while ago. I managed to develop a couple of little patches but I just figured, it wasn’t doing anything I couldn’t already get from ‘Mulch or even from Ableton.
Andrew discusses the musical journey that led him to AudioMulch
I think I was definitely getting into a lot more computer-based music. One of those things, kind of growing up in this period...being fifteen/sixteen when Napster was around and it was just like "Wow, I can download anything in the world and it’s amazing! I’m going to listen to everything in the world". That was ‘99 or 2000 or whenever it was. That was really formative in a lot of ways. I listened to all these different kinds of things. You know, I was really inspired by some straight up music.
I think around the time I was getting into AudioMulch, there was a few things like...I think I’d seen Keith Fullerton Whitman play in Brisbane around that time when he was doing his Playthrough setup. So that was really great, just pure computer music as well. I think there was...the idea of what I was getting into ‘Mulch, I’d been listening to a lot of music where it was quite free-flowing but without being stuck in those improv clichés as well.
At heart, I’m a guitar player. I first played the guitar so, I’ve picked up lots of bits and pieces over the years but the guitar’s the thing I grew up with. If I’m doing other things, I like to try and fit in either the guitar or other stringed instruments like the bass or like the banjo or something like that. I think the good thing about ‘Mulch in this weird way, I think the more and more I’m just changing the setup for pedals and the MIDI things, it’s almost like I get to be able to play a computer like a guitar in a way that’s really tactile and personal.
I think one thing people sometimes say about software and programs is, "Aww you know, it’s a computer, it’s not personal." But actually, it’s kind of the most personal instrument you own. I mean, a synth’s a synth. You get it out of the box and you can do some things. A banjo’s a banjo. You buy it, it has some boxes. The computer, it’s got all these things. Sure, sometimes it may not be the most visually interesting instrument to watch someone play, but you think. Okay, I’ve got my ‘Mulch setup, but I’ve got all my emails, I’ve got photos from holidays, I’ve got all the different things and it’s kind of really amazing to know that this instrument that I can change all the time and not have to spend $150 per pedal. I can just click another great contraption and it changes as I change. I think ‘Mulch has been really good to me like that.
Playing live with AudioMulch
As soon as I discovered this program, I knew that there was a program like Ableton where for me, the way I work anyway, I could trigger loops and play with samples, and I really enjoy that. As soon as I discovered ‘Mulch, I really liked having a thing where I could take risks. There’s ways within the program to mitigate some of the risks I take that but I really enjoy...In the sets, I don’t have actually any pre-records in there. It’s all live. So when that works it’s really great, and when it doesn’t it’s a bit worrying; but that’s okay.
I guess I really like that. That’s the thing I love about ‘Mulch; that I know there’s so many other cool things you can do with it but I like the fact that when it all works, it all works and when it all goes wrong, it really all goes wrong.
R: It’s the vitality of live performance.
A: Yeah! Exactly, and that’s it...and sometimes it’s the complete depression, "I’m never going to do this again" kind of thing...but that’s okay.
Half the time it’s the, "I’m never going to play live again". Wake up with a hangover, "I’m never going to drink again". Twelve hours later you’re at the pub and you get asked to play a show and you say yes to both.
I definitely found that as soon as I started playing with ‘Mulch, it’s definitely influenced the music I make.
Part 2: Andrew Tuttle talks about performing live with AudioMulch
A: It’s definitely the basis of my live performance, both solo and also under my old name Anonymeye.
The live setup is definitely a combination between performing with hardware and with software. I always feed everything I do into AudioMulch which goes out into a soundcard. Whether it’s the synth, or a guitar, or a banjo, that all goes into ‘Mulch. Sometimes I leave the instruments untreated. So I’ll just play them straight up, whether that’s a synth line or a banjo line, I’ll have moments in the set where it’s just that one instrument. There’s no contraptions, there’s no plug-ins, there’s no looping, there’s no anything. A lot of it, however, is quite related to what I do with ‘Mulch. I’ll be performing with a little synth line or banjo line, I’ll put that into one of the loopers and I’ll record a little basic loop and I’ll play in response to the loop and then I’ll build up those loops.
One thing I really like about ‘Mulch is I can setup so many loops. Rather than if you’ve just got a looping pedal, it’s like 1-2-3-1-2 and then you record that over the top and then it’s kind of... [demonstrates simple loop] like a really simple version of that. With ‘Mulch you can just do these weird things in there. I like to - with the loop - I just have an auto-chain fixed [in the LiveLooper contraption]. So I’m responding to the individual loop but it’s not a loop that’s triggered by a certain amount of time, so it really responds to the way I’m playing music. If I want to do a weird little loop it can go on there. When I’m playing it really allows me a lot of room, ‘Mulch, to be able to develop the piece.
I’ll start off with one of the original instruments. I’ll pick out a little motif or a riff or what have you. What I usually do is I put it into the looper effect, just so I can kind of build up some sound, so it’s not just one sound for minutes and minutes and something that’s not quite designed for that. So I’ll build up some sounds with the LiveLooper and from there I get the chance to just turn off the dry sound source and put on all the effects...well some of the effects depending on what parts. So what I’ve done with this original live loop, I respond to in the effects, and I’ll loop up some of the effects and then I’ll turn the dry sound source back on. Then I’ll perform something that responds to that.
The way that ‘Mulch helps with that is the fact I can trigger samples and trigger loops, or develop loops and trigger them. It is definitely essential to the live performance because it allows me to develop something that wouldn’t be able to happen with one person otherwise. I can’t kind of change between these two instruments for example, or even just different ideas with this one instrument without this particular program. Because it’s just not going to happen with only two hands.
R: Just describe, step us through all the different parts of your setup? Obviously, you’ve got the banjo...
A: Yeah, so there’s the banjo. For a long time I used an acoustic guitar instead. That’s the instrument I love the most, I’m most comfortable with. I’m enjoying the banjo ‘cos it’s a bit of a challenge. I’m not a banjo player. I’m starting to slowly figure out how to do it. Either with this (the banjo) or the guitar, I feel’s a really important part of my setup because I just love having this kind of tactile thing to play with sometimes, and feed into everything else.
The other thing that I’ve really been enjoying lately is the (Keith McMillen Instruments) Softstep. Which is the foot pedal, I bought one recently. I’ve bought other foot pedals in the past. For whatever reason they’ve not been my thing but the Softstep’s really great. There’s a lot more you can do with them than what I’m doing with it, but even for right now, I can trigger different loops and that’s really great for this setup. So I can actually just have a good time responding to everything.
The (Novation) LaunchPad is another kind of thing, I bought it around the same time as the Softstep and it’s just another way I can trigger samples and trigger effects and turn things on and off really, really quickly. So both of those ones definitely interact the most with AudioMulch.
The synth, I finally found a good synth. I’ve borrowed ones and used other ones and everything for years. The (Arturia) MiniBrute, I really like it. It’s a weird hybrid analogue synth and not analogue. You can plug a USB in there as well but you can’t actually program anything. You get the sheets like you do with the old synths where you write down your own settings and everything like that. Like a lot of the older synths you actually have to tune it, which is usually really good but sometimes it wants to take a while to warm up, then it’s not so great.
I’ve got a soundcard down there, which at the moment is just a two-input soundcard. Sometimes I’ll have other instruments as well. So everything goes into the soundcard which relates to ‘Mulch and just goes straight in. At the moment I just have two outputs which can be really good. Sound people either love me or hate me. I think there’s a lot of things where people are doing things with electronics and computer music that an external person can sometimes add things in if they know what they’re doing. Change EQs or things like that...but if they change an EQ like this [with the mixed stereo configuration], what they’ve done may be great with the banjo but as soon as I turn to that [plays synth], it gets a bit complex.
They all definitely interact so...I can do my setup changing between most of these things really. I can get rid of the banjo and say use a guitar or...get rid of the synth and have guitar instead of that or I could have a little keyboard or an organ or things like that. The sound sources go into ‘Mulch and what I create in ‘Mulch with the various MIDI channels (controllers) and I respond to that with the instruments and go back and forth from there.
R: I guess there’s no reason why you couldn’t have multiple outs out of ‘Mulch so the live guy could have...?
A: Yeah definitely. I think that’s something I do need to work on eventually as well. Particularly some of these instruments where the EQ...They’re definitely different sounding instruments. I think I just need to spend some time and do that because that would be really good where possible to have the four outs...