King Roc's 2009 debut album Chapters was a critical sensation. Described by DJ mag as "arrestingly beautiful", it was that magazine's album of the month. Data Transmission called it "an absolute success and a futureclassic". Lodown described King Roc as "the forward thinking mastermind of 21st century club music", with Titel calling it "a veritable electronic opera" and De:bug describing it as "dance music grows up". But how does an artist whose music crosses from ambient to trip-hop to broken beat to cinematic techno take such a successful album on the road?
Can you tell a bit about yourself, how and why you got into music, a bit about your history and how you became successful ?
Music has been an important part of my life since I was around 10 years old when I got my first guitar. I started playing flamenco at first as the teacher I found was really good at this and I loved it. I still have that spanish acoustic guitar from back then and play it today. After moving into rock and punk bands I ended up playing guitars in a techno band called Sentience with Nick Fryer and Tom Neville. Unfortunately this went tits up.... I didn't like the way the music was going to be honest. So after the band split I started producing my own music and DJing every friday at a local rave-up-bar in South London called Inigo. Out of this came some productions I put out under the name King Roc and I have been working under that name since then. I am now also working on another project called Two Armadillos which is with Giles Smith from Secretsundaze and I have recently starting working as Jericho Dub to give me an output for some alternative stuff like disco and deep.
How did you discover Jazzmutant's controllers?
I first heard about them from when I used to have a subscription to Computer Music. I remember when I first saw it I practically creamed myself. I mean come on... it's like working on music and being a pilot of the Star Ship Enterprise all in one go. What I didn't realise was just what could really be achieved on the controller until I got to try one belonging to a nutbar who has also set up his home to look like the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. Between takes he gave me a brief demonstration and I was developing my live show at the time. I was literally knocked of my feet with the possibilities. The thing that I love is that you can completely customise the layout and look of the controller to suit you exact needs. Of course this means it's not plug and play like the way a lot of controllers market themselves. You do have to take some time to develop your own profile but I have always loved all things visual and for me this was also part of what makes the Lemur so exciting to get into.
Why did you choose to use it above other products on the market?
I originally had a Novation Zero SL which isn't a bad piece of kit. However what makes the Lemur surpass all other controllers is that it gives you limitless options for controlling, for example, elements of your live show. The only limit is your imagination. I would, for example, be messing around with a chain of plugins in Ableton Live on a send channel; once I have some interesting effect that I want to control I can then draw in the necessary faders, knobs and switches etc to control the value of the send effect applied and manipulate the individual effects in the chain. It basically means you can have limitless control over all your effects because you never run out of knobs as you would on any other physical midi controller.
How has using the controller changed the way you work?
Well I started off using the Lemur just for my live show but now I have started using it to create song arrangements. Because of the way I have laid out my live show I can create the new track elements for songs and then lay them out in real time, applying effects in real time to get a much more natural feel to the arrangement. I don't do this every time but its just another way to make sure you don't repeat your creative process too many times in the same way.
What do you find most useful about it in terms of features?
There are 3 features I absolutely love. The first is the Tab feature. You can create a container and then give that container tabs, for example setting up four tabs in total and in each tab setting up the controls for 4 send effects, A through D. This way you can switch between tabs but still have all other controls staying where they are. The next feature I love is the Physicssetup. This basically means you can set up a slider to control, for example, the low cut of your master output channel. By setting the Physics properties you can make the slider jump back to 100% (ie effect off) as soon as you remove your finger from the controller. I have set up this feature on a number of sliders in my show so I can manipulate the loop to create a build and all I have to do at the point of 'kick in' is remove my hands from the controller and the loop goes back to normal. Trust me, it is amazing fun! The third feature I love is the Multiball object. TheMultiball works like a standard X&Y axis controller that can be set to two parameters. You can then set the Physics of the ball's movement to respond with different frictions and speeds. You can also have as many balls as you want in a 'box' so you can control multiple parameters, adjusting the speed and friction of each or all the balls as you choose. Basically you can make a basic synth or effect come alive by moving so many parameters and elements at the same time. There is no other way to do this so organically, unless you have several people all controlling one synth at the same time.
What would you like to see in future revisions of the software?
I am new to the Lemur so don't have any issues with the software as yet. The only thing I would say to new users is that once you get into the Lemur you will have to get to grips with programming the device. This programming is basically the part that makes the Lemur so unique. What it requires is for you to set how you would like one controller like a Slider to effect the properties of another controller, like a Multiball. It's not the easiest thing to get your head into but the guys who work at JM are really cool and will answer your queries as you get them.
How important is the visual aspect of your performance?
It's always going to be hard for a electronic performer to make their show look as interesting as a full band playing instruments. I do feel, however, that if you can show the audience that you are manipulating elements in real time you should try and show that, since so many people are doing very little in their shows that is actually live. I come from a band background so see no point in creating a show that I can't manipulate and move about in different ways. Otherwise you might as well just DJ.
What are your plans for the near future?
I have some touring coming up and am working new material for the clubs after having just released my first album. I spent a long time thinking about the album sound so it feels good to be back on some beats. I am also looking at the options available to how I can use the Lemur for as much studio work as possible because the more you are using your hands when you write the more fun you will have in my opinion. Watch King Roc's video tutorial http://www.kingroc.com/
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