Feature in Computer Music Magazine Feb 2022 [Full unedited interview]

Alongside the 6-part series of tutorial videos about Ableton Live 11 Lite I made for the Feb '22 issue of Computer Music Magazine, I also did an interview. The one that was published was quite radically cut down, so here's the interview in full:

Can you give me a biog about yourself, how and why you got into music production?

My two main obsessions growing up were music and computers, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would end with a career producing music on a computer! I started learning the piano from six years old, as well as singing in the school choir. I was an 80’s kid with home computers in their infancy, so the first sequencer I used was called ‘MIDItrack Performer’ using an EMR interface on a BBC B computer. I connected my Yamaha DX-7 and Roland S-10 sampler, and together with a Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder (borrowed from my uncle), I was making early demos in my teens. At the same time, I was in a band at school, and we used to spend weekends rehearsing and playing gigs whenever we could. Our school friends were really supportive, making flyers and turning up to our small gigs.

Once I left school and went to University in London, I continued to get together with my school bandmates to work on demos. We were called ‘The K-Creative’ and influenced by Hip Hop, House, and Jazz. It led to us being signed to Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label in 1991, and this was officially the start of my music career.

After releasing our debut album ‘QED’ we ended up going our separate ways, but I started to work more on my production skills, writing with other artists, making radio jingles, and playing at jam sessions to build up my network of contacts. This eventually led to a record deal with Columbia France in 2000, and I went on to release three solo albums, ‘Life Changes’, ‘Rising Son’ and very recently ‘Short Circuits’. Throughout my career, I have also played keyboards with bands and artists like Galliano, Raw Stylus, Two Banks of Four, and Kylie Minogue, remixed over 50 tracks, and worked at Xenomania. I currently release music on my own label, Primaudial Records, continue writing and producing with artists such as Incognito, Dave Lee, Duke Dumont, and Valerie Etienne, as well as having an ambient electronic project called Ayota.

And how did you go from there to become an Ableton Certified Trainer?

I moved to Cubase on an Atari St, and then Logic on a Mac, which I used for many of my early productions. It was around 2005 that I was asked to perform a live set at the Big Chill festival with my Ayota project, so I needed a way to loop up all the different elements to provide opportunities for improvising and adding extra parts on the fly. It was at this point that I bought Ableton Live (version 5), together with a Novation Remote SL and I started to learn the software and build my live set. After a while, I saw the possibilities for producing track with Live, and I gradually started using Logic less and less, never really looking back!

In 2012 I was invited by Jules Brookes (who was a member of the band Raw Stylus I’d played keyboards with ten years earlier) to do some online teaching at Point Blank Music School, where he had become the MD. I started teaching Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and some of the genre-based courses such as ‘Deep & Soulful House’ and ‘Minimal Techno’. I was very new to teaching, but really loved it and was soon asked to write a course for them, which was called ‘Electronic Music Composition’ (EMC). My aim was to teach compositional and music theory techniques in a fun, engaging way by ‘deconstructing’ well-known tracks to demonstrate techniques like Key signature, harmony, melody, and structure.

I started to make deconstruction videos for the Point Blank YouTube channel, and as they grew in popularity I presented them live at festivals including Sonar in Barcelona, Loop in Berlin, IMS in Malta, ADE in Amsterdam, LMC in London, and BMC in Brighton.

Ableton Live and Push provided the perfect tool for music education, as it allowed me to show a track being made from start to finish, building up loops in session view, and then ‘performing’ it live at the end, normally all in about 30 minutes.

Point Blank already had a really close relationship with Ableton, so I was often asked to make tutorial videos to coincide with the launch of new products such as Push or Live version updates. During this time I got to know the Ableton team in London really well and felt a very strong affinity to the company.

A real high point was being asked to perform a deconstruction of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy in Berlin at Ableton Loop in 2017, and it was around this time that I applied to become a Certified Trainer. As you may know, there is a long waiting list, but I finally got the opportunity to take the test and graduate as a CT this year!

And what does the job involve?

Becoming a Certified Trainer (CT) is a real privilege as it means I have a direct connection with both the teams in Berlin and the UK, and around the world. The position can take a number of different roles, from running Ableton user groups, giving lessons, creating tutorial or promotional content for Ableton, and presenting at events such as Loop. However, just as important is being a member of the CT community which shares skills and knowledge to improve teaching methods, solve problems and suggest updates.

It’s really great, as it’s through my role as Head of Education & Curriculum at Point Blank, I can pass on this knowledge very quickly to our lecturers and students, and help with the design of Ableton-oriented curriculum.

What is the most common production question you get asked (and your answer)?

“How can I make my track sound like xxxx?” I think this is a fantastic question, and one of the main reasons I started doing deconstructions, because I was asking myself the same question!. Critics might say that if everyone wanted to sound like everyone else then creativity gets watered down, but I disagree. It’s all about cross-fertilisation of techniques. For example, you might apply an element of drum programming from Drill to a Deep House track, and then turn a keyboard melody from a pop track into a bassline. It’s about learning the rules to break the rules.

A key part of analysing a track is identifying the sections and then writing them down. For example; 8 Bars - Intro / 16 Bars - Verse / 8 Bars - Pre Chorus etc. Even if the genre doesn’t lend itself to those traditional definitions, you can make up your own terminology. You will then be able to see patterns in the structure which you can use as a template for your own tracks. Without knowing it, you are already doing critical listening which is an important skill in itself!

What do you think are the three main features of Live that make it stand out?


This is just so intuitive and easy in Live. The first step of any of my track deconstructions is to warp the original master version, as well as other related audio files such as the acapella and the instrumental. I’ve tried going back to Logic Pro to do the same thing, and it always takes me twice the time! Also, being able to audition loops from the browser in time with the track massively speeds up creative workflow


Whether you are building a complex multilayered instrument or intricate effects processors, I love the way that racks allow you to create powerful devices that are entirely personal to you. It ties in with the modular approach that underpins the way many of Live’s audio devices were prototyped with Max. The added bonus of applying Macros to the racks makes them come alive, especially when you map them to hardware controllers such as Push.

Session View

I know this may be a bit of an obvious one, but it’s still the killer USP of Live (even though other DAWs have now introduced their own versions). I generally always start making tracks in Session View, as I find it less overwhelming not committing to an arrangement while I am still enjoying the creative process. When I do want to start structuring the track, I’ll build the sections as ‘Scenes’ and then jam them down into the Arrangement View. It then signals stage 2 of the production process where I can start adding in transitions, fills, and other details.

What are your favorite 5 plugins/apps made by other people and why!

This is probably my most used synth plugin! It’s an emulation of the classic Roland Juno-60, and not only sounds amazing but is quite low on CPU and really easy to program. My first ever analog synth was a Roland SH-101, and although this was only monophonic, I’m really familiar with the layout and architecture, so it’s easy to transfer to this plugin. Oh yeah, and the Juno-60 was also used by Larry Heard on his legendary House track, ‘Can You Feel It’ which I love!

This stands for ‘Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard’ is a super useful tool for visualising incoming MIDI notes on a keyboard. You can also set it up to accept MIDI events from your DAW. It’s a great educational tool that runs on all platforms and best of all is free!

This is a really great, simple-to-use audio editor made by Rogue Amoeba. Back in the day, I used to use a program called ‘BIAS Peak’ which has been discontinued now, but Fission is a great replacement. What I love the most is that you can edit mp3 files without having to convert them to wav or AIFF format, as well as being able to open mp4 video files where it automatically extracts the audio track for you.

I use this plate reverb from Universal Audio on just about everything. It has a really lush non-digital sound and is especially great on vocals. It was one of the reasons I ended up going down the UAD rabbit hole!

This innovative synth plugin is created by Magnus Lidström from SonicCharge, who has also made software for Reason and Teenage Engineering. Synplant takes a ‘genetic’ approach to sound creation by allowing you to plant ‘seeds’ that grow into synth patches - really great for ambient textures and blippy sounds! Maybe this was an inspiration for the ‘Inspired by Nature’ Ableton Max for Live devices?

What would you like to see developed in terms of software/studio technology and why?

That’s a hard one, as the producers of today already have an incredible amount of power at their fingertips. I am especially appreciative of the ‘total recall’ aspect of DAWs, as I remember having to write down every single channel strip setting on my Mackie 32 channel desk in case I ever needed to go back to mix!

I find the ‘AI’ aspect of software design very interesting, and although it might put me out of a job, from an educational perspective I’d love to see a DAW software that could analyse a track and create all the parts for you as MIDI, applying the correct sounds and even synthesised vocals. Ableton Live goes some way to doing that with its ‘Audio to MIDI’ function so I reckon it will possible one day!

What advice have you picked up from working in the studio?

Record everything! I picked this up from recording engineer and programmer, Simon Cotsworth. When I first started my writing partnership with Bluey from Incognito, Simon would be silently recording everything I played on the keyboards (without me realising), so it was super useful when Bluey would say “can you play that riff again”, as I could go back and listen to it. When you’re writing, it’s often the first things you come up with that are the freshest and most spontaneous, so I was happy when Live introduced the ‘Capture’ function.

Another thing I learned was DJ and producer Dave Lee’s approach to production, where he would dive into his huge vinyl library, pulling out tracks as direct reference points. It would be my job to fuse them together by replaying the parts in the same key to create something completely original. I love applying this collage technique to my own productions.

What have you got planned for the near future?

My next major musical project is to finish off another Ayota album which I started about five years ago. I’m excited to be collaborating with some Japanese vocalists on this one!

In January 2021, I started a weekly music production-based live Twitch stream (‘Ski Sunday’!) which I broadcast once a week for 26 weeks in a row but then had to take a break to concentrate on other projects. I’m planning to bring that back in 2022 and maybe get some of fellow Ableton CTs in as guests!

I’ve also got some new radio shows planned for the new year, including a focus on the Japanese artist Cornelius.

What is the future of music production in 100 words?!

More collaborative technology. Even if you are a solo artist, I think it’s important to work with other people, as this is how you learn. The necessity to be ‘jack of all trades’ these days can be a bit overwhelming, so I would love to see systems that make connecting easier. Ableton Link, and software like Beat Connect, Endless, and Pedál are going in the right direction, but as internet speeds increase, it would be amazing if there were platforms that allowed you to get input on all aspects of the production process, such as working with session musicians, mastering and even education.

You can purchase CM from the following places: Print | Digital