Custom MIDI Guitar Is Destroid’s Secret Weapon for Playing Live Dubstep

destroid guitar

Dubstep supergroup Destroid — Canadian bass artists Excision and Downlink and drummer KJ Sawka from Pendulum — are taking their live show to the next level and beyond. With costumes influenced by Daft Punk to sci-fi flicks like Alien and Tron, their secret ingredient is a specially designed custom MIDI guitar enabling them to control Ableton Live as they rock out. In an open letter to their fans, Excision explained to the trio’s fans how they’re using new technology to break sonic boundaries.

From the outset, the goal of Destroid’s live show was to have just that.. a live show. To create the real world of these characters, they each needed the ability to perform and react in real time. With that goal in mind, we began designing the interactive system. It’s a tech-nerd’s dream; an incredible synergy of performance & technology requiring borderline insane problem solving, not to mention inventing some new ways to throw control signals around a venue!

Custom MIDI Guitars with LED fretboards, a body full of pads & knobs, and string triggers were being fabricated by Starr Labs in San Diego. They make the most responsive, velocity sensitive, 6-string, 24-fret MIDI instruments we had seen. (Excision Midi Guitar pictured above). To make these guitars behave as we wanted our tech guy Matt wrote a Max/MSP external that allowed us to easily control Ableton Live. This included on-the-fly mapping changes, a multiple output port routing system, pathways for the appropriate LED feedback, and MIDI to Artnet conversion to send commands through to the lighting console (for CO2 blasts & helmet and arm-mounted lasers, and many more “weapons” we have yet to unveil).

Our two redundant Ableton playback systems take MIDI-In (via MIDI Solutions Thrus & Merges) from the Midi Guitars, KJ’s Roland V Drums, and from a pair of Roland FC300 footswitches that Jeff & Sean use to control effects, mapping changes etc. All drums parts & bass samples are played live, in Ableton samplers and drum racks. We had to actually split our 75 minute set in to two separate projects as Ableton could not handle having an entire sets worth of individual samplers/drum racks for each bass sample/drum hit.

The suits are nothing short of amazing. Although they are insanely heavy (something we are working to give us more flexibility and energy on stage) they have on-board power, under-suits that circulate cold water, helmet microphones, and in-ear monitors. All embedded RGB LEDs are individually addressable & controlled by the lighting team on their console via wireless DMX.

There are also a lot of moving pieces to the visual show. We’re sending song unique SMPTE time code from the Ableton rigs to control all lighting and video cues. Some of these cues are built into the structure of each song, others are triggered from the guitars and drums. A video rig running Modul8 sends the video output to a projector that makes post-apocalyptic cityscapes and spaceship control center backdrops come alive.

Together this creates a dynamic show that delivers a unique story to the audience. There’s room for tweaking and improvements in all departments, having only played one show together both as artists and as a 16 person crew. We’re extremely happy with how things went and are looking looking forward to the future as we experiment with this groundbreaking technology to continually develop the most insane experience possible with our fans. We have only scratched the surface, and are excited to see Destroid evolve.

Big Shot Guest Mix: GOLD (Sub Slayers)

Since 2009 Jay Cunning’s Sub Slayers has blazed new sonic trails blending dubstep and jungle into future jungle. During this time Cunning has put his money where his mouth is by finding up-and-coming talent and giving them exposure on his label. In addition to helping the careers of High Rankin, Rack N Ruin, King Yoof, Schema, Gella and ID, Sub Slayers’ GOLD has been tearing it up lately, remixing for the likes of King Yoof and pushing boundaries with original productions.

In addition to knowing his way around the mixing desk, GOLD knows a thing or two about how to mix a set. On this exclusive Big Shot Guest Mix, comprised exclusively of his own productions, co-productions and remixes, GOLD offers an array of mega tracks on this sprawling 22-track session. Download and enjoy.

Big Shot Guest Mix: GOLD (Sub Slayers)

1. Jingbong Ting feat. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh And Bunny Wailer / “Mr Brown” (Gold Remix) (Forthcoming Sub Slayers)
2. Aries / “Herbsmoke” (Gold Remix) (Sub Slayers – Neuro Funk EP)
3. Gold feat. Parly B / “My Selector” (Sub Slayers – Neuro Funk EP)
4. Gold / “Junglist Recidivation” (Dubplate)
5. Gold / “45 War” (Sub Slayers)
6. Max Powa feat. Horace Andy / “Do You Love” (Gold Remix (Powa Dubs)
7. Chopstick Dubplate feat. Lion Man / “Woman Gi We It” (Gold Remix) (Chopstick Dubplate)
8. King Yoof vs Gold / “Respect” (Forthcoming Sub Slayers)
9. Gold / “Knowledge Is Power” (Sub Slayers – Neuro Funk EP)
10. Gold feat. Nike / “The Rhythm” (Sub Slayers – Neuro Funk EP)
11. Omni Trio / “Thru The Vibe” (Gold Re Edit) (Dubplate)
12. Lady Waks / “Round The Globe” (Gold Remix) (Forthcoming Menu Music)
13. Adam Prescott feat. Jah Screechy &Amp; Dynimite MC / “On A Dubstep Tip” (Gold Remix) (Forthcoming Nice Up!)
14. Rebel MC / “Wickedest Sound” (Gold, Aries & Murda Remix) (Congo Natty Dubplate)
15. Gold Vs King Yoof / “Tick A Toc” (Forthcoming Sub Slayers)
16. Aries, Gold, Bevan + Andy Sim / “Sun Is Shining Vip” (Roots Recordings dubplate)
17. Tango / “Project 1” (Aries & Gold Remix) (Official dubplate)
18. Gold / “Hold Tight” (Forthcoming Pure Vibez)
19. Aries & Gold / “Untitled Dub” (Forthcoming On Point)
20. Bladerunner Vs Lionfire / “Ruff Ryder” (Dread Recordings)
21. Friendly Fire feat. Murray Man / “Make Contacts” (Aries, Gold & Jinx Remix) (Forthcoming SWST)
22. Aries & Gold / “In Your Eyes” (dubplate)

Adam F Talks Dubstep and Fusing Genres

As Adam F heads to Miami’s Winter Music Conference and ponders his next studio move, the British DJ/producer/actor says he’s planning to build off the recent successes he’s had with harder acts he’s worked with, like Nero, The Prodigy and Pendulum.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the label (Breakbeat KAOS) for quite a few years, developing a few acts that we’re real excited about who are now part of the worldwide scene,” he tells Big Shot. “It’s time for me to get back in the studio myself.”

With some prime slots at WMC, and a looming U.S. tour with Caspa later this year, Adam F has given fans a taste of where he might be headed, musically, with his latest single, “When the Rain Is Gone,” a pop-laced, dubstep jaunt, driven by a euphoric hook.

But as the indie mogul who signed Nero and released Pendulum’s first platinum album, Hold Your Colour, he admits a deep dedication to the EDM’s harder, more rock-oriented edge.

“It’s just a different part of me,” he explains. “I like that epic sound — that really edgy, in your face, raw sound, like The Prodigy. It gives me a chance to be less organized within the music. It’s more free to go left with it when you work with people like Prodigy, which is exciting. And obviously people like The Prodigy, they’ve got such a big influence on the dance scene, that you feel you have to step up to the plate to deliver.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together.”

Adam has also worked with some of hip-hop’s top acts as well — from Redman to Pharaoh Monche to De La Soul to L.L. Cool J.

The L.L. Cool J collaboration, which was on LL’s 2000 smash, G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of All Time), was a true partnership in every sense. Adam not only produced the track, but did backing vocals and spent extensive time in the studio in New York with the rap icon, even rounding up girls from the streets to sing backup.

“That was fucking crazy,” he recalls of the experience. “I grew up with those guys, went to see them. I remember when Def Jam did that tour with Run-DMC, LL, The Beastie Boys. I went to that. So to work with him, that was an amazing experience.”

The hip-hop and rock influence has always made its presence felt in Adam’s music. With dubstep blurring the genre lines even further, he’s heading back into the studio, where he says he’ll toss convention aside and meld several styles into what he hopes will be a new electronic masterpiece.

“The new generation of music lovers and club goers have been less genre-specific than ever before. I’m excited now that so many new genres are fusing together,” he says. “And unlike any other time in club music history, people are going into clubs and hearing such a cross-genre of styles.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together,” he continues. “That’s why for me, it’s a good time to come back in to make music as Adam F, because it’s quite open now.”