Performing live is always an interesting proposition for a lot of electronic, ambient and experimental musicians. Quite often the first question they might ask themselves is whether they should attempt to re-create their studio recordings live - which in many cases may be impossible - or simply compose something new that's designed to be performed. So far my approach to performing Inventors of Aircraft music live has fallen nearer the former. Not necessarily recreating studio tracks exactly as they are on an album, but to use the material as the basis of a live set and still keep something of the originals. So when Dan asked me to record a live session for Fluid Radio my first thought was to re-work tracks from the latest Inventors album 'Where The Light Stops.'
In the studio pretty much all TIOA tracks are made in a very 'live' environment, using samplers manipulated in real time and keyboard parts played live. Currently this is a completely digital set up, all samplers and synths are virtual and everything is recorded into Logic as midi data which can then be re-edited and re-worked until a track is finished. With this studio set up it's not that hard to then adapt it into something I can use for live performance. For the Fluid Radio session once I'd picked material from the new album that would work best live it was just a case of going through each of the tracks and streamlining their technical setup. This meant opening up the file of the original studio versions and removing anything that was pre-recorded (sound files or captured midi data) until all I was left with were the instruments. The next step was to run through each track and work out how I would perform it. As each set up was now just a rack of instruments and effects in Logic's mixer I had complete freedom to re-arrange the music in any way it worked best. Generally I'd start with the original studio arrangement as a guide and play through it until I found something that didn't work live, so I'd modify the track and try again. The nice thing about this process was over time the tracks evolved from their original versions into new live versions, in some cases almost becoming new tracks. Working like this enabled me to come up with a live set that could be played as naturally and freely as possible but kept to my plan of retaining something of the original studio recordings.
In the end I had about a week to get my thirty to forty minute set together before the recording took place in a studio in East London. Playing in front of a few people in a quiet room rather than a larger venue and a live audience is quite a different experience and took a little getting used to, but Pascal (recording the session) and Gianmarco (filming) where incredibly helpful without being intrusive and once I'd fired up my synths I actually found the whole experience incredibly satisfying - there's something quite special about playing music in a dedicated and controlled environment, the focus is completely on listening without any distractions. The session was recorded completely live and in one take and listening back to it now I'm really happy with how it came out. This particular set was a lot of fun to create and perform and something I'd really like to take to other venues and audiences. - Phil Tomsett (TIOA)
Photography and 37 minute audio recording: