Like the best tracks, “Wirefire” feels like it takes the journey of an entire DJ set and compresses it down to six minutes. And that’s just the title track of Clavis‘ new EP on Jimpster’s Freerange Records.
Clavis is the production duo of Manuel Tur and Adrian Hoffman (aka Urban Absolutes). Friends since high school, they followed their own paths until collaborating on the Banza EP for Freerange in 2015. Following with one joint EP a year plus assorted remixes, the project is back on Freerange with the sensational Wirefire EP, showcasing maybe the heaviest sound they’ve ever put to record. The EP is out April 24 2020 worldwide.
We spoke to Manuel Tur and Adrian Hoffman about the making of “Wirefire” and making, playing and reading a livestream crowd’s response to new music in a time of quarantine.
With electronic music production so often being one person at a desk, people are always curious about the process of two people working together. Are you in the same room together when you’re making Wirefire or are you remote? And how do you make that work?
For two and a half years now we have been running our space, Islenyo Studios in Essen, Germany. Fortunately, this gives us the opportunity to work together in one room as well as separately in our own control rooms. Initial track ideas for our joint projects such as Clavis or Amberoom are mostly developed in collective jams and less often in individual sessions. On this basis we then work out and finalize those tracks that we both feel are really worth it. For us, this works best in a dialogue, when we are sitting together at the same workstation.
For working remotely, what are some essential tools that you use? (It seems this question has more relevance now!) Apps or software or platforms that you use?
Even in a shared studio, some tasks can be done more effectively in separate rooms, such as replacing individual tracks with other instruments or fine tuning the mixdown. To this end, it is important for us that our computers are synchronized in certain aspects. For example, in the studio we both use the same DAW (Presonus Studio One) and often the same plug-in packages when they have proven to be useful for working together. Combined with cloud storage solutions for saving and sharing projects (Dropbox, WeTransfer, Google Drive), this makes it very easy to switch between different workstations inside or outside the studio.
Listen: #StayHomeDisco Clavis April 2020 Mix
In our experience, however, it is better to do most of the creative work in collective sessions. In many productions we like to use hardware synths, drum machines and outboard effects, which we manipulate together in a kind of live setting. While modern technology now makes it possible to also do this remotely, we prefer the somewhat less complicated way of going to each other’s control room.
Instruments we have been using quite a lot on Clavis tracks are the Roland HPD-20, the Moog Sub 37 and most recently a vintage Crumar Performer-2 string machine we picked up really cheap from a guy’s basement in our town.
What equipment or software did you use for “Wirefire” (the track)? Was there anything new (for you) or unusual?
“Wirefire” originally emerged from a live jam that we built around a rhythmic synth sequence we had programmed in Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere. Recording, arrangement and a few simple effects were done on the computer in Studio One and with the help of some overdubs from a Dave Smith Instruments REV2. For the mixdown we sent the rhythm section on individual tracks to a vintage TAB T40 mixing console and compressed it quite heavily with an Overstayer Stereo VCA compressor, before sending the signal back with the remaining tracks to a Rupert Neve Designs 5059 summing mixer. In fact, we thought we had totally over compressed the drums on this one and wanted to do a cleaner mix for the final release, but it eventually turned out we just couldn’t recreate that same vibe so we ended up using the very rough first mix. At this point, we should definitely mention Shane The Cutter from Finyl Tweek, who provided an excellent master.
From the DJ’s perspective, it sounds like “Wirefire” (the track) was built around the drums. Is that true, and is that how you usually start developing a track? If not, what is your creative process for writing?
“Wirefire“ is definitely built around the rhythm and the track doesn’t really have much more musical information. It’s a very straight-forward club track. However, we don’t have a standard formula for how to start developing a track. It could be a rhythm pattern, a sample or a chord progression that gets the ball rolling.
Wirefire is maybe the heaviest track I’ve heard from you individually or as Clavis. Is this heralding a new direction or a one-off?
You’re right, the track certainly stands out as perhaps the heaviest one in the Clavis discography so far. However, we have been working with quite a number of techno artists in the past and this is not our first excursion into rougher territory. For example, Manuel used to have a side-project called Ribn (together with Langenberg) where the two would play hardware-only live techno sets and put out some really heavy stuff, too.
We see “Wirefire” as a kind of homage to some British warehouse records from the 1990s we love by artists like Swag, DJ Q or X-Press 2, and we don’t think it’s going to be a one-off!
One of the things about livestreaming is it’s a different sort of crowd response than a DJ would get, if you can pick up on any response at all. Are the sorts to test out new productions while DJing, and can you still do that under lockdown?
On the one hand, it is certainly difficult, if not impossible, to test new tracks for their club functionality under exclusion of the public. On the other hand, since we don’t expect clubs to reopen in the near future, we get a pretty good picture of how people in live streams react in real time to the more musical aspects of our productions. For “Wirefire” this means that the track hasn’t been played in live streams as often as it probably would in a club scenario. On the other hand, we’re happy that the whole range of tracks from our new EP has been played by people like Jimpster, Fish Go Deep or John Digweed in their radio shows and live streams, and it’s great to read the feedback of the listeners in the comments.