Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak - and he's going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak – and he’s going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

It’s “the science of being imperfect” – and Mad Zach is one heck of a mad scientist at it.

We all know Ableton Live productions, even sometimes from fairly skilled music makers, can get painfully stuck on the grid. If that’s the disease, Mad Zach has the cure. Armed with Ableton Live and together with releasing a very special, very useful sound pack, this insanely-prolific DJ, producer, writer, and educator has some advice for how to get the soul and groove back in your machines.

CDM teamed up with our friends at Beatport Sounds to work with Zach on an instructional video that goes deeper into the craft of the groove. And I love what Zach has done with the tutorial. If you’re still learning your way around Live, I think you’ll still like it — just follow along the beginner and intermediate tutorials first before you tackle it. At the same time, if you’ve got a bit more production under your belt, it won’t insult your intelligence. I learned something, and I’ve been using Live since 1.0.

Highlights, as we “escape the grid”:
How to use the (oddly underused, misunderstood) Grooves section in Live
Extract an original TR-909 shuffle
Drawing in swing
Recording MIDI controllers

Now, some background:

Zach has been hard at work with Beatport on his Deep House Project, a sound library and construction kit both for live performances and music creation. It couldn’t come at a better time, I think: saying “Deep House” is only marginally more specific than saying “Techno.” It’s like saying “cheeseburger” or “pizza” – quality can vary.

The Deep House Project isn’t just a sound pack, a big box of LEGOs for making a generic toy. It’s a set of instruments, a gig and a half of material with hundreds of loops and analog synths and the like, and it’s designed around controllers so you can tweak everything, modify everything. You get 24-bit samples of the TR-909, Juno 106, Moogerfoogers, and British tube channel strip, drum racks, macros, synth racks, the lot.

In other words, you get a tool set that is tailored to the genre, but once you start twisting knobs and changing patterns and actually playing, you can come up with something that sounds … well, that sounds nothing like Mad Zach, in a good way.

I hope it catches on. The Beatport Sounds section is working with some great producers, but I know my heart sinks a little when I read the top ten list on some days – only because any producer expecting to download some top drops and make a track work is probably in for a rude awakening. And, worse, they’re missing out on half the fun. Now, not every piece of music needs to be experimental; there’s something beautiful about the way styles and genres build communities. But it should be possible to be original inside that genre, and this is that.

It’s that for one good reason: it’s built in a way that invites you to dig in and play. And Zach is one of the most active people on the planet carrying that gospel.

Here’s a look at the pack:

Have a go at that sound pack – it’s a stunningly-good buy:
Mad Zach’s Lab: Deep House

And do check the full tips/tricks/tutorials page with Mad Zach. It’s a tutorial on Deep House, but it’s also an Ableton Live tutorial, and offers insights whether you’re curious about dabbling in this genre or could care less (though it might get you hooked before you’re done watching, fair warning).

We’ll have Q&A with Zach tomorrow on CDM, because I really wanted to know more about his work.

  • leolodreamland

    there’s something really cool about mad zach. he get’s it in a way that i don’t think ean golden ever did.

  • not amused

    Can I have my CDM back? You know, the site I used to read which featured the interesting part of electronic music? Obscure performance artists, crazy PD and Max patching, field recording, ambient sounds, …?

    If I wanted to read advertisements (and please could you mark paid content as such?) about beatport-samplepacks, I’d go over to DJTT.

    • Peter Kirn

      This isn’t paid content. Yes, we mark that as such. I’m actually ethically and perhaps legally obligated to do so.

      I actually sat down with Zach and talked about what I would want to see in a tutorial. And like I said, I learned something.

      CDM has always been, without compromise, about everything. It’s been about live performance and improvisation over construction.

      Part of the reason I’ve been steadfast in covering experimental music is because I think you can learn something from any genre.

      And for ten years I’ve also covered dance music, I’ve covered live performance, I’ve covered controllerism, I’ve covered vintage gear, I’ve covered Ableton Live, I’ve covered the techniques of using all of those things.

      Anything else is, sorry, snobbery.

    • foljs

      “””Can I have my CDM back? You know, the site I used to read which featured the interesting part of electronic music? Obscure performance artists, crazy PD and Max patching, field recording, ambient sounds, …?”””

      Can I NOT have THAT CDM back? You know, the not-interesting at all, “20-something discovers avant-garde, impovisation and noise for the first time”, thinks he’s the shit and does another ho-hum attempt at it that nobody cares for, except his friends…

    • Peter Kirn

      Ha, and so what we’ve learned is – someone is always unhappy.

      Yeah, I actually kind of like both those CDMs, which is probably I wound up writing both of them…

      I’ve never, ever had a publication that I wanted to read 100% from cover to cover, because that sort of publication would mean I wasn’t discovering anything at all.

      Actually, fairly certain “obscure performance artists, crazy PD and Max patching, field recording, ambient sounds” have all been covered literally in the last 14 days, hopefully in a way that didn’t bore anyone to tears.

    • Tim

      Keep up the good work! Your website rocks. It has always been a good read :) I follow it every day

    • ToneHead

      This is why John Gruber doesn’t do comments! I’d also like to add a vote of confidence re: your general direction. Although I partly agree with foljs, in that some of the artists featured seem more focused on process than results of process, but I mostly come here to learn about other people’s processes, which can be instructive even when one does not appreciate the results they’re producing.

    • Peter Kirn

      Right, but Daring Fireball isn’t CDM. 😉 I appreciate why he does it … but at the same time, discussion — even sloppy discussion — is part of what provides feedback for the site, important debates, important ideas. If we turned comments off, we’d lose that. I don’t have to agree with everything. And it’s worth stepping in now and then to make sure things stay civil.

    • Bobby A

      PK, this article is exactly the kind of content I enjoy on CDM, keep up the good work. The Ableton articles are the most practically useful to me, but the weird artist spotlights open me up to new ideas during downtime. Best of both worlds.

  • ai

    This is not serious!

  • André et Michèle

    Interesting but not a fan of the marketing angle . . . never previously considered Mad Zach to be a “master” of Deep House.

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, that’s why it isn’t my marketing angle. It was Beatport, and to their audience, genre comes first. For CDM – and for what I had to say – the genre here was secondary. But I thought the quality of what he did was terrific. I think a skilled producer ought to be able to do something in any genre.

    • André et Michèle

      Always glad you focus on the content and not the packaging!

  • chap

    On the video you can hear glitches everytime he adds a new hit in the rhythm sequences. One of the reason i sold my push !

    • André et Michèle

      I thought that was my internet connection . . . does Push really do that?

    • chap

      Yeah, i am afraid it does.
      Another thing is extra massive digital weird hum when you touch a knob while holding a guitar.

    • Observing

      That sounds more like an issue with your set up. Check for ground loops. People have plenty of complaints about Push, but these two issues are hardly common complaints. Sounds like electric issues and buffer size problems.

    • chap

      Well, i’ve already sold it, but i can guarantee you that the hum problem was way stranger than a simple ground problem. It was creating high pitch digital noise, the pitch changing with the knob moves.
      As for the clicks, i had nothing crazy about my setup (i’ve been touring with live for years now) but it clicked also badly when arming / unarming tracks.
      Anyway, Push is not for me also for functional reasons.
      Thanks for helping.

    • ToneHead

      I haven’t used Push, but as a guitarist/synthesist/producer, I can say that virtually every digital hardware device I’ve ever used can produce EMF interference with guitars, especially single-coil pickups. Few digital devices are fully Faraday shielded, but one can mostly blame it on the defects in traditional high impedance guitar pickup design. Everyone who engineers a digital audio device should test it in proximity to a Stratocaster before the final design is approved. Some devices are worse than others, but I appreciate this comment relative to the Push because EMF interference is rarely mentioned in reviews, but crucial to my application (at least when guitar is involved).

    • ToneHead

      And of course, for most of us USB or FireWire are being used, and these interfaces were not originally designed for audio at all and are a huge potential source of problems – like the ground loop I get when a DSI Tetra is connected via USB MIDI, but recorded through a FireWire interface. (Note to self: purchase a USB isolator.)

    • Bobby A

      Push is the best. If mine died right now I’d order a replacement in a heartbeat.

    • Mad Zach

      that’s actually only happening because I was screen recording at the same time, and screenflow is a total CPU hog.

      normally it doesn’t make those sounds if the buffer is at a proper level

  • DOG

    I for one appreciated the tutorial video! I’m putting off switching to Ableton for as long as possible, but it gives me an idea of things it can do plus reminds me of things I’m not taking advantage of on existing gear.

    I understand hate on sample packs, but I also also used drum loops as a starting point frequently years ago, so they have their merits.

  • Proper English

    It’s COULDN’T care less, not could, that makes no sense. I presume the writer of this article is American?