Bum Tschak Interviews with WaveDNA

“Try to find out what it is that you truly wanna hear from yourself. Break it down to a minimum of elements. If you like what you have, spread it out. Be carefully brave.”

Harry Bum Tschak has been a part of the German drumming community for many years. He has recorded and/or performed with top acts like Nena, Pohlmann, Right Said Fred, Finkenauer, and international guitar virtuosos like Jerry Donahue (USA) and Marcus Deml’s Errorhead (CZ/GER). He has had the pleasure to work with American Indie icon Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M.) as well as with Dutch ueber-producer JB Meijers. Over the years, Harry has also been a member of various orchestras performing major theatre productions such as Disney’s Lion King, Abba’s Mamma Mia and Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers. Together with duo partner MK and their Hybrid Electro Project MUTTERSOEHNCHEN they had surprising success as participants at the Bundesvision Song Contest 2011. HBT endorses Yamaha Drums, Paiste Cymbals; Agner Drumsticks, Fischer Amps/UE In-Ear Systems, Audix Microphones and Ableton Live. Read on to learn more.

Who are you and where are you from? Labels? Affiliations?

Harry Bum Tschak, Drummer. Berlin. I work as a freelance musician, beatmaker and Ableton Certified Trainer.
Together with my partner MK we run our tiny label Horst Records, on which we released our first “Muttersoehnchen” album in 2011 entitled “1”.

Do you remember your first introduction to music software?

I remember recording drums in a friends studio in the mid 90’s and being totally amazed by this early DAW – don’t remember the name – and the visualisation of waveforms and the new possibilities of editing.

Often times users of music production software migrate through a few different programs until they settle down with one or more that speak to their personal needs and workflows, could you describe your journey through the DAW world?

A few years later I got a copy of Emagic’s Logic 5 from a friend, who was one of the programmers there and so I learned the basics of working with a DAW, but it wasn’t until I got my hands on Ableton Live 4 (with MIDI implementation) before I really got into the matter. I instantly loved Ableton’s session view and the warping concept and that things were easy to handle. Although, until today I sometimes use Cubase for multitrack drum recording and destructive editing.

Please describe your workflow with regards to your creative process.

Since I’m a drummer, one challenging approach is to work with the computer while sitting behind the kit. So, being able to record on the fly, process and fire my drums, and vocals (and sometimes other instruments) is a main topic for me. It can become quite complex. My hands and feet are mostly busy playing the drum kit, so I use a footswitch, drumpads, and all kinds of controllers to control and manipulate my signals. I just love controllers. Also, i’m into using Ableton as a “band-brain” on stage. It manages clicktracks, monitoring for all musicians, changes of effects patches and so on.

How do you use Liquid Rhythm in the studio or on stage? Both?

So far I have used Liquid Rhythm only in the studio. But with the Max for Live and Ableton Push integration, it should be really interesting to also use it as a “left hand instrument” by adding percussion or pitched sounds while playing live beats. The possibility of choosing conscious or random pattern-variations by pressing a pad on the Ableton Push in 8th note steps promises lively results! And everything is reflected instantly in Live’s clips, that’s awesome! The mix of getting surprised by Liquid Rhythm, if I want to, and on the other hand to have basically every mathematical possibility of note combinations at my fingertips is really nice. I guess, the longer I work with the software, the more I can make really creative use of that mixture.

What hardware controllers do you use with Liquid Rhythm?

Ableton Push.

Describe the process of beginning a song? Do you start with a drum rhythm or with a melody?

I couldn’t really tell you to be honest, except for that I usually star in Live’s session view. Sometimes I start with a recorded multitrack drumbeat or stereo submix, sometimes I program a rhythmic idea or have Ableton’s Audio to MIDI function recreate my own recordings. But it can also be a vocal idea, a recorded sample, a bass line that pops into my head, or even something I sampled from the TV that kicks me off. Once the basic feel and tempo of an idea is kind of clear, I take it from there.

Mac or PC?


Creatively speaking, what kind of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out and looking to get into making electronic music?

* Learn the things you need to know in your DAW. You don’t have to be aware of every possibility the software offers, but of what’s relevant for your personal needs. Wasting time on technical issues while being in a creative process is such a mood-killer.
* Try to find out what it is that you truly wanna hear from yourself. Break it down to a minimum of elements. If you like what you have, spread it out. Be carefully brave.
* While sketching and creating your ideas, don’t worry about a perfectly EQ-ed sound. Mixing and detail work come later in the process.
* No pressure. It’s your music, so first and most importantly you have to like it. Accept that making music is a life long learning process. Success is a present, not an obligation.

What do you want to see from music production software in the future?

To be honest, I’m pretty amazed about today’s reality. Imagine, I use my iOS device via OSC to wirelessly control the system, I can create a whole track with a single hardware device, and I can almost seamlessly switch between studio and stage. Since I do remember the “old days”, I really appreciate today’s possibilities. What I have inside my MacBook Pro today would have cost me the equivalent of a home when I started out to be a professional musician but of course, there is always headroom for more stability, less cpu consumption and latency issues plus workflow improvements. I`m pretty sure things will evolve in this direction more and more in the future. The concept of a modular system like Max for Live inside a DAW to build your own devices and problem-solvers is also phenomenal.

What projects are you currently involved with?

I have very recently moved from Hamburg to Berlin. My own band Muttersoehnchen – based in Hamburg – is in a hold position at the moment. When I’m not in my recording workspace creating beats and expanding my setup, I give Ableton workshops and help fellow musicians with their electronica needs, but the main goal behind my move to Berlin is to get involved in new interesting projects that challenge me as a drummer and musician. So, give me a call!

What are some pain points in your production workflow you’d love to see improved?

Syncing two computers via MIDI can be a pain. Although it works pretty fine in general, it is a cpu-hungry feature for the slave computer. If you have a pretty large setup like mine with multiple audio I/O, plug ins, instruments, and running in slave mode the cpu power that is taken by the syncing process can make the (negative) difference. My partner MK and I had a lot of trouble with that so he came up with two Max devices – one for the master computer and one for the slave – that enabled us to sync the machines avoiding the internal MIDI sync. It works pretty good, but is still kind of a hack around.

Who do you think we should interview next?

Rick Rubin.

Check out more info on Bum Tschak on his website: www.bum-tschak.com

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