User Preferences: Tech Q&A With KiloWatts
Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: KiloWatts
The CreatorsProject: Who are you and what do you do?
KiloWatts: I’m Jamie Watts. I produce electronic music in Philadelphia under the name KiloWatts. I like cultivating weird succulents. I grow my own vegetables. I vape electronic cigarettes. I love big oak barrel-aged Russian imperial stouts. And dark roasted coffee with just a dollop of heavy cream.
What kind of hardware to you use?
Completely digital. I use a range of mixers and MIDI controllers. Lately I’ve been digging into a Waldorf Microwave XT, which is giving me some rather fat pulse wave sounds. I began producing at the advent of the digital age, so analog gear was never a huge part of my rig.
What kind of software do you use?
Top three VSTs at the moment are Massive, Reaktor, and Image-Line’s Harmor. Producing in Cubase 6.5, and Ableton Live for performance. I’m also excited about Bitwig. It’s good to see another software company expanding on what Ableton created as a viable template for the future of live performance. I’m excited to see where both companies go from here.
What piece of equipment can you simply not live without?
My reference monitors! I mean, they’re generally the most important part of the entire setup. Second to that, my refrigerator.
If money were no object, how would you change your current set up?
Oh good, let’s see. For monitors, I’d have the Event Opals (actually this will happen soon, oh yes). A range of analog compressors, say an Avalon or Manley VariMu. Studios tend to grow organically though. If I were suddenly uprooted and placed in a studio with the best of the best, it would take me five years to bond with the gear properly. As a music producer, I learn how to get the best sound out of what I have, so in a way it doesn’t matter. If I didn’t have a studio, I’d be playing the piano. For now though, the first pieces I mentioned are on my upgrade list.
Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
The tracker—early 90s. When I was 13, I downloaded a copy of DOS-based Farandole Composer and the music was at my fingertips. Granted, most of the audio samples I was working with were 8 bit and 22KHz sample rate coming out of my Gravis Ultrasound. And there was no actual sound modulation—just tracking of samples. But that was enough! Countless hours were spent making countless hours of music using the most rudimentary of tools.
What is your favorite piece of technology from your childhood?
The tape recorder! My first “studio” was a rig of microphones, tape recorders, and turntables hooked together. I was nine. I would record bits of the radio, my dad’s old records, and various things with the tape recorder, and splice them together onto cassettes. I had this big red plastic tape recorder that never left my side. Usually it was filled with recordings of me and my sister being goofballs. But hey, it made for some great sample material!
What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
A 3D multitouch interactive DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). We’re headed in this direction already, but I think getting rid of the mouse is the way to go. My wrist hurts. A Minority Report-esque workstation seems to be on most peoples’ minds as the next step.