Deepchild

Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?

My name is Rick Bull, and I produce electronic music as "Deepchild." The moniker is one which has been around since around 1998, and covers a lot of sonic territory, with a focus on dub-heavy techno sounds. I've been performing as a musician and producer since 1995 — my first club-show, in Australia.

I have, however, only been working "full-time" as a musician for 10 years. I've been living in Berlin for about 4 years now, and most of my work is in clubs here and across Europe, with North American tours every 3 or 4 months. I've DJ'd and performed live sets at clubs/festivals like Berghain, Tresor, Detroit Electronic Music Festival, EXIT Festival (Serbia), SONAR Festival, Decibel Festival (US), New Forms Festival (Can), Electron Festival (Gen), and various clubs from Tokyo to Detroit.

I've released and remixed work for labels like Trapez, Get Physical, Sleaze Records, Thoughtless Music, Om Records, Freerange Records, Adjunct Audio, Affin, and more. Most recently, I'm happy to have a new EP for Caduceus Records. In addition, I've been producing sample/loop packs for DJs and producers for companies like Beatport Sounds To Sample. I don't like to think of myself as a "musician" — more as someone who plays with sounds and ideas — and certainly someone who continues to learn about life via music!

What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?

I studied classical violin and then classical/jazz guitar for 10 years before starting to mess around with electronic music production. This was a wonderful way to understand the mechanics of ideas like melody, harmony, counterpoint and arrangement, and was a fantastic bedrock of my musical education.

I never had much experience with minimalism, repetition or modal music until university, where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, and focused on Sound Design. University was brilliantly inspiring inasmuch as it introduced me to a vast and exciting political history of sound — everyone from Philip Glass to Sun Ra's Afro-Futurism, King Tubby, to the history of Musique Concrete etc.

Studying "musicology" as such helped me HEAR the music I'd studied for so long in a new and exciting context - i.e., as part of a bigger story. Going to raves in the early 90s, and being involved heavily in public radio was a fantastic musical education to me.

The best advice/recommendation I can give anyone who wishes to pursue music is, firstly, give it time — I set myself 15 year goals, slow and steady. Secondly, just turn up and practice (on your instrument, or in the studio) every single day. Before I could improvise on guitar, I spent hours practicing scales, over and over and over again. Before I made a single good tune, I wrote hours of awful stuff. For me, music remains primarily about "process," and the "product" is secondary. Just practice.

In terms of courses or books? I cannot speak highly enough about authors like David Toop, Bill Drummond, David Byrne or Kodwo Eshun — these are musical futurists, dreamers and scholars — they have fueled my vision and expanded my horizons. Schools etc, I'm not so sure about. After classical training, I've been essentially completely self-taught in terms of electronic music production.

There are no shortages of great technical resources online, but what feels MOST important to me are the deeper cultural / philosophical / sonic questions worth asking. Check out Toop's "Ocean of Sound", or Eshun's "More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction" for a start.

What hardware are you using?

Roland SH-101 analogue monosynth: Simply the most gorgeous, richly-timbred, immediate and flexible mono-synth I've ever owned. A joy to sequence live.

Electron Machinedrum: a robust, well-designed drum machine which is fun to sequence, and can create completely bizarre and exciting timbres. Autechre are big fans!

Electron Octatrack: (see above)

x0xb0x analogue monosynth: dirty, classic, analogue TB-303 clone. Fun to tweak. I built it myself from a kit, so it feels special an personal.

MFB-522 analogue drum-machine: great little CR78/TR808 sounding drum-machine. Internal sequencer is crap, but sounds are lovely, warm and lo-fi.

Korg Monotribe analogue monosynth: fun, easy, immediate, gritty sounding synth, great way to come up with weird squelchy acid noises and bleeps.

Korg VOLCABASS, VOLCABEATS, VOLCAKEYS: all on order so I haven't used them yet, but I'm excited to play with them — especially in LIVE sets.

Roland Alpha Juno 2 analogue polysynth: distinctive and classic "Detroit" techno sounds. Easy, fun, and with a super-cool "auto-chord" function made famous by Carl Craig. Weapon!

Sherman Filterbank 2 analogue filter: very crazy, noisy, character-filled analogue filtering. It's strange, brutal and very original!

Boss DD-6 digital-delay: you can never have too many delay-pedals.

Radio Shack transistor analogue-delay: old, cheap, nasty-sounding dub-delay.

Boss DM300 transistor analogue-delay: classic, creamy, lo-fi analog delay rack.

Miscellaneous cheap and weird FX pedals, boxes etc.

Allen and Heath ZED-10FX analogue-mixer: I love mixing through a simple analogue desk. I also like the slightly bad internal effects. Just fun to play with.

Fireface UXC audio-interface: simply BRILLIANT audio, with very low latency. I tour with this for live sets too. Multi in and out, as well as MIDI. ROCK solid.

Yamaha HS80M powered-monitors: simple, effective monitoring. Good for the money.

Sennheiser HD25 headphones: DJ-standard, great build, solid sound-isolation in the club

Sennheiser IE80 in-ear monitors/earbuds: expensive, but AMAZING audio-fidelity. I actually write a lot of music using these little ear-buds. They are astounding.

Ableton Push Controller: superbly well-designed, intuitive control of Ableton. Great for beat-making.

Akai APC40 controller: adequate at best, poorly built but still easy to get hold of on tour for live-sets. Not recommended.

What software are you using?

Ableton Live Suite 9: flexible, intuitive, and easy to transition between the club (for live-sets), to the plane (writing on the go), and the studio. It really is dream software for me. It's an instrument. The full "Suite" version has more than enough synths, samplers, plugins etc to keep you busy.

Native Instruments Reaktor: infinitely exciting, original and downright weird modular synthesis. The User Library is constantly updated, and is so much fun to experiment with.

Native Instruments FM8: brilliant FM synthesis. Great for bass-sounds, great for sharp, harsh, spiky 80s-sounding elements.

Native Instruments Massive: solid analogue-style synthesis.

Native Instruments Lazer Bass: fun, wobbly sounds.

PSP VintageWarmer: great, tape-style 'fat' compression.

PSP Xenon: really great transparent limiter. A secret-weapon.

Miscellaneous freeware, shareware, 3rd-party plugins. I often find that free plugins are the coolest and most original.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup? A fully sound-isolated room, an array of the new Neumann monitors, a desk and a laptop running Ableton. My real dream is to have the proper knowledge to compose elegantly and effectively using a single-piece of software, like Ableton Live. The rest is just eye-candy, smoke and mirrors…

Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?

I try to write and listen to new music daily, with a fairly regular composition regime. The morning is spent listening to new music — before anything else. I'm currently listening (as I type) to the 1977 Benny Maupin album, "The Jewel in The Lotus" (ECM Records). It's superb improvised jazz.

Previously I was surfing through the new releases section on Bleep.com, and really enjoying previews of the new James Ruskin 12" release. After listening to new material (often whilst emailing), I usually start studio time around 1pm or so, and work until about 5pm. Then I take a couple of hours of rest, and start work again in the evening, 'till late.

Breaks for tea, yoga and naps are very important. Listening to music whilst walking, shopping, sleeping is also a really great way to understand it better. Playing in a club, for me, is the best way to find out what works in a physical sense. Writing and listening to music whilst extremely jet-lagged, in transit is also fantastic. My main "rule" is to write regularly, and in as many different environments as possible.

Where do you shop for and discover music?

I pretty much delete all the promos I get sent via email, as mostly it's not so well-curated to my particular tastes, so it takes a lot of work to sift through. I find a lot of great new music via bleep.com, rubadubrecords.co.uk, phonicarecords.com, pitchfork.com and occasionally beatport.com and residentadvisor.net.

I trawl a lot of blogs and mixes from friends, but try to avoid charts on websites, as they generally list music which every other DJ will be playing. I still buy a lot of material which is only available on vinyl, even though when I'm DJing I only play digital formats. Occasionally, I'll even discover music via youtube, and remaster it to play it out in clubs.

I try to keep my approach diverse, non-puritanical and a little experimental. I'm not very concerned about the "format" or method of performance — I'm more interested in discovering new sounds. My SECRET WEAPON is www.archive.org — a massive database of free license-free music, field recordings and weirdness.

Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?

Most recently, I've been really amazed by my (late!) discovery of the producer Forest Swords, as well as great labels like Swamp 81, NonPlus, Audio Couture, SunkLo, Jealous God, and more. I've rediscovered a lot of brilliant soundtrack and video-game music (from the likes of Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansel, for example) via way of bleep.com and even by random searches on discogs.com and iTunes.

What's brewing in your studio?

I have new releases being finished off for Thoughtless Music, Facetoface (techno legend Tim Xavier's new label) and Convex Industries. I'm not privy to sharing these, at this stage. I can, however, share some previews from my new 12" EP with the wonderful Caduceus Records. You can check out some previews here:

https://soundcloud.com/caduceus-records/sets/cdrd007-deepchild-bethania-ep

I wanted to write something quite raw, direct and warm for this EP, and I actually experimented with setting up a few of the Ableton parts the way I used to work with my old Akai MPC 2000XL sampler — i.e., actually assigning looped clips to single keys for triggering. It's difficult to explain without showing, but triggering pre-rendered loops (which are obviously locked to a BPM) in the same way as you might trigger single-hit samples gives you some cool envelope control and trigger options which aren't so easy to set up if you are simply cutting and pasting loops, back to back. I loaded a lot of loops into the sampler in Ableton, and then triggered them manually, tweaking the attack, decay time of the loop until it "felt" good. It's a very primitive, old-school sort of approach, but it's a fun way to loosen up static loops and generate some ideas with a more fluid, organic sound to them.

Any production tips & tricks you'd like to share?

The best advice I ever received has always been to edit, reduce, and "take away" elements, rather than to continue to add them to a project. Here's a list of tips I keep coming back to:

a) When you've finished writing a piece, let it "sit" for a few days and then listen again to it.

b) Don't spend too long working on a piece. If you do, you often risk overworking it. Remember it's ok to trash ideas. Do it often.

c) When EQing, remember that it's often much more useful to "remove" frequencies than to push them. Always ask "what can I do without"?

d) When using effect-sends, I often find that EQing, compressing and even side-chaining them can be a useful way to create space and control.

e) Stereo parts are greatly overrated. Use panning to place sounds in a mix.

f) Parallel mix-bus compression is a brilliant, simple way to create some beef in a mix without risking crushing transient frequencies in parts.

g) Listen to mixes on a variety of sources — earbuds, computer speakers, monitors, etc. to get a good "feel" for your mix, and what you'd like it to achieve.

h) Remember that at the end of the day, "it's only music."

Where can we find you on the web?

Deepchild / SoundCloud / Facebook / Twitter /