Mark de Clive-Lowe

Who are you and what do you do?

MdCL aka Mark de Clive-Lowe. I’m a musician, producer, DJ and all-round worldwide creative. I started playing piano at age 4 growing up in New Zealand so music has always been a big part of what I do. I got deeply into production when I went to the UK in 1998 and connected with 4Hero, IG Culture, Restless Soul, Bugz in the Attic, Metalheadz and others. Music has been a full-time gig for me since around 1995 – whether performing live or in the studio.

What hardware and software are you using?

In the studio I’m on a MacBook Pro running Logic 9 with all sorts of plug-ins – some of my favorites are Native Instruments Battery for drums, the Arturia synth series, East West’s Quantum Leap Pianos, and SoundToys effects. In the studio there’s also a Mark 1 Fender Rhodes 73 Stage piano, a Roland Juno 6, ARP Omni II, Korg PolySix, an acoustic piano, Røde mic and a turntable. It’s a pretty simple setup, but allows me to create what I want to. A lot of the time studio productions are made on the laptop and USB keyboard controller alone – I love what soft synths have enabled now. Battery sounds great for drums – I’ve started checking out Native Instruments Maschine as well which has got me really curious. I love the MPC style interface so I’m sure we’re going to become good friends!

When I perform live, the rig is all hardware at the moment: Akai MPC3000, Fender Rhodes 73, Korg RADIAS, Moogerfooger Ring Modulator, Korg Kaoss Pad 3, Akai Head Rush H2, Roland Juno 6 and a Hohner Clavinet D6. It’s all submixed on stage on a Mackie 16 channel mixer which routes to a DJ mixer + turntable running Serato Scratch Live, which I sometimes use to drop accapellas over the live productions for live remixes. I’ve basically got an entire studio setup on stage which I program and create productions on live, improvised and from scratch. I load up the MPC with drum kits and make the beats as I perform on stage with no real preconceived ideas. I love the freedom and flow this setup allows me – laying bass-lines and synth parts on the Radias, live sequencing them into the MPC, resampling and adding effects on the MPC using the KP3, running the rhodes through the ring modulator and the H2 loop pedal – within the limitations of the setup, the possibilities are endless, especially since I’m creating everything as it happens and am not limited to just playing tracks that I’ve pre-determined. The MPC3000, along with the MPC-60 and SP-1200, is one of the classic drum machines. Its sound is massive and it makes a huge difference to me when I have to use a different model MPC (side by side, the 3000 always sounds so much heavier than the more recent models). I love the drum pad/MPC interface – it gives me a really tactile way to make the beats and be able to perform. The Fender Rhodes is a great piece of kit – it is such a classic sound and has a sense of nostalgia for most music lovers. I can’t really say what my favorite piece of kit is, but the MPC and the Rhodes would definitely be near the top of the list!

What would be your dream setup?

I’m looking into ways to convert my hardware live rig to a more software driven hybrid rig and know that the possibilities are pretty infinite once that’s setup. Having said that though, I really love the limitations that exist on my current hardware live rig. Limitations are essential in exploring creativity and make me work out different ways within set confines to be more creative. I love analog keyboards too, so whenever I have access to different ones I like to pull them into the rig – ARP Odyssey, Minimoog, Moog Prodigy, Moog Source, Korg MS-20, stuff like that. The Monome is really interesting to me too – the possibilities it allows are pretty mind-boggling being able to slice and dice segments of music and sound in real time in such a fluid and flexible way. At the end of the day though, I like to play the keyboards and perform as a musician more than as a technician, so anything that facilitates that flow better is something I’m interested in. As much as I use and love the technology, I’m not interested in being a slave to it or requiring its advancement in order to facilitate my creativity. I’m just as happy on an acoustic piano!

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

The biggest tip to share is learning your craft. I’m a real believer in the craft and the music coming before the technology. Someone who knows their way in, out and around every plugin is a great tool and can be a master engineer, but in making your own music, it’s the craft that will lead your creativity to higher heights. That means more than the plugins and technical tricks, getting back to basics with an instrument. Getting into harmony, melody and rhythm – the fundamentals. For me, a dedicated great musician is always going to be able to make something truly heartfelt and emotive. A dedicated engineer is always going to be able to make something impressive, but not necessarily transcending that. Combine the two and you have a lethal combination.

With my live hardware setup, I might do a one hour solo live performance and in that one hour have created 10 remixes spontaneously, on the fly, from nothing. Breaking it down, that’s an average of 6 minutes each with no pausing or stopping to think or second guess what I’m going to do. My shortcut and my method is myself. By mastering my setup and my musicianship, that allows me to create as fast as I can imagine it. That’s the trick. No matter what your chosen instrument, technology or method is, you have to master it. If you don’t master it, then it can only be a hindrance and something to mask behind. Cool factor works for a minute, but creativity is infinite.

Where can we find you on the web?

Mark de Clive-Lowe / Facebook / SoundCloud / Twitter / YouTube