Dawless and Authenticity: Questing to the Origin

Sometimes we like to think about why we think Dawless is the way to go. Like, why not have a fully digital spaceship and just cruise around hyperspace in that? Your sonic vessel would certainly have more bells & whistles (or we suppose bleeps & bloops is more appropriate here).

Tangible spaceships are complicated, inflexible, risky, and really expensive when compared to alternative ways of packaging electrons for ones listening pleasure. Trust us, we know.

Okay, don’t trust us, but check out this post from reddit about making dawless music:

When you’ve got a spaceship like ours it brags for itself.

Okay, looking at computers is legit. While we’re not sure how this is for humans, too much computer totally fucks with us aliens. And it’s not that we don’t love computers, we do, we just don’t love computers for composing music or traveling in hyperspace.

Heck, computers are great for music too just maybe not for catching an interstellar pulsar, if you catch our drift.

Okay, we admit, there’s a lot of reasons to build spaceships and there are a lot of reasons not to build spaceships. We recently remembered a fun story that inspired us to build our first stereo_class cruiser.

Learning to mix on a DAW

A long time ago, when we were posing as a human and interested in hyperspace travel, we went to an earth school for music. Our teacher was teaching us to mix in protools (ew). One day, this guest lecturer came in. He was like a ‘super-star hip-hop producer”.

Now remember, the whole context was about mixing music – that is, taking whatever we’ve recorded from any given musician and making it sound really really good in your audio cassette machines.

This guest lecturer, with his gold chains said two things I’m never going to forget:

Shit’s gotta BOUNCE.

And he’s right, it does.

And more importantly (paraphrasing):

I go to every live performance I can for every kind of music. Our job is to make the recording sound like the real live performance, because that’s as good as it gets. How do I know what violins are supposed to sound like if I’ve never heard them before?

Profound.

Now, this is well before our first spaceship. This is just when we were an in-the-closet alien, stranded on earth desperately looking up at the stairs every night. We had no idea what was out there; no idea. But this really struck me: Our job as mix engineers was to make the music sound like it was supposed to. And to find out how music is supposed to sound, well, one should go listen to someone perform it on real instruments as opposed to only recordings of instruments, as that’s technically not the real thing

Okay but we’re aliens that love techno. Sure, with violins there’s a precedent to hear the real thing the orchestra (or even a single violent or a quartet, o…).

What is electronic music supposed to sound like?

We have to answer this question if we’re ever going to get a good mix, according to the gold-laced hip-hop producer.

Well, it depends on how far back you want to go (these dates are approximate-ish):

  • Circa 2021: Most people these days would probably say electronic music made 100% on a DAW (synths and everything) performed on a laptop in a club. Okay, so the DAW is the center point of electronic music ‘now’
  • Circa 2003: Music made on a DAW much like 2021, but spun on vinyl in an oakland warehouse (so a little bit warmer, less dynamic range)
  • 1985-1995ish: Music Made on Samplers and hardware synthesizers sequenced using 16-bit computers like the Atari-ST by europeans (mostly in the UK). Also performed on vinyl in big warehouses. Check out old videos on The Prodigy if you don’t believe me.
  • 1983 – Midi is invented (thus, computer sequencers around 1985 actually make a lot of sense
  • 1968-1983 – Bob Moog invented a voltage controlled sequencer in 1968. Midi didn’t exist until 1983. During this time if you were rich you maybe had a sequencer of some kind, and everyone else just had to play the synths with their actual hands.

Now this isn’t the full history of sequencers or computers in music but we can establish a trend. The further back you go, the less computers are involved and the more actual music hardware there was in any given electronic music. Heck, the DAW wasn’t even conceived until 1977 (and arguably not realized until around 1985) which means there was over a decade of synthesizers before anyone even bothered to think about computers in music.

People making electronic music the way it is made today, that’s actually really recent – around the late 90s or so. These days, for most releases you’re going to buy on BeatPort are almost entirely made from software synthesizers inside a DAW.

This means, if we wanna know how things are supposed to sound we had to look at the original live performances of electronica, much like the orchestra. Even if the electronic we grew up was sequenced and edited on 16-bit computers, most of the sounds came from actual electronic music hardware.

We’re old aliens, we grew up listening to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. While this is likely not the original EDM sound (We’re gonna give that to folks working on those Atari-ST’s) we think this is the authenticate source of electronic music. That is, tangible electronic instruments, performed by people and sequencers, run through a mixer, to your ears.

We live in a world where the way people make music is so far from the origins, no one has any idea what this music should sound like. So… how can anyone get a good mix?

How can we trust anyone’s mix if they’ve never heard electronic music made entirely on physical electronic instruments?

How could we ever get a good mix?

And so, this is one of the many reasons we’re dawless musicians and have such an elaborate spaceship: We really wanted to know how electronic music was supposed to sound.

You know, so we could make a good mix.

Or maybe we’ve just always been curious, since we never got to see Kraftwerk back in the 70s before anyone invented midi or software synthesizers. And, until you’ve heard music produced by a completed spaceship, there’s really no way to tell what authentic electronic music sounds like.

It doesn’t mean DAW based electronic music is bad (we love it), it just means modern music doesn’t satisfy our mission: discovering the most authentic techno sound in the universe. There’s only one way to do make this discovery: dawless.