“I come from the studio environment, and like something I can touch, and play with,” say Luciano about his setup. The DJ’s live unit is built around the concept of tactility and versatility. While at the heart there is a MacBook Pro running TRAKTOR, the control hub is surrounded by various controllers that help filter, provide effects, and allow him to be more spontaneous.
Linked up to the MacBook are two TRAKTOR X1 controllers which are used to select, skip, loop, and add effects, while the TRAKTOR F1 is used to command the Remix Decks. Everything is run through an Apollo Firewire audio interface to a MODEL 1 mixer, while a separate channel is allocated to the Pioneer RMX 100, which is primarily used for effects. A separate Macbook is connected to MASCHINE for live beat sequencing, which is in turn connected to a TEIL 1 Keinedelay reverb unit.
Luciano talks passionately about how he performs, detailing his reasoning, experiences, and love for the art. Change is something that’s integral to his creativity, and more likely than not, the next time you see him, a lot of what you see here might already have been swapped out for newer, and more unique accessories.
Can you give an overall summary of your setup?
Firstly, I use Traktor with four decks. I like to think that creating things is like having a studio setup. In my studio I have Battery, drums, percussion, melody, guitar, voice, effects… whatever.
So in one channel, I use tracks that are more in the low-end. That’s the great thing about the MODEL 1 and having a parametric EQ; it’s this idea of having frequencies that you really enjoy and that are really rough. Then on the other tracks I use a filter, and a mid-hi, with shakers and things that fit well together. Then for example, on the other deck, I use tools that are more melodic. Now I’ve already created something new. Then on top, I have my Remix Decks, where I have all these percussion things, with a filter of course.
Then I’ll use Maschine on a different computer. The thing about having two computers is that it gives me a lot of options. For example, I have a 13-week residency at one club in Ibiza this summer; same environment, some of the same people – so I try to push myself to give something different every time.
With Maschine there are a lot of libraries from Native inside, and I can change them quickly on the plane, for example. I have my hi-hats here, I have this yellow thing that I can easily use here, and I have claps and things. After a while you get used to everything so you need to have the ability to change.
With MASCHINE, do you prepare anything in advance or just play live?
I’m a musician, and the idea of this is to use it as an instrument. It gives you the possibility to be live. You have to be creative and positive about what you do, to give the right energy. You can create loops and rolls, and airs and noise. You can add a couple of effects that create and push the energy. I use it mainly when you have a track that’s very simple and basic, but incredible, and super groovy.
Can you tell me how you file your tracks?
I try to build my library for any situation that I may have. DJing is about being a chameleon. I’m not known for being a techno DJ, I’m known for being a DJ. I can come on early afternoon and play six hours of ambient music if I want. I can go to another party and play six hours of disco. I can play house, I can play electronica, and even acoustic music if I want. The idea is to have a library with which I can do everything.
Inside my libraries I have notes. Whether it’s for the beginning of the set, warming up, or if it’s a ‘build-up slowly’ set. I’m also prepared for when I turn up to a festival and there’s peak-time techno playing before me. The idea is to have the ability to take over from wherever I am and continue to bring the people with me.
How do the ratings work?
You mean the little stars? Honestly I don’t these that much. I need more description. Some tracks are hotter than others. Here I’ve written ‘morning music’, so I know this is melodic, softer. Then I have ‘warm house’, which means it’s more of an opener track. Then look here, ‘warm-up cool’, then ‘warm-up crazy’, which means it’s still soft, but has this craziness about it. I’ve been doing this for years. Then you have percussive tracks, DJ tools.
In terms of DJ tools, how would you classify those?
I would try to listen to the track – if it’s percussive, or absent of beats, or just hi-hats, or melodic – I’m gonna put notes depending on what I hear.
I notice you browse through the library with your trackpad. Why don’t you use the X1?
I sometimes do. When I don’t know what track I’m looking for then I use it. Depending on where I go, I know more or less where tracks are, but I also pay more attention to comments I write than the real name of the track. With computers nowadays, libraries are so big and it can be so hard to remember everything.
Do you use Stems?
No. The things I use here [in the fourth deck] are loops I make in the studio, or take out of a session. I put them in the folder, get them mastered to make them more punchy, and then change them around every two months. I like this idea of taking yourself out of your comfort zone so that you can always have new things you can experiment with.
I come from a background of playing records. Touring with records killed me because you always had to travel with cases, and you would always lose things. And you also have to play all the time the same records. The idea of having a huge library is to have something unique every night. You can’t Shazam the tracks because it’s always a combination of four, five, six tracks together.
Do you use your external effects instead of TRAKTOR effects?
No, I have my Traktor effects I like for example, delay, that I use a lot. And of course, the reverb. The reverb for me is about creating space. So when I add things, like reverb, it gives it a wider sound. Then I’ll add some loops, and use the filter, because it’s like a mixing studio – when you’re adding, adding and adding frequencies, you need to clean up. You work on the mids, the highs, and then you try to compromise by having a percussion loop that still has a bit of low, and then clean it up with the filter a little.
And then I have this – the TEIL1 Keinedelay. It’s very easy to access, and it creates a vibe. This is what has been missing for years, a company that dedicates their time creating a specialized effect unit. I don’t know if you’ve seen, but almost every DJ is using guitar pedals. The idea of those small effects is that you can run the chain through and it won’t go over – it sounds clear and fantastic, goes through the master, and does a clean job. That’s a revolution.
I was originally using Eventide H9 and then switched to pedals. Pedals are fantastic, they have this modular feeling. You can just plug in and play and really create your effects chain. But realistically, you can’t take a whole pedal setup with you and put in your setup. So this area, next to my controllers, I always use for toys. I even had a small modular here at one point. My Traktor setup hasn’t really changed, but the rest around it, all the toys, I try to change.
How do you keep everything in the same key?
I don’t use any special key features as I always have an ear for that. When I have something, I go on my headphones. I never mix two melodies together, because each one tells their own story. Give it a little space. The skeleton is the drums, and the melody is the color.
During a set, how often do you change the remix decks?
All the time. I have vocals, and random edits I create. I have percussive things, and sometimes I use an element of one and it goes into another one. Then I have messages from friends that I often play in my sets. They are messages in different languages from different countries. We invite a lot of younger people to share their messages, poems, and I play them in the country they’re from. The focus is on making a statement about something. I was using the message from Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator in my sets, and then this idea came from that. I just wanted to create a connection with people and spread an important message about freedom.
Listen to more by Luciano by checking out his Spotify account here.