by Native Instruments

Watch: junk-E-cat makes beats from the sky

The new MASCHINE MIKRO takes a trip through the Alps with the masked beatmaker.

junk-E-cat is a musician and explorer, creating and performing his music in unusual and often extreme locations – from city rooftops to abandoned buildings. His latest video is his most ambitious yet. Armed with the new MASCHINE MIKRO, he sketches out uplifting beats while soaring through the Alps. Watch the video and meet the creature behind the mask in our exclusive interview.

Berlin-based musician junk-E-cat blends acoustic and electronic elements, seamlessly combining a selection of reed instruments with MASCHINE finger drumming, live looping, and horn arrangements. You’ll typically find him performing on top of his specially equipped fire truck at festivals and open-airs, or creating beats on top of buildings and abandoned sites around the world. While disguised in a mask and onesie, he allows the audience to witness his highly technical improvisations via video feed.

He’s the star behind the the new MASCHINE MIKRO video.

How did you get into making beats?

My first instruments were the saxophone and the bass clarinet and I was always driven by the idea of blending horn arrangements and beats into my own electro-acoustic sound.

So I was looking for a beat making device that felt like an instrument, and after some research and watching some inspiring performances by Jeremy Ellis, David Haynes, and Justin Aswell I got my first Maschine around four years ago.

First I was using it as a finger drumming tool and figured out my own playing technique. Then I recreated famous beats and drum patterns and put them onto my Instagram. The channel all of a sudden started to pick up momentum when I started performing my own original beats with a GoPro mounted to my head. The feedback and comments from people all over the world was overwhelming and encouraged me to keep going and exploring.

Next, I found myself on a rooftop in Copenhagen with urban explorer and photographer Elaina Hammeken, taking photos of me as the creature and performing beats on the edge. Apart from the thrill of exploring abandoned sites and heights, the different places and environments always serve as an inspiration for the beats and tracks you hear on the channel. As a result of this I had some phenomenal experiences in different countries.


What’s the story behind the paragliding video?

Having already combined urban exploration with beatmaking, I was looking for a new challenge and inspiration. So I teamed up with some friends and paragliding pilots, went to the Austrian Alps with the support of Native Instruments and their new Maschine Mikro and the idea became reality within a couple of days!

One of the biggest challenges was the construction that allowed for both the Maschine Mikro controller and the closed laptop to remain safely on my lap and not to hurt myself or the pilot during the start and landing, or someone else if it would have fallen from the sky.

Had you ever paraglided before? How did it feel to be making beats on the fly?

It was the first time I ever did it. We needed one preparation flight for me to get familiar with the starting procedure and figure out some other technical aspects. After the takeoff the pilot pulls you back into a quite comfortable sitting position. From here I had to find best way to of placing the Maschine Mikro on my lap and finding the right angle for my arms to reach out to the controller around some of the ropes of the parachute. In addition I had to adjust the position of my headphones in a way to allow me to hear the music well enough to perform and communicate with the pilot at the same time.

When it all came together in the end the feeling was quite overwhelming and I totally enjoyed both the flight and the performance!


Have you made any other videos this tricky / dangerous?

Taking the Maschine and the computer to the ski slopes was great fun and challenging because I carried both devices under my arm and I didn’t have a case comparable to the construction we used for the paragliding video. So there was no room for mistakes – otherwise both the controller and the computer would have been damaged and somebody potentially hurt.

There have also been some tricky climbs along the way but the moment I’m sitting at the edge I’m normally quite relaxed and can focus on the music – except for one time when a tiny moment of sloppiness/clumsiness made me witness a Maschine Mk2 controller drowning at a pier in Brighton, UK.


What’s the story behind the track?

I wanted to capture that moment musically, with the wind and flying as my inspiration. So the instrumentation is based on two Maschine groups of the expansion Meteoric Rise with some samples of the bass clarinet in the low and high register on top and the sound of my breath through the instrument to simulate the wind blowing, all sampled using the audio tool of the Maschine software.

What you’ll hear is what I actually performed up in the air with the bass clarinet root notes and the massive chords sampled as audio files and being triggered and recorded into an 8 bar pattern while opening the PerformFX filter with my left hand on the touch strip which is now part of the Maschine Mikro. Then I’m changing to group B with the longest pattern length possible (256 bars) to record the actual beat performance into midi notes.

Watch the track deconstruction video below:

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