The Chemical Brothers MIDI Setup

US Matt Cox on signals with military precision      28/08/22

The Chemical Brothers MIDI Setup

Getting a close up run down from the stage setup of a duo like the Chemical Brothers is a rare treat, even if it is from an article over a decade old! This detailed overview from MIDI tech and live programmer Matt Cox, who has worked for the likes of Goldfrapp, Hot Chip, the Prodigy and the Kaiser Chiefs - follows the meticulous attention to detail required for job, aided by his previous role as a signaller in the army. Here's a excerpt:

"It's a very spontaneous thing that they do live," Matt explains. "It's like an instrument almost, the Mackie. They throw faders up, unmute stuff -- they know where everything is exactly. Some of the filters in the racks are fed off direct outs, so if one of them thinks, 'That Electrix filter would be great across that synth,' he can just grab the direct out jack, put it in the direct out of the synth that he wants to get at, then he's away in the rack twiddling the filter. They've got so used to that interface in front of them that it's almost second nature. They can have an idea and put it into practice in an instant."

But the Mackie is more than a glorified patchbay for all of the on-stage gear: it's where the whole show takes shape. "In Logic, we've got a few main audio elements which occupy the first 12 channels of the Mackie. Then on the Ableton computer, there are elements of that core track that are very similar. So there might be a bass line and a drum loop coming off Logic that are a core part of one song, but then in Ableton there'll be the loop on its own and the bass line on its own.

That means they can then EQ the loop on the Ableton playback differently to the Logic playback, for example, and cut between them as if they were doing a DJ cut. They're still playing the same song, but completely changing the sound on the fly. So there's a lot of things that are mirrored on the desk to allow DJ-style moves and effects to happen. It's a bit like what people do in Ableton, but we're doing it with hardware. It's almost back-to-front!"


The whole article is well worth a read, and despite its age, offers a unique view of how a live show can be performed and played by the best in the business. Read the full article on Sound on Sound


About the author [midierror]: midierror makes nifty Max For Live devices, innovative music hardware, award winning sample packs and hosts a podcast speaking to people in the music world.

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