It's fair to say that the further ahead of their time inventors are, the less money their ideas bring them. That's often true for music software pioneers as well, and has applied more than once to producer, musician, DJ, and programmer Josh Gabriel. But things are different now.
"Back then it was always about creating a solution for a problem that didn't yet exist," says Gabriel on the phone from San Francisco. "It was always about, 'Wow, wouldn't this be cool if . . . .' But something I'm working on this year is solving problems that already exist."
"Back then" in the mid-1980s, Josh was inventing light-beam machines and dual joystick interfaces that remixed electronic dance music—ten years before "remix" entered the lexicon. His unique methods of triggering quantized samples of other people's instrumental and voice tracks led in 1993 to the creation of Mixman Technologies and the Mixman DM2 (pronounced dee-em-squared), the company's dual mini-turntable controller and PC loop software package.
PCs in 1995 were dreadfully inept for music applications, though Mixman was a blast to perform. Truth be told, it was Mixman's trailblazing efforts that ultimately opened the doors for today's top remix, editing, and live-performance software tools: Sony Acid, Ableton Live, Propellerhead Reason and ReBirth, and others that Gabriel—one of the fathers of remixing—fittingly uses every day today.
Gabriel, still a consultant with Mixman, stepped out of the music hardware/software publishing world in 2001—"computers are a horrible place to do business"—to focus again on making his own music. Since then Gabriel & Dresden (his DJ duo with Dave Dresden) have toured the world extensively, charted over a dozen no. 1 Billboard dance remixes, and released their original tracks on their own Organized Nature label.
But Josh can't resist spinning again the inventor's wheel. We can't yet publish the details of his new internet-based invention, but suffice it to say it will be something every reader interested in delivering audio and songs will soon use. That is, if his idea isn't too far ahead of its time.
If Mixman served more to open music technology doors for others than to reap huge profits, at least you're reaping the benefits now 20 years later in your own music with Ableton Live 5 and other programs.
That's true. I think Dave [Dresden] and I are using Live and Apple Logic Pro these days in some interesting ways. The biggest new feature for us in Live 5 is the new time-stretch algorithm. As DJs, we're often using full-length pieces of song audio, and the new algorithm is just so much better at changing the tempo of a song. That means we can now play things live with Live that we wouldn't normally be able to play, which is big for us. For instance, if a five-minute song is at 124 bpm and we're playing it at 134, it still works. That feature alone greatly expands the types of music and audio files we can play live.
To me, Logic has ended up being more of a "synthesizer" than a DAW. I rarely use Logic's ESX-24 sampler or other software samplers. And I run—at most—one or two virtual synth instruments per song. Ninety-nine percent of what I do in Logic is put audio tracks up on the screen and open up tons of audio plugins. A lot of the "synths" in our music are actually samples that have been heavily processed with plugins. We'll put the first file of a song up on the screen and add lots and lots of effects to it, with tons of automation moves, to create our soundscapes. It sounds like musical elements, but it's coming entirely from signal processors.