Darwin: Hello! Today, we are going to meet with somebody who I've interacted with quite a lot over the last few years. His name is Julian Bayle and he is probably one of the busiest and most efficient people that I've known. Hi, Julian, how are you?
Julien Bayle: Hi, I'm fine. You?
Darwin: I'm doing okay. I've been scrambling today, but I really appreciate you helping us out with this conversation today. So, let's get right into it. Julian, why don't you give us a little bit about your background first?
Julien: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I started to make some art stuff since, I could say, 20 years ago. I have been already interested by making sound and, yeah, I started to build my own synths, and I played a lot with Generator - before Reaktor by Native Instruments - and yeah, I discovered Max, I don't know, 15 years ago or something like that. So, I was really interested by sound at first. It wasn't my business, my day job, but just a big passion. I was studying biology at a university in France and I spent a lot of nights building tracks and playing with step sequencers and stuff like that.
Julien: At this moment, I wasn't designing visuals at all, but I was really interested in making that. And I can say I chose to really work on my art only a few years ago. It's about five years, no more. I quit my day job to make only music and visuals and, everything started with my Protodeck, a massive hardware controller I built using a MIDI box framework and this has been my really first step, I could say, in this world, in this universe. And I made some workshops and, at this moment, I found a lot of people interested by my stuff and maybe I was more a trusting with myself at this moment because this was just a big, huge passion at this moment.
Darwin: Sure. That makes sense. It's interesting you bring up the Protodeck because I think, for a lot of people, that's when you first popped up on the scene - it was when controllers were just starting to get used commonly; prior to that, most people that were performing had a laptop, they would use the track pad and the old joke about how it looked like everyone was looking at their email was pretty much it. And then all of a sudden, in my memory sort of simultaneous with, with Robert Henke coming out with his unique controller, you also came out with the huge Protodeck, that thing was enormous, wasn't it?
Julien: Yeah. I actually, it was around 100 knobs and a lot of LEDs. Yeah. A big, big machine and a heavy machine too. And Robert Henke was one of my inspiration at this moment because I figured out, I could build my own stuff and just play with it without looking at the computer. I was really interested by forgetting about my screen, my keyboard, my track pad. I wanted to have a music instruments or yeah, right. Like that.
Darwin: Right. The idea of, I, and I think one of the things that happened, at that time was people really started looking at the computer and a controller as being an instrument rather than being, I don't know, being like the center of their attention, but... I remember seeing some videos of you playing the Protodeck and it was clear that you not only built this thing and - a hundred knobs, I can't even imagine doing that, but that you had gotten so used to it that, that you use the Protodeck in the way that like a guitar player would use a guitar.
Julien: Yeah. Actually I was interested by playing with sequences and I was already using Ableton Live. And I wanted to almost forget about my sequencer. I wanted to play with my clips metrics as a, with an instrument, because I had organized my whole life set to be able to be really iterative in my playing. I could say, yeah, I had some tracks with drums or stuff like rhythms. There'd be patterns. And, on the other side I had some low noise. I didn't want to write a proper title or a proper name, I just wanted to have some, I could say some feelings, sure. By my life set so, I, I knew, on stage that I had this kind of sound in that place, but not precisely about a bass or a drums, but maybe a pattern about rhythm, but maybe some little noise, some... yeah.
Darwin: Right. So that's interesting because I'd never really thought about that being a way to set up your sets rather than being very specific about like the named scenes and the name tracks or whatever, but instead, focusing on having a bunch of feelings or a bunch of like emotions available. And then as you feel the crowd moving one direction or another, you could very quickly move from one emotional content or concept to another. That's really interesting.
Julien: Yeah. And currently I'm trying to do that with my new live set. For me, it is a big jump into another universe because I want to use only sequencers and not not clips anymore, I could say. Yeah. I want to play with a sequencer as with another instrument. I want to, maybe, load a preset and to play with this preset during around 10 minutes. So I want to be able to offset some sequences to make some kind of rotation to my sequences. And, I want to be able to change, eventually, my micro timing - I could say not only big steps, as, I would say one over 16. Yeah. I want to be able to go inside my sequence and all this stuff.
I have to trigger some visuals, so yeah. I want to be able to play with my sequence, not only with a lot of sequences already, right. Because yeah - I try to make a post on my blog about that. My blog address is julianbayle.net/blog and, yeah - maybe it could be interesting for people because I wanted to explain that I want to be able to create almost an infinite number of sequences on stage, not only 10, not even only 100, but I want to be able to create and to improve my way of playing a lot of sequences. And sequencers are here for us to make that, of course, but we have to maybe to use, or tovcustomize some sequences, to be able to be really played on stage because sometimes we can only change sequences.
It is very good, but I need to alter sequences. So I need to start with a base sequence. And then, to alter this, and alter maybe timing, maybe velocities, maybe even playing rate, but not only playing rate, maybe, to make some bounds when the sequence is played, and instead of going back to the beginning, maybe we can bounce the playing cursor or something like that. I love one sequencer by Native Instrument made with Reaktor by - his name is, Goldberg. It is basically... I'm thinking I will make a kind of Max version because I need to, put everything at some point into Max for Live or into Max. So I think I will try to translate it into Max maybe. But I already customized it a lot using Reaktor and now I'm able, on stage, to play with it, to have multi-channel outputs and to have MIDI notes from each channel so I can trigger my visuals in a deeper way. You know?
Darwin: Well, one of the things, and you point this out, is that sequencers and working with MIDI in a way seems to be a lot more, I don't know, what's the word - maybe malleable or, it's something that you can adjust a lot more in real time. And I'm seeing more and more people sort of moving away from huge sets of audio loops and audio clips and moving back into MIDI sequencing, because MIDI sequencing gives you so much more flexibility once you start playing. And, I think that's interesting because I was around when MIDI first started and I remember people being really excited about it and then saying, "Oh yeah, I can't wait until MIDI goes away and we can work with audio directly." But now all of a sudden people, having had the chance to work with audio directly, realized that by working with a clip, you're still sort of locked into that sound you can manipulate timing and you can manipulate many things, but there's a certain amount of creativity that's sort of taken away because it's already rendered as audio.
Julien: Yeah, yeah. Myself, I'm more interested by altering things in real time. So yeah, your clips are really interesting because you can, I could say embed some complexities, some precise stuff inside, an audio sample, but on stage when I want to alter some timing, some stuff like that I had to use, I have to use some audio chopers, buffer shuffler or some things like that, but I can't obviously, have this degree of manipulation in real time and by using MIDI, I can even with one notes or onepulse - I don't want to use it as term "note" because, myself yeah, it is kind of trigger. With one trigger, I can have only two [bits of]information. Okay. Pitch and velocity, maybe a MIDI channel, but these two information is a massive for me, these two values, meaning we can alter this in real time. We can give a different interpretation on stage. And, this is really powerful, you know?
Darwin: Yeah. That's actually an interesting way to put it that what you're doing is you have these values and you're choosing to interpret them differently depending on what you're attempting to do on stage. That's really a nice way of thinking about it. So, I want to ask you about some other things: first of all, I'm blown away by the fact that you went to school for biology, you love doing, making tracks and, I assume you were even performing at that time.
Julien: Yeah. A little bit. I will make a big confession now. I was at this moment, I was a DJ and, you me a bit and, today, I couldn't do that. I'm really respectful with all DJ's, everywhere, because it is a big work, but myself, I really need to alter sequences and stuff. I'm playing a lot more. I was at some point a bit frustrated by it by DJ'ing, I was really happy by because, I could listen to a lot of music and play with it, but at some point I couldn't express myself. Maybe I have too much things to, to say, maybe, I don't know.
Darwin: So how did you go from a guy that was, that had studied biology to the guy who could make a MIDI controller with a hundred knobs and the guy who was doing first programming with Generator and Reaktor, and then eventually a Max programmer. How did you make that leap? Cause that seems like there's an awful lot to learn from point A to point B. You have you had to learn at least some amount of electronics. You have to learn some amount of programming. You obviously already had chops musically, but, you had to somehow integrate all these things together. How did you manage that? Where did you, how were you able to learn all of these?
Julien: Yeah, looking back, my past is sometimes a bit strange for me because, I could say, yeah, I make that but, you didn't take only one year. And, at first, I was really interested by programming. So, in France, I couldn't study biology plus programming. So, I was already programming in C or C++ at this moment for some other stuff. So, I started by this entry point I could say. And then I tried to make some stuff without Reno at this moment. So with Arduino and MIDIbox frameworks, at first I started by learning electronic stuff, but yeah, it takes a while to learn by myself.
But, at some point when you are really patient, I think it can even be obsessive at some point that you can read books like you can breath; so I started by making electronics, hardware, and then I was really interested by Processing and, generative art related stuff. So yeah, from C++ to Java. I could manage that quite easily. And then, when I started to play with modular frameworks, like Generator - which was a precursor to Reaktor - Genrator was really amazing for me. As Reason was, with all these wires it, it puts a lot of reality and physical world into the computer, like physical computing and stuff like that. So I was really, really involved in that at this moment. And then this was a natural way for me to go.
Darwin: Yeah. A lot of times I hear people express concern when they work with something like Reaktor or Max or PD or that they feel like it's not really programming. Like if I was doing something in C++ or Java, but you actually have gone the other way you started off in these lower level languages, but it seems like a lot of the work you do now is focused on higher-level languages. You have the experience with C++ and with Java, do you just find it more creative to work with modular systems or is, does it inspire you in some specific way? Why do you choose to work with modular stuff?
Julien: Yeah. I think this is because, I need, more intuitivity in my stuff, so, yeah, a C++ programs can own a lot of classes, a lot of stuff. And, at some points I had to make some drawings I wouldn't say I was Max-ifying stuff, but maybe why I was interested in some libraries to make some drawings of my classes and there are a lot of libraries making that. And, at some point I really found Max/MSP a lot more intuitive because I could start patching, start programming like that. And eventually, two months later, I could find all my logic, just by looking at the screen. And when I add to do that with C++ programs, it was for me, I could say it was really a mess.
Darwin: For me, one of the big differences was that when you're working with something like C++, there's always this situation where you have to stop for a second and compile your work. And that to me was always a real speed bump. I always felt like that would stop my flow of energy in a way. But, also, it's interesting you say this thing about... to come back and look at the work and try and sort of decode your own work. That is something that - I have a very particular Max patching style. And when people ask me, I mean, why do things the way I do I say, well, it's because I may have to come back and look at this Max patch five years. And I want to be able to make sense of it.
Darwin: Right? Yeah. It's one of the things that I really have always liked about visual programming languages, and it sounds like it's something that echoes with you as well. That's very interesting. Now another thing is that kind of in conjunction with this and this sort of an extension of the, the pro deck work, you started working with microprocessors and recently you actually even had a book published by Packt called Programming Arduino in C; I was lucky enough to be an early reader of that. And, if anything, I was blown away by the amount of information and the number of different things you were willing to approach in that one book. So it was, I mean, in a way it was like a view inside your head, because there was there's discussions of electronics, there's discussions of the Arduino there's discussions of interfacing the Arduino with Max and with Processing and other systems.
And, in reading that I sort of felt like I had a sense of who you were by the things that you embraced now. What is it about, I mean, there's a lot of microprocessor systems right now. What is it about the Arduino that you specifically like, and also in, in this time when conceivably, you could just put "hook buttons up to the Arduino..." or something and never have to expose yourself to timing chips or logic chips, you still choose to use those on some occasion. How have you decided, personally, to use certain technologies sometimes and other technologies other times? Talking in general, but okay. Well, look, the Arduino books certainly shows us that you have a lot of breadth, you make decisions. And I'm curious about how you make those decisions. How is it that you decide to use, say a logic chip rather than doing logic inside of an Arduino? Why is it that you choose to use an Arduino instead of a Raspberry PI? Or why do you choose to use any of it rather than just doing it on your laptop? It's a very messy question. I know, but I feel if you'll humor me a little,
Julien: Not that messy, maybe my, my answer will be much more method so that could, that could match. Yeah. I played a lot with Raspberry PI, too. I didn't write a lot about it because for me it is like, I could say, like having microcomputer, I could say, a small computer and if I want to use a computer logic, I have my laptop. So, if I want to make some outwear like controllers or eventually a noise machine, drone machine like that, something like that, I don't want to, I could say, to minimize my, my computer programming, so using raspberry PI for me, would be, would not be interesting if I, if I want to use a computer like processes, I can use my laptop, which is a much more powerful and, using Arduino is, like, I have kind of a set of control constraints and this Arduino can only do I could say a lot of things, but a smaller set of things than a recipe by, but, on the opposite view, I could say with an Arduino, I can, be more safe because I don't have an operating system in an Arduino, sort of, but, yeah, I have only a program, looping every time.
And, it can do that in a really reliable way. And, when I am using Arduino, it is basically for this purpose: I always said, and also vote as that, if I'm using if I want to make a remote controller, something like for playing on my computer or eventually to have a small machine, I want it to be the most, I could say stupid not maybe this is not the right term in English, but I would say...
Darwin: It gets pretty much the right term. Okay. I think it's fine.
Julien: I brought that in a free ebook I just - we published a couple of months ago about making user interface. And, if you want to use a computer to produce sounds, and if you want to use a network controller to remote control this computer, you have to make this controller is the most stupid as you can because all will be contained in your protocol. So the other way, controller AFT to match you own needs on stage. And, actually I could say my my needs are only to do some buttons, to trigger some sequences, to alter some values. And, this controller don't have to know, even, why I push this button, you just have to end all my action right. I think, Arduino is perfect for this. Yeah.
Darwin: That's really interesting. You say that because I noticed that for a while, there was some desire to build a lot of smart into controllers. And I think particularly of like the Lemur controller, where it had physical models in it, and it had timers in it. And, I think I know some people did some really amazing work with that, but for me, I never wanted my physics model to be in my controller and I never wanted my timers to be in the controller: that didn't make sense to me. And so I completely understand what you're, what you're saying. And that also makes sense to why the Arduino would be so compelling because it's not trying to be a computer.
Julien: Yeah, exactly. And the simple fact makes it very, very reliable and, yeah, we have, if you have a nice user program on the Arduino, the part you can program, you are really solid on stage. Right. You know, and, yeah. I need that for my own creation because I need to be trusted with everything I make and yeah. I really need to be, I could say reassured that it's right. It's kind of yeah, well...
Darwin: One of the things that we've dancing around is something I'm really curious about. You build hardware, you do workshops, you write books. If I read, right, I think you're either have just started or about to start a residency, somewhere in, in France, your, you offer workshops via Skype. I think, you have another book that just came out about Max for Live. You're an Ableton Certified Trainer... do you ever sleep?
Julien: Yeah. Sometime, yeah. You know, I could say it is a obsession and, maybe this is the reason why I'm trying to explore more and more. And, I think, even writing books and giving some courses at the art school here in Masa in France, everything like that is the same matter for me, the same object I think, everything is really related. And, for me, this is a kind of a creation process. And when I'm giving courses, even technical courses about Ableton Live or some kind of tricky presets, I think this is a creation moment and, discussing with people, when I'm trying to learn things from people.
And when those people try to learn things from me, I think all of these discussions are like a creation, you know, like creating things. And, for me, this is really a natural to even to write books, because I want to share my stuff with people, with a lot of people I want to be able to discuss with them. And, for me, writing books is like putting things in your mind on a paper at some point and it helps people. And, but also it helps me to make a kind of big list of statements, related to my creation.
Darwin: It brings order to the things in your own mind. Yes, exactly. Now, one thing I know from, so I do lot of writing for the Cycling site as well as for other places. And one of the things I notice is that, oftentimes doing writing will cause me to learn more or learn more in depth about things that I only knew on the surface, but in order to do a good job of writing, I have to educate myself further in whatever I'm writing about, to an extent. Do you use your writing as a tool to help you focus on some particular part of your work? Or do you tend to write about things that you already really know? Well,
Julien: Yeah. I agree with what you just said about, the fact you have to explore deeper, the matter you are writing about. I could say, I'm every time at the limit; at the border, because, I'm really interesting by, I could say, I could say interface between things, but even in the creation interface I like to push my own limits of knowledge, especially, and offer creation too. So when I'm writing about something, I could say, I already know a lot about that subject, but, I want to go further. And, as you said, I have to push my knowledge a little bit further, and then I can make maybe a book so yeah, I had some people saying I bought my Max for Live book, where we do too much too fast. But I actually, I brought it in about one week but I didn't, obviously I didn't learn Max for Live in one week. I tested it, even in a Max for Live beta version and stuff like that during about two years or maybe one more. Yeah.
Darwin: You were one of the first people with your fingers in it. I remember that.
Julien: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I played a lot with it because it was like a dream for me forever - Max, inside Ableton. It was just a dream, yeah. I'm dreaming again when I'm using it today so yeah, it's easy, really, really powerful.
Darwin: So, so now talking about pushing the envelope or pushing yourself to the edge, you have recently started doing a lot of work with visuals and exploring a lot of new avenues or in some cases taking existing avenues and pushing them really hard. What are the areas of visual work that you're finding fascinating right now?
Julien: I could say, I'm really interested by a very minimalistic visual because we can really push some limits of our eye by watching them. I'm really interested by particles, because when I'm playing my music, I want to have some agile, reactive stuff. So I want to have previously a system that can be, I could say living on its own and, I want to alter the system, this visual system by playing my music. But onstage, I never play directly with visuals. You know, I'm playing with my sounds and the sound can alter visuals. So I'm really fascinated by particle systems because they are really, really, I could say expressive maybe this is a a comeback to my first studies about biology, yeah. Particles are like molecules or, yeah.
Darwin: Yeah. I was wondering the same thing. When you mentioned it, I was like, "Well, it's interesting that you would have biology on one end and particle systems on the other."
Julien: Yeah, I guess it's a bridge between them - a natural bridge. And I'd like to explore further, this kind of visuals, you know, so when I'm making visual slides that form my latest project, which is named Alpha, I'm trying to explore particle systems in, I could say in a more rich mix of IDM stuff on stage. I don't want to make an installation with it. I could say at the moment I want to be able to play a lot of rhythmic stuff, electronic music stuff, by using particle systems, because I saw a lot of visuals more related with, I could say, surfaces shapes, but, filled shapes. And, I'm really interested by altering my visuals by using forces and not maybe the size of different objects.
You know, I have a lot of particles. I have a lot of dust into the void like, and you can really alter it by using only forces. And at some point you can alter forces and maybe the system can react on a different way you thought about and I like to discover new interpretations that my visual system can do from my sounds. It is kind of partner on stage for me.
Darwin: Yeah, that's actually interesting. Because oftentimes when there's visuals on the stage, it seems so necessary to interact with them that sometimes if it's a one person show, the music can suffer because you're focused on trying to do compelling visuals. And so that's actually a really interesting approach is to build a system that's going to be your onstage partner. Very cool. One thing I want to just touch on before we go: you are one of the people that I would say is a person who lives on the internet for the longest time. I didn't even know where you were. I had some kind of assumption that maybe you were in Berlin or, maybe in Barcelona. I didn't even think that you might be in France. When I think of where you are, I tend to think more of you being in forums and, on Facebook and Twitter.
I tend to think of you as a person who lives on the internet more almost than in real life. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm putting you down. I'm not, rather I'm fascinated with how you see the internet world as being part of your personal and your creative world. I mean, how do you make yourself available to the world without being overwhelmed by it? And also how do you get like emotional satisfaction by spending most, or doing much of your interaction, via the internet?
Julien: Yeah, it is. I like this question because, this is one of my question I could say too. Progressively, I need to be, I could say more in real life, this is not because I am not in real life, or I wasn't in real life, but the internet for me is another interface to be available for people. So I have a lot of activities on internet, as you said, I can give some courses by using Skype. I made a, a big Max/MSP course only on Skype with a guy in Switzerland. And, yeah, it was really, really interesting, but at some point I need to give more on-site and more present courses. And, I can prove that because yeah, I just have started to rent a place in Maasais where I am living in currently and that place will be both my office and my... actually, I don't know the word in English but I guess you understood.
And, that would be also the place where I will give my Ableton Live course, Max, and eventually Processing courses, you know? So, yeah, I am actually currently at a particular point of my life where when I need to be more, I could say, to be more near people physically, I mean, yeah, because internet is a nice way to spread your creation, but I guess it has, maybe I could say, it has made me a bit more visible - and without this, I wouldn't be that visible today and, yeah, this is a nice way for meeting people, for being part of communities. We can say that, obviously, but now I'm really interested by making some workshops more, I could say, in reality. I don't know, it is a bit difficult in English for me to talk about that, right.
Darwin: Yeah. A difficult subject. But you're saying that you're feeling the draw to do more things in real life rather than virtual life.
Julien: Yeah. But I, I wanted to add something about that, when you are starting something new, like maybe I did a couple of years ago, I starting making music and starting to take things more personally trusting my art and stuff like that. At some point you need to be more visible because you want to play maybe in some festivals, stuff like that, not just for playing a big festival, but for meeting people, for sharing you own arts, maybe you own feelings and...
Darwin: And learning from other people's experiences as well.
Julien: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. So maybe, when you want to do that, when you are not alone, you are a lot of people wanting to do that too. So maybe internet is a really nice way for people to talk about them. And, I mean, even for artists, I know a lot of artists that only want to be, I could say, in real life, but I think the internet can open a lot of new doors and can also inspire us. And, yeah, I could say I want today to be more visible in the real world, but I will keep internet as, I could say, universal reactor of creation, you know?
Darwin: Sure. My goodness. Well, Julian, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you being willing to do this on short notice, but also to dive into my crazy world of questions. I know it wasn't necessarily the easy questions, but, I think we really explored some interesting stuff. So, what, do you have anything coming up that you'd like to tell people about it?
Julien: Yeah. I'm currently working on a nice project that, and it involves I could say two objects, one installation, and a one live performance I would make in a Monaco in the end of March. And the installation will be visible two weeks in London. It is a remote project like that. I like this. And I'm working on my particle systems for my Alpha live sets. And I just hope to be able to play it in. I have a lot of opportunities to play it in some festivals. So I really hope to meet people, and to talk about their art and my art in some cities like Toronto from UTEC or stuff like that so yeah, I'm really working for that. And, I just hope to meet them, to meet you and, all a lot of people.
Darwin: I was going to say, given how much interaction you and I have had, it's surprising that we've not yet met. So I look forward to that as well. Yeah, I hope right. Well, thank you so much, Julian. I appreciate it. Have a great rest of your day today.
Julien: Okay. Bye. Bye.
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