The Elevator Coach

Studio Essentials: Elektron Octatrack

My piece of Desert Island kit is without doubt the Elektron Octatrack. The Octatrack is an 8 track performance sampler, designed for both live performance and the studio. My motivations for working with this unit were to remove the laptop from my live sets and to place it as the nerve centre of a hands on all machine studio setup.

In 2006, after a summer of issues in airports, carrying my various machines around and a couple of incidents of being abandoned at venues with bags of equipment by promoters I was looking for something more minimalist. The Octatrack had been in the back of my mind and I decided to take the leap. 

The first thing that struck me was just how unintuitive it was to learn, you really need to sit down and give this monster your full attention. The second thing that I realised was just how fanatical hardcore Octatrack users are, its almost like a way of life. Pretty much any question or problem you can think of is addressed on the user forum. It’s amazing. 

The real key here is time and patience with what you are doing. After the first week of pretty much working on this machine 5 to 8 hours a day I felt like I was learning to make make music all over again, so the inevitable self doubt crept in. "I can do this quicker in Ableton" etc etc. That kind of thought process was counterproductive, I had to remind myself of why I was doing this in the first place. There is a steep learning curve but this is a unique machine with huge capabilities.

When it came to performing live with the Octatrack I set myself a deadline and stuck to it. There were some unnerving moments, working on the Octatrack in the dark, you can easily press a button by accident and end up somewhere you don't want to be.

One of the stand out performances I've done on the Octatrack this year was performing on the Amnesia Ibiza Terrace with Carl Cox and Adam Beyer for One Night Stand last July. That was an incredible show, the Amnesia booth and their tech staff were really on point. It came 10 years almost to the week, from my first trip to Ibiza, where I religiously went to Cocoon Mondays, so playing on the Terrace was an absolute dream. 
Overall the Octatrack has been extremely challenging but also rewarding. I still feel like I am scratching the surface with the machine. Every Octatrack user I meet uses it in a different way and from each person you learn something new. There is no substitute for time and effort, this machine offers a lot but you have to give it your full attention.