Exploring Live Looping Possibilities (Interview w/ Abdous)

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Abdous is a Morrocan musician and producer making waves with his brand new, self-produced single What Comes Around Goes Around.

Recognized for his unique style and looping skills, Abdous spent his time in lockdown collaborating with other musicians online ahead of the release of his next single Sunshine On due on 8th July.

We caught up with Abdous to chat about how he started out, his advice for anyone new to looping, and his choice of gear.

What got you into looping, was there anyone in particular who inspired you?

Yes indeed, it was FKJ, not only live looping, but his style of music in general just matches what I was searching for when I discovered him. Needless to say, he is one of my idols.

I started looping when I was young, I bought a delay guitar pedal called Flashback by TC Electronics, to my surprise there was a looper in the pedal, so I just spent hours looping. But, FKJ introduced me to Ableton Live, and the ability to loop all kinds of virtual & analog instruments and sounds, not only guitar.

What do you think the biggest challenges with looping vs performing in a full band?

With live looping, you gotta be extra careful. With a band, if you mess up, other band members can cover you, or you can just get back to the tempo and hope no one noticed.

In a way though, it’s like a full band. For example, instead of playing a specific chord at a specific time, you gotta press a button at a specific time. We’re talking if you’re improvising/free looping, but if you have a full set already prepared, you can just automate everything, which is sweet!

Have you played in bands, or have you always been a solo artist?

I did play with a couple of bands. It’s different from solo looping – both worlds have their own charm and I enjoy them both. But in the future, I’m planning to have 2 sets in a gig, solo looping/sample triggering, and another set with a band for my bluesy/R&B and “non-too-electronic” songs.

What’s your setup like? Do you have a ‘go-to’ rig that you use in the studio and live?

My main setup starts with my Laptop, APC40mk2, NI Maschine Mikro, MIDI keyboard, Epiphone Les Paul Custom, pedalboard & a VOX AC15 amp. But it might change depending on the gig. My main piece of gear is the APC40mk2 which is an Ableton Live controller, it’s the brain and center where all the looping and triggering happens.

You released your first video ‘What Comes Around Goes Around’ in April this year. Despite only being online for 2 months it’s already received 44 thousand views. What is it about the track, do you think, that has made it have such an impact?

People nowadays are very visual. The feedback I got from most of the people is that they found the video clip very interesting and matched the song and just wanna watch it again and again. Musically, to be honest, the impact was kinda weird, I didn’t receive the same comment twice. Each person perceived the song differently, some said it’s EDM, some R&B with an electronic touch, some said it’s Contemporary Pop.

For me, I tried not to put myself in a box, it is electronic, it has a guitar solo, jazzy chords, synth bass, hard drums & chopped samples. I myself don’t know what genre to put it in. I know that people found it interesting and liked it, and that’s what matters to me.

The single will form part of an upcoming EP. Will the release be in collaboration with any other artists or musicians, or is it all you?

The EP is an introduction to me and my music. There are no collaborations, just 5 songs that are all in very different moods. I’m still discovering myself and my audience (and what works best) which is kinda odd because my online presence is known with my Instagram collabs. But I wanna discover myself comfortably in this EP which I’m gonna release by December.

But my debut album (hopefully) next year, more than 50% of the songs are gonna be collaborations. I just love working and creating with other people & mindsets.

Do you record, mix and master everything yourself? 

Yes. I own a recording studio as my day job, so I do everything myself and I enjoy doing so. I love how the learning of producing/mixing/mastering never ends, therefore I never get bored. Maybe if I reach a point where I make enough money to live off my music, I’ll focus only on production.

During lockdown you worked with many other artists, posting videos on your social media pages. Do you hope to continue with this now we’re starting to get back to ‘normal’?

I’ll never stop my social media collaborations. It is kinda harder now since we’re almost back to normal, people are busier now, including me. Lockdown was different, we’re stuck at home doing nothing, we have enough time and energy to create music & content. Now I’m trying to do at least one collab per week for 2 weeks, and I’m happy with that.

For anyone wanting to get into looping, what’s your advice for starting out – any tips you could give to someone new to looping?

Ableton Live is your friend! You can do so much, even with the lite version. And buy a MIDI controller. Akai & Novation offer a wide range of reasonably priced midi controllers specifically made for Live & for looping and triggering loops. Just start exploring the world of looping, you’re only gonna love it.

And thanks to YouTube and Google, you can find all kinds of free resources to learn every tiny little detail about Live & looping. If by chance you didn’t find what you need, people are very helpful in online forums.

Is there any gear that you’d recommend for anyone just starting out? Can anyone start looping on a budget or is it worth saving and investing in more expensive equipment?

First and more importantly, a powerful laptop goes a long way and makes life easier.

That being said, everybody can start looping on a budget. For example, you can buy a Novation Launchkey Mini for 95€, you receive with it a lite version of Ableton Live which you can create so much with. And there are plenty of virtual instruments and sample packs that you can download for free.

Last question – you’re on a desert island and allowed to pick 3 pieces of gear to take with you. What do you choose?

Laptop, guitar, MIDI controller (man, I really hope there is electricity).

For more info on Abdous head to his official website and check out his latest single “What Comes Around Goes Around” over on his YouTube channel.