Brooklyn, NY—January 2019… “Prolific” doesn’t begin to describe composer, performer, and consultant Michael Whalen. Whelan has composed or been a music supervisor on more than 800 TV shows and thousands of commercials. He recently completed work on his 22nd feature film, will reach a total of 31 solo albums after releasing 3 in 2019, consults on music streaming and digital audio with clients such as Google and several law firms, and provides development services to artists looking to monetize their music.
Whalen recently has been turning his attention to performing live, with an emphasis on spontaneity. Playing over sequences is boring, he feels, leading him to ask, “Can you actually put the sounds and textures under your fingertips and then be able to change, finesse, and play off of things? To do that, your rig has got to keep up with you.” To be sure, Whalen puts his rig to the test in ways most performers wouldn’t dare, and that has led him to Deskew Technologies’ Gig Performer.
“One of the things I really love about Gig Performer is that it has given me a lot of shortcuts for things that took me months to do in the studio, so that I have them instantly available live,” Whalen reports. That means much more than simply switching sounds spontaneously. “I like setting things up on the fly,” he clarifies. “For example, I might set up a channel or a controller or an envelope, or put in a recording and chop it up and process it, all while sitting onstage. The idea that I could have a system that would allow me to do that is amazing. Gig Performer gives me permission to respond to the music.”
Whalen’s willingness to try such musical derring-do comes from his supreme confidence in Gig Performer’s stability. “I have never, ever had the experience of Gig Performer locking up or crashing live, even once,” he boasts. “I can’t say that about other applications I’ve used onstage. They’ve all crashed and burned.”
Currently, Whalen’s onstage controller rig uses two M-Audio Code 49 keyboards, which he uses not only as keyboards but for fader, button, and knob control. He also has a Yamaha Montage 8, which he uses strictly as a controller for acoustic and electric piano sounds. Gig Performer’s Rig Manager allows Whalen to differentiate the two Code 49s and route all of the controllers appropriately. “The Rig Manager was a huge turning point where I really committed to Gig Performer as my main tool,” Whalen recalls.
Whalen uses a wide variety of virtual instruments, including analog synthesizer emulations from Arturia, Spectrasonics Keyscape, and Vir2 Apollo. He generally organizes them into Gig Performer rack panels containing widgets for parameter control for each texture he uses, such as piano, analog synth, or ambient guitar. A separate rack panel holds controls for Lexicon, TC Electronic, and Valhalla processing. All of the plug-ins are mixed using Gig Performer’s Audio Mixer modules. Whalen samples complex sounds built in the studio using Symbolic Sound’s Kyma system and plays them back live using Gig Performer’s Audio File Player. “Gig Performer has completely changed my live rig,” he enthuses. “With its low CPU usage and reliability, I’m doing more and more with it.”
Now that he’s a believer, Whalen is thinking of Gig Performer beyond his performances. “I’m starting to use Gig Performer in the studio. It’s really clean and simple and has a nice workflow. I’m in the middle of doing a new ambient record, and instead of doing most of the stuff in a DAW, I’m doing about 30 to 40 percent of the processing in Gig Performer.”
Simply put, Gig Performer has been revolutionary for Michael Whalen’s music. “There was a moment where I thought there was no way I could perform using a laptop,” he admits. “Now I think, ‘Of course I can.’”