The Ever Evolving Talent Of Ed Davenport

On the surface, Ed Davenport’s story isn’t anything out of the ordinary: an English producer living in Berlin, he produces across house and techno and having started his career releasing on labels like liebe*detail in the mid to late 2000s he's subsequently developed a somewhat tougher sound in tune with the scene’s move away from minimal. But it’s the way he nails these classic sounds – keeping it authentic, yet still fresh – that really sets him apart from the pack. His flair in the studio, behind the decks and in the live arena has seen him garnering a close relationship with Berghain, where he now plays regularly, and with Function with whom he's been co-running the Infrastructure label.

A bit more recently his productions as Inland have become an outlet for a more rolling techno sound and he’s also developed a live set under that pseudonym. But even though sets under his own name are getting rarer, it's how he’s performing for us on the 19th, presenting a sound that’s more in line with his house stylings as Ed Davenport. As we hear, it’ll be a live set that’ll be built largely on-the-fly, which will include unreleased material and will reflect his formative experiences at fabric.

First off, can you give us an overview of your live setup? What’s pre-prepared, and what isn’t? Which aspects of it will you be playing with live?

Ed Davenport: My live setup is quite simple – it's based around Ableton Live, a drum machine (the Roland TR-8 these days, but in the past I used the Korg ESX1 a lot), and some outboard send effects like delay and reverb. Essentially, I compile a huge collection of loops, passes and individual elements, FX washes, maybe some whole tracks which I'll loop up and trigger at different points just for a certain element, and then build tracks spontaneously, with the help of the drum machine to add extra accents and make it more intense at points.

How did your live set start off, and how has it developed since then? Have you had any epiphanies along the way about what you want to do with it, or how it might work better? Anything new you’ll have added since you played it last?

I've always used Ableton as the 'brain' when playing live. My first live set was in 2007, in Berlin at a great underground party run by friends called “Im Frühtau” – where I just played with a laptop and controller. Around that time I was largely producing music using software only. These days almost 100% of my tracks come from outboard gear, drum machines, synths and external effects, fed through a mixing desk. But I still record everything into Ableton – it’s just so easy to edit stuff later – so it makes sense to use it for live sets. I've added different MIDI controllers over the years, and drum machines – it’s always fun to add new things and helps keep it fresh. The main thing is that now, I know how I want to start, and how to end, and the journey in between is pretty much up to chance and improvisation.

Have you got any plans for further development?

I see my live sets as a way of testing out new productions, seeing what works well in the clubs, and trying alternate arrangements or edits of older material. This set at fabric will mainly be completely new and exclusive stuff that not very many people have heard yet, so I'm excited to try it out! I'd like to experiment more in future with a full mixing desk, with lots of send and returns, and get a bit more abstract with things eventually.

You said you’ve been inspired by some sets you’ve seen at fabric – Swayzak, Mathew Jonson, Octave One. What do you remember from these performances that struck you particularly?

I remember the Matthew Jonson set particularly well. I was standing up in the upstairs bar looking out over the balcony. I didn't know a huge amount about him at the time, but I had just bought 'Decompression', so I guess it was around 2004. When he dropped that, I was really impressed how he had everything synced up sounding so tight and you could really see him creating the builds and moments of tension on the fly.

How do you think these experiences have influenced the set we’ll see on the 19th?

It's just really exciting to play in Room Two. I'll be aiming to create a really immersive, high quality experience for the dancers. There's no room for mistakes or bad sound on that stage!

"I grew up and found my feet on nights out at fabric – the club and the acts playing there between 2003 and 2008 helped define my house and techno tastes a lot."

Is there anything special you’ll bring along to the fabric show? How is your approach going to be different from what it might be at Berghain?

I grew up and found my feet on nights out at fabric – the club and the acts playing there between 2003 and 2008 helped define my house and techno tastes a lot. Berghain came later in my musical education. For me this is like coming home and being proud of my roots.

How do you apply what you’ve learnt DJing in Berlin and Berghain to your live set?

I think it's all about fluidity. In Berlin you get to play really long sets, and you have the chance to play with the pace of the set a lot. From long, drawn out psychedelic moments, to suddenly more intense, changeable and faster paced moments, the dancers stay with you and are almost willing you to take them on a trip – but you have to do it in a fluid, controlled way. Although my live set is only one hour, I hope I can bring something of that feeling with me.

You’ve been playing live sets both as Ed Davenport and as Inland. How do they reflect the differences between the releases you’ve put out on wax under those two pseudonyms?

Musically they are quite different. Inland can be very tough, fast and dark at times. I won’t be playing any Inland material in an 'Ed' set, and vice-versa. Of course at times you'll hear similarities, because at the end of the day, some of my production trademarks will be clear to hear, but the content and tempo is different. My live set at fabric will be about communicating what's coming up and what's developing within my new Ed Davenport productions. There are a few new EPs planned, on which labels I can't say yet as it would give the game away, but I'm excited to try these out in a live situation.

You’ve been releasing prolifically on various labels, developing two live shows, co-running a label… how do you find time for it all? Do you tend to take a pretty immediate, spur-of-the-moment approach to your music (and life in general) or is it just long hours?

Ha! A bit of both I think. The thing about this job, which I both love and hate in equal measures, is that it never stops. It's not possible to just go home and switch off. I'm always thinking about ideas, or what needs to be done next. I tend to work late in the studio most week nights and get up and do office work or meet friends in the day time. I do love being productive though - I'd say my work ethic has become 'highly considered spur-of-the-moment'!

How do you think the fact that an Ed Davenport live set is fairly rare will affect the set itself? Will you feel like having it less nailed down, if that's the case, will give you more freedom to be spontaneous?

At this point I am pretty confident about the method, so it's just trying out new music and work-in-progress tracks that will make this new set different. I'm really excited to see which of the new tracks will get the biggest reaction, and what works well together – the transitions are always the biggest challenge and most rewarding part I think.

Got any tips on crafting a tight yet welting kick drum?

I usually layer two or three different kicks, being quite careful to separate them with EQ (not too much sub-bass!), and then apply different send effects to individual parts. Maybe a bit of tight reverb on the mid part, some filtered delay on the bass to give it a rolling tail... I just play around and test things out on a PA when I get the chance. Having said that, a good old 909 kick with a bit of saturation and compression is probably still the ultimate bad-ass kick drum!

Saturday 19th September

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