Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Computer Paul Bio

Originally hailing from the musically diverse Washington D.C. area, Computer Paul aka Steve Shapero, was raised on a steady diet of go-go, hip-hop, reggae, and hardcore punk rock. D.C. hardcore shows were famous for having reggae bands (or even bands that played hardcore and reggae all in the same set), go-go bands, and punk bands like Fugazi all sharing the same stage in the same night.

The transition to the heavily dancehall-influenced sounds of Jungle in Montréal's underground dance music scene was a natural one in the early 90's. CP gave up his guitar and traded it in for 2 turntables and a stack of Suburban Base 12" singles. Arriving in NYC in 1996 before Giuliani had successfully outlawed all forms of public dancing, CP discovered the then-vibrant club scene which revolved around the city's well-known big room DJs like Louie Vega and Danny Tenaglia, as well as the countless unsung underground heroes that were the lifeblood of the party scene.

Together with friends Sean B, Thomas, and Chris Kazimir, CP started the Freeskool series of parties. In the late 90's, Giuliani had overseen the effective shutdown of all of NYC's smaller venues, forcing underground music to go deep underground. Freeskool got started as a series of "outlaw" loft parties in what were then unfrequented corners of Brooklyn. Each DJ in the Freeskool crew had a unique and completely different sound from the other DJs: Breaks, 2-step, House, Techno, and Jungle could all be heard in the same venue in the same night. This is where CP learned to rock a huge crowd and "take them on a journey".

The popularity of the party grew and turned into a bi-weekly event at a speakeasy in the Lower East Side. CP continued to hone in on a sound that had a solid foundation in the American mid-west (Chicago/Detroit) deep house sound, combined with a heavily percussion-influenced sounds coming from NYC. The constant call of Salsa in the streets of Brooklyn was to be a big influence in the CP conga-driven rhythms. CP became one of the tightest and most consistent mix-oriented DJs, earning the respect and recognition of the underground scene. CP has played at numerous venues in NYC, as well as clubs and one-off underground events in London (AKA Lounge at The End), Montreal (Blizzarts), Vancouver BC, and Seattle.

Following the collapse of both NYC nightlife and the economy due to 9/11, CP moved to the west coast and hung up the headphones for a long time, focusing instead on production. Teaming up with renowned Jazz vocalist Michelle Amador, he produced his first EP for BPSS. The track "Does It" appeared on the world-renowned Bagpak Selects series Vol. II. The EP covers diverse musical territory ranging from downtempo haziness, to UK soul, to classic body and soul style NYC house.

Following up on the critical success of the first EP, BPSS has just released the Westward Exansion EP, featuring 4 tracks of straight up funky disco house vibes without any of the fromage. These are the tunes that have all the elements to get a dancefloor moving, with disco edit and raregroove loops forward in the mix, backed by a solid foundation of congas and harder-hitting Detroit-house style drum programming. These are go-to tracks when you're flustered in the booth and need something to drop that won't let you down. Also features a super hot electro-ish remix by the likes of DJ Woodhead, from Vancouver, BC, Canada.

With all the excitement of releasing tracks, combined with the resurgence of good music, partially made possible by the amazing technology advances in both production and DJ'ing, CP has picked up the headphones once again and is rocking the world with his unique American sound, combining over 15 years of record buying experience and music knowledge with the unique live remix capabilities of Traktor DJ software. Check out his latest mixes on his podcasts, found at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thoughts on the VCI-100 vs conventional MIDI controller for Traktor

In this post I'll compare and contrast my experiences mixing with a piano-style MIDI controller vs. my recently acquired Vestax VCI-100. I've rocked the last few podcasts with my trusty Radium 49 MIDI controller which features 8 vertical sliders and 8 rotary knobs in its arsenal of effects-tweaking controls. Mixing with dinky little faders proved to be of little interest to me, so I spent all my knob-twiddling energy in the mix tweaking out the effects. I managed to program all the piano notes to do useful things, but I never quite figured out what the ideal layout was for these controls. I focused on the loop controls and efx parameters I didn't have room to map to the knobs and sliders. I definitely found the knobs lent themselves to more musical tweaking, while the faders, as mentioned, were just too dinky to do anything real useful with.

The first thing I thought once I started mixing with the VCI-100 was: THIS feels like DJ'ing. It made me realize (at least for me but I think this applies to us all) that DJ'ing is partially the act of compulsively adjusting anything that has a knob on the mixer. After about 5 minutes of being in the groove using the long-throw 100mm vertical faders, I craved more action than was possible with the default Traktor VCI-100 settings.

I headed over right away to the DJ Tech Tools custom midi maps and installed Ean Goldens VCI-100 map for Traktor. With a screenshot of the controls on one monitor screen and Traktor on the other, I was able to pickup the new mappings within one mix session. The solid, professional feel of all the knobs and sliders made me feel a lot more musical. The jog wheels are a nice touch for beat matching, and I found that I could beat match entirely by ear like an old school DJ should. Between the tempo sliders and the touch sensitivity of the jog wheel, you can get your mixes tight without relying on the auto sync behavior of Traktor, which doesn't always work that well especially for disco and other non-compute rbeats. I still find that the software locks in your beat matches a lot more tightly than two 1200s will, but I look at this as a benefit: you can focus a lot more on the fun creative aspects of mixing, instead of expending all your concentration on just keeping the groove locked and maybe tweaking the EQ a bit.

I've now gotten into the groove of using the custom map, such that I can flip between using the left-hand EQ knobs as EQs or as parameter tweaks for chained effect unit 1. The only drawback of this layout is that you don't get a dry/wet mix knob for effect 1, but if you need to adjust this you can always cycle the dedicated effects knobs for unit 1 and adjust. There are a few defects with the firmware, but I'm not trying to install firmware 1.3 just to get rid of them; they just aren't worth the hassle.

I've got at least one confirmed club date coming up Nov. 12th in Vancouver. I'll be using this rig for sure. My only fear is that I'm still using my aging M-Audio firewire audiophile interface, and the driver obsessionally acts up and causes total signal loss from Traktor. Bottom line is that I think this unit will allow me to rock the crowd in a way that reminds me a lot more of what DJ'ing was like for me in the days of 2 1200's and a mixer with some fat EQs on it. The tempo-synced effects with auto-detect tempo accuracy means that the creative possibilities with this stuff is just a lot deeper than what is possible with a single hardware effects unit as found on the Pioneer mixers. Combine this with the looping capabilities of Traktor and you can really go nuts.

Stay tuned for podcast 6, which will be the first to feature the new hardware. I did podcast 5 as a special episode for my friend Bob who shares my birthday. It is a pretty deep and banging club style mix that I'm not sure my listeners will dig as much - there is pretty much no disco on it, and I'd like to keep the more upbeat and fun vibe of the other mixes. If you like super deep clubby chicago-detroit style house mixes (ie no commercial jingle crapola) check it out on Soundcloud.

Friday, October 2, 2009

EP2, Westward Expansion, OUT NOW

Heavy percussion, raregroove soul, disco, and funk samples surrounded by new school drum programming blur the lines between classic house and updated disco edit territory. Cuts features a more disco-laden percussion sound, mixing raw samples and harder beats with a west coast smoked out vibe, while Steal Some Days is more of a straight up houser. Be sure to check the Woodhead treatment for an updated electro disco vibe.

Buy now from these fine retailers:

Bagpak Music