Ian Longwell (left) and Ray Brady rely on the Metric Halo 2882 interface to deliver their sound to monitors and FOH during Santigold’s live performances.MAY 2012: A casual listen to Santigold's pop-friendly, genre-defying music pegs it as favorably simple, with hooks that fly under the radar to secretly steal your heart... a theft of which you are only made aware hours later when you find her songs creeping around your brain on endless loop!
But to the careful listener, it is apparent that Santigold's songs take their straightforward form from the complex interrelationships of sonic textures and instrumentation that complement the larger structure. In other words, there's a lot going on in a Santigold song! To create those textures and to imbue them with the urgency and immediacy worthy of a great live show, drummer/programmer Ian Longwell and guitarist/music director Ray Brady work hard to define a universe of samples that they then play live, relying on a Metric Halo 2882 interface to deliver those sounds to monitors and FOH.
During the show, Longwell manages sample playback and MIDI messaging in Ableton Live from his drum throne. His kick and snare each possess a trigger, to which a large number of drum pads expand the number of samples he can play. "Ray and I are very diligent about building out a great set of samples," said Longwell. "We take pieces from the record where necessary or sit down with, say, an analog synth or effect to make up new samples. Regardless, we are creating real instruments that can really be played." They have painstakingly programmed every element of the show. His acoustic kick and snare are doubled by song-specific samples and he will often change the sounds associated with any particular trigger to suit the needs of a song. For example, his snare can trigger a different sample on the two than it does on the four or a bigger sample in the chorus then the verse, or the kick can sample various 808s tuned to the progression of a song.
Longwell originally acquired the Metric Halo 2882 four years ago. "I had a lot of requirements," he said. "First, I wanted something that didn't have to be rack mounted. For one-offs and DJ gigs, I can load the 2882 without its rack ears, together with my MacBook Pro, into a small Pelican briefcase. It's a carry-on when I fly. Most importantly, I needed something that was completely reliable – and it is. Finally, high-quality D/A conversion was essential. With the 2882, the fidelity of the output is ready for even the best arena sound systems." On top of meeting those requirements, Longwell said the 2882's reasonable price was certainly a mark in its favor.
The software that controls the 2882 (and all other Metric Halo interfaces) is MIO Console, and Longwell appreciates the tremendous flexibility it gives him. "I can route signals around and change the gain structure to suit the needs of a particular show," he said. "With Santigold, we have two different click outputs, one for me with cues and one for the band without cues. For convenience, I can assign any output from Ableton Live to the 2882's headphone output.
Recently, Longwell and Brady added a second Metric Halo 2882 to their rack. "I love that in MIO Console, the two units appear as one – just sixteen outputs (twenty if I route the headphone outputs). That makes us free to assign them any way we please," he said. "Before, we were only able to break the outputs into four groups (each requiring a stereo output): drums, bass synths, higher synths, and vocal effects. Now we can give the FOH engineer more control by breaking things down further." Longwell recently ordered an LIO-8 for use in his (stationary!) New York City studio.
This year Santigold opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, headlined solo at Coachella and this summer play at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.