Five Questions: Laura Escudé

Pushing the performance boundaries of tech, onstage and in the studio
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You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who embodies the term “electronic musician” more wholly than producer, controllerist, performer, and technology futurist Laura Escudé.

A classically trained violinist who gravitated toward electronic music through the rave scene, Escudé took a deep dive into technology some time around 2000 that ultimately led her to become recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in Ableton Live. Over the next decade, her work evolved into designing and programming high-tech live shows for Platinum artists such as The Weeknd, Garbage, Herbie Hancock, Drake, and Kanye West.

Suzanne Strong

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She is also the CEO of Electronic Creatives, which employs a squad of expert show designers, software developers, and music programmers to build cutting-edge performance systems for touring artists.

Somehow, Escudé also finds time to record and perform her own music: As Alluxe, she dazzles live audiences with dynamic performances that marry improvisation on violin and vocals, live looping, manipulation of hybrid controllers, and high-tech visuals. We caught up with Escudé in L.A. after she wrapped a European tour supporting her newest EP, Contrast.

You were Ableton’s first certified trainer, almost a decade ago. How did that impact your career trajectory?

It’s definitely helped my career just being at the forefront and being involved with the software before this whole explosion of music technology, artistry, and creation that’s happened on the Internet and with music technology in the past couple of years. I was really into the technology at a time when a lot of people were still into other types of things; the industry has come a long way since then.

How has the tech evolution informed the ways you collaborate with artists on tour?

With artists like Miguel, whom I got to DJ for and be onstage with, I was able to use some of the newer controller technology. And that allowed me to be able to manipulate sound on-the-fly and to be more part of the actual performance, whereas ten years ago, people were playing along to the tracks more. With the technology being more flexible, I’ve been able to be more improvisational with certain artists, and to push their live shows forward and to make it more interesting than just pressing play.

When you’re constructing your own music in the studio, are you thinking about how it will evolve live and how you’re going to be using those tools onstage?

Absolutely. And now more than ever. I do a lot of live looping with violin and when I’m creating, I just can’t help but think, “Okay, live, I’m going to loop this section and then I’m going to add this on to it, and then add this on to it.” So, I try to make the music evolve more than live show looping would and not have it sound loopy. There’s a difference, obviously, between listening to the recorded music and hearing it performed live. But definitely, they inform one another.

When I’m performing live, sometimes I’ll get an idea and then I’ll record it. Then, I’ll come back in the studio and incorporate it into the actual song. So, it goes both ways.

You are a very physical performer. How intentional is that visibility of the interaction between you and your rig onstage?

Nicole Poulos (Sideways Media Team)

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I’m really into emotion and doing improvisational things onstage that can lead to moments that are amazing and sometimes moments that aren’t so amazing. As I’ve been evolving and maturing, it means more to me to have those human elements in there. So, I’m pushing myself to do more vocals now, even though that’s not my strongest suit. But it helps me to express a little bit more about where I am as a human in my life, and as an artist, and to bring it all together to make something compelling. I’m definitely moving more toward performance art and blurring the lines between controllerism, electronic music, live shows, and theater.

Your studio rig is laptop-based with hybrid controllers like the Roli controller. How does working with new instrument interfaces like the Roli Seaboard Rise inform the way you're experimenting in the studio and how that all translates live?

I’ve started bringing the Roli out live, as well. It’s wonderful to use those sounds that can modulate and sound more live and real, and also to create more virtuosic runs and slides and things that you wouldn’t be able to do on a regular keyboard.

I’m using technology like that, and of course the Ableton Push, quite a bit in the studio and live. All of these controllers help me create my own unique vibe onstage and in the studio. I’ve streamlined my setup over the years; I used to put everything and anything into the mix, and now I’m keeping it minimal.

There are so many cool things coming out; the iOS stuff, there’s the pressure-sensitive stuff. I’ve been a big fan of wireless and Bluetooth technology for a while. I use a Wii controller in every show and Kinect and it’s awesome to be able to explore all of these different pieces of technology in live performance and introduce other people to them as well, and to help them create their live shows based on what I do and what I’ve been learning.

It’s an exciting time because all of the new technology that’s coming out is very easy to use, and it’s unique. And every single person can have a unique live show that expresses exactly what their specific vibe is and the emotion they’re trying to translate to the world.

Below is a video of Escudé performing in New York City.