Kid Beyond

Way back when, a young Andrew Chaikin was in a rather successful a cappella group called The House Jacks, who, after a small bidding war, signed a deal with then hip-hop heavyweight Tommy Boy Records in 1994. Needless to say, the label rejected their album, and instead tried to turn them into a boy band. “That didn’t work out too well,” laughs Chaikin.

A decade later, the tables have turned. While Tommy Boy is a shell of its former self, Chaikin has re-emerged as Kid Beyond, one of the game’s most talented and technologically innovative beat boxers. Armed with Ableton Live, a Shure SM58, and a MIDI foot controller, Kid Beyond is able to generate, effect, and loop his own vocal samples on the fly, creating a spontaneous live show that’s as much influenced by electronica and rock as it is hip-hop. For his Amplivate EP, Kid teamed up with three different producers — Alias, Gabriel Mann, and The Rondo Brothers — to help transfer his unique energy to the studio. EQ got the skinny from each producer on how their tracks were constructed, and spoke with Chaikin about his affinity for Ableton and live looping.

EQ: How would you describe your mic technique?
Kid Beyond: The SM58 is my instrument. To get mad bass, you cup it. To avoid over-blowing it with wind, you might want to put it on the side. To still retain some of that low end, you might want to keep it near your nose because you’re sending low end out of your nose. You learn what works, and it’s different for everybody. I also recorded into the crappy little mic on my Palm Treo 650, then brought that into Ableton and compressed the hell out of it; it just gave me a certain sound that I couldn’t get with a nicer mic. I do a lot of work in bathrooms, showers, toilets, and sinks — just bend over a sink and mine it for a little verb and low end. A common misconception is, “He’s a beat boxer, just put him on the mic.” But if you track it dry, it’s going to sound dry and dead. I like to get a lot of room involved.

EQ: The rule in creating these tracks was that every sound had to originate from your mouth, but there was a lot that happened on the back end. What were some of your favorite plug-ins and effects to use?
KB: I used a lot of plug-ins from Maxim Digital Audio — SubSynth and Tracker, as well as the Smartelectronix LiveCut for the glitchy stuff. I used a cool effect with Gabe [Mann] called Cosmonaut Voice, and a bit of iZotope Trash to get some of those guitar and synth sounds with Alias. For some bass sub-harmonization on “Mothership,” we used a DigiTech Vocal 300 effects processor.

EQ: What are some of the hardware goodies you’ve been using?
KB: I’ve been experimenting with this thing called the Hot Hand from Source Audio, which is essentially a wireless MIDI controller hooked up to a wah pedal or flange/phase pedal with a wireless receiver. It’s this little rubber ring you wear on your finger, but you’re modifying the wah or phaser with your hand. It’s got this accelerometer in it so it knows where your hand is in X/Y space. You can just slap an auto-filter on it or even some glitch style plug-ins and it’s almost like scratching live audio.

EQ: Why has Ableton Live been such a powerful tool for you?
KB: It’s such an open and stable platform. You can throw anything at it that you want. I’ve had to augment it with some other utilities that allow me to translate one MIDI button into a bunch of events that happen in Ableton. When I was on the PC, I was using the Bome MIDI Translator, and now I’m using MidiPipe and QuicKeys on my Mac. These are macro-ish things where I can hit one button and make ten things happen at once in Ableton. In a Mac they have this protocol called IAC (Inter-Application Communication), where all your programs can talk to all the other programs. Well, you can get Ableton to talk to itself. You can write a little MIDI clip with a bunch of MIDI notes that get fed back into Ableton and it becomes a little scripting language. But you can have almost all of the functions in Ableton mapped to MIDI notes or sliders. You can hit Middle C and have that activate a certain clip or turn on and off a certain effect. Tools like Ableton Live just engender a different way of thinking about music. It’s a lot more micro. I kept saying [to Gabriel], “Okay, now chop it up, mess it up, screw it up.” He comes from more of an instrumental world, and he wasn’t coming with that future tech vibe. Live and [Sony] Acid were developed for people to create loop-based music as opposed to the more linear Pro Tools style.