It is the experiential nature of Steffen Linck AKA Monolink’s music that defies the muddy definition of modern live electronic music. Armed with the blend of Berlin underground culture with the pop-leaning sensibility of American electronica, Monolink transports listeners into his own realm of sonic exploration. The music is pillared by emotive guitar tones, analogue synth stabs and, for the first time, his own vocals – acting as a singular point of departure for this budding talent.
The process is almost intuitive for Monolink, “Sitting down and writing a song on a specific topic is foreign to me. I want to be surprised by my lyrics, to find an idea that appeals to me and is not just coming from the logical part of my brain.”
With newest single “Swallow”, Monolink reveals a painful encounter and the subsequent loss which occurs in that place between dreams, thoughts and reality.
“Oh you swallow me inside / Like the dark swallows the light / When I’m drowning in your sea”, fits perfectly into the concept of a cycle of life, the central theme of Monolink’s debut album Amniotic.
Monolink’s forthcoming album Amniotic is being released through Embassy One, a subsidy of Embassy of Music which has released gems from talents like Björk, Booka Shade, Moby and more. The debut album stands as Monolink’s first complete body of work, following his 2017 EP Burning Sun via Sol Selectas, and The End, a collaborative record with Acid Pauli in 2015.
Following the release of Amniotic, Monolink will be embarking on his 3-month live trot across the US, Europe and UK where he’ll be exhibiting his evolved live performance. Steffen performs all of his music live with Ableton, his guitar and fully live vocals, proving to be something truly different in the global modern techno scene.
It is with this in mind that we asked him for tips and advice on how to construct a good live setup:
“How do you construct a good live setup? That’s a really good question and I’m not sure I have the answer to it. A live setup or lets say a midi controller only translates your personal abilities into digital form, it’s only ever as good as you are. I think the question you gotta ask yourself is what are you good at? Your setup should be built around that, to present your individual skills in the best possible way.
First of all you need good music. And the right software. I prefer Ableton Live because I feel it gives you all the freedom you could ever need in creating a setup. If you’re planning on using a live instrument it can be helpful to have an audio interface that can directly route sounds from inputs to outputs, in order to get latency free monitoring. I’ve been using the RME Fireface UC for a few years now and it so far has not let me down. The software that comes with it lets you mix any signal that goes in or out of the soundcard instantly, without having to go through Ableton. And the sound quality is great. I’m having my guitar and vocals without any latency in my ear like this, which is very important in order to perform well.
The basic setup I see among live-DJs is a track divided into 3 to 5 audio-stems and three arrangement parts. First a loop of each stem to mix, then the next scene will start the arranged song, ending in a loop again to mix the next track.
This is very basic and it works, but it does not really create any freedom for you to create something unique at a show, and this can quickly become boring for you to play. The crowd will notice that for sure, and that is not what you would want.
If you are mostly a producer and not that much of an instrumentalist I would suggest to start by figuring out what the most recognizable part of your track is, and see if you could play around with this in a live situation. If it’s a synth you could use the midi files instead of an audio track, and have it played back by a vst-synth or an analog one live. This will be more fun for you to play and also for people to watch. I for example have an Roland Boutique SH-01A implemented in my setup, which sounds great and is really small. Apart from having it play back parts you produced before, you can also just jam on it, create something new in just that situation.
Another way of creating a live is to work your drums in loops and not pre-arranged. This is something I really enjoy listening to because the sets don’t sound like track-after-track anymore, and if well played it really let’s you dive into it. Rampue has become a master of this, if you ever get the chance to listen to him.
Let’s say you choose one kick drum, a few hihat-loops and claps and maybe percussions. You put this all onto a launchpad-style midi controller, which will be only for your drums.
Then you remove these from the tracks you produced and only take the main elements you still need to play it. Bass, Pads and Synths, or whatever your music is built around.
This lets you reinvent your tracks on the fly, you can create a breakdown part where used to be the drop, and the other way around. If you have a few tracks in the same key you can try merging them and just be creative.
In my setup I wanted to focus on playing the guitar and singing, looping it through the Ableton looper and adding effects. People enjoy seeing sound being created, which they can’t really when it’s being done on a midi-controller. So my song arrangements are mostly pre-arranged, in order to put the live instruments into focus and not having to have my hands on the software all of the time. I’m using a midi foot-controller to trigger the looper and scenes while I’m on the guitar. The sound of my vocals and the guitar is being processed by a TC-Helicon Voicelive 3, which keeps Ableton from having to do that job.
The rest you gotta figure out yourself. I don’t think there is a perfect solution, a live setup is always a process and you keep having to adapt it. Which is also the fun part.
I hope this was helpful to some of you!” – Monolink
2. Black Day
6. Father Ocean
8. Take Me Home
10. Return To Oz
11. Burning Sun