An Interview with Dillon Bastan
How did you first learn of/get into Max?
A good friend of mine introduced me to Ableton Live in the summer of 2013 (I was using Reason and Garageband back then). He told me about Max for Live and the Max application, but back then I couldn’t imagine myself, as a previous hitchhiking anti-tech rainbow-yogi-nature guy, programming anything like that. About a year later, I started using the Lemur and slowly tried scripting some custom functionality for some custom templates. Eventually, I started making some more in-depth Lemur projects, and I just had to use Max for Live in combination with the Lemur for one particular project.
I had no clue what I was doing, and remember copy and pasting all kinds of stuff back then. If something worked - which after much struggling it usually did - it was truly a miracle. I made some pretty fun Lemur and Max for Live projects under the name “integrate”, which you can still find on the Liine user library. They are my beginning disaster projects, though. The first version of Iota was one of those Lemur/Max for Live projects.
By the beginning of 2015, I started to spend a lot of time with Max and Max for Live. I started with making robust sequencers and samplers. That eventually led me more into granular and other DSP projects. And from there… whatever caught my interest! I got interested in learning more about programming, so I spent a couple years filling up the free time in my schedule with learning various programming languages and paradigms. I even took some Computer Science classes at school to help fill any knowledge gaps from learning on my own.
What is it that drives your passion for Max?
Since I was a kid, I had a passion to create and express my imagination. That’s true even now, not only in projects with Max or tech, but anything remotely creative or expressive, especially with sound! I am usually working on at least four projects with different focuses simultaneously. I think part of how I progressed quickly with music-tech and programming was that I spent all of the free time I had intensely making project after project.
I’ve found Max to support such a wide variety of workflows and purposes that it becomes a go-to tool for me in creating or prototyping projects. I can work very quickly in Max, and it makes it easy to accomplish many tasks I’d need for it, particularly for personal or art projects. Since I love creating and sound, Max is just a perfect option for me in a lot of situations.
And, of course, Max has a really amazing community of users constantly creating useful content and helping each other out. Something that originally really attracted me to technology was the possibilities it opened for combining media, manipulation/transformation, offering new methods of working and creating, and seemingly endless experimentation, learning and playing. Max embodies much of those technological interests of mine, and as such I have a passion for it and use it everyday!
What kind of personal creative work do you like to make with Max, and why?
I use Max for all kinds of stuff! I started out with and still use it to make tools for music production and performance, from to control to DSP. Sometimes it’s just really fun to play around, but usually I have some bigger project I am trying to manifest. I use it a lot as a tool for communicating with controllers, apps or micro-controllers like Arduino. When I use Arduino and Max in combination there are so many amazing possibilities. I use that combo for experimental kinetic instruments, multimedia projects for art or otherwise, working with modular/hardware synths, anything that I need inputs and outputs — sensors, motors, whatever.
I’ve also been dipping my feet into DIY DMX lighting projects that I’ve made some installations and reactive light sculptures with. Max is great for implementing audio reactivity in media.
And of course I use Max for making music. My live improvisational setup communicates with my Monome and other controllers to create a custom sequencer, on the fly parameter automation system and a customized interface.
Right now I am conveniently sending the MIDI to Live, but I will switch to a RaspberryPi and ditch the laptop soon. Max is so useful for all different stages of my ideas and works. Since I read The Nature of Code I have been learning more about the concepts of that book and beyond: particle systems, physics simulations, Neural Networks, complex systems, the mind. I’ve been using Max as a hands on tool to explore those concepts and try and make meaningful projects with them in combination with sound.
But my favorite thing to do is play. My friends host an event in Los Angeles called “Slow Down” at a small gallery we run together. It’s a group improvisational experimental sound, and other media, event. It is a very unique and special event, and each gathering I usually create an interactive AV instrument or experience with Max and Arduino. It’s a lot of effort sometimes for such a casual event, but I love it! I think I am playing the most and getting the most out of Max with those smaller projects than anything big I ever make.
You seemed to really take to the new MC feature in Max 8 What do you like most about it?
A big reason for that is because it was my main focus for the Max 8 Beta testing. It was something I, and many others of course, have been imagining, and when I first heard about it I was really excited! Many of my projects work in the realm of polyphony — I have a lot of granular projects, and for some of those projects MC has made the workflow much simpler and more readable.
Originally, I thought MC would only make working with polyphonic audio situations in Max more convenient. For some uses it didn’t always make implementation easier, but it offered another boon: a new kind of sound design tool using the multichannel audio together, instead of simply providing easier access to polyphonic techniques. I think that became apparent when I could simply create many instances of delay lines and centrally manipulate their parameters to get some instantly gratifying results.
During my beta testing, I made several projects exploring parts of these concepts with simulation and movement I mentioned before, and connecting them with sound in different ways. This was a way to make examples of aspects of MC objects that were interesting as well as educational.
These originally separate, and partly random, ideas came together into a C74 package which that's just been released. This period working with MC objects and newly learned concepts was an experiment for me, and I am excited and nervous to share that experiment with the community!
IOTA (your well-renowned Max for Live Device) is quite popular. Are you planning a follow up? If so, will it be similar to the original?
Actually I do have quite a lot of work put into what could be a second version or a really nice update to the first. Iota could use a lot of love and the work I have put into the update makes it much more efficient, beautiful, offers some really useful new functions, and addresses issues with the original. I hope that I can get that to the current Iota users sooner than later!
However, I have another commercial project in the works, and no idea if I am supposed to talk about it though! But it will be a robust and functional series of Max for Live devices revolving around the concepts I was discussing before. Look for it next year, it is still in the works. So this project would probably put off any new Iota release or update. I always offer beta testing of commercial things I make available to the public, so keep an eye out on my Facebook next year. This is so the Max community can get my device for free. I’m not fond of having people pay for my work, but I also am more tired of working labor jobs.
What’s your one tip for users, beginners and advanced Max users?
Keep creating, experiencing, or discovering. If you come up to an issue that seems impossible, Remember: you’ve solved plenty of difficult things before, and you can do it again.
What do you have coming up in the World of Art?
Right now I am not sure. I’m applying ideas to a few exhibitions in the next couple weeks. I am expecting to have quite a few shows next year though with multimedia works. Most likely, I will be part of a group exhibition in mid-January, using a project with Max and/or Arduino. At this point in time, I am going to school and dealing a lot more with working with and being exposed to various concepts, stories, people, works and histories. So, for me, I am in cocooning stage right now and hope to have some of my first more meaningful and developed projects arise soon. I have an appreciation for clever, meaningful, minimalist works, and would love to be making such works in my own way in the future. I am also a resident of an art gallery in the Santa Monica Airport called Studio 106LA. We curate many events revolving around art and sound: small exhibitions and solo shows, workshops, experimental group improvisational music and media art gatherings. We even host a Max/MSP user group there called “Meet And maX” for anyone in LA. We are looking to collaborate with all kinds of creatives, so if you live in LA, please reach out and join some events or help.
Where can we find your work, listen to your music, download your commercial and free offerings?
I have a website, though I don’t often update it. Lots of small experiments and links there.
You can find the commercial Max for Live devices I have released here.
You can find a couple of EPs I produced here.
These are my live music sessions. It's a playlist I think is very much my voice in music currently. I have days of recordings on here - I started recording them at the beginning of 2018. They are just raw live sessions with no editing whatsoever. I debated editing/polishing/cutting them, but I think they are perfect the way they are, and I am lazy. They are nice to get lost in for me, especially because they are not tracks I produced that I heard a million times! The takes get better as my setup evolves, so I’d recommend the later ones.
If you want to see ideas I am working with and keep in the loop of events I participate in or play at, keep up with my social media on Instagram or Facebook.
If you are interested in checking out the next Meet And maX meeting in LA, join our Facebook group to stay informed!
by Tom Hall on
Dec 18, 2018 10:43 PM