Walter Gross: Studio Talk

Walter Gross grew up in a suburb of Baltimore and has been mainly producing off the MPC 1000 since 2004. But before he started making music, he was crate digging and mixing off decks he bought when he was 16.

It’s been an interesting and unexpected journey finding the sounds that have influenced his his style. In 2005 he damaged his ears and was partially deaf for over a year. For the entirety of that time, he couldn’t listen to anything comfortably. It took 8 years to improve before he could use headphones again. Cutting out all harsh sounds, he explored blues, gospel, lo-fi, noise and experimental music during this time, which changed his perception of music.

‘Kind of Blues Mix’ was the first release he dropped and since then it’s been all DIY, improv, visual collage, “anything to push the boundaries in concept and execution”.

We caught up with him to celebrate the launch of Rippers, his latest album via RAAR, which is a paragon of his visceral, cathartic music. Here’s some of his favourite gear.

1. Akai – MPC 1000

The nucleus to everything I make is the MPC 1000. I’ve been using this specific model since 2004. It has always felt like a direct extension of my musical self. It is an empty canvas I can pour my ideas through. It’s completely transparent and beyond simplistic in its approach. I enjoy the effort required and the tedium of creating samples, chopping, structuring, programming, remixing, re-programming, deconstructing and reconstructing all over again, there’s something zen about the entire process for me and philosophically and spiritually-speaking I revere this “wrestle”.

To me it’s all a wrestle, whether building tracks at home or putting yourself out there on a stage and riding the wave. After 15 years of using this machine I’ve come to look at it like a big slab of concrete that through this wrestling it slowly becomes malleable, rubbery and it bends and I can shape it and reshape it and I can break off other shapes or new shapes present themselves to me and learn to trust the process and see where it goes. I used to finger-drum and bang stuff out on the fly; most of my early live-sets were completely improvised but after years of toiling I’ve learned to adhere to the machine itself and dig into the gritty programming aspect of it which goes back to the slab-of-concrete idea. I started out as a bedroom beat-maker and then developed a fun live performance with vocals so nowadays I’m more focused on songwriting so in a way the MP has become akin to my version of an acoustic guitar. (I’m a big Townes Van Zandt and blues fan) Also I’ve always been super broke, I’ve never had money, I can’t afford gear, I still use a MAC from 2010, the same shitty interface, splurging on equipment has never really been an option.

2. Effects Pedals

Effects pedals! I love effects pedals. I love live mixing. I love being able to bend sound organically, on the fly, with a soul, within certain parameters. And effects pedals are an affordable way for me to go there. I can chain things in various combinations, I can actually EXPERIMENT with things. I hear this word experimental thrown around so much I feel like it has lost its’ meaning. It is the journey into the unknown, it’s that “lets see what happens and never replicate it ever again because it would be impossible to even try” kinda vibe. That’s my vibe. To me it is the very essence of life itself! Am I full of shit? Maybe! I don’t know, I don’t give a fuck, but give me some knobs and a crappy mixer and lets – fuck – shit – up. Most of the effects I enjoy these days are mainly distortion, delay and pitch. Rock and roll is dead but distortion will never die.

3. SM-57 mic and Blues Driver Pedal

My handy little SM-57 mic and Blues Driver pedal is very dear to me. This combination has been my absolute go-to from the beginning. I’m not exactly sure where I got that pedal from, I think maybe my older brother let me have it but I have used it in tandem with this SM-57 mic for a very long time. I bought this mic the same time as the MP at the Glen Burnie Guitar Center in Maryland from my other brother’s band-member, Justin Day, he’s a Maryland Pinball Champion and a national contender as well as an amazing producer within the Baltimore hardcore scene. He has been a big help, I trust Justin.

I don’t want to over-explain this one except to say that it goes perfectly for the kind of distortion I seek and in pushing my voice and the overall sound to the limits within live and home-studio sessions. The mic and MPC are my irreplaceable weapons of choice.

Rippers is out now on RAAR.

Buy it here.

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