Drumcell Plays Tokyo, Debuts Kontrol X1

Last week, we told you about the forthcoming collaboration between Drumcell mastermind Moe Espinosa and Richard Devine and posted a video showcasing a portion of Devine's collection of gear. Espinosa too is good with gear. He's worked with Native Instruments on the development of various products and is considered to be a bit of an expert with Traktor. Last December, when Native Instruments launched Kontrol X1 in Japan, the company invited the L.A. DJ to debut the Traktor-related MIDI controller in Tokyo. We talked to him about the experience.

Drumcell in Tokyo
Drumcell in Tokyo

Can you describe the gig?

It was at the Seco club in Shibuya, the main area in Tokyo where all the nightclubs are. It's a quaint little, small club, fits probably about 400, 500 people. Early on, the CEO came in and gave a speech about the K X1 products and there were Japanese translators who described the products in detail. I did a quick, 15 minute demo of tricks and cool stuff you can do with it. After the presentation was over, there were free food and drinks and then the nightclub began, when the general public could come into the club. The opening DJ performed and then I did a good hour-forty-five, two-hour set.

The MIDI controller was the primary focus of the event. I played with two of them, hooked up to four individual decks on Traktor, so it was a pretty detailed, complicated set up.

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The cool thing is that the K X1 is getting a lot of hype right now. For Traktor enthusiasts, it's probably one of the most sought after products. The event was a big deal internationally.

Had you done anything like this before?

I've done a lot of work for Native Instruments in general, mostly for the DJ product line. Native Instruments is the company that manufactures a lot of different products like guitars and synthesizers. They have a DJ division, which is basically what Traktor is. I've done some launch events for Traktor Pro before, but I don't think that I've ever done anything on this caliber before. In Japan, they were so well-organized, combined with the hype around it and this being my first time playing in Tokyo, this was a big event in a lot of ways. It created a really cool vibe in general.

How long did you get to play around with it before you played it live?

Since the product wasn't even really finished in manufacturing until shortly before the release, I didn't get a unit until about a week and a half before the event. In that week, I was cramming in the studio every night, practicing and getting used to it. It's a completely different layout from what I'm used to performing. I felt that I was still a little clumsy with my hands, reaching for knobs that weren't there because they usually are on my old set-up. I spent a lot of time with it on the plane going to Tokyo and I hammered it out. It was actually the first time I had performed in a live environment with it. It was a lot of fun and it worked perfectly for me. I've got to say that I'm sold. It's cut down my traveling gear in half. I used to have to travel with this big Xone 3d mixer everywhere. It was in a flight case and weighed about fifty pounds. Every time I flew international, it was such a pain in the ass to travel. Now that they've streamlined this with two controllers, I can travel anywhere with my live set-up in my backpack.

Drumcell debuting Kontrol X1 in Tokyo. Video by Dirigent.

How did you like Tokyo?

I think, my entire life, I've been absolutely fascinated by Japanese culture. Especially, in the part of Los Angeles that I live in, Hacienda Heights, we have one of the biggest Buddhist temples in North America here. I had so many Japanese friends growing up and they would go to Japan to visit family during summer vacation and when they came back, the stuff that they would bring was just mesmerizing, the toys and the video games that we couldn't get over here. I've been to so many places in the world, but the one place I always wanted to go to was Japan.

I was extremely impressed by how well-versed they are in techno. I've played in cities where there's a small gathering of people who know the music, but the rest of the club is packed with people who would have shown up to the club anyway. They just want to dance, but they might not know the details of it. But, the Japanese were really tuned into the music. They know the artists, the labels, the performers. It was great.

I was really impressed with the soundsystem at the Seco club. I visited Womb and they really live up to their reputation about their soundsystems. I went to the Warehouse. There were two other places that were really great.

I was super surprised how many people knew the brand Droid and my records as Drumcell. For the first time in my life, I gave an autograph, which was pretty weird. This kid shows up with one of my records from 2003. I hadn't seen or heard it in years and he came up and he had it and said, "Can you sign it for me." I said, "I'd love to."

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