Having scored No.1 success in Australia, US and UK at just 16 years of age with single “Royals”, New Zealand singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Connor, known to most as Lorde, is unstoppable. She’s the youngest artist to reach No.1 in the US in more than 25 years, and her recently released debut album “Pure Heroine” has already been critically acclaimed. Not only that, she also received two GRAMMY® Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year. We caught up with Lorde’s keys player Jimmy Mac at the hotel they’re staying at, the night before their performance at Vevo’s Halloween Show at Oval Space, London.
Everything out of me is everything that’s not drums. I’ve got all the sounds automated for different parts of the song to turn on and off – the effects and program changes are automated as well.
Jimmy’s background was originally as a drummer for a punk band, and along with Lorde’s drummer Ben (Barter) he also played in a few other bands which were under the same management as Lorde. After having heard Lorde’s EP, Jimmy jumped at the chance of joining her band – although initially wanting to be her drummer, and not her keys player! Having two drummers in the band is not a bad thing, however – Jimmy tells us “it’s nicer and feels real tight, having two drummers – you’re locking really good together.”
Jimmy uses the Novation Impulse 61 on stage, running through Ableton Live. Most of what he plays live is percussive – Jimmy uses the drum pads to trigger the vocal samples, and the keys are assigned to drum racks with the samples taken directly from Lorde’s studio recordings on them. Jimmy says, “We worked with the producer (Joel Little), and he sampled everything off the record for us so we could MIDI map all the synth sounds to the notes. We wanted to make it as live as possible, as opposed to just playing off the track or playing over the top of it. It was a luxury being able to work with him that closely.
Having the MIDI inputs and outputs on the Impulse is also an important part of the set – “It’s good having the MIDI options on the Impulse – there’s so much side-chaining from the album, and we can do it live now from Ben’s electronics into the Impulse. We couldn’t do it live before.”
“The reason why I like the Impulse is that the pads are really big – and there’s lights around them! There are other keyboards with pads that don’t have any lights, and you can’t see anything on stage because it’s black on black.”
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