We first worked with Carl Rag back in 2014 and reconnected since recently introducing him to another superb artist (Max M), for an exclusive SPG collaboration. Carl Rag is a superb talent who uses his piano-playing experience and transferred that to performing live electronic music through finger drumming. We’re really pleased to have caught up with Carl again to talk about his unique talent, career and exciting future plans…
Carl Rag Interview by Ben Farrin
Please introduce yourself as an artist and explain what you do…
My name is Carl Rag and I’m a live performer / DJ, and music producer from Poland who specialises in finger drumming – a new way of performing live electronic music on pad controllers or samplers. When not performing, I spent my time in the studio making house music. For the past 10 years I’ve been working with labels, music equipment and software companies, producers, DJs and blogs.
You have a very unique talent, how did this come about?
Thanks! I started playing piano at music school as a young child. Later on, a passion for this instrument pushed me towards music production and DJing. The main goal back then was to deepen my instrumental skills and use them in a completely new way. Guess what… It worked out! After a few months of learning the basics of Ableton Live and music production I was able to perform my first finger drumming set on a pad controller – Novation Launchpad MK1.
What are your top 3 personal favourite remixes?
- C-Mos – 2 Million Ways (Axwell remix)
- Michel Mendoza & I-Fan – Be Without You (Hardsoul Reconstruction)
- Storm Queen – Look Right Through (MK Dub III)
You make it look so easy but how are you mentally able to memorise the sequences?
Through the years of finger drumming I developed a workflow which helps me to memorise all the samples. In most cases my left hand plays drums and effects / risers and right hand controls bass-lines / main melodies. Each performance is different but the main sample layout stays pretty much the same.
I noticed in the background if your Max M remix video you have plenty of keyboards, a Pioneer controller, decks and vinyl. Do you still DJ using vinyl?
Even though I only use digital gear on my gigs these days, I always go back to a traditional 2 turntables + mixer setup when I want to chill after a hard day’s work. There is something magical about analog mixing (and owning your favourite tracks on vinyl). It’s a feeling that nothing can replace, even a top-tier digital setup…
Favourite record you own?
Modjo – Lady (first US pressing).
What is your greatest career highlight to date?
First big project / collaboration with Akai Professional and Toolroom Records for sure! It was back in 2014 – we’ve worked together on the Akai APC 40 II performance video filmed in Ministry of Sound. I met so many inspiring people back then.
Before Covid set in, were you playing to live audiences?
All venues were closed (and still are) in my area since March so I didn’t have a chance to perform in clubs this year, but I’ve found a way to put myself out there… During the summer season (when lockdown wasn’t as strict as it is now) I was giving some live performances on the streets. People loved them! It was an amazing and refreshing experience.
How have you managed to adapt and keep focused on music during lockdown?
At the beginning of the first lockdown I made a list of “things to do”. I had to clean up the mess in my studio, reorganise my workflow and prepare for the new reality. My regular 9-5 job went through many changes since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, home office became a new reality. At first, it was difficult for me to focus on making music after 8h of “regular” work in front of a computer monitor, but after a couple of weeks, I finally found a way to adapt to the challenges of 2020.
What are your career plans in the future?
I’d like to move a bit from making remixes and focus more on releasing my original tracks. I’ve been working really hard on some fresh material in the past few months and now it’s time to show it off! Furthermore, I’m gonna create music production / live performance courses for music producers. People have been asking me for Ableton Live tutorials for years. 2021 here we go!
Thank you for your time, Carl all the best!
For more info about Carl Rag visit: www.carlrag.com