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Geared Up: Human Impact’s Jim Coleman on His MacBook Pro and Digital Audio Work Stations



You better brace yourself for some jarring, body-slamming Human Impact! The New York-based band that’s a bit of a supergroup, featuring members of Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane, and Swans, just released their self-titled debut on March 13th via Ipecac Recordings. The ten-track album was recorded at BC Studios under the wing of the band’s do-it-all, electronics guru Jim Coleman and his guitar playing cohort Chris Spencer, with additional assistance from production veteran Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, John Zorn, Bootsy Collins).

Although Human Impact is a brand new band, it’s not hard to notice the firepower that exists behind the scenes of this emerging act. Each member is a long-time veteran of the rock game so it’s not like they’re just taking off the training wheels. Human Impact is also even newer to the live scene, as they just played their second ever live concert on March 14th at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn to celebrate the record’s release. This was preceded by their inaugural show at New York City’s Union Pool. They’re essentially a noise rock lover’s dream, joining the worlds of guitars and sampling and making it sound not only coherent but also rousing.

With “noise” being such an important component of Human Impact, we spoke with sampling and electronics master Jim Coleman about his favourite gear that went into the writing and recording of the group’s debut, including his MacBook Pro, plus the software he uses in helping to create the band’s original sound.

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?

Jim Coleman: “My Macbook Pro. That might not seem too sexy, but that’s where the majority of my sound manipulation takes place. Whether I am generating and messing with sounds all in the box, or recording hardware synths or recording audio in the filed, it all comes back in to the Macbook pro to get mangled.”

How did you come to possess this piece of equipment? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted. Give us the details.

“I’ve purchased a number of Macbook Pros through the years. I use them hard, not only for creating music in the studio, playing live, video manipulation and editing. They seem to last at most four years. I keep on thinking of switching over to Windows-based hardware but never seem to do it. It’s like I’d rather keep on making music than going down the rabbit hole of learning a new operating system.”

What made you choose this particular piece of gear and were there any close seconds or alternates?

“I think at this juncture let’s take a detour into software. I use a variety of software within the computer. And a number of DAWs (digital audio work stations). I’ve used Logic since it was V2 as an Emagic product. I’ve used Ableton Live since its V1 inception. Currently, I am using Ableton Live for most everything. The process of transitioning from work in the studio to prepping stuff for live shows is pretty well integrated with Ableton. I find it really intuitive but infinitely deep as well.”

Geared Up: Human Impact’s Jim Coleman on His MacBook Pro and Digital Audio Work Stations

What about this piece of equipment makes it so important to you?

“Its depth and versatility. I can quickly record anything and everything, manipulate sounds on the fly, route midi controls as I see fit. It’s basically an open universe.”

Did you use this gear during the recording of your latest song or album? If so, please elaborate on how and for what parts.

“Totally. The MBP and Ableton Live were used extensively. Chris and I live on different sides of the country, so there is a lot of sending ideas back and forth as we develop songs. We are sadly dependent on our computers. Chris uses Pro Tools, but I have stayed in Live for most of these songs (though some songs were worked on in Logic and some in Bitwig). There is a ton of back and forth, laying off individual tracks and stems, but we stay in audio so the Live/Pro Tools thing isn’t an issue. A lot of the ideas were generated in Ableton Live.”

Do you have a special way that you recreate your album tones in a live setting, or is it more just plug-and-play?

“Once we are done recording songs, I then go back in to Live, strip out all other tracks (drums, bass, guitar, vocals), and key-map and midi route controls to each set of sounds or audio files. This breaks up the various sections I am playing live across the keyboard, and allows me to manipulate and control each sound in real time.”

We know you love this particular piece of equipment, but are there any major cons? (Ok, now you can also list the pros.)

“If a computer goes down while performing live I am hosed. I spent the last month getting a backup system together so now feel that if this happens we can get the show up and running again in a couple of minutes.”

If you could, or wanted to (maybe you don’t at all, and that’s cool), what would you tweak or mod on this piece of gear?

“Faster loading times. It’s funny, I started playing live with Cop Shoot Cop using an Ensoniq Mirage sampler, which ran on floppy discs. It took forever to load each song. So technology has obviously matured greatly since then, but what I am doing sonically in each song has gotten more complex, so those load times are still a thing.”

How easy is it for you to tweak the device and get the tone/sounds you need?

“It varies. This is definitely the fun part though. Sometimes it’s a real challenge to find the exact sound and tone I’m looking for or that works just right. Other times it’s like it was just right there waiting for me to find it.”

How does the piece of gear hold up with regular touring and gigging?

“Good. I travel with it constantly and keep it well protected.”

Artwork for ‘Human Impact’ by Human Impact

Do you have a backup for this gear, if so, what?

“I do have a backup. I mentioned it previously. The backup can require a lot of ongoing attention to keep it in sync with my primary system.”

Time for some fun. Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.

“More like a ‘gear goes away’ story. Years ago, when touring with Cop Shoot Cop, we were doing a number of shows with Iggy Pop. Our whole van of gear was stolen in Boston. None of it was insured. Luckily, we were on Interscope at the time, so they basically foot the bill for us to all go get new gear. Over a year later, we were contacted by Boston Police. They had apparently located the van. Inside was a bass cabinet and a pair of sneakers.”

Any final thoughts or comments on the gear?

“Quick expanded hit list of favourite gear I use regularly:

1. Qubit Nebulae Eurorack module
2. Mutable Instruments Clouds
3. Teenage Engineering OP1
4. Universal Audio audio interfaces
5. 4ms STS Eurorack module
6. Izotope Trash 2 plug in
7. Native Instruments Kontakt & Reaktor
8. Red Panda Tensor guitar pedal”

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