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Using Your Phone as an Instrument With Classic Virgo

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In February, Max Edermaniger released his debut self-titled EP under the name Classic Virgo. Classic Virgo appears like a 180 musically to his past project Max William with synths replacing guitars but he himself would say it’s a truer creative form to his personality. The self-titled record contains four tracks written on late night dog walks, nap times and mundane work days all composed on his smartphone. Max talked about evolving his sound and shared his advice and thoughts on writing electronic music.

What’s inside?

  1. Making Changes & Swapping Sounds
  2. Composing & Progressing With Electronic Music
  4. Classic Virgo’s Top 5 Must Have Apps
  5. Embracing the Creativity in Your “Day to Day”
  6. 3 Favourite “Day to Day” Moments for Creativity
  7. Releasing Your Music the D.I.y Way
  8. The Eye Opener

Making Changes & Swapping Sounds

What inspired the transition from Max William to Classic Virgo?

So I think the last real release I did was the last Max William EP, called Wirt, which was at the end of March, 2017. At the time it felt like that was the best thing that I had made, song writing wise, production wise and it kind of felt like it was my “last hurrah”. I don’t know why but my mentality was that I had to get it out into the world and move on. I felt like I kind of reached the end of my tenure as Max William and I wasn’t really getting a lot out of it anymore. I felt I was almost leaning on the same tropes, the same chords and I wasn’t really pushing myself to be anything different. I started to feel like I was slotting into a particular mold. So with Wirt I just kind of wrote it and put it out. Didn’t really make much fanfare, I probably played like three gigs after that and then just kind of moved on.

When did you start to step away from acoustic to electronic music?

I started doing a few electronic bits here and there, I made a couple of tracks and put them out without really doing much that were kind of the precursor to what I’m doing now. They were really half arsed and kind of underdeveloped though. There are demos from 2017 that have the same sound as what I am writing now that are probably deep in SoundCloud somewhere that will never be found.

I didn’t really know if there was other music like what I was making at the time. I didn’t know if people would think it was good or weird… Maybe I thought a little too much about how I was gonna be perceived. I now know that the music I play fits into a particular area of online music but in 2017 I hadn’t discovered that music yet. So it felt like a bit of a jump and it just took me a really long time to have the courage to do anything new, and, but then also, like, life happened. I had a kid and I moved back to the Isle of Wight and kinda’ just let myself just live without any kind of commitments for a while. Just didn’t put any pressure on myself to do anything. Just worked and just enjoyed my free time and stuff.

Classic Virgo feels like the most complete version of me as a songwriter. I was Max William for a long time but before that, I was like Cosine the dubstep DJ producer and way before that, I was like another version of Max William that was doing a similar thing that has a mix of both acoustic guitar blended electronic music. So essentially I’ve been making electronic music since I was like 12 or 13. 

Composing & Progressing With Electronic Music

Do you think the break you took from music helped shape the sound of Classic Virgo?

I think the distance in time between Max William and Classic Virgo helped me get into the new version of what I am doing without the feeling like I was jumping around too much. I could take a breath and let old stuff go. Rather than making it a jarring experience. I’m not really the person that I was when I was Max William. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person. I was just a weird stoner kid at that point by the end of Max Williams and was doing nothing, whereas now it’s like, I feel like there’s a bit more substance behind my songwriting now. I feel like I’ve got something to write about again and I felt like I was starting to lose that for a while.

The direction Classic Virgo went was actually more of a necessity, actually. When Norah was born and especially when she was very little, I didn’t have a place to play guitar and with a sleeping child I could no longer play the guitar loud and stretch my vocal cords the way I did with Max William. So pretty much most of the actual songs (although I use logic to record vocals and mix the tracks) are created on my phone. 

With my phone I found I can just do it quietly without bothering anyone and because I made it all wearing headphones the tracks are far more superior sound wise to a Max William record. I tried to hit every frequency, I tried to make sure that it felt empty and so the tracks feel more complete.

I learned all the techniques literally through like Instagram accounts that have infographics on what EQ means and how to EQ vocals and how to mix drums and that kind of stuff, just like two or three page little, little instant slides that just tell you the absolute basics that I can just try and implement in a way that works.

There’s an account called cosmic academy, it’s made for dance music producers, so it’s a little different to what I am doing and it’s always trying to get you to pay money to be part of their academy and like get placements for your songs. But if you ignore that stuff there are a bunch of free things they put up that are definitely interesting. I have a save folder on my Instagram which has hundreds and hundreds of little tutorials and pages of little tips and tricks. If I need them I can just go back to that and find them. 

Using Your Phone as an Instrument

Using my phone has kinda cut off a lot of the restraints of recording and writing. With your phone there is no mouse, no giant microphone and no leads. It’s not easy to be creative and with recording there can be a lot of extra stuff to get to the juice of it all. Whereas, you know, especially when I’m just demoing and writing lyrics, I’m just singing it into my phone, and there’s nothing to that, it’s just a hit record (luckily for an iPhone as well, the microphone is pretty decent). Having a device I use for songwriting on me at all times means when I’m walking the dog or at work and I come up with an idea I can jot it down in my notes app immediately. Then I’ll just mull on it for hours until it becomes something or it doesn’t.

Classic Virgo’s Top 5 Must Have Apps

1. GarageBand iOS

I so rarely have time to sit down at a computer and load up Logic or FL Studio and that was stifling my creativity, but once I started getting used to GarageBand on my phone it changed everything. By applying my existing production knowledge to it I’m able to accomplish so much more than you’d expect with it. I bounce everything out of it and mix it in Logic and wouldn’t dare record vocals into it but when it comes to building the song it’s perfect to help me catch inspiration wherever it hits me.

2. Instagram Producer Tutorial Accounts

I am so far from being a master at production but Instagram has been so useful if I need tips on this or that. YouTube tutorials take too long for me and are super annoying – give me a little three slide infographic on EQ or compression tips any day. Cosmic Academy is great for free tips and info – just ignore the rise and grind producer nonsense, work at your own pace.

3. Audio Master

I have no idea how to master and far too little cash to splash on getting someone to do it for me. This app lets you try different presets and find the right level that fits your track. 

4. Premiere Pro Rush

Outside of actually producing music, I made all my music videos and social videos on my phone too. I have the luxury of knowing how to use Premiere Pro from making skate videos as a kid so that transferred nicely but this app is so easy and intuitive. The only thing that holds it back is the size of my phone screen.

5. The “Notes” app

Hardly revolutionary but all hail the Notes app. I have thousands and thousands of notes, some are full songs, some are just phrases or even words I like that evoke an emotional response. I just wish the app had an auto-delete function linked to my heartbeat so when I die it dies with me. Nobody needs to bear witness to what, without context, must look like the work of an insane person.

Embracing the Creativity in Your “Day to Day”

I really believe those mundane moments in the day can allow space and time in the brain to be super creative whilst the rest of the body is on autopilot doing your daily tasks and the smartphone can capture that creativity perfectly. 

Three Favourite “Day to Day” Moments for Creativity

1. Stirring the beans

Cooking has a great rhythm to it anyway but sometimes it’s hectic. However, stirring the baked beans on the hob? There’s nothing to it and I always get lost in the movement of it.

2. Evening dog walks

I walk our retired greyhound every night and sometimes if I have a beat I’ve made which I’m into, I’ll just loop it for the whole walk and hum potential vocal melodies. Once I get back to the car I’ll demo them on GarageBand and see what fits.

3. Rocking my daughter to sleep

This is my favourite part of my day – she still wants me to rock her to sleep and there’s something about the gentle sway in a pitch black room that really gets my mind going. Whether it’s melodies or lyrics, I think it’s the absence of all other stimulus that brings them out. I’d do it forever if my spine would allow it.

Releasing Your Music the D.I.Y Way

How was releasing the tracks when you finally finished them?

It was nerve wracking as hell, I literally sat on the record for six months. I kept making excuses and obstacles to push it back. The thing with electronic music, it’s so easy to just tinker and edit forever.To the point that it can get a little bit obsessive, I just like listening to the same songs every single day, picking holes in it. I was holding them so close to the chest and I just didn’t know what to do with them.

One night Ellen was out, Norah was asleep and I told myself “I’m doing it, I’m making a video and I’m gonna put it out”. I felt like I was at a point where I had to get it off my chest. It had started to become a burden as It was creating writer’s block for future material. I made the video in the living room, I edited it in one night, I completely made the whole thing on my phone.. Just had to get something out and felt so good to finally get it out.

Did the time off from music change anything when it came to the release?

I’m not really prevalent in the music scene as I used to be, I’ve replaced playing gigs regularly to being a dad, so the people I see the most are no longer musicians but people from work and I would think “what are they going to say?”. There are a lot of people that I am connected with now that haven’t seen that side of me. I’m not saying I got a huge response from it or anything but the feedback I got was really positive.

It was confirmation that people still like my songwriting and are happy to hear something from me. After four years I had forgotten what it had felt like to have completed something you’re proud of and sharing out to the world and the combination of overthinking, nervousness and satisfaction. 

The Eye Opener

What advice would you give to someone struggling with song writing?

I would say just try and listen to music all the time. Whether it’s one song or whether it’s a bunch of songs that are mixing around in your head, use those songs to evoke emotion that you can import into your song writing. With that, I try to not beat myself up If I’m writing something and suddenly I feel like, oh, this sounds too much like this or that because by the end of the cycle of writing the song it won’t sound anything like the song you thought I was duplicating.

Using my phone has kinda cut off a lot of the restraints of recording and writing. With your phone there is no mouse, no giant microphone and no leads. It’s not easy to be creative and with recording there can be a lot of extra stuff to get to the juice of it all.

Max Edermaniger


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