• Ableton script for Launchpad and interview with its creator

    A few weeks ago I stumbled across a cool script that turned the Novation Launchpad into an Ableton Push emulator. I studied the download page for it real hard in hopes of finding out more about it. And I did! Apparently the script has been around since 2011 and constantly improved and updated since then.
    The only issue I had was that it’s creator, Henri David, was just a shadow figure in my mind. However, thanks to the power of social media we managed to get in touch and Henri was kind enough to answer some questions that were burning in my mind.

    Below, you’ll find a chopped up video of me playing around with and walking through Launchpad95. Below that video of me playing around with and walking through Launchpad95 you’ll find an interview with the man himself – Henri David.

    Launchpad95's 'Step Sequencer' diagram. Image courtesy of motscousus.com

    Launchpad95′s ‘Step Sequencer’ diagram. Image courtesy of motscousus.com

    Sunny: The first question I wanted to ask – especially after seeing how long Launchpad 75/85/95 has been around – was where the initial idea came from?

    Henri: It all started somewhere back in 2011 with Launchpad75. Hum… wait. Actually no! It started a bit before that. I got into Live python scripting with an Alesis Photon X25 and an Akai MPD16 around 2007 and hacked some scripts to control session and devices. I got myself a Launchpad in 2011. Launchpad integration was great, but was missing some obvious things (how do I activate record from user mode 1 ? can’t i edit that midi clip ?). After some research I stumbled on the scripts made by Hanz Petrov that are basically to the APC40 what Launchpad75/85 was to the Launchpad stock scripts. I took some of the ideas and code and integrated the step sequencer into the Launchpad scripts. From there it went on and on, adding refinements from user feedback, adding device controller etc.
    From the beginning, the motive was always frustration, “why can’t i do that?”, “there must a simpler way of doing this !” and then realizing I could just do it ! I guess it’s also that I’ve always been passionate about human interfaces in general, and my programming and musical background did the rest.

    Launchpad95's 'Instrument Mode' diagram. Image courtesy of motscousus.com

    Launchpad95′s ‘Instrument Mode’ diagram. Image courtesy of motscousus.com

    S: Since, I’ve only known about the script for a few weeks, I unfortunately don’t know how the lifespan of it has been up to this point. What kind of feedback have you got so far? Have you felt any hype surrounding it?

    H: Usually the feedback I get from users is very warm and keeps me going. I also get some suggestions and bug reports that often progress into future ideas or immediate improvements. I don’t really know of any hype around my scripts, but there is definitely a need for it seeing all the positive feedback i get ! Of course there was a noticeable bump of interest for Launchpad95 since i released the instrument mode for live 9.
    Here i should give some praise to the Push Team over at Ableton. The work they did on the instrument mode (and many other aspects of Push) is mind blowing, and actually some of the instrument mode of Launchpad95 would not be the same, or even exist at all, without looking at some of the python code for Push.

    S: Just a couple of years ago in 2011 (coincidentally when your script was first developed) the electronic music scene (especially for controllerism community) was just beginning to gain some popularity. What do you think of the rise in popularity and is there anything you personally attribute it to? Where do you see it going from here?

    H: It’s amazing to see what the scene is coming up with in terms of new ideas and new ways to produce beats. One of the strongest forces of controllerism is mainly the intrinsic need for it. One can just not play music with mouse or qwerty keyboard, play in the sense of playing music, playing the piano. Push and Maschine are two good examples of what the music software industry has come up with as good solutions to fit this need (the leap forward from APC and launchpad is huge !).
    Then of course, there is also the fact that all this became possible ! Arduino, Teensy, Max4live, Python Scripting in Live, Max/MSP, PureData, SuperCollider, hacker friendly hardware (Korg Monotron for instance), or all the DIY synths, beatboxes or controllers. All this put together gave enthusiasts the tools and opened the doors they need to build their own tools.
    What I see coming (or dream of maybe) in the future is a more fuzzy boundary between commercial hardware and DIY stuff, via more hackable main stream hardware, cheaper and more diverse DIY hardware one hand, and more open and documented commercial software as well as tons of open source code to play with on the other.

    S: We would love to know about any future plans involving Launchpad95 and other projects you’re working on, so I have to ask – what’s next?

    H: As I work on Launchpad95 on my free time, it isn’t anywhere near perfect and there is definitely room for improvement and bug fixing. I would start with improving some features, fixing bugs and in general making the script as easy and intuitive as possible, which can be quite a challenge with such a small device with no LCD screen (the stock scripts are quite good on that domain already !). I would like also to improve the step sequencer in some ways, but i’m not sure yet which direction to take. As usual only time and patience will bring the answer.

    In closing: I encourage you to download it and check it out if you’ve got a Launchpad (or Launchpad S) and haven’t already done so. It’s a lot of fun and the script is frequently updated to fix things, improve workflow, and add awesome new stuff (as a matter of fact, the version I’m running in the above video is already old). If you are using it feel free to leave a comment and Henri (and us) know how you’re getting on with it.
    Thanks for your awesome script and the awesome interview Henri!