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Expert interview: Tobias Miorin - From drummer to Ableton specialist

Tobias Miorin is a drummer and Playback/Backline Tech who has collaborated with artists such as Fred Again, Simply Red, Anastacia, Rita Ora, and Naomi Scott, among others. He excels in crafting grooves with hybrid setups and programming dynamic, fail-safe shows in Ableton, maximizing the potential of both acoustic and electronic drums.

Published on
May 27, 2024
Author
Mario Rossmann
Marketing Manager

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What is your background/story? How did you get into the music business?

Growing up in Allgäu, I received my first drum kit at the age of 3 and soon realized my life's passion was making music. My journey to becoming a professional musician began with studying music production at Deutsche POP. However, I quickly knew I needed to return behind the drums. In 2009, I moved to London to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Popular Music Performance. My drum teacher, Michael Porter from Rhythmpoint Laupheim, played a crucial role in these early years. His constant motivation was instrumental in helping me pass the entrance exam in London.

In London, my initial focus was about learning English properly and keeping pace with the highly skilled drummers around me. During this time, I practiced or 'jammed' with numerous musicians 6-7 days a week. These interactions and friendships led to my first gigs and recording sessions, which in turn led to new connections and recommendations. Gradually, my calendar filled up with bookings, and I continue to reside in London to this day.

What does your job look like today?

Today, I unfortunately don't spend much time behind the drums anymore. My love for electronics, hybrid drums, and then Ableton Live really took over in the last few years and I became more and more known for it in the scene. That's why my career has shifted more towards playback and backline tech over the last 3 years. On my "main gig" I take care of the whole setup of the artist. That means I program the instruments and the associated computers, set everything up, test it before the show, and make sure everything works perfectly. During the show, I monitor the computers and ensure the show runs smoothly. In the nearly 3 years that I have been working with this artist, the gig has grown incredibly - from first concerts in front of 200 people to touring in Europe, North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand. Other playback gigs where I occasionally help out are often simpler and it's more a matter of programming and then firing the songs during the show.

What are the most important skills in your current job?

Apart from the obvious skills that my position as a playback/backline tech brings with it - i.e. musical skills and detailed knowledge of all the software and hardware we use, it's the social skills that set one apart from others. For example: The bigger the gig, the more pressure. You have to learn to cope with it and always - even when jetlagged or with little sleep - work professionally and adaptively. Every gig, every country, every event location or venue has its own challenges and problem solving is a huge part of the job. With a crew of 60 people, every link in the chain just has to work. All of this becomes easier with experience - but can be really overwhelming at the beginning. That's why I think it's super important to have your things 200% together - only then do you really have some remaining headspace to cope with the special and spontaneous challenges without sinking.

What have been the biggest challenges and learnings for you so far? What were the "highs" and "lows" that you can share?

The biggest challenge is to stay on top of the latest developments. The artists I work with are always pushing their shows forward, which often involves trial and error and the possible integration of new equipment or software into our touring rig. This requires constantly learning new things in enough detail to be able to use them quickly enough for programming, gig-specific applications and troubleshooting on stage. It can be stressful and brings a lot of pressure. This is especially true when I'm assisting at another gig, which may use a different playback rig and certainly different instruments. It's always a challenge to adapt to these changes, which often happen at very short notice. But that's what keeps the whole thing interesting... ;)

What trends do you currently see in the music industry that could become a big or important thing?

With the steadily growing possibilities that even young or new artists have at home, gigs - more than ever before - are relying on electronics. Ableton Live is clearly the industry standard here, but the role of Ableton is changing from a pure 'playback machine' to a real instrument. Many artists that I work with, for example, hardly have any acoustic instruments on stage anymore; instead, they use MIDI controllers to control virtual instruments. This allows for a completely different way of working with virtually unlimited possibilities in terms of instrumentation, sounds, and arrangements. Already, many bands that you wouldn't expect are using the help of Ableton and software trickery. I believe all this will continue more and more in this direction.

What would be your advice to musicians who are thinking about a career in music today or have already taken their first steps?

Expand your horizons. While it might seem cliché, simply being an exceptional drummer or guitarist is no longer enough. Can you sing backing vocals? Excellent, this could save the management the task of hiring another band member. If you also have a broad understanding of music, including aspects such as arrangements, music programming, and backing tracks, you might be well-suited for the role of Musical Director (MD). You already have creative influence on the show and are deemed 'show critical'. Add Ableton skills and you learn how other tour departments such as light and video interact with it and you open even more doors! Everything you can bring to the table in addition to your instrument is an absolute bonus!

Thanks for the interview, Tobias :)

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