The night was fast approaching and it wouldn’t be long before DJ Enferno was spinning for an excited crowd at Opera, one of Atlanta’s hottest clubs. I arrived with the rest of the UniqueSquared video team in the middle of soundcheck. Thankfully, DJ Enferno had some time after to talk to us and put together a demo on the Casio keyboard that he uses in his live remix setup. It’s Casio’s XW-G1, a member of their new XW line of professional keyboards.
At first I was skeptical. When I think of Casio, I don’t think of professional keyboards. I hear Casio and I think of G-Force watches and remember the cheesy little 61-key digital piano that I got for Christmas when I was twelve. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that keyboard and played with it for hours and hours as a child. Even now when I find myself missing the old days, I dig it out of the closet and I play some of the songs I wrote way back when in middle school. But I would never expect Casio keyboards to truly perform at a pro level.
We hadn’t been talking to Enferno long before he confessed that he used to feel the same way about Casio. Actually, he first began working with Casio when they gave him one of their G-Force watches. Casio had seen his live remix videos and it wasn’t long before they asked him to try out the Casio Privia. He incorporated it into one of his those remixes and was very pleased. He got a great response from the YouTube community as well. Impressed with the results of his first live Casio keyboard remix, Enferno was happy to take a look at the brand new XW-G1. Right off the bat he was looking for a looping function – one of the most important tools he uses in his live remixing. Not only did the XW-G1 have a sample looper, but it also came with a 16 step sequencer.
The sequence looper allows him to choose from 16-step sequence patterns selected from 100 x 8 variations on preset groove music performance patterns. Techno, house, hip hop, and electro patterns are just some of the genres available in the sequencer. He can also create original tracks, adding his own arrangements by controlling the sound of each beat with the 16 ON/OFF buttons, for instance, or by changing notes and velocities in real time with the 9 sliders. There’s also a chain function that allows him to link together up to 99 multiple musical performance patterns and play them back in a loop. In the end he can create up to 100 variations on the original patterns.
The sample looper lets Enferno play something on the keyboard and loop it for up to 19 seconds. Overdubbing? No problem. If he’s got a track running into the keyboard from an external source, from his iPod for example, he can loop that as well. He can use the Beat mode to record a single-beat sound segment and repeat it a specified number of times, the Split mode to take multiple samples consecutively in a single recording, or the OVDB mode to conduct overlapping recordings on top of recorded samples. And switching between these modes is as simple as making a quick selection in The Sample Bar.
The other function that makes Enferno’s live remix possible is the ability to split up and assign different keys to different sounds. He had the keyboard split up into fourths allowing him to choose from a diverse range of samples and completely freeing him from his laptop. He had the bottom keys assigned to drum samples, the middle keys assigned to organ sounds, and the top keys assigned to piano sounds.
Using all of those functionalities he was able to build songs from scratch with nothing but the XW-G1. When he demoed the unit for us he composed the instrumental part of Calvin Harris’s song “We Found Love” using only the keyboard. He started out playing the organ synth, saved it in a loop and then moved on to the bass line. Once that was looping he then overdubbed the kick and the snare and looped that. Finally he dubbed a 8 bar measure of high hats in a loop over the song and it was sounding just like the original track, but it was just the beginning. He mixed in the Bulletproof acapella by La Roux, did a little scratching, and then started a build with the pitch bend wheel of the XW-G1. The build peaked and he dropped into a new loop with the piano section of the keyboard. By the time he was done with his demo there was no doubt in my mind. This keyboard was on a whole other level. Casio’s XW-G1 was without a doubt, a tool for the professional.