MERL is made from these components:

  • Asus VivoMini PC with Ableton Live (brain)
  • Keith McMillen Soft Step 2.0 foot controller
  • Keith McMillen K-Mix audio interface
  • Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 18W combo amp
  • HooToo TripMate Nano travel router
  • Chromebook (portal)
  • RealVNC software 



Ableton runs on the VivoMini and is controlled by the Soft Step foot pedal.
The router projects a wireless network.
The portal is used to shadow the brain. This allows for walking around the venue while sound checking.

The wireless network also opens up many possibilities for phone interaction from audience members in the future: maybe serving up files, maybe serving up a page that allows people to interact with the live music, whether this is EQing a channel, tweaking a synth. I think it would be really fun to figure this out, which would include carefully choosing parameters and ranges that would keep the music listenable, but still allow for creative input.   

Ableton Configuration:

2 inputs: Vocal & Electric Guitar

3 outputs: Main L&R to PA, Dry Guitar to Amp.

Main L&R includes Vocals, Rhythm, and Wet Guitar.

Vocals include Lead and 3 Loop tracks: Left, Center, and Right.

Rhythms are currently very simple drum loops. 

Wet Guitar is the amp line out through a bank of effects.

Dry Guitar contains free playing or a loop.  


Where I am: 

I am starting simple. I have played with MERL enough that she feels second nature and has started to influence the writing process. This is demonstrated in "Woman". I have begun to visualize the vocal loops as "painting" the stereo space and excited to explore this more. 



It would be exciting to find collaborators! Someone doing live production / electronic drumming would be a great addition because it would add a more organic feel to the rhythms, provide dynamics, and free me up to perform more. I have limited attention and when the controls get complicated it diminishes the feeling and the ability to connect with an audience.