Living Color’s Vernon Reid—Staying on the Edge with Mackie Tracktion

“I’m a big fan of alternative ways of doing things,” says Vernon Reid with his characteristic understatement. The pioneering guitarist has pretty much made innovation his stock in trade, from his early days in Ronald Shannon Jackson’s punk-funk Decoding Society, to fronting the Grammy-winning rock band Living Color, Reid’s eclectic list of collaborations range from musicians like Carlos Santana and West African singer Salif Keita, to choreographers like Donald Byrd and Bill T. Jones.

Since releasing his own solo album, the critically acclaimed Mistaken Identity in 1996, Reid has continually explored a vast range of alternatives, including scoring the Charles Stone III film Paid in Full, producing albums by Keita, Mexican rockers Resorté, and free-form guitar legend James “Blood” Ulmer. All this while also lending his time and talents to a children’s program for the Brooklyn Academy of Music called Bring Your Beats.

Presently Reid is working with the reunited Living Color and composing new material using his laptop and Mackie Tracktion music production software.

“Tracktion’s really cool,” he remarks. “I’ve used lots of different programs, and all of them have a great list of features. But what’s interesting is that, as music software’s capabilities are advancing, their interfaces are becoming more and more complex. You can do a lot of things but it’s becoming more and more difficult to maneuver and find what you want. I try to spend time learning all the new features, but in the meantime I’ve got music I have to make. What I like about Tracktion is that it’s really immediate. Most other programs make me relearn my workflow with every major upgrade – that’s tough when you’ve gotten used to a certain way of working. With Tracktion, everything’s right there. And it’s got an extensive amount of help, so I never get bogged down having to stop and look things up. I can work on the music and not get caught up in the method.”

Reid is also a big fan of Tracktion’s extensive feature set. “The loop record mode is great for trying out ideas, and the bussing is quick and intuitive. And it’s great to be able to build a stack of instruments by just clicking and dragging them into the rack. And I love the fact that it’s got built-in Quicktime support. I literally scored an indie horror film with it, in conjunction with (Ableton) Live, thanks to the built-in ReWire support. ”

To learn more about Mackie Tracktion, visit