Less-Boring Looping (“Pumped-Up Kicks” Cover)

For a while I’ve been playing this loop-based cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped-Up Kicks” at solo gigs and with my duo band, Mental 99. At risk of sounding like a pompous dick, I’ve annotated the performance, highlighting techniques I’ve found useful for making loop-based performances livelier and less predictable.

I’ve covered some of this ground before, particularly in this Premier Guitar looping-technique article. But here I call out the techniques mid-performance, and I’ve included a few new ones. I hope you find some of them useful.

Likewise, I’ve already written about my live looping rig, but it’s changed a bit since then, and I’ve recently integrated a Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface (plus the stellar plug-ins it allows me to run). An updated overview:


The arrangement perform nicely, and I dig the individual components. But I dislike the system’s Rube Goldberg complexity—it’s a royal pain to set up and schlep. I’m always looking for ways to simply. (Other than, you know, just plugging the guitar into a frickin’ amp.) I’m open to suggestions for streamlining!

Black Mac

I love Apple products, but I hate having Macs onstage (mainly ’cause they’re so much better looking than me). Covering it in black wrap makes it less obtrusive. The Marshall logo is from one of those “toy” stacks (which, of course, can be far more than toys in the studio).

12 comments to Less-Boring Looping (“Pumped-Up Kicks” Cover)

  • NotSoFast

    Thanks for the lesson! Two thoughts:

    1.With loopers the feet become the focus and that distracts from the performance. Perhaps a controller on the guitar would be better (its asking a lot though with what you are doing!). Is it cheating if the whole control and effects setup are canned and preset (with a manual override or at least an Ashley Simpson abort button)?

    2. I’ve been eyeing those interlocking “gym floor tiles” they sell at home depot with the idea of having all the gear velcro’d to them with one side of the cord already plugged in and cut to near minimum connecting length. Then the set up is putting the tiles together and plugging in the other end of the cord.

  • NotSoFast

    Its either that or become Mike Dawes…. but first I’ll become The Batman because that’s easier.

  • Big pine box to leave everything but the macbook plugged up and ready to go?

  • Laertes

    I love your videos Joe. I am nowhere near of using any of your tricks (I have more than enough learning with guitar and amp only for now) but I enjoy watching your ideas.

  • Shizmab Abaye

    I can’t help you improve your setup or approach as you are already light years ahead of me in all respects especially with regards to musical talent. However I am interested in general in computer enhanced creativity. The way my life works I kinda need almost immediate gratification which means the days of assembling MIDI drum tracks hit by hit are gone.

    I tried some looping software on a Windows machine along with a Behringer MIDI Pedal and it was “OK”. But it really quickly gets too complex to deal with when you’re on the other side of the brain trying to be musical. I don’t see how you are able to pull it off other than tons of practice. Do you use a cheat sheet? Have you seen that ancient Henry Kaiser video where he shows his gigantic list of effects presets which he then claims he throws away and starts from scratch every couple weeks? Well, that’s Henry.

    Now I’m trying to put together a similar setup on Linux. Perhaps the same thing will happen, though I’m attracted by the idea of wasting only time instead of money as well.

  • Stuart

    Magic! Thanks, Joe. Also, makes me less self-conscious about my rat’s-nest-rig that routes TriplePlay to MainStage when I see all the gear you command at your feet.

  • Oinkus

    If it was easy , anyone could do it . Nice rig , way out of my comfort zone. I have more stuff connected in my at home setup but it is just a pedalboard ( 24 pedals)and 2 amps with a looper going to one of them.When I go live I take 1 amp and 10 pedals or so and use an A/B box to have 2 guitars in the signal.I love your cutting board for the exp pedal and Apollo , that is beyond cool.Pretty hard to improve on what you are doing just because a lot of it is from practice using the gear and knowing how everything works.Insert random moronic comment here…..

  • Cutting board pedalboard is ingenious.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I found it informative and enjoyable.

  • gil sy

    Great !
    It’s nice to have you back on the loop subject !

  • Love it!

    I've also been doing PUK at solo looping gigs, and it consistently gets the nods of pleased recognition. I'm also using the Boomerang III these days since it's much more compact than the EDP set up I used for years, and it allows for undo-back-to-first-loop so I can avoid the dreaded every-growing-ball-of-loop-goop. The EDP was the best for that though, since you could do multiple layers of undo to thin things out, and Feedback was so well implemented.

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