eso When do you know a song is done? You've been working on it. You've been jumping around. You've been moving around you, you know. When is it done? Oh, God, that is That is the million dollar question, right? They say the art is just like abandoned. It's never really completed. I think that I'm becoming more satisfied as I get more experience, not just because I'm better, but because I've learned that sometimes what people respond to is is just so much simpler than you were worrying about, Like you're sitting there because you've been working on your track going, Oh, I need another Phil and everything needs to be so original, and it needs to do that. And the reality is, especially if you're playing on a dance floor. 80% of that people don't even notice they're looking for the groove. They're looking for the underlying, just like the little hook, whether it's a tiny percussion things. So for me, it has to have that hook to it and again, like there's there's been trying for I made a track and I've worked on it for weeks, and then I take a day away from it. and I completely forget what it sounds like. And that's a way of me being like, yeah, that needs a lot of work and conversely, their stuff Where a song I started, for example, I haven't had a lot of time to work on it, so I kind of used Ah, lot of shortcuts. I used a lot of sounds I'd already made that weren't necessarily the ones I wanted to use. And I threw the thing together, and I did someone take vocals with a lot of noise. The whole thing is crappy, and it just keeps popping into my head like every you know. And maybe I don't necessarily know that it's finished, but to me it's like the idea is there. The idea is finished, and now it's just polished time and once. Once I feel like that Hook is there, then it's just a couple of like, you know, little changes here and there. Final mix down, and then it's good to go, because if it's getting stuck in my head, if I'm like craving something that I've spent this much time on and should be sick of, um and have taken time away from that's telling me that it's like, worth it, you know? Thanks and And tell me about your mastering techniques. What do you do? Yeah, so I don't do a lot because I sort of feel like most of the time, if I'm doing something for commercial release, I actually really want someone else to touch it because just like having a book editor or something like, it's good to have a second opinion. Not just that, but a lot of mastering engineers. They have this, like hard color equipment that I don't have. They have, like, really nice analog boards and saturate er's. And so, yeah, I mean, a lot of the time I've worked with one or two engineers who really like understand me and understand my music. And we actually have very close relationships because I've had really bad experiences with just sending it off to like generic engineers or engineers that do based music and because, you know, I like to think that like I make the bass music. But I also have this, like, delicate songwriter thing, and I don't really want you to just squish my track down if I'm doing it myself, which I do a lot when I have to play something out of the show. It's usually very simple, and one of the things that I learned from my mentors was, Ah, good mix. Should Onley just need to be like loudness, even to be mastered like you should not be putting all this crazy stuff on it unless the mix is not that good and you're trying to, like, do these gymnastics to fix it like that's not a good mix. So generally I just try and really get the mix as good as possible and then just do a very simple limiter. Um, I like the ozone maximize. Er is kind of a nice one and then maybe a little bit a little bit of a Q, and that's that's kind of it. And I feel like if I have to use more than that, then I probably need to work on the mix. You know,
tell me about your personal creative process. You wanna make a new song today? What you going to start with? O E kind of have a lot of different directions, and it depends with, um I starting with a melody that I've heard in my head. So sometimes that happens, unfortunately, usually happens while I'm driving. I don't know why, but I've heard that this is a common thing. So I've got a lot of, like, half baked voice memos, stuff that I would never show anybody that would be straight black male if anyone got a hold on my phone, Um, humming, dub step and stuff like that. But if I have that idea, you know, obviously I'll start from that. And usually what I'll do is played on the keyboard again, often reverting not just to the piano to play it. But sometimes they'll even use a piano sound because I think I'm just It's just so familiar and it's comfortable for me. It's all about, like, hit the ground running because one of the best ways to sort of defuse yourself and to be not wanting to make music is toe like just get stuck and setting up. And so I have a couple different templates, you know, a couple of different drum kits and things that I've made from my own stuff, that air just kind of ready to go. And so if I if I don't have a really strong idea, But I want to keep motivated, I'll just quickly throw in a drum kit that I've made and start jamming with it and just get a really good beat, you know, and again, just just trying to get an idea going as fast as possible. And once I do that, it just becomes a very like I don't know. I think people watching me probably get a little, like schizo feeling because my trick is to just jump around all the time. And it's actually because I have I have this, like, attention focused thing where I only focused really well if I'm doing a lot of things at the same time. So in order to actually focus and get things done on music, I have to work on different sections of it. If I just try and be like, I'm gonna work on the drums for three hours, I will be like zoning out looking at cat pictures like whatever. Like it's not gonna work. So I kind of just It's almost like doing rounds like circuit training and exercise. You know, I'll be like, All right, work on the drums. J M J M J M J M J M O My attention starting to split now I'm gonna work on the base for well, the now let's do the keywords Now back to the drums. And I think the upside of that is like if you're the type of person like me, they can handle it. Then it's actually really good for your ears because you don't get stuck, like in the same way that, like they used to have screensavers to not burn out the monitors. Like if you just listen to the same loop for hours, you're you're hearing starts to change. So I think, you know, for me, it's really important to just circulating. Yeah, no, I mean, I've I've had that where you just you work on a song for too long and especially like when there's vocals and they're yours. And you know the lyrics. You have no perception after a while over whether they're the right level, whether intelligible, anything like you Just lose that so fast. So I just I just keep circulating And, you know, sometimes I'll even work on a couple of different tracks in a day. It just depends. I really try to follow my inner motivation, because what I've learned now is like you can get in the habit of working and you can work with your lack of motivation. But you can't like force the creativity. So if I'm really just like, not cooperating with myself, I'll keep changing it up. And if I'm getting nowhere, I'll, like, organize my samples or just go into, like, you know, backburner Aaron mode. But I try to just keep moving. And I think that, above all, keeps me motivated. Is just like you know what? You're not always gonna make a hit track. But, hey, maybe you weren't inspired on a song. So you went and learnt this new sense today. And now you've got a whole new tool in your arsenal. So yeah, eso How do you organize your samples? I want to Just because I feel like you would have some very precision. Yeah, samples. It's gotten better. So what happened is that I was bad at the beginning. And the curse of that is that at a certain point you don't want to move things because you have old projects that are gonna break and you're gonna have toe relocate them. So I think my my older system of my newest, the differences area parent, and one of the things that I've really started doing more than organizing my samples, which I think more people think about now is organizing my plug ins. And most Dawes like you don't necessarily think of it off the bat. But they have a way for you to re arrange things so that they're more at your fingertips. And I think this is important, especially when you start to get more plug ins because, you know, they say that you could only remember like 100 people at a time. That's why I like Facebook is kind of ridiculous. I feel like it's the same way with with plug ins or what sounded like it's not that I don't love all my reverb. It's that, like, I don't always think of all 12 of my reverb at once. So sometimes if I need a river by Just keep going to the same one because that's the one that's in my brain. Yeah, so, for example, in logic, even go into the plug and manager and you can actually create your own lists, your own system, and then, instead of just going into, like, the V S T menu or the audio unit member, which is like by manufacturer, So it's like you to remember who made the plug in. Then it's like Forget it. I'm just using that reverb. So ever since I did that, I'm just so much more innovative because I just go to the river menu. And then I look at all of them at once and then with a Bolton, um, they introduced in Version 10 of Favorites Collection, which allows you to kind of mark your plug ins. And then you can just click on the different colors at the top of the screen. But even beyond that, couple of my friends invented this script that you can run over top of a button called the Live Enhancement Sweet and it's free. And essentially, it's just literally a text script that allows you to create your own custom menus and just by double right cooking them over my able to session, I get thes completely custom menus of plug ins like I have a distortion menu that opens into nice and nasty and then goes into different types of distortion. E. I mean, maybe it's silly, but my workflow has just gotten lightning fast because instead of like, oh, I need a reverb Let me go and click on plug ins and let me go down. Look down for the reverb. It's just like double right click reverb, blah, blah, blah gun like just very, very quick. And I think that again workflow is so important and kind of underrated, because if it takes you too long to do anything, you're gonna lose interest in it no matter what.
when you're teaching or working with other people that are upcoming will say, What are the most common mistakes that you see? Um, okay, well, one of them, even just a Segway from when I was just talking about is being a little bit too boring with your percussion. A lot of people they take percussion and structure very literally. They hear something in their head, and they do it. But I think what people don't realize is, you know, there's a concept in jazz and other styles of music. Ghost notes write the notes that are almost not there. And so one of the things I have to teach people a lot is hey, like you may not consciously hear this, but there is something there and the biggest issue. And I mean, I still like more experienced producers I know struggle with us all the time is how to create spaciousness and how to also not have things feel empty, right? You don't wanna overload. You don't wanna overdo. And you also don't want to just leave these giant holes in your production. So I think the balance off movement and texture is the hardest thing to get And that's the that's The other thing is, you know, when people start making tracks, they literally were just like glue loops together and they're not really thinking about how to get from one part to the next or how to create tension. And, you know, a song is a story in a in a non verbal language. And sometimes there's lyrics. But, you know, like so you have to figure out how to get people from the intro to the build into the climax and just in a musical form. So I think tension and release is really, really tough. And, you know, they're the white noise. Riser is a classic way to do it, but there's so many ways to do it. And I think coming up with those ways is always a challenge for people who are new, and they haven't really thought about like, Well, I thought about the main lead, but like, how does it get from A to B and like, you know, how do I gracefully get it there and and why does it sound so empty? I was trying not too crowded, but why do I? How do I put something else in there without it taking over. Yeah, And when when you're producing or helping somebody else a student, uh, formulate the structure of the song, What advice would you give A Sfar is make sure that it gets somewhere, but that is not just all over the place. And there is no structure. Well, I think the key is is just a very classic sort of like you have to learn the rules to break them. And again, it's like I hated theory, but because I learned some theory and it's still somewhere deep in my head, like I know how to make a chord progression that works. So I think that, um, people who struggle with arrangement, they also usually will be like, Oh, I don't want to copy anyone. And so when I tell them, Hey, bring a track that you like into your Daw and look at the structure and copy it, they're really afraid of that. But in reality, like you're probably not gonna copy that person's track, you might just get a good idea of like what they did with flowing the energy that made you like it. So I usually recommend just being like Okay, fine. Five tracks where you don't just love the overall sound you love like every minute of it. And then, like, you can't stop listening to it all the way through and try and figure out why that is. Bring it in. Maybe, Oh, maybe it goes into this breakdown and that's really unexpected place. And then when it comes back, it's not even a drop. Maybe it's just like a little gradual thing. Work with that, you know, express that in your own piece. So I definitely think that, um, people get afraid that if they listen to too many other people's music or styles or use it as reference that they will become derivative. But I think if you're afraid of that, it's probably because you still haven't found your own sound. And if you come
okay, a few of your favorite V STS or plug ins. Well, serum is kind of like the everybody loves serum, and I mean, there's good reason. It's It's sort of the one since that does it all. It's super easy use. I've taught people how to use it in, like, six or seven minutes flat. Um, Gladiator, as I mentioned before, It's just a really innovative, weird technology that people still haven't used much since. So I think that it creates, um, really unique textured sounds. Um, the plug in that's like the newest Blufgan that I'm loving right now is portal by output, and that's a granular effect. It's really it's really just quite complex and creates again. I'm a big texture person, so I'm always looking for ways to create more interesting layers and noises and just what you'd call a little Polish bits, you know, and I think that that's something when your experience, that's that's kind of where you look because we know how to make the basic sounds. We know how to put a drumbeat together. But how do you get that extra like somebody the other day called it the 10th Listen, stuff like stuff that you don't notice right away. So portal has been really, really great. Um, for that. And I've also been exploring similar but different effects that there's one called Remnant and one called tantrum. They're very small companies, but they're just, like, granular delays and distortions and just very interesting, very visually pleasing as well. And that's something that's nice. I mean, when I started, we didn't have these nice interfaces. Everything was just complicated and annoying looking. And now you have these beautiful like visual interfaces. And I'm really excited about that because I think it gives Mawr sort of intuitive artistic people a better connection with the technology. Much more approachable than trying to draw lines, connect things, and yeah, just like just type numbers. And yeah, exactly. Um, so do you use vocoder? And if so, what do you You know, I know that the recently discovered, uh, manipulator by Polly verse and isotope uh, vocal synth. Do you use any of those? So the TC Helicon honestly has does so much stuff like that, that up until recently, I didn't explore a lot because especially if I'm performing the vocal citizen is a nightmare. on the CPU, So I've heard that people use it live. I'm not really sure what those people are doing, because for me, I would just destroy my computer. But I use it. I definitely use it in the studio, sometimes for effects. Um, but yeah, I mean, it's interesting because for vocals, I've done all the weird effects, and I almost find that sometimes the best effect is to just do 18 takes and stack them on top of each other like really old fashioned kind of stuff, because I think that's because I do so much crazy stuff when I'm producing my beats. It's like something needs to be normal. Something needs to center you. Something needs to bring you into the core of the track. So if there's too many crazy things happening at once and you know, it could be a little bit much, um, that being said, my studio partner and I have been exploring some weird stuff just to try and stuff and things like recording myself, singing a bunch of notes and then tuning them all back toe one single notes so that you still have my voice kind of going up up and down. But it's one note and then replaying that into a sampler so that I can play a bunch of notes putting them in llegado like holding them so that so that the voice just kind of does its thing as I'm changing notes within it. But I can control with those notes are and still have the weird swings. So we're kind of trying like I'm always trying weird things, but I know that, like some of those plug ins, I just try them and I'm like, Okay, great. Well, there's a nice acapella track, but now I don't wanna put anything else around because there's so much going on.
more. So you work with a Bolton in in class, right eyes there any other tools or like, mandatory gear that or software that you use. So, I mean, I've actually it's funny, like before this. For many years I was kind of known as like the outlier using logic. And I actually met my current studio partner because we were like, the only two people in our circle that used it. But I've always used a Bolton for life performance. And, you know, as I got more into teaching it, I started realizing, Oh, there's actually like so much cool stuff on the production side, too. Ast faras in the course. Um, there's a lot of just sense that we use if people go into sound design. Serum is kind of like the basic well that everyone uses. And then I kind of take them through all the different types of synthesis. So we'll use, like the F M eight on my favorite, since which is semi obscure. Maybe part of the reason I like it is a spectral, morphing like harmonic content modulator called Gladiator, and I kind of got everyone in my school into that as well and we also go through a lot of different techniques. But the crazy thing about a Bolton is every version. I honestly, I get more and more impressed and they're not paying me. I do not get paid by a Bolton. So Thistle is honestly, just the thing I discovered on my own was like, Wow, they've They've come up with kind of high quality, interesting versions of every kind of new technique that there is, So you can do so much with the built in stuff That's awesome. And what I don't know is there any element that made you make the switch to a Bolton from logic? Uh, was it just a general like, Oh, you could do this? Oh, you could do that. And yeah, so I mean my view, my view on all dogs is like there's different reasons that you confined to use any of them because they do have different strengths. And so one thing like that, a Bolton is still a little bit behind of which is why I still do use logic sometimes is recording, um, logic and some other dogs have a way of like folding up multiple takes, and you know, if you're any kind of player and you've done loops over and over again, you'll know how much more annoying it is enabled in where you have to actually have them on separate channels and lay them out and mutant solo them. Whereas logic and other programs, you can just swipe your cursor and kind of create this this dynamic comp of any time of any of the layers that you've done. So that is like when I'm still when I have to do complicated recording when I'm doing sample packs, Um, or if I'm doing score stuff where there's just a lot of complex Midi, and all I'm doing is kind of mixing very simple outputs. I like logic for that, I would say it's kind of a classic program, but where I really got into a Bolton was lightning fast audio editing glitches, innovative techniques able to makes it very, very fast to set up your own custom effects racks and processes and just really try different ways of doing things. And it's just so set up for you to try it immediately without having to, like, create something complex or bringing a lot of external plug in. So I've just now noticed that Oh, yeah, I'd like to just instantly pulled this into a sampler and then I wanna like, spread it across here and then I wanna move 10 effects at once, and that just took me maybe four clicks and I'm done now. Logic. Interestingly enough, in the latest update, they've really copied a lot of able to nit's uncanny, but they still they still it's still not quite that same stripped down. Just dig your hands in and edit feeling. So I think that if you're just like trying to do weird, cutting edge, stuff able thing, it's really he does still have the advantage. So when you decide to record, let's say if you're working with audio, you haven't able to in song. But you need to, you know, record multiple takes on something and you decide to use logic. How do you merge those two? Is there a way, or do you just export the audio and then put it in you? So, um, what I used to do? Actually, ah, lot more was used rewire. Um and that's I've always enjoyed things unable to like ways that you edit that logic doesn't have so especially when I used to do re me because I would do the main track and logic, and then I would hook able to known as the rewire slave. So they say and, um, it would just sink to logic and I could just run all the able to stuff. However, that also takes extra CPU, and my production computer is also already kind of choking. Sometimes the things that I do so now usually what I just do is very simple. I'll just bounce and mixed down of whatever I'm working on and just bring it into logic and do the vocal takes and then pull them back out, okay?
So when you are bringing on a new piece of gear or technology that you are trying to try because you you seem to be consistently innovating and pushing things forward, where do you test it out? Do you test it out at home? Do you test it out on a smaller venue? Definitely. Um, it depends kind of what it is, but yeah, for performance stuff. I usually dio what I call like the stress test, and I will just do the most obnoxious set that you would never want to see where I'm like pushing all my buttons at once, playing the keyboard, triggering the effects. And you're kind of trying to break my own computer. And that's super important, because even when you do all that, even when everything's fine, you will set up and the gremlins, the studio gremlins, the stage, gremlins, whatever they're all they're all this one Illuminati force of invisible creatures that comes and messes you up right at that moment. So I kind of stress test it, and then I prepare for the worst anyways, and generally I'll have back up routings. Um, one of the things I do with the way that I wire my set is usually have my vocal through a process. They're going out a totally separate input in my computer because that way, if my computer crashes, I can still talk. I can still sing. I could even like you totally. And I've done this like an a cappella loop while I reboot my computer. And sometimes people actually end up getting more hyped because one of the things I think people don't realize is that people actually crave a little bit of imperfection. At least most people I know, because if you just go see something note by note, sound exactly like it does on the recording. What is the What is the point of leaving your house A. And B? Is the person lip sinking or like faking it? And that's the sad thing is, I've seen so many artists that are lip sinking and okay, if you're doing if you're Janet Jackson and you're doing the Super Bowl or you're doing a crazy dance between, I get it. But if you're like two guys standing over a seat, one C. D. J. You don't need to be lip sinking your lyrics, you know, and and then I'll see like see DJs with us Bs with premixed like mixes and they just play these. And I've watched the guy stand on the table while the mics mixes itself. You were discussing the running your vocals through, uh, an external processor. Tell me a little bit about that set up. What's the hardware like Just out of curiosity. Yeah, Usually I use on this vocal processor called the TC Helicon Voice Life Touch to, and it's a really, really cool multi effects unit. I've been using it for years. I was kind of one of the first. Like early ambassadors Toso. There's a couple of videos like on their website of me doing looping, and stuff like that allows for looping. It allows for different nine different types of effects, like reverb, delays, modulators, all kinds of things. And it also allows to receive insanity so I can actually control it remotely through a pre programmed able to messages. If I want Thio and that's not something I do as much because a lot of my sets or spontaneous, so it would kind of be hard. Thio do all that at the same time, but I do a lot of, like interactive. Just using my own custom iPad controller to send the unit different messages and turn the effects on and off.
now when you perform live, how much of it is like spontaneous and how much of it is preplant? Uh, it's probably about 50 50 and it also depends on what kind of said I'm doing. Like if I'm going to a festival and that's usually the kind of set up where I'll bring my key tar and might have, like extra effects and maybe even plan to have, like, a guest vocalist or a dancer. Those are a lot more planned, and that's just because I have a lot more going on and I have to, you know, plan. People don't think about this. But when when I rehearsed or when I jam out, one of the things I'm practicing is actually just kinesthetic movement, like not just Can I mix this track that's actually easy for me. It's okay. At this point, I have to play a key tar solo while rapping and changing my effects pedal. And then I have to turn around and do this and are my hands on my playing Twister at this point? Okay, Time to troubleshoot that. So, um you know, I think I think that that part, it makes it really plan. But when I do kind of more loose D J sets and trust me, I didn't used to do this. I used to just bring my key tar and bring everything to every club show. And then I started realizing that the booster up to my nose. Sometimes I'm not that tall and there's no point. So now when I go to a club, I would I would do a more free form set, and usually in that case I'll have obviously a crate full of new stuff and stuff that I want to play. But the way that I arrange it was totally going to be free form and adjust. And that being said, I've definitely gotten to a festival with this very specific agenda and gotten 10 minutes in and being like they're not feeling this and just changed. So I think that that's a really valuable skill that I brought with me from all my years of being a deejay like a vinyl D. J was just It's so important to be able to adapt, even if you do like, yeah, okay, if you're doing a big stadium show and you gotta lighting person and people are literally there to see you, and they've been waiting for hours. It's totally different. But if you're playing some kind of open format festival and there's a lot of people and everything is going on, you better be able to adapt because sometimes, like this is just not right. Sometimes you thought, Oh, it's the middle of the day, People want to chill and what's actually happened is they've been hearing chill music all day and they're dying to get down. So I think that having that intuitive crowd reading back and forth kind of vibe is so important. And what we're really pisses me off is when I see people D J out of able to him like they're not doing anything alive with it. They've just got all their tracks warped and they're just flipping the cross faded back and forth, and then it's like they're still that inflexible. You know, they're maybe they're set runs like, Oh, I'm sorry, I'm out of songs. That's it. I'm done. I played my songs in my order and I am finished. So that is that is my greatest sort of fear, and that's why I always keep this very flexible, Um, keep my whole collection with me, Have a lot of different ways of organizing it because I always want to be able to reach for stuff in the spur of the moment. That's awesome.
Like I said, definitely the motion capture thing has become more accessible. And I think that, you know, just with computers and hard drives like now you could get a really huge hard drive for a much cheaper price. And even two years ago, I was paying five times as much for that. So I think that in the same way all this you know v r and A are I hope anyways, And I think especially now, considering the social conditions may become a really big thing. Some friends of mine made this thing called the wave where you could basically D j and V r, which is very cool. And I think at the time people weren't quite ready for it, you know, like it was Oh, this is really cool. But we still prefer being out in person, dancing at a party with people. Now that we move into this place where? Okay, well, maybe a long time before we have clubs regularly opening. I think that people may be more interested in this because there's been a lot of like streams recently, and a lot of them are pretty half Asked if I'm gonna be honest you know, they're just somebody with a single camera shot. And I think that people are gonna be looking for more of that club experience without leaving their own home. And so as a music technologist or an innovator like there is just so much out there and up until now, Ah, lot of people have been too lazy or too busy with other priorities to do it. You know, on most of the time, when I step into a festival backstage, I see a bunch of tired, overworked people who have been, you know, on tour, catching every late flight, staying up to the club and they're just like, Yeah, yeah, that sounds cool. I don't have any time. I just got my USB stick and I'm gonna go on and then I'm gonna go to the next point. So now we're not really in that space. I really think that people are hope are going to just go. Hey, it's time for me to really, like, develop something new and try something new and even myself. I've always been proud of myself for trying something new, but I'm starting to actually experiment with learning Max for live and learning like a little bit about audiovisual technology because for the first time in my life, I'm not constantly on tour. So I'm really hoping that this extra time in solitude and changing landscape would force people into this arena of who could be the most interesting instead of just who takes the best instagrams and gets people to the club, which is something that is pissed me off for a really long time.