Studio Talk with Kastil (Soul Notes)

Kastil Interview

Got a real treat for you today with our latest studio talk, we get to delve deep into the mind of one of our favorite house artists right now…Kastil. Whats even better is he doesn’t hold back on any details so get a pen and paper ready to take notes.

Welcome to the site Mario!.. having followed your stuff for a past few years I have to say I am thoroughly impressed, your stuff is super solid – whats your background? how did you come to be making house music?

Well my dance music background is mostly techno, it wasn’t until I had been doing it for some years that I found House music.  I started producing after djing for a few years as I wanted to make tracks that I could play myself, the kind of music I always wanted to be able to play.  I am not really trained in any way except through my own experiment’s, trial and error, and a lot of books and tutorials that I like to read to keep my head trained 😀

 

How is spain for house music and club scene in general?

We have scene but sadly it is pretty stagnant, people here are not very connected with fresh and inventive music, so we have festivals, party’s, etc but they are always doing the same old things.  Promoters book the same big names always just to avoid any commercial risk.  Of course this is speaking generally, some big city’s like Madrid or Barcelona have really cool party’s, but they are often the smaller clubs or the ones in the sonar week….. or Ibiza of course, hahaha

Although your music is always fresh, there is a definitely classic aesthetic to you tracks, is this something you aim for on purpose? or something that just happens?

Nice to hear that you think is fresh, haha.   I think this is a unavoidable human outcome. for example if you put a kid listening to Miles Davis during 8 years of his live, and then bring him a piano, I dont think he will play some kind of trash metal or happy hardcore.  We are people of manners, and our ears and brain unconsciously try to replicate the music we like or the music we had been listening before, so I think it is perfectly normal to have influences in your sound, more when you come from a dj background like myself and you are trying to do some kind of dance music that you could play yourself.  I also produce some kind of experimental/ambient stuff and that is where I can put my full imagination and weird ideas into action, maybe that stuff is a bit out of the “standards” of the “club sound” like with my House music.  So is not something I aim for with dance music, I think it just happens because that’s the sound I love.

Do you work in the box, or out of the box? or a mix of both? Whats is most important factor for you when working on a track?

Hehe,  that’s a funny question, because I started back in 2010 in the box,  but as time has passed I am almost totally out of the box.  So this has really changed my workflow, the sound, and even the kind of music I am doing actually.  At first I started with a computer and a daw only, so I did mainly simple music, not very good sounding, sticking to easy edits and so on. Not because of the computer,  but because of my musical ignorance,  newness as I had little training at that time.  Then I bought an MPC, an old 12bit sampler and some old synths and did some house tunes in the more “classic” method, samples, chords, etc.  I love the sound of “that era” in house records and hiphop.  So as I worked I got a better feel for the drums and grooves, more dynamic, and less static and more “human” sounding.  Then I started to buy more and more gear, this is like a drug haha.   From last year to these days I changed a lot of my workflow,  now I work in a big desk full of drum machines, synths, pedals, fxs, and a lot of cables and now finally I’m feeling really really comfortable with this new workflow, using Ableton only for recording and do some adjustments in the final mix and so.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio kit, which sequencer, which bits are your “go to” pieces and why? share some insight into the thinking behind your use of those tools?

I like to work with drum machines to start a rhythm idea.  I always start tracks with drums. It depends on which machine or machines I use to start the track  on the direction it takes.  If I start with the MPC I usually finish up with some kind of deep house or more “human” thing because playing pads by hand seems to really fit that kinda of music,  but if I start with Xbase999, 707 or my lovely Tempest these can often turn me on to something that’s a little more techno sounding.  I think this is because each one has its own natural feeling in the sequencers, the vibe, the swing.  With sequencers is very easy to make some patterns and get a rhythm that is sounding tight, then go for a bass, the melody, some shots, percussions, etc.  Sequencers are amazing for dance music, and are a great tool for improvisation.  There is nothing like doing weird things with a sequencer, sending it to some delay, then onwards to a filter, then to the mixer to apply some send effects etc etc… This is exactly the kind of workflow I love, and I only got to this stage by working with machines instead of a computer.  My “go to” pieces are numerous, not sure which I could pick. Recently I started building a modular synth,  I have just discovering the modular world a few months ago when I bought a Mutable Instruments Anushri and a Dark Energy I.  They are semi-modular machines, but they showed me what a modular synth is capable of,  triggering them with my 707 and patching them in between with the CV and gate signals and so is really fun.  I have been using this on latest tracks for all kind of purposes.  So now just discovered all those crazy modular modules out from Make Noise, Doepfer, Macbeth, Pittsburgh, Malekko, etc and I’m just building my own modular piece for future works 🙂

Can you share with us a technique you would say is important to getting the sound you get?

Well I wasn’t aware so much that I had my own sound haha, but in general I do some things always in my tracks to get the final sound I’m after.  Maybe that is what gives me my sound that you talk about,  or it could simply be the kind of sounds I program or the synths I use for my music.  Anyway I use a lot of tips and techniques recently in all the tracks.  One I love is using the harmonic distortion in high frequencies of my Sherman filter, its incredible –  things get wider, brighter and clearer in the mix.  I will send the channels I want to the FX Buss through a HPF and then to the Sherman with a moderate amount of distortion on it, easy and really useful.
If I have a problem where two sounds that are fighting for the same “space” in the mix, apart from the usual eq process, I have also found that it is also useful to use compression for sculpt the sound,  playing with attack and release of the compressor, trying to make sure the sounds that happen at the same time do not fight in terms of their dynamic nature and their spot in the mix and every sound get its own space in “time” as well as in the frequency range.
I also like to get the most out of some more modest sounds, by applying pedals, stompboxes, fxs, etc to a really simple sound.  You can get crazy things from a simple woodstick sound if you work on it, of course the kind of gear you use is very important!  One that I am using a lot now is the Pitchfactor stompbox,  you can send any sound to it and get really dope new sounds with the harmonizer and/or short delays and then send to other Strymon pedal for delay or reverb and then you have the madness for sure :D.   For those who are in the box and with Ableton, one effect that get similar results to this, is a combo of Corpus + Resonators, mainly one plugin converts the sound so it’s like it is hitting a surface, and the other fx is a pure resonator, so you can do some resonances of the original sound in different frequencies, take a simple rim sound, apply corpus in the freq range you want to have and then a resonator for get that “chord” sound, and add some eq+compression maybe… you can get a cool metallic techno-ish chordy sound. It is always fun to experiment with effects and sculpt the sounds from very basis sources.

Distortion is a big part of a great sounding records, and in many ways I think the lack of nice drive and distortion is mostly to blame for the sterile digital sound of a lot of modern music. How do you use distortion in your tracks?

Hehehe, exactly!! It is like in the technique about high frequencies I mentioned earlier, I also sometimes use this without the filter before Sherman, when I want things to pump or have a huge impact, sometimes a bit of the right kind of distortion works better than compression.  Using this on a parallel send, like the classic new york compression, but instead of using a compressor, you are using distortion/saturation.  This is a great way to get more presence in the mix with more harmonics whilst not touching dynamics.  I am a distortion/saturation lover, The Sherman filter was the thing that started me experimenting with distortion, and it was a really great discovery!!  My recent track “Red Clown (Raw Mix)” for Soul Notes have that kind of sound,  it is a “raw” version that I did applying these techniques to the original version mixdown I made.
I will also often simply drive into my preamps on the analog mixer, just pushing the gains into overload (adjusting it very carefully) and lowering the channel fader, so you get same volume but with a more “distorted” sound and wider sound, easy tip to get your drums sounding raw and with huge power.

 

If there was one piece of kit you could not give up, which would it be?

This is THE cliché question in tech talks interviews, and I always think the same… you can’t ask a father which of his sons he would choose for escape to a desert island 😀

When mixing how do you find you organise things, do you use busses and compression, or drive into a desk? or keep things nice and clean….or both?

Actually I always mix on my Soundcraft Spirit mixer.  I prefer to mix on it, applying eq and touching real faders,  I really don’t like doing a mixdown in Ableton for example.  Imo the analog mixer gives the sound a better character and a wider image, of course I guess it  depends of the mixer, but either way it is a lot more fun than in the box.
I always use some kind of groups or stems, depends on what each mix needs, but for example if I want to get vocals+hats+arpeggio brighter.  I will do a group with those and send to the filter or tape delay to apply distortion or other effects. Some effects are always set up on the busses in my mixes, things like reverb, delays, gates, harmonizers, ring modulator, etc… if i want to apply direct to the sound I do it before the mix and record in a new audio track, but if is some kind of “final” effect to add some colour or groove I most often do through sends.
Now I am really addicted to using one bus in the mixer to send some parts to the Octatrack and try to do some remix work on the fly, this way I can get some different grooves to make variations in the track and so on.  I used this technique a lot in my last remix i did for Timmy P for Extended Play that will be out very soon
Every track is done in a different way, I don’t like to make things the same way all the time, some times I will record the individual sounds from the drum machine, and some others record full loops with different changes, it really depends on if I want the track more detailed and polished, or if it is sounding good enough to record in live to stems/parts.  Sometimes I finish with 25 audio tracks in Ableton and some others with only 6,  There is no fixed way to do these things.

What are your views on mastering? Would you master you own work? How important do you consider mastering in the big picture of creating a record?

Sometimes master some tracks to try in clubs and so on, but it’s never anything special,  I am not a mastering engineer, so I only try to do my best and not hurt too much the audience ears, hahaha.  I always think that a good track needs another head and set of ears to get a great master.  Our ears and brain trick ourselves about the sound of the track when we have been listening to it for some hours, so it is always good that other people take the track fresh, without having heard it before and check the details and correct mistakes, etc.  Is like when you work in a track a full morning and leave it for 3 weeks, the listen to it again and you are like… WTF… those hats are super loud! What the fuck I was doing that morning, hahaha.  So it is very important to get mastering from a good professional, a good master can take the track to a higher level and a bad one can ruin a track fast.

Any advice for the younger and newer producers out there? what are the repeated mistake you heard in the music you listen to nowadays?

I am not anyone for giving advice to others, I am just a newbie myself, and I’m not sure there are any repeated mistakes in music I could point out, the only problem in dance music maybe is “artists” that make music for the wrong reasons, to build their name, fame or gigs,  like a lot of people release stuff with pre-made loops, or having ripped full grooves from old records!  …but if people do music because they feel it and love it, I do not see any problem at all, if you don’t like their works maybe it is only a taste thing, nothing more.  Everyday you see a lot of people hating on stuff on facebook and twitter, I do not understand that, if I like something I will love it, play it and surely listen for loads of years, and if don’t like it, the only thing I have to do is not listen to it, easy.  Nobody should judge more than oneself

What would you say is an important element you find that great tracks always get right?

Again I don’t think there is any standard rules, I really love some tracks that are really simple and repetitive and others that are really complicated master works in terms of the production, music does not give a damn about technique in my opinion, it is more about feelings.  If you want to play your music in clubs it is important that the track have some kind of energy for me, but all depends on the set you want to play, because if you are playing a sunset on the beach maybe you don’t need that energy and a beautiful deep track do the job perfectly.

 

How do you see your sound developing in the future?

Hahaha, good question!  I always try to develop myself the same all time.  But really I have no idea, maybe I will still be experimenting with new stuff because I’m building my modular now and I am sure that will be a breath of fresh air to my sound and aesthetic and I’ll just continue recording all the stuff that comes out from me and sounds good to my ears.  I want to release some of my more experimental stuff too, but I am not sure when, where or with which “alias” I will be able to do that, so I guess only time will tell.

What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming releases?

Coming up next my remix for Timmy P for Extended Play, a split EP and a really hard record with the mighty Adryiano for Soul Notes White, more remixes for SAFT and some others, and I have two new solo Ep’s that are now in production with all my new stuff 😀

Written By

Co-owner at NoDoughMusic & Mastering Engineer