It’s nice to be able to sit down with like minded people and talk shop, in this latest Studio Talk we bring you the incredibly talented Dead Rose Music Company. A good read and enlightening for sure, even profound in places. It gives me great pleasure to share this chat with you lot.
As a big fan of your output, its a real pleasure to be able to pick your brains about what goes on in your studio! Can you tell us a bit about where you came from, what inspires you, and how you feel you have developed in recent years?
Thank you very much, its a pleasure to be asked. I come from the wilds of Yorkshire and what has inspired me over the years has been the constant need to figure out how things are done. I have always been a DJ first and foremost, I cut my teeth playing at the Warehouse in Leeds during the late nineties and kind of went from there; I then had the pleasure of working for Play Music which through me in with some very talented people who were all in to the music 24/7 and it all started from there really. From a musical sense I always spent a lot of time listening to how songs were constructed and counting how many elements I could hear. When it came to making music though all that went out of the window when I sat in front of Mac and nothing happened, so it started by teaching myself how to use Logic Platinum (at the time), SoundForge and Acid. From there its really not changed that much apart from the software and hardware I use, now I am just better practised at putting sounds together and knowing how a dance floor react to it. I have changed musically from playing what I thought people wanted to hear to playing what I want to hear and hoping that other people like it. When I DJ you hear the tracks I like or that I am listening to at that moment as opposed to the beatport top 10.
How do you view the music scene at the moment? is it healthy? where do you see things going?
I think the music scene is always healthy if you don’t rely on it to put food on your table, all the things you hear about piracy and album sales etc are because its some peoples livelihood and I appreciate that but for me I have to work full time to support my love for music rather than my love for music supporting me. I see the industry changing to its environment and the changes in technology, now anyone can make music and that is a double edged sword, in some ways you have some awesome talent coming through and then you have utter garbage that may sell a couple of thousand tracks which is sad but its just the way it is. One thing I have seen recently that has made me sick is people covering “big” tracks and releasing them before the official release and cashing in on demand. That in my opinion is really wrong, yeah the original artist may get some PRS but its like seeing a masterpiece through your neighbours window and copying and putting it out before they did. That is just plain theft.
Are you in the box, or out of the box? or enjoy a bit of both? We spoke about how you change your equipment to keep yourself from becoming stagnant, but What do you find are the most important considerations in getting a great sound out of your tools? What kind of elements are you listening for? Can you share any tips or specific practises you use with plugins / hardware?
I use a bit of both, I know some guys who have all the gear you could dream of but don’t actually produce anything or have any output, they then get frustrated because they think no one is listening and that everyone else is wrong. For me its about getting things to a level that I am happy with and I know that I couldn’t make it any better with what I have and then putting it out in the public domain, if its not good enough you soon find out and then you learn from it. Great sound means nothing if your track is shit or you are singing shit, you can polish a turd but its still a turd at the end of the day. I try to make things sound like they are supposed to be there, each part should have its own place, if it doesn’t work then get rid of it, let the elements do the work for you and don’t be afraid of silence or space. One thing I always do and you can hear in all my tracks is 12bit compression, every drum sound I use goes through the same process. I always mix into the compressor instead of chucking it on at the end. My master channel always has the API EQ and Compressor, SSL Channel and finished off with the bog standard Logic Compressor. When I then premaster I reduce the ratio’s and thresholds and remove any gain make up or limiting so you still are getting the feel of the compressor. Oh yeah I love the Arturia Plugins and they often make a run out but I heavily process them using the Sonnox Pack.
Can you tell us a little bit about your average working environment, which sequencer, which plugins are your “go to” plugins and why? share some insight into the thinking behind your use of those tools?
I have two MacBook Pro’s, Logic Pro, Focusrite Soundcard, Yamaha DX7, Technics 1210, Vestax Mixer and a couple of bastardised Valve EQ’s. In the past I have had a Juno 106 which I restored and got rid of, a CS1x, a Studiomaster Analogue Desk and a couple of Electroahrmonix stomp boxes but I didn’t use em and I spent more time fiddling with them than I did making music. In the box I have quite a lot of plugins and I use a couple of VST’s but I do also like Logics native plugins, I use a mixture of them all but my go to plugins are the ones I listed above.
I remember you telling me about how you liked to get synths, but then get rid pretty soon after…why is that? what is the thinking behind that?
Lets dig into how you get a good mix going, could you tell us a little bit about how you set things out in terms of bussing, do you use buss compression, drive into a desk?
I don’t buss anything, I lay each element in its own track and EQ, compress or effect that individual channel. I then automate a lot of volume or effect changes where needed. Because I mainly use audio I prefer the control of each sound rather than grouping them together, if I play a synth line I will bounce the audio in to logic rather than mixing it in on a desk, that then also lets me effect the audio more than playing with the signal.
As I use a lot of samples its hard getting them to sit well in a mix as they have already been mixed, compressed and you are stuck with that sound so I have got pretty good at EQ’ing or replaying certain sounds to give more depth to the sample, take “Bitter Love” and “Nutkins” for example, all of the drums, bass, synths and fx are all me either playing them or programming, the only sample in “bitter love” is the vocal which is just EQ’s straight out of the original track, same with Nutkins, I took the Dennis Parker track and cut it up and played all the strings to sound like the original. The hardest mix I have done was for Kolour and it was an old Jackie Moore track which was so loose it wouldn’t sit in time so every single word she is singing was cut up and re-aligned to the grid.
I think often people don’t realise the fine art and skill that goes into using a sample well, and the resurgence of edits which are used so sloppily and with very little effort. What are your views on the burgeoning EDIT scene?
What are your views on mastering? There is a burgeoning group of home producers working on home PCs and not in studios who regularly self master. Would you master you own work? How important do you consider mastering in the big picture of creating a record?
Ha ha, this is a difficult question. Mastering is so important and many people don’t give it the credit it deserves. I am huge advocate of professional mastering, its essential because they just hold the magic sparkle wand which just ties a mix together but again, if your track is shit then it will just be louder shit. On the flip though there have been times that I have mastered tracks and compared them to professional versions I have had done and mine have been better but its all a matter of taste. Mastering is a delicate art and not just about Peaking the track and making it as loud as possible where a pro engineer will bring things down in the mix to give you a different perception of the track and I do a lot of subtractive EQ’ing to give things space. It all boils down to what your end game is, if you are putting the track on vinyl then you have to use a mastering house but if you are putting it on YouTube and dropping the encoding to 128 then save your money.
If there was one bit of advice, that you could give to improve most of the music you hear nowadays, what would that tip be? For instance I would say everyone mixes there kicks far too high and with far too much sub. What would you say is an important element you find great tracks always get right?
You are right about the kick, I don’t think some people pay enough credence to layering kicks or using a hi hat or triangle laid behind to give them more cut through in the mix, they just turn it up or boost the EQ. Most of the music I hear today that I pay attention to is what it is and what that producer intended it to be, I don’t think its for me to give advice or criticise. On the other side though I listen to the radio and I am sick of hearing songs that have been written with a rhyming dictionary, commercial songs don’t seem to tell stories anymore or convey feeling, they seem to me to be about the most pointless shit and then really badly sung and produced.
What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming releases, and any notable points in there production? how do you see your sound developing in the future?
I have 2 releases out on Lets Play House in the very near future and an EP on Whiskey Disco as well as remixes for River & Phoenix, Bonar Bradberry and YamWho. The remix I have done for Bonar is very different to my previous releases, there are no samples in there and its very bass driven, its an FM line that morphs and changes as the track progresses until the last break which is 6 mins in and then it opens up fully in the mix.
What’s inspiring you right now? Any particular artists you are enjoying more than most?
I am loving the resurgence of house music that reminds me of the late 90’s, Will Maddams, DJ Steaw, Gerd, Jeremy underground but I always find myself checking DJ Sneak, KDJ, Theo and those people that I have loved for the last 20 years.
Any closing advice for people?
Make tracks as much as you can, if something isn’t working then put it to bed and start something else as you can always go back to it and the more you do the more you learn and can apply to previous work.
How do you know when its time to put a track to bed and move on to something new?