Welcome to the Studio Talk blog guys, great to have you on here. Why not open up the conversation by telling us how long you’ve been involved in music production and what your early influences were?
Tim: I got involved into music quite early with the help of my father, who was running a club back in the 90s and my stepfather, who was a DJ before the turnaround in 1990. When I was 16 years old, I started DJing. Back in the days I was more focussed on creating events than in making my own music, so I took an apprenticeship in audio technology and later another apprenticeship in event management. Around the age of 20 I started to get interested in the whole production process and produced my first own tracks under a different moniker. But the urge to improve my skills got more intense, when I met Oliver in 2010 and we started producing together.
Oliver: My “musical career” started, when I was 11 years old and got my first guitar as a birthday present from my mum. With 14 years I started playing in a band, where I played guitar and later synths for 7 years. During these years I was mainly listening to Indie-Rock and Post rock music and didn’t even like House and Techno. When I turned 18 I started working in a club in my hometown Jena and got to know the main people around the “Freude am Tanzen” record label. When the label celebrated one of their famous label nights, I heard the Wighnomy Brothers playing and felt the energy in this kind music for the first time. Since then I was hooked and started to become more interested in that style of music, especially how to produce it. Then I started to experiment with some synthesizer stuff and tried to combine it with the band, but when I moved to Berlin in 2009 I decided to leave the band and focus on producing electronic music.
How did you come to actually learn ‘how’ to produce music? Was a lot of it self-tuition, learning from other people or did you go on any courses at all?
Both: Since we work together, it is an extremely autodidactic process. Everyone brought his own skills, Oliver had the know-how in playing some instruments and the feeling for the melodic parts, and Tim had a good comprehension about the technical aspects and grooves. In the first few sessions we tried a lot of things, without really knowing what we were doing. After some time we developed our skills together through reading Blogs, talking to other producers and trying a lot by ourselves, self experimentation etc. We are still in a process of learning but it gets faster and faster. It is great to discover new things just by testing a lot of stuff. We love to combine synths with different effects, drum machines and old guitar amps and recording a lot of things. We also try different ways of mixing or arranging and creating new sounds.
What are the first steps you take when it comes to writing a track? Where do you start and is there a sort of preset method you take or does each time just come naturally?
Usually we start without any ideas, not even a plan of which direction a track should take. Sometimes we start jamming around with some drum machines or some melodic ideas until we find something we like, this can be a cool piano line, a nice basic groove, a cool vocal sample or a beat sample from an old funk record. For us it is important not to say: let’s make a track that sounds like this artist or that could fit to that label. We also tried this, but then we never really felt the track. It needs to come naturally for us.
Are there any particular techniques that you use over and over in your production process? Can you share with us something that is important to your sound?
The most important thing for us is to modify any sound we use. Either we use effects like overdrive or vintage warmer, to crash sounds, make them warmer or more “dirty”. Or we create our own sounds, because we record anything that we can get our hands on. In nearly every track we created, we recorded things like claps, shakers, triangles, random sounds like glue strip or sounds from the chairs and windows. In one track we threw a small cymbal on the table and used this sound as a snare drum. But also sounds from the synths and the piano are often modulated or combined with effects or running through an old mixer or amplifier before we record it. Sometimes you get sounds, you never expected before. So we would say experimenting, modifying sounds, and putting things in different contexts are the most important things in our music.
How would you best describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music before?
This is always a tough question, we don’t like to classify sounds and we are also still in a process of development. The music we make does not have a straight forward vibe or stick to any genre and we do that intentionally . So the best thing would be to listen to our music and form your own opinion.
So your working on a track and it’s coming together and the main parts are there, do you like to roughly mixdown as you go along or does that come later? Do you mix through a desk or done directly in the DAW.
Oliver likes to record all ideas and work on the arrangement before mixing anything, this comes from his time playing in his former band. Before I continue with any other idea, I (Tim) mix every sound I use, until I think that it’s perfect for the track. But when we produce together we meet somewhere in the middle. For example: If I cares about the beat of a track, I build up a groove and then tweak the single sound until I am happy with the sound. Sometime this can take an hour. Meanwhile Oliver records different synth or piano ideas and some basslines that could fit into the groove without taking care about the sound until the idea is finally clear. Then we switch and build up the song more and more. After we arrange the (meanwhile pre-mixed) track, we always listen to the single sounds again, to make the final touches on each sound and fine-tune them.
So in summary we basically always make a rough mixdown before we arrange and a final mixdown after the structure is clear. At the moment we do the mix directly in Ableton Live, but as we said before, we always try to change our production ways from time to time and at the moment we are longing for a sizzling old mixing console.
Talk us through your setup? Is it a mix of both software and hardware?
It is a mixture of both. The core of the whole setup is the DAW Ableton Live. The speakers we use are 2 Adam A7X. The most things that we record, go through a cheap and small Behringer Mixer – for that “roughness” vibe 😀
Hardware we use at the moment: Roland TR-707, MFB 522, MFB Microzwerg MK II, Korg Microkorg, Nord Electro 3, Korg Monotron, AKG Perception 220 Microphone, an Ibanez E-Guitar and a VOX AD120VT Amp. Our main Software-tools are Arturia Prophet V2, Phoscyon, NI Battery 3, NI Driver, and PSP Vintage Warmer. As Midi Controllers we use an Edirol PCR-300, NI Maschine and a MAudio Evolution UC 33. With the help of the AKG microphone we record a lot of smaller instruments and different sounds.
What was your first piece of studio equipment and what is the ultimate piece of kit you would love to own (that’s if you don’t already own it haha)?
Oliver’s first piece was the Korg Microkorg and Tim had the NI Maschine first. There are a lot of things we would love to have. Buying the 707 fulfilled one wish. A 909 would be great, or a Fender Rhodes. In the end we are always searching for some Interesting stuff, old and new, and we also try out a lot, but often the needed money is missing, but we do what we can.
A lot of people don’t necessarily have a specific studio location, and just a bedroom or room in their home, which raises the question of sound proofing and making your surroundings adequate for a decent sound. Do you have a specific location and what acoustic treatment do you use if any? How important is it to you?
When we started producing together, we always met in Oliver’s first flat in Berlin, where he had a small home studio. Later we shared a flat for one year, where we also built up a small set up and finished our first EP for Freude am Tanzen. Over time we upgraded our setup, more synths and machines joined the family and the bedroom studio became too small, so we decided to search for a place beyond our flat. In January of 2013, we started renting a 20qm studio room that we share with our friend Xaver Hirsch. The situation with the acoustic in this room is not perfect yet, we did some basic things, after hours of reading in blogs, a few bass traps, some foam on the walls, but our next investment is gonna be a professional, who can help us with that. Meanwhile we often switch off the speakers and use our Sennheiser HD-25 headphones, especially for the mixdown. We both know how our music has to sound on these headphones. We mainly worked with them when we produced in our old home studio, because our neighbours didn’t really like our music and paid us a visit one day after using the speakers 😉
You reside in Berlin, do you think that helps you as artists to write music? Surely surrounded by such a buzzing music scene causes a permanent flux of inspiration that makes you just want to get in the studio? Or does it not matter to you?
We don’t think that living in Berlin really influences us music-wise. If we would live in a smaller city, we would probably make the same music, because our influences not really come from the typical berlin house and techno music scene. Our inspiration comes more through listening to international productions, that we discover in record stores or through hints of friends. For us, the most important advantage of living in Berlin is the networking aspect. In the last years we met super interesting people from different countries, who inspired us musically and personally which we probably wouldn’t have ever met if we lived in a different city.
Off the back of that previous question, do you think it’s important to be out amongst the nightlife and getting a feel for what people dig in the clubs, to make you a better producer?
We don’t think so, maybe even the opposite. It was never important to us to make music that fits into a DJ Set of a specific DJ or to produce a track only for the dancing crowd. For us it is more important to find our own sound, that doesn’t sound like anybody else. This is a long process and we think that you can reach that sooner, if you don’t get too influenced by other producers or DJs. Every now and again you can be at a party and get flashed by a DJ or live act, that inspires you to some ideas, but that’s the exception for us. 🙂
The world has many talented artists and producers, is there one in particular that stands out for you and why?
We both would mention Motor City Drum Ensemble and KiNK. It is the uniqueness in their sound which inspires us so much. You could always pick out a track by MCDE or KiNK from the thousands of similar sounding tracks out there. They are both a good example of producers that didn’t focus on the style of other people, but instead always did what they like. You can hear that their music comes from their hearts and is produced with a passion for the music and not for a scene or for other people, but only for the love for the music itself, and that makes them special for us.
What have you got coming up yet in the way of releases?
At the end of September there will be a new release for the Freude am Tanzen label, with 3 tracks on vinyl and one special digital bonus track. Then we have the honour to contribute a track, next to the great artists Deep Space Orchestra, Oli Furness and James Welsh, for the upcoming NDV release (below) Over the last few weeks we have also finished 2 remixes, for upcoming releases of our friends from Beef Records and Neovinyl Recordings. Since working in our new studio we finished a lot of tracks and are in talks with some other labels, so you’re probably gonna hear some more of our music soon 🙂
Here is a free track by Tim called Venture which he kindly let us giveaway in the lead up to our new EP. Download your copy right here.