10. Future House
Acclaimed producer of high-octane house and techno, tapped for remixes by X-Press 2, Tiga, Kylie, Hell, Booka Shade, Moby and Trentemøller, co-owner of the lauded Rekids label and with more monikers than days in the week, chances are that at some point over the past five years you will have got your rocks off to the sounds of Matt Edwards aka Radio Slave. He shares with us his love of sampling, his respect for mastering engineers and his frustrations with serial free-loaders.
Loops? Or programming your beats from single hits?
I hardly ever use loops as a starting point for beats but I’m definitely into sampling disco drums - taking loops from old records and breaking them into sections and hits. By moving sample start points you can create great shuffling effects and give static loops a more human feel. I think too many producers at the moment are simply sampling old MAW drum loops and it really shows in their work. To me it’s boring because you can create beats using so many different sounds - from vocals to field recordings - rather than stock drum sounds.
What is the key ingredient in a track? Breakdown? Style of production? Bassline?
I believe making dance music is about great ideas. It's a cliche that the best tracks are the ones that fly out of the studio but it's true: once in a while you get an idea that is so strong little is needed to support it. In that respect I’d say the key ingredient in a track is that initial idea.
When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?
It depends on what I’m trying to achieve. In general I work on the rhythm track and get a solid groove rolling before building the track above that. Beats are always a good starting point as I love building them and you can keep saving ideas and use them at a later date, even if you abandon them in the song you're working on.
Do you mainly use analogue or digital soft synth sources? Do you think analogue makes a difference?
I use all kinds of sounds, from vinyl samples to material from recording sessions made in pro studios. I believe analogue makes a huge difference with organic instruments like pianos. As far as VSTs go, although you can’t beat a real 808 or 909, when your audience is listening to your tracks as mp3s I'm not sure if the difference between original analogue and nicely sampled digital makes that much difference any more.
Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors?
I use Dynaudio monitors and it’s always been my advice when I'm asked what kind of software and kit to invest in to forget the latest plugins and spend that money on good monitors instead. It doesn't matter how flash your computer setup and how many big-name plugins you own; the most important thing is hearing what you’re making - especially if your studio hasn’t been treated. I spend a lot of time tweaking sounds and working with very small sonic details to ensure a balanced mix.
What are the biggest barriers new producers face?
The biggest challenge is selling tracks. If more young producers out there spent their money buying new music then they would be investing in the music industry and making it more likely that they themselves will be invested in at some point in the future.
How important do you think it is to have your music mastered commercially? Can you do it yourself as effectively and what tools would you recommend?
It’s incredibly important to have your music mastered - I have all of my tracks professionally mastered. If I had more time and money I would pay someone to mix my tracks as well. There’s a real craft involved in mastering that a lot of people don’t understand. It’s not all about making the music as loud as possible. It's about making a mix that is at the same time loud and kind on the ears - that doesn't induce fatigue. A great engineer will bring out the right frequencies in a track - ones that you might not normally even notice.
What's your opinion on processing the mix bus? Leave it clean or drive it to the extreme?
I’ve done both. It depends on the music you’re producing and the raw sounds you're working with. Processing the entire mix is something I might do with the Quiet Village material where we only use a small number of channels.
What do you believe is the secret to your success as a producer?
I’m still surprised by my success as I had no training in music or sound engineering, but like I said previously it’s really all about ideas and pushing the equipment you’re using to the limit. I was really pissed off with the music industry around 2001: I thought it had become really lazy (it drove me to create the Radio Slave name). From there I got more and more into production and I guess I’ve still got a lot of ideas in my head from that era that need to come out in the studio.
Any advice for aspiring producers out there?
Be true to yourself and try not to imitate others. Research the styles of music you love and listen to lots and lots of music. I’m always picking up records, buying new music across a range of genres: having an open mind is something that will help you develop your own unique style.
(c) 2010 Sounds/To/Sample