One of the leading lights of the Tech-Funk scene, General Midi has remixed the likes of Moby and Timo Maas, been a regular fixture at the Breakspoll awards and released two albums on legendary Electro-Breaks outfit Distinctive. His latest long player ‘Operation Overdrive’ is out now. We tracked down the native Bristolian to hear why loops are best used sparingly, why vocals rule and and why headphones are for pussies.
Who’s currently rocking your world as a producer and why?
Peo De Pitte is one of my favourites. His style is unique and his tracks cause hell on the dancefloor! The latest Boris Dlugosch material is seriously hot too.
When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build your way up from that?
As a rule, yeah: for most club tracks I aim to get the beats and bass right first. The rest usually follows naturally.
Do you use mainly analogue or digital soft synth sources? Do you think analogue still really makes a difference?
I don’t feel strongly about it. To me it’s whatever works in the context of the track in question. I don’t have a preference either way.
Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? loud? do you prefer flat and boring speakers or headphones or big phat and chunky monitors?
Monitor finished mixes on as many sets of speakers as you can (tiny ones, in the car, on your hi-fi, as well as on the ones in your studio). Most club stuff is designed to be played at volume so it’s worth mixing at volume, but only in small doses. It’s fatiguing to listen to loud music over long periods; it doesn’t help your mixing or your ears, and your ears are an important asset.
What is the key ingredient in a great track? Breakdown? Style of production? Bassline? And why?
It’d have to be the vibe. It’s an unquantifiable term, but you know when you’ve got it. It’s the skill of putting the different elements together to create a new, single unified entity.
What’s your opinion on processing the mix bus? Leave it clean or drive it to the extreme?
It depends. Sometimes driving the bus hard works fantastically – especially with beats – but I don’t tend to squash the life out of complete mixes. Instead I use some gentle compression to help gel the different mix elements together. The deciding factor is the source material.
Loops or programming your own beats from single hits and why?
Both have their place, but it’s definitely worth learning how to make your own beats as it’ll teach you a lot about drum programming and groove, which is essential knowledge when making dance tracks. That said, if you’ve got a loop that works, use it!
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 not essential, but I think it adds a lot to the process. Mastering is an art that takes many, many years to learn and you’re essentially paying for that (plus the kit they use of course!)
I’ve learnt loads watching our tracks getting mastered over the years and it’s incredibly useful to have another pair of ears on your mix that are totally impartial.
Of course you can do it yourself using digital limiters like the Waves L3 and you can get pretty good results, but there’s nothing like having an expert do it with proper gear that you’ll never be able to afford. I would always recommend getting albums professionally mastered.
Have you got any advice for aspiring young producers out there?
Practice, practice, practice! Also critically listen to as much material as you can, keep an eye on forums for tips and find a bunch of like-minded folk to swap ideas with.
And finally, what do you believe is the secret to your success as a producer?
Hard work and a strong stubborn streak.