Since breaking through with his 2004 techno anthem ‘Incident’ Joris Voorn has become a formidable production talent, racking up two acclaimed albums and a star-studded remix list including Kevin Saunderson, Robert Babicz and Samuel L. Session. His epic 2009 crossover ‘Sweep The Floor’ smash swept the world, sealing his place in the techno glitterati. We sought out the Dutch dancefloor destroyer for some prime production pointers.
Loops? Or programming your beats from single hits?
I use a healthy combination of both. Whether it’s hits or loops, the key is to be creative with them. I never just pick a loop and drop it into a track: instead I’ll mess with it to make it my own and to ensure it fits into the groove perfectly.
What is the key ingredient in a track? Breakdown? Style of production? Bassline?
It depends on the type of music you’re making. Personally I love a good bassline. A distinct production style is important too, to give your tracks an individual identity. As for breakdowns: well, include one if you really have to, but keep it simple and, please, let’s have no more white noise!
When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?
Usually I have an idea for a track in mind before I start. I’ll sketch it out roughly in the sequencer then I’ll build the beat on top of that. I find this a more intuitive way of working than gathering beats and then trying to stick musical content on top.
After this, my method varies from track to track, especially as it’s such a long process. I never make tracks quickly – not any more anyway. I will leave the track half done, put it to one side and then listen back to it a few weeks later. If it still sounds good to me then I’ll start fitting it into my sets. This long development phase is a key part of my production process: checking the sound and the arrangement, going back into the studio and tweaking things until I’m finally left with the finished track.
Do you mainly use analogue or digital soft synth sources? Do you think analogue makes a difference?
I have a nice collection of hardware kit but it’s all collecting dust at the moment!
Analogue makes a difference in the sense that you have to be more creative when using it: you have to make the most of a few pieces of hardware to create unique sounds rather than loading an unlimited amount of soft synths into Ableton and using them in obvious ways.
In terms of pure sound quality, the difference between analogue and digital nowadays is barely noticeable. If you use high quality plugins and you’re willing to go beyond the presets there’s no reason why digitally sourced sounds should not be as good – if not better – as analogue.
The main advantage of analogue is the ability to override and saturate sounds to give them a warm, crisp edge, which is far more difficult in the digital domain.
Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors?
My main monitors are Genelec 1031s, which I use at quite a low level: if something sounds good played low then it’s likely to sound good at higher volumes too.
I use headphones when working on the minute details of a track – they are much better at revealing things that you may miss if you just listen through your monitors.
As a final test, I play my tracks in clubs at the weekend: it’s the only fail safe way of learning how a mix will translate on a big system.
What are the biggest barriers that new producers face?
The biggest challenge is creating sounds that stand apart from the crowd. Every demo I receive at the moment sounds the same, maybe due to the high rate of sample CD and VST preset usage. If you use your synths and effects imaginatively to create a unique sound then you’re heading in the right direction; if you try to perfectly copy your favourite artist then you’re lost.
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?
I don’t master my own tracks. I trust a mastering engineer’s professional ears for the final steps of compression and equalising. There are too many tracks around at the moment that use the same all-in-one mastering tools, which lend them all the same kind of sound.
What’s your opinion on processing the mix bus? Leave it clean or drive it to the extreme?
I believe in making extreme sounds, but not in extreme processing on the master bus. I might use a compressor to blend things here and there – usually on a sub mix like the drum or bassline track – but I rarely compress the master.
I really dislike the current trend for high RMS levels. I don’t understand why so many people think that louder means better: if you like your music loud just turn up the volume! But please leave the original dynamics of the track intact.
What do you believe is the secret to your success as a producer?
Doing things at the right time, paying attention to what’s going on around – watching and listening – and hard work. I work like crazy on music: I’m not easily satisfied and often make 10 different versions of a track or remix before I’m happy with it.
Any advice for aspiring producers out there?
Be creative: make your own music!