Very pleased this week to be able to introduce this producer Q&A from one of the producers I admire most in the scene; Untold. You don’t need me to tell you how he’s managed to get himself to the top of the bass music tree without stooping to cheese, populism, or any sort of compromise whatsoever – it’s inspiring. This week sees the launch of his new sample pack with Loopmasters, which is called ‘Dubstep Producer’. It’s out now, so go and check it out;

How do you approach a tune? Drums first? Melody?

First off I write the concept down in a notebook. This is usually bullet points with
descriptions of the mood, other tunes or periods I’m referencing for inspiration, sometimes even beat pattern scrawled out in a similar style to a piano roll in the sequencer. Even if I don’t get anything done when I go to the sequencer I’ve got a book full of ideas for later use that are great for skimming through when I’m stuck on a tune.

Once I’ve got a clear concept I’ll gather appropriate samples and build synth patches. I usually start sequencing with drums, but try and get them down quick and move on to the bassline. Sometimes I’ll get the rough rhythm down using temporary sounds, like a 909 kit, then replace the drum hits once I’ve got the bassline working with the rhythm.

What time of day do you work best?

It used to be after midnight, but I’ve slowly learnt to write at any time. Often I’ll have the sequencer open with a tune on the go and add bits throughout the day.
This way I spend less time listening to the tune looping on repeat and don’t get as sick of it as I’m building it.

Where do you get your inspiration / motivation from?

I have CD buying and listening binges of specific genres, artists, movements or labels. For instance I’ve bought four Arthur Russell albums this week, last month I bought loads of post punk compilations.

The motivation takes care of itself. I’ve always had to write or play music in some form or other.

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?

Grab a handful of CD’s from the shelf and go sample hunting, or build new synth patches. Just try and ride it out and not to give myself a hard time.

Do you start a tune from scratch, or do you usually have a drumset/template/etc to work from?

I have a template folder structure for the project which is invaluable when transferring a project to another studio or retrieving an old synth patch.

01_Sequencer = For sequencer project files, usually about 50 in total, a new numbered project file created when each element is added to the track.
02_Samples = All samples split into sub folders
03_Patches = All battery kits, synth and FX patches used in the project
04_Bounces = For exporting the loop under construction, which is useful for keeping track of a tune as it progresses
05_Mixdown= The audio stems bounced out ready for mixdown
06_Export=The uncompressed pre-master wav with proper filename, along with loud wavs and Mp3 for sending out to Dj’s

I also use a default song that autoloads in the sequencer with NI Battery set up as a multi channel for the drums, a couple of synths, some basic fx and all the routing and parallel compression paths in place.

If you got a chance would you write pop stuff for a major label (if the money was right?)

Well I’ve already remixed a US #1 and I’m involved in some pop production projects so I’ve already crossed over to the dark side. In my experience the bigger the label, the bigger the hassle and wait in getting paid so it’s best not to focus or rely on the cash for those projects.

What’s the boring, workhorse plugin/piece of kit that you use all the time?

Well I don’t think it’s boring, but I use the SSL Duende box for EQ and compression in every track. It’s got the least software sounding EQ’s I’ve heard and the bus compressor is incredible.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you’ve got and do you actually use it much?

Probably a ‘90’s midi guitar synth called the G10 that looks like it’s a Star Wars prop. It’s a pain to set up but lots of fun to play.

I have made absolutely no practical use of it, but I’d never consider selling it.

Do you mixdown your own stuff? Reckon there’s a stigma around this?

I mix 90% of my tunes myself although I’ve no problem with handing stems over to mixing engineers. If they are professional then they’ll make it work and bring a fresh perspective.

New producers seem to obsess over getting perfect mixdowns but these days they aren’t the thing that makes or break a tune. We’ve signed tunes that we’ve heard clips of on youtube. It’s the musical ideas that stand out.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?

Recycling a fashionable sound ad-infinitum without exploring the unknown.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?

Once you have a vinyl release, a pixie doesn’t visit you with the keys to a vault of amazing sounding samples
You are not a bad person if you have to scrap a tune because its not gelling, even if you’ve got to bar 64
For D&B and dubstep, kick and snare should have the same RMS (average amplitude), these combined should match the RMS of the bass. (Usually.)
Turn the hi-hats down 1db less than you think you need to
Check these trouble spots with spectrum analyser and EQ if a part is sounding harsh, 1k, 4.5k, 7k