Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.
Where are you based?
How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?
I felt the urge to express myself in an artistic way from very early on. For me, this was a matter of course. It did not necessarily have to be music but then music for me is the most universal and most emotional art form. I used to play jazz piano as a kid. After years of saving, I bought an MPC200xl and started to make beats. Whilst I was always listening to all kinds of music genres, Hip-Hop with all its facets was my natural habitat. Sampling, the collage of quotations still characterizes my way of making and understanding music today.
I would consider myself primarily a producer as my fingertips are 90% of my time on the laptop and only 10% on the piano’s keyboard. But of course, I’m a musician and a composer too.
Since 2013, I play my songs live. It was always important to me that I’m not “only” a DJ but to find ways to play electronic music live with real humans in a real band where you can touch, feel and smell things.
Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?
It’s a long list: Bonobo, Kruder & Dorfmeister, The xx (Jamie xx), Sbtrkt, Fred Again, Joep Beving, Radiohead, Lianne La Havas, Sophie Hunger, Lee Fields, Donny Hathaway, Tim Maia, Wu-Tang Clan, and so on…
Explain your creative process. Do you have a routine?
I start at nine. I finish at five. My life is organized with a simple to-do list that gets longer most of the time instead of shorter. It says everything from ‘I should call my mom’ to detailed ideas on how I could make a break in a certain song I’m working on. I love composing, but everything else like emails and life or career organization a bit less. Accordingly, I would rather write a new song than an urgently expected answer. But since I find composing to be the ultimate in meaningfulness, I guess that’s fine.
What is your “studio” setup?
My instrument is the piano. Fortunately, that allows me to play all kinds of synthesizers. Over time I have accumulated quite a few. My favourite baby is the OB-6 from Sequential. It plays as intuitively as an acoustic instrument. The Juno-106 feels similar, but unfortunately, I only have the boutique version. New here is also a JX-08 from this series. For additional flavour, the Korg Minilogue and also the Mellotron is very great. Often flows through a Roland Chorus Echo Re-501. A very unpredictable and noisy tool. From earlier, there is also a Mopho 4x around, as well as a Nord Stage that I only use for live. The centrepiece is the Yamaha Upright Piano from the 80s. A beautiful instrument. Everything ends up in my laptop on the Cubase. Here I process the audio tracks with plugins like Valhalla and Soundtoys. No black magic really. I never use many complicated effects. Bit of delay, reverb and compression (Vc-2a from Native Instruments is my go-to) that’s it. Ok, RC-20, Antares auto-tune, Arturia Tape-Machine and Kickstart are heavily in use too. The rest happens in compositing.
Blending samples, pitching, stretching and putting them in an unexpected context is my main job. My favourite software synth at the moment: Diva, Serum and various plugins from Spitfire. Via an ancient RME Fireface 400 the sound flows back out to two just as ancient Dynaudio Bm5 speakers and a subwoofer.
Good, neutral speakers that you know are the be-all and end-all for a decent mix. That’s it really.
What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely?
Every co-writing session is different. But what is the same is that I always put a certain pressure on myself whether the collab harmonizes, or whether something good comes out of it. When I’m alone in the studio there is no such pressure. I’m freer. Maybe I dare more. That’s why I like to go into a session with small sketches or a clear vision to have a compass for the journey. But of course, co-writing sessions are great. I always need an external unexpected element to surprise myself, even when I create alone.
At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?
When leaving the studio, I always send the work of the day on WhatsApp to my girlfriend. Not that she would ever listen to the complete overload she gets sent every day. But it enables me to listen to my productions on iPhone speakers and see if the mix sits right whilst walking out of the house.
Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?
I like to share work-in-progress songs. I think it’s an important step while creating. Sometimes it’s enough to play a song to someone you know well, without them saying anything, and you get a clear feeling of what works and what not, that you wouldn’t get if you were listening to the song alone. Be it enthusiasm or the opposite. This way you can quickly assess whether you’re on the right track or not.
How do you know when a track/album is finished?
I don’t know, I just decide when it feels right.
How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?
It’s important that you not only listen to it on the speakers where you created it. Of course, it’s the main reference but I always listen to it on laptop speakers and on the phone as well as on headphones. Good ones as well as the little Apple thingies. Boom boxes are especially merciless when it comes to mixes. Also, play it on an old and a new car audio system if you want to check bass levels.
How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?
The trend is clearly going in the other direction where artists are publicly sharing their work in progress on Insta or elsewhere and asking for fans’ opinions. I like that a lot. It brings the whole process of creating much closer.
Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?
Besides the girlfriend who never listens to my voice messages, I send them on a daily basis: The manager. He is not picky about the format luckily.
Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?
People who are ready to change their play-hard / work-hard mentality are welcome to listen to the title song vulnerability. I include myself in this.
Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?
I’ve just released my album Vulnerability last month, which you can listen to here.