This week on The Journal, we caught up with Comakid, the producer behind the highly eclectic Lo-Fi Beats. 

First off, Lo-Fi Beats sounds amazing.

“Thanks! :)”

What was the general idea behind this collection? What were some of the influences and sounds you were aiming for?

“What I tried to achieve for this collection was a meeting point of different genres such as Trap, R&B, Future R&B, Vapourware, Future Funk, Hip Hop and Synthwave. My goal was to glue them all together with a distinct and unique sound to so that the different styles could coexist, being different shades of a bigger sound concept.

From my perspective, all these genres – despite being slightly different from one another – share a common soul and attitude to it.”

Production-wise, what were your days like working on this release? Tell us a little about some of the gear that was used.

“As I mentioned before, the main focus of this release was to gather different sound palettes and have them come as one in the smoothest way possible. Since we are talking ”Lo-fi”, one of the very first things that I set as a constant approach throughout the whole period of production was recording onto tape. I used my REVOX B77 MKII reel to reel tape machine and a very old 4-track cassette deck recorder by Fostex, kindly lent by my dad. The reel to reel gave me more control over various things such as changing speed (therefore pitch) of the moving reels, cranking up the preamp gain for a very musical distortion and giving an extremely nice overall compression and eq to what was put into it. With the cassette deck I could still work out some of these techniques, but I would get out of this type of tape a very cranky and rotten sound, which was exactly what I would crave for in some situations. That turned out to be a great and very useful tool for the job. Nearly everything in the pack was transferred onto one of these two systems, sometimes to both!

“The reel-to-reel gave me more control over various things such as changing speed (therefore pitch) of the moving reels, cranking up the preamp gain for a very musical distortion and giving an extremely nice overall compression and eq to what was put into it. With the cassette deck I could still work out some of these techniques, but I would get very ‘cranky’ and rotten tape sound, which was exactly what I would crave for in some situations. That turned out to be a great and very useful tool for the job. Nearly everything in the pack was transferred onto one of these two systems, sometimes to both!”

“Gear-wise I mainly relied on my Juno-6 (with the tubbutech mod), Roland Chorus Echo RE-501 (Tape delay), Casio SK200, Korg MS20 mini, Korg Polysix, Korg Monopoly, Roland JP-08, Microkorg, Casiotone 101 a Roland TR-606 (thanks to dad again!) and a self assembled KASTLE modular synth by BASTL Instruments which spits out unpredictable and ever changing weird bleeps (good for sampling long sessions of fiddling around and cut edit afterwards).

For more organic sounds I used a Rhodes Piano and sampled some real drum sounds out of my very old drum kit in addition to various types of ethnic percussions.”

How was this pack different from some of your previous releases, work-wise?

“To be honest not that different, if we are talking about how I approached the project. I usually compile a very long playlist of all the songs and genres I wish to be inspired by, and then dive into it for the weeks to come.

I then study and analyze all the different features, music and production techniques engaged in the genre and learn from it. The only rule is not to listen to anything else during this period. It might sound a bit extreme, but I found this as the only way for me to really absorb what I wish to recreate at my own terms. The only thing that changes from time to time is the instrumentation used (a genre is mainly – but not only – defined by the instruments and the type of sound is made of) and the consequent sound design I apply to it.

It might sound a bit extreme, but I found this as the only way for me to really absorb what I wish to recreate at my own terms. The only thing that changes from time to time is the instrumentation used (a genre is mainly – but not only – defined by the instruments and the type of sound is made of) and the consequent sound design I apply to it.”

What’s a unique, unconventional production technique that you would like to share with our readers?

“What I often find myself doing is writing a melody or a set of chords progressions and then distribute the various notes/chords involved over different instruments and sounds. These are not playing all at once, instead of every instrument “appear” once or twice only playing one note/chord. I.e.

If I have a chord progression made of 5 chords, I would assign each chord to an instrument that will only play when its chord is triggered. This creates movement and variation in addition to a more multi-coloured timbre palette within the same harmonic loop. I tend to engage similar-sounding instruments but the possibilities are endless.

Another technique that I found out to be quirky and useful over the years is to write a melody and when it’s time to record it, playing it backward, just by simply inverting the succession order of the notes. Once you get that recorded you reverse the audio region back. This way you will have your original melody but with a backward / reverse effect which usually leads to interesting results if the sound in question has any sort of tail (reverb, delay, echo, etc.) or some pronounced ADSR features.

Last but not least, a useful – although not as original – technique is to resample your sounds. For this particular release, this technique was something I simply could not do without. Whether that be resampling with my CASIO SK200 or resampling onto cassette deck or reel to reel tape machine. Each time you get a different flavor, and depending on the ultimate goal you want to achieve. Here as well, the possibilities are countless.”

Any tips or advice for aspiring producers?

“My advice is to keep a very open mind approach even to genres of music you don’t usually listen to, or that you even strongly dislike, because I think that continuous learning is the only way to improve yourself and the places where there is most to be learned are usually the ones we never explore.”