In this week’s journal we caught up with the producer behind the dark, driving, epic and emotive ‘Cinematic Sequences.’ We discussed Strangers Things, analogue vs. digital synthesis, favorite pieces of gear and more!
Tell us a little bit about Cinematic Sequences and how you prepared for this release.
Cinematic Sequences is a pack aimed at contemporary movie/TV soundtracking with a modern twist on classic synth riffs as its main theme. These type of soundtracks seems to be riding a wave that started not so long ago and is rising fast. As for preparation, I listened to a lot of electronica-influenced soundtracks of the past decade (and watched a lot of Netflix!) to hear how the trends have been changing and which way current sound-for-picture writing is going. Then I tried to imagine: If I were to write a soundtrack, what would it sound like?
I combined self-synthesized drums and live hand percussion to break away from typical clichés. I also employed thunderous, sample-driven cinematic and orchestral rhythms, providing a more minimal, electronic approach to my drum grooves. I also processed the usual analog and digital synth timbres to give them a modern flavour and to make them sound more like live instruments (rather than sounding like synthetic processes).
What inspired you during the creation of this pack? Any particular influences?
Apart from binge-watching numerous TV series (there are some great soundtracks out there), I listened to the Stranger Things, Daft Punk’s Tron OST, Drive and Only Got Forgives soundtracks. Also listened to a lot of John Carpenter. I avoided Hans Zimmer though. I think that we’ve all heard enough of his “enormous brass sound,” often heard in movie trailers.
What was the biggest challenge in creating this sample pack?
The biggest challenge was avoiding clichés. It’s easy to go overboard and grow a mustache (and a pair of shades) halfway through the pack. When producing almost purely synthetic music, it’s easy to revert to the usual techniques and pulled into the 70’s-80’s wormhole. That’s why I did a lot of careful programming and processing to give a good deal of the timbres a more modern edge.
Tell us a little bit about your current studio setup.
I’m not afraid to admit that I use soft synths a lot. Over the years I have gathered quite an arsenal of synthesis techniques (as opposed to an arsenal of keyboards) and I don’t need “the analog” to do the work for me. If it sounds nice coming out of “the digital,” that’s great.
Every domain has its place in music production. The analog packs the punch and sweetness. That’s why I sampled my Moog Little Phatty Tribute Edition + Moogerfoogers setup for a lot of bass lines, leads and sequences on this pack. Howevwer, when needed I turned to FM asynthesis, and physical modeling amps and wavetable synthesis to get some modern sounds. This is how I creatred the ethereal textures, plucks, percs and FX.
I produced most of the drums with the Vermona DRM1 MkIII analog drum synthesizer, and sequenced them with Arturia’s Beatstep Pro (which is a great machine!). I played along with a Korg Wavedrum Global for acoustic percussion (the thing is insane, it sounds so real, but can also sound unreal) to further balance the domains.
Top 3 favorite pieces of gear?
The Moog Little Phatty + Moogerfooger setup which you can see in the pictures (I treat it as a single instrument), Korg Wavedrum and Arturia Beatstep Pro.
What’s a unique, unconventional production technique that you would like to share with our readers?
I wouldn’t say that using guitar/bass/stompbox simulations on synths is an unconventional technique by today’s standards, but it’s a great one that many people forget to try.
It makes synths come alive. Also, I did quite a few transition risers on the pack with reversing drum impacts infused with huge reverbs. First, you apply a lot of reverb to a hit, then you bounce it as audio and reverse the clip. So the reverb tail comes first, rising, sounding surreal, and then you cut it before it gets to the transient and you have a cool sounding riser.
What DAW do you normally use, and what are some plugins you typically use?
My DAW of choice is Logic Pro X. I’ve worked with Logic for a long time and even co-authored the first Polish book on the subject (where I covered its native synths in depth). I love how well the stock plugins sound and work. Honestly, I rarely go beyond them and Valhalla Room reverb, as I’m a reverb junkie. Logic’s algorithmic reverbs just don’t cut it for me. I like to keep it simple. As for synths, my all-time favorite is Sylenth1 (that filter!), with Serum close behind for its wavetable warping capabilities and flexible FX section. I also love Logic’s Sculpture physical modeling synth for plucks and unreal textures (which you can also find in the pack).
Any tips or advice for aspiring producers?
As a teacher at the Academy of Audio Engineering in Warsaw, I always tell my students that it’s not the tools, it’s how you use them. You can do great stuff on a budget (especially in electronic music, where you don’t need top-of-the-line mics, preamps, and outboard) and as long as there is great music coming out of the speakers, nobody will know how much (or how little) you spent on gear and plugins.
I have been limiting my options for years and got to know my tools and how to squeeze everything they have to offer out of them. I only buy a piece of new gear, if there is no other way to do what I need to be done efficiently. But to be able to exploit your tools like that, you need knowledge; you need to know the basics of sound, not just a handful of tricks from YouTube tutorials, you need to study sound, the connections, the processes. Then you’ll come up with your methods that work for you, and most importantly you’ll also know why they work and how to modify them to suit the occasion. Learn the basics and the basics of the basics, build upon that.