Tell us a little bit about Soultronica and how you prepared for this release.
Soultronica is a bass and feel-good-melody driven pack that was inspired by just about any and every genre that I love, all coming together to form this collaboration of live instruments, 808 basses, chopped vocals and a ton of varied drum loops.
For a pack like this I felt it would be most beneficial for me to start by making a load of different drum hits of all kinds, particularly interesting and unique percussive textures, as the drums in the pack could be very versatile, from a tribal style to 4 to the floor, to halftime and anything in between. The foley percussive one-shots I included can give a normal sounding drum loop a lot of soul and life by adding them in between kick and snare shots without any quantization.
I always start off sample packs by taking a couple of hours to listen through all sorts of playlists on Spotify and add songs that inspire me to my own playlist. This is always really helpful on days that I feel a bit uninspired, as I can run through the tracks and find one with an interesting rhythm, vocal or texture, and that might trigger a whole load of different ideas.
What got you inspired during the creation of this pack? Any particular influences?
I listened to a lot of different artists for this project, mainly Mura Masa’s productions like a lot of his self-titled album, and ‘Miss You’ from his Soundtrack to a Death album. I love Kaytranada’s grooves, it’s super funky and stylish and I found that to be very inspiring. I also listened to a lot of Flume and Sam Gellaitry for those super bassy vibes and eclectic percussive textures. Lastly, Daedelus & Bonobo’s music were great for inspiring more downtempo, soulful and melodic pieces featured in Soultronica.
What was your biggest challenge in creating this sample pack?
I actually found this project really fun and without any challenges, to be honest! It was one of those projects that came together very naturally, probably due to it being such a versatile and fun style of music to make, with plenty of incredible music to draw inspiration from. Whenever I felt uninspired or stuck I would just play around with some of the drum hits to get a cool rhythm going and then jam over the top of it until something inspired me. It really was a fun project to create from start to finish.
Tell us a little bit about your current studio setup.
I pretty much work entirely in the box besides from a couple of mics, a Shure SM57 and a Zoom H4N. I monitor on a pair of Sennheiser HD25-II’s and Audio Technica M30’s, and I have a few instruments such as a Yamaha FG830 acoustic guitar, a Fender Starcaster and an Epiphone Les Paul electric that I run through an Ibanez tube screamer pedal and Marshall MG30DFX amp, a violin I don’t know the brand or origins of at all, a Kemble Minx upright piano and a couple of midi keyboards from M Audio. I travel a lot so I run everything off a Lenovo ThinkPad T410 with upgraded RAM. This means I can pack my laptop, headphones, a really small 32-key midi keyboard, and my Zoom H4n into a backpack and spend a few days away working on projects super easily.
Top 3 favorite pieces of gear?
1. Kemble Minx upright piano – I made a Kontakt instrument out of this for whenever I’m away from it as I love its tone so much. It has a really warm, gorgeous, slightly detuned texture to it. I often record me playing freestyle for a half hour or so and then listen back for cool ideas to sample.
2. Zoom H4n – this is such a great little toy to go on adventures with. I love using ambiances and Foley sounds to create percussive layers. Adding ambiance to music can give a completely new sense of depth and imagery to the music, and with the Zoom H4n being so light and portable, I can take it everywhere and record whatever idea comes to me as I become inspired. I love recording rain, fire or rivers and then applying a high pass filter at around 8-12khz to make it sound a bit more lo-fi and almost like a vinyl record crackle.
3. Yamaha FG830 Acoustic Guitar – this guitar has a beautifully warm tone that can be used across all genres, and it can be great to trigger a cool idea by just jamming away to a nice drum loop for a while.
What’s a unique, unconventional production technique that you would like to share with our readers?
One of my favourite tricks is really simple. Reversing a chord loop can always be a good way of getting a more uncommon chord progression and sound, but I like to also add a warm, long reverb with no dry signal at all, and then automate the reverb to fade in from 0 -100% over each beat. This way the chord becomes blurrier as it gets louder, and it instantly going back to the dry signal at the start of each beat creates a cool pumping effect.
What DAW do you normally use, and what are some plugins you typically use?
I run FL Studio with a lot of different plugins. I use everything from Fab Filter very often and find Timeless 2, Volcano 2 and Saturn particularly awesome for sound design. Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere is by far the best VST I’ve ever used for resampling. I love putting all sorts of recordings I capture through it and going wild with the FX. Running piano riffs through its sampler and granuliser is a really fun way of getting some very unique and interesting chords and pads to play with. I also use Serum and Massive a lot for any electronic genres as they’re so easy-flowing and diverse.
Any tips or advice for aspiring producers?
Writer’s block used to be a real problem for me. It used to take me months to finish EPs, and now I’m able to write a ton of melodies every day much more easily when making sample packs, and for me the change came when instead of sitting around thinking “what catchy melody can I come up with?”, or “how do I make this particular sound?”, or “what genre of music do I want to make for the rest of my life?”, I just stopped thinking about it and stressing and just tried a few things out instead. For example, throw some chords together, reverse them and see what you get, or use Paulstretch on some melodic loops to make a cool intro pad, or take a vocal or a saxophone or a kalimba sample and chop it into bits and make a new melody out of it. It might sound great or it might sound rubbish at first, but by layering it and layering it with samples or melodies or pads or whatever comes to mind, eventually you’ll find a couple of things that work really well together and have a eureka moment, and it will snowball into a lovely full song.