In this week’s edition of the journal, we sat down with the producer behind our Ambient Textural Toolkit release, discussing their production process, favourite pieces of gear and advice for aspiring sound designers.
Tell us a little bit about Ambient Textural Toolkit and how you prepared for this release
“When I began working on this pack I wanted to create a toolkit of sounds that could be used as provided, but that could also be processed, sampled and edited in numerous ways to create new and exciting sounds. I initially drew a mind map of potential pack contents then expanded on this by gathering lots of items that could produce interesting sounds including an old typewriter, a VHS video player, lots of glass, polystyrene and even an old piano with no keyboard just the strings inside!”
“The contents of this pack focus on 2 main areas, the first being individual hits, samples, notes and chords that can be used as the building blocks of new productions and the second, atmospheres, textures and soundscapes to act as the underscores. This is supported by a selection of Massive presets, Logic channel strip settings and loops with MIDI files. Another key aspect of what I was aiming for during the making of this pack was the combination of acoustic and synthetic sounds adding to the versatility of the pack and its scope for use beyond the atmospheric and ambient remit.”
What got you inspired during the creation of this pack? Any particular influences?
“For sound sources, I have been inspired by traditional instruments including voice, guitar and piano played in the traditional manner but also in interesting ways alongside using everyday items to create unique sounds and the capture of a number of interesting environments. A huge host of artists have inspired the creation of this pack, the most notable names include Olafur Arnalds, Moguai, Balmorhea, Clint Mansell, Thom Yorke, Kiasmos, Trent Reznor, Tycho, Air, Christian Henson and Boards of Canada. As the project developed I increasingly found myself influenced by film and TV music, foley and atmospheres.”
What was your biggest challenge in creating this sample pack?
“The biggest challenge for this project was where to start with this project as I find that when composing and producing in the atmospheric genre that I see anything and everything as an interesting sound source with infinite opportunities for sound manipulation.”
Tell us a little bit about your current studio setup.
“I work using both a desktop Mac in the studio and a MacBook Pro when capturing sound sources in other locations and have both a Digi 003, a portable Focusrite 2i2 interface and a Zoom H4n. On this project, I have found my go-to microphones to be the trusty Shure SM57, AKG d112, SE4400 condenser and a contact mic that I picked up next to nothing online. For hardware effects processing and sound manipulation I have used a pedalboard including the EHX Cathedral Reverb, Memory Boy Analog Delay, Big Muff and a selection of classic Boss stompboxes most frequently a Chorus Ensemble, Tremolo and Distortion and guitars were amped through a Laney Cub value. My current MIDI controller is the new Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol MK2 and I am monitoring through KRK VXTs.”
Top 3 favourite pieces of gear?
1. MacBook Pro – “Having such a powerful portable machine really opens up opportunities from me to work in different locations when I need to record found sounds, take work outside of the studio to show collaborators or when I just fancy a change of scenery to get me inspired.”
2. Fender Esquire GT – “I bought this guitar as a teenager and was sold by its neon blue finish with white racing stripe (admittedly not the best reason my guitar). However, 15 years later this is still my go-to guitar, the Seymour Duncan pickup is capable of everything from clean and rich sustain to distorted textures and is so comfortable to play.”
3. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol MK2 – “This is my latest addition to the studio and it has integrated into my workflow immediately. I love the way that you can really delve into the power of your compatible plug-ins without needing to jump back to the computer screen anywhere near as often as before. I am already noticing that this is allowing me to be much more creative with sound design and manipulation during the initial composition and capturing of the initial ideas.”
What’s a unique, unconventional production technique that you would like to share with our readers?
“I have recently been experimenting with contact microphones to capture one-shots and atmospheres. These microphones are very cheap to pick up online or you can make your own very little cost and you can attach them to almost anything to capture sounds you perhaps wouldn’t normally hear. The other technique I would like to mention here is regards to adding ambience and atmosphere to your productions. Adding even the most simple and basic atmosphere track underneath your tracks can give them much more natural and lifelike feel, particularly when creating more minimal styles of electronic music.”
What DAW do you normally use, and what are some plugins you typically use?
“At the moment I am currently using 2 DAWs, ProTools for audio recording and editing and Logic X for composing and producing. The main reason for this is that I feel that these different tasks play to the strengths of each piece of software and this is the working method which I find quickest and most productive. With regards to plug-ins, I’m a big fan of the Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate package I love using the RC reverbs and Replika delays. Logic X also has some powerful tools for sound manipulation and I enjoy using the Pedalboard effects on a range of sound sources.”
Any tips or advice for aspiring producers?
“I would like to share 5 tips for new and aspiring music producers based on my experiences over the last 10/15 years of music making since my earliest demos on a digital eight-track.”
• Make friends and connections with other music creators – ask questions about the techniques they use, listen to music they recommend and push yourself out of your comfort zone to collaborate. You’ll find that working with others will always push you in the direction or to an end result that you would not have achieved on your own.
• Make time as part of your production process to watch online tutorials, read music blogs and magazines and get to know your equipment and how best to use it.
• Follow your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to scrap ideas. If you are questioning something the chances are you know deep down whether it’s worth pursuing – being brutal helps you be more productive.
• Housekeeping is very important. Keep your projects, mixes, masters, samples, plug-ins and associated paperwork organised, you may not have many files now but this will grow over time and nobody wants spent hours trying to find that one drum sample or session file.
• Listen to music and lots of it – make this part of your daily routine and listen to a range of different styles and artists.”