This week on the Journal we caught up with the producers responsible for part two of our French House series. They took us through their Studio Setup & Gear List, the preparation involved when creating a sample pack, and also offered some advice for aspiring producers.
Tell us a little bit about French House 2 and how you prepared for this release?
“French House 2 was conceived just under a year ago, following on from the hugely successful first installment. We wanted to pay homage to the classic pumping french house sound as well as several other genres that closely tie with it such as filter disco, french touch, and even nu-disco.
We started by pooling together our favourite releases from the above genre and figuring out what needed to be recorded. After numerous studio days tracking drums, bass, guitar and Rhodes we were ready to start the production side.”
What got you inspired during the creation of this pack? Any particular influences?
“Daft Punk, Fred Falke, Alan Braxe, Le Knight Club, DJ Sneak, Alex Gopher, Étienne de Crécy, Lifelike, Ed Banger, Roulé, Crydamoure, Kitsuné, probably loads more too!
In fact, it wasn’t just the producers, labels and DJs from french house that we found inspiring but also the records they were sampling. To sound as authentic as possible we meticulously studied the recording techniques of the 60s, 70s, and 80s records the above producers were sampling.”
What was your biggest challenge in creating this sample pack?
“Many of the samples were recorded at different tempos (often non-integer like 113.265) so that when transposed by a semitone they would land exactly at our destination tempo. Mixing full band stems, printing those into a hardware sampler, transposing and then chopping and filtering the result could occasionally get confusing, especially when dealing with MIDI files too. Other than that achieving the right sorts of swing, compression, filter algorithms and amount of lo-fi was a challenge in itself.”
Tell us a little bit about your current studio setup.
“iMac running Logic and Live, 003 soundcard, various pedals, hardware compressors, and channel strips, instruments (importantly!) various 80s synthesizers and all the usual plug-ins you’d expect.”
Top 3 favorite pieces of gear?
“For this pack, the Alesis 3630 has a long run out. Often processing a faux record disco/soul sample through the compressor with a 909 or similar triggering the sidechain circuit. The 3630 is by no means a high-quality sampler but it really helps with the sound of these records. It does strange things to the stereo image and clips in a forgiving way.
I also used the Akai S2000 extensively throughout this, really like a glorified processor. Running drums, melodic and harmonic samples into the S2000’s preamp allows you to control the gain staging before recording the sample. Often we’d then pitch them up, normalize, reduce sample rate and filter within the S2000 before printing back to the DAW.
Strangely I became fascinated with a cheap compact VCA compressor by Boss (CS-3) for drums during the making of the pack. It has a really smash-ey quality to it but protects the transients nicely. Worked great on room mics and of course guitar. For more traditional disco guitar sounds we opted for the MXR Dyna Comp or 1176 clones.”
What’s a unique, unconventional production technique that you would like to share with our readers?
“I’ve detailed it above already but recording samples with a view to pitching them up (or down) while maybe not unique certainly helped capture the sound. Aged samplers had limited memory so recording a sample in +3 or 4 semitones and then pitching it down can have as interesting an effect as the pitching up the example I’ve detailed above.”
What DAW do you normally use, and what are some plugins you typically use?
“We tracked exclusively in Logic and while my partner works just in Logic I did most of my production work in Live. I find it easier and quicker when working with resampling audio, transposing and quick sound design. Logic still edges Live as a recording environment, and I can’t see that changing any time soon, but having both was really beneficial as they can lead you in different directions.”
Any tips or advice for aspiring producers?
“Perhaps this is more specific than general but for this French house sound knowing your slash chords is really key: this is taking a chord and in the left hand/bass playing a note not part of that chord, so for example with a C chord you could add a D in the bass or with a C minor chord an F etc. This has a harmonically ambiguous sound that is heard throughout funk, soul, and disco but is particularly prevalent in French house too.”