With Biologik’s remix of Travis MacDonald ‘Afterwards’ out this week on Soundteller Records, we launch a new segment called ‘What’s In Your Studio’ with the Canadian producer.
1. You’ve been producing for a long time. How and when did you get started?
I bought my first synth, a Roland JX3P, in 1996. From 1996 until about 2002 I spent most of my time just tweaking and doing live local shows. I was a little lazy and never really sat down and recorded anything but I got very good at making sounds for synths. This paid off later in my career! I got into production because I heard a song (Kode IV – Near to the Devine [Official doof mix] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hNGQ76hIy4) that had a syncopated vocal in it and I had no idea how something like could have been done. I was comparatively young then and my mind was blown. I had to know how all those cool sounds were made.
What were you using to produce when you first started and how has that changed over the years?
When I first started producing, I had a little experience with trackers like Scream Tracker and Fast Tracker 2. Once I got my first synth, I dropped my computer and opted for a more hands-on approach. For many years my main rig consisted of a couple mono synths like the JX3P and SH-101, an Access Virus A, an Akai MPC2000, an EMU E-5000 Ultra, and some other units which changed over all the time. I really loved the physical aspect of making music. Over the years I re-integrated my hardware with software, and in about 2005 I focused a little more on software and sold off a lot of hardware. Looking back, this was a big mistake. I really wish I never did that, but the change did force me to write songs and get them out there. Now, I’d say I’m about 65% hardware and 35% software. A lot of synths like the Elektron Analog 4, Elektron RYTM, and Access Virus now have USB audio and are fully DAW integrated which is great!
What’s your favorite hardware synth?
If you’d have asked me this question 2 years ago, the answer would have been my Access Virus. I’ve had a Virus since 1998 and I’ve used it in a lot of my music. However, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Elektron Analog 4. I’ve never worked so well with any synth before. I just love it! I made two Elektron sound packs for it which have now been released as well (Biopads and Low Register).
What synth do you regret selling?
That’s an easy one. I wish I never sold my mint blue Roland SH-101 with the mod-grip. It was beautiful. I guess I got caught up in the new Virtual Analog revolution and away it went. What a mistake! That being said, a few months ago I picked up an Intellijel Atlantis. At its core it’s a modular SH-101, but has been expanded well beyond that. I’m in love again and so happy to have it!
We’ve seen a few pictures of your Eurorack modular setup. What made you start collecting those modules?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I always new once I started that I’d spend a lot of money on it. I was right. However, I’m really happy with what my eurorack setup has brought me. It’s a level of personalization that I’d never be able to achieve without it. You want a Moog filter? No problem. Want a Korg MS-20 filter? No problem. Prefer a vintage Roland style ADSR for your synth? Easy. I think of it as “hot rods” for the synth world. Do I need it? No. But, it’s a hobby and I love it. I’ve integrated it with my music and it brings a unique quality to my music.
What are some of your favorite modules?
As I said before, I’m in love with the Intellijel Atlantis. It has all the qualities of my old SH-101 I loved and so much more. Since I make a lot of atmospheric sounds, the Mutable Instruments Clouds has also been a godsend. I’m able to create sounds that I’d never have been able to dream about.
A lot of people say you don’t need hardware to make music. What do you think?
I agree. You can make music with whatever you want. When I started, I used to use MIDI. I loved the physical tweaking of sound. This has stuck with me and that’s why I love hardware. I integrate a lot of hardware and software nowadays, especially to make complex pads and textures.
With so many producers and DJs playing out, why don’t you do DJ sets?
I really love playing hardware live shows. Part of it is the uniqueness of the hardware, and the danger of being 100% real-time. To me, it’s a big thrill and I personally wouldn’t trade it to play a DJ set.
Do you have any tips for a producer who wants to move to hardware?
Unlike in the late 90s, there’s so much information out there. It’s a great time to start any type of production, either hardware or software based. If you get stuck, there are tons of YouTube videos to help, Facebook groups, etc. Jump in! You won’t regret it.
Biologik’s remix of Travis MacDonald ‘Afterwards’ is out now on Soundteller Records, you can purchase the release: here