Your DAW of choice is Logic Pro for this course. Has that always been the case, or did you start with a different program? What attracted you to Logic Pro over some other choices like Ableton or Cubase?
I started to produce music in 1986, I got hold of an Atari computer which was used for gaming in the 1980s but it had a midi out port which you could use for hooking up to musical equipment. So I then managed to get hold of a copy of Cubase. When I say copy, I mean it was so, so bad. It was a cracked disc that was flying around. But then I got to a point where I made a bit of money and then I bought a Mac and the Cubase just didn’t work well on there. So that’s when I moved onto Logic in 1999.
Why don’t you use another DAW?
Well each programme has certain strengths. But what I like about Logic is that I’ve used it for a good 20 years now and I’m really familiar with it. It’s got some amazing plug-ins and the synths on there are just unbeatable. I also like the working page and the working area, its very fluid and very concise.
How did you get into music production? Are you self-taught, did you go to school, learn from a mentor, etc?
My era of music was the 1980s and I started to listening to Kraftwerk when I was a very young boy. I was just obsessed with electronic sound and the synthesisers. I loved the sound they had. My uncle was also obsessed. He would record albums for me like Human League, Depeche Mode and Yazoo – All these really early synth bands from the ‘80s. I managed to get hold of my friend’s synthesiser, which I started to mess around with and that was in 1983. I started to make bleepy music because I couldn’t play anything, just press the buttons. I also used to sing in bands at school and I used to be a band with a man named Eliot Kennedy, he went on to write all the Spice Girls albums, he went into the pop music world and I got introduced to House music in 1986. So I am self taught. I started to get pieces of gear and taught myself how to play every single piece and did it like that. The internet wasn’t around, I couldn’t watch tutorials online and because it was so specialist, nobody could really afford that equipment back then. The resources producers have now is amazing.
So you’re self-taught… can you read music? Are you classically trained?
At school I could play the piano and I could read music, but then House music and nightclubs came along. Now I used my ears in the studio.
Do you have a certain set of plug-ins or hardware that you absolutely couldn’t live without?
Well as we’re on the subject of Logic, the ones on there are fantastic. There’s a few synthesiser plug-ins that I use and one of which is by a company called U-HE and it’s called DIVA. I’ve also been using Native instruments’ Maschine. I also use a drum machine called FXpansion – Geist V2. I’ve been using this one for the last 10 years or so. Another good one would be Native instruments’ Massive, which is just amazing… Hardware wise, I use a lot by a company called Thermionic Culture. I have a hardware unit called ‘Culture Vulture’.
How is your studio currently setup? Are you mostly in-the-box, do you use any outboard gear? Any equipment, which is really essential to what you do?
So I’ve got a hybrid studio, you’ll see from the pictures there’s lots of gear! I’m surrounded by kit. Collecting hardware is my passion. Not to say I always use it. It’s just as easy to work in the box! It all depends how much time I have per project. You can get the results you want just in the box.
How often are you working on new music?
I’m currently working on a new project with Mark Knight at the moment BUT I can’t say too much about. It’s been a massive project for us both, but my lips are totally sealed. I also have my own label , Slave Recordings, which I’m really working on for 2017. But always working on new music! There’s loads of bits I’m working on and it’s not always dance music.
So as a label manager and always working on new music and traveling, how do you divide your time? Do you ever produce music on the road, or is this something you try and avoid?
I can’t produce music on the road. I need my studio. I have ideas, I get into the studio. I know loads of people that do it and for them it totally works. I just can’t do it. I love being in the studio… I just wish I had a window in here.
What is your workflow typically like when you get in the studio? Do you sit down with the intention of writing a specific type of track, or do you just play around and see what happens?
Over the years I’ve worked in loads of different ways. I used to work nights, where I’d basically sleep during the day and then work all night. It was easy to do because it was so quiet and there were no disturbances. But then I realised, I was working the opposite way to the rest of the world. I’ve also tried having a studio in my house, but there were too many distractions. So now I try and work on the spot and I like working with people. We both come in. We both have ideas and we get to it. Done. I find that kind of pressure is better for me and it makes me just get on with it. If I’m thinking about it too much I never get really far.
On the subject of collaborations, how do you like to do these? Get in the studio together? Sending stems over e-mail?
I’ve done it various ways but, I like to be in control. I like to be in the driving seat and have them in the studio with me. I find that’s a lot better. However, I am working on another album project at the moment. He’s based in Ireland and he will create a melody in Logic and then he will send it over to me and then I will add some more bits to it, going backwards and forwards like that. That’s a nice way of doing it… it gives me a break and there’s not so much pressure.
What is the secret to be being able to work in the studio all day? Lots of coffee? Regular breaks? Low volume?
You know what, I’ve been stuck to this seat for so many years. My parents bought me an Apple watch for Christmas and you can set it so you know when to stand up and take a break. So you have to get up and walk around and it rewards you with a little ‘congratulations! You stood up 10 times today!’, I need to have something like this to remind me, I’m usually in the studio for 12-14 hours a day! It’s not good for us.
Many producers will use several different references for their final mixdown such as headphones or the official ‘car stereo test’. Do you have any particular methods that work well for you?
Yes! I think the secret is to play it on as many different systems as possible: Radio at home, laptop, speakers, anything! The best thing, I think, is laptop speakers! They don’t have any bass, so when people are on Beatport looking for music, it will sound different. You have to remember that people are listening to it with laptop speakers, in ear headphones… so you have essentially mix music for every device.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be? Producers, bands or artists, anybody!
This is SUCH a tough question… WOW! Well, one of my favourite bands is Muse. I’ve always wanted to work with them, but they’ve always been notoriously known for not liking Dance music. I’ve always really wanted to work with Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode and Jeff lynne from ELO.
Over the course of your career, you’ve done plenty of remixes and collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry. Are there any projects that particularly stand out for you?
When I was really early into the D’Ramirez era of music making, I ended up doing a remix for a Roger Sanchez track called ‘Lost’, it was back in 2005 and for me, it was a work of genius (If I do say so myself). It’s totally different style to everything now, It’s like old school Electro, but I was so happy with how it turned out.
What are you currently working on and what other things can people expect from you this year?
Two albums, my label, another project, which is more Electronic Soul. I’ve taken on some members of staff for Slave. I’ve got a friend of mine coming on board. This year I’m giving it a really big push. I’ve been using it as a platform for my own music and now I want to start pushing other artists and create a mini roster.
Why do you feel it’s important to educate and inspire the next generation of producers?
I think it comes from the fact there was nothing like that for me and I want to teach people the right thing. I wish I could go back to when I first started out producing now, it would be so much easier and I would be at a totally different place. Yes there’s so much stuff online. But a lot of that is rubbish. I’m so passionate about teaching and what I do.