In the next of our 15 Question series... London based Drum and Bass DJ Cyantific (Jon Stanley), talks Sonic Academy through what parts of the production process he finds most challenging and his current live/DJ set-up, as well as an in depth look at his typical workflow and idea development.
The follow up single to Cyantific's new EP called 'Liberty', is released October 29th on Cyantific Music.
Where did you learn your skills from. Self-taught or education route?
I'm pretty much self-taught. I think that's why it originally took so long to make anything worthy of a release! I started out on the family PC when I was about 15 or so, using a very simple wave editor that came with the operating system. It was literally laying sounds on top of one and other. I did apply to Westminster College to do audio engineering, but they didn't accept me for whatever reason. I think that was a good thing in the long run, learning for yourself is more productive in my opinion.
What is your current studio set-up?
I'm currently running a Macbook Pro with Logic 9, a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24, Mackie 624 MK1's, NI Komplete, NI Maschine, Arturia Analog Factory, an old Virus B and a few other bits and pieces of software.
What made you decide to use your current DAW?
I've been using it since about 2005, on advice from my record label at that time. Apple then bought it and ruined it for a while, then it got good again. It's now just a convenience thing - It's too much hassle to change!
Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception…..
I'd love to, but I don't really have one, it's usually different every time. I'll pick a track I did recently (in a more conventional manner) and explain that.
This track I did is called 'The Tomorrow People' - which is on my new EP on Cyantific Music.
I started out with a definite idea for the track, when I was at home. I think I have better ideas when I'm just relaxing, and away from the studio. I wanted to do something with a 50's SciFi/B movie theme. Then I started sampling a lot of stuff from that era - spoken word bits, musical parts from albums of the time etc. Once I had more than I needed I went through them all and picked the best ones to build the track around.
Then I got to work on the drums. I wanted to use a prominent breakbeat sample to give them a lot of character. There's this break I've been trying to use for a long time which I managed to make work through a decent amount of processing and referencing. This probably took me the best part of 2 working days.
Once I was happy with the drums I got going on making the main bass sound using impOSCar 2 - I find it really easy to handle, and it has that analog sound to it. That was a fair bit of trial and error, and working it in with the musical samples in the track. Once the main bass part is done I like to add a load of little bits and bobs to the bassline to add some movement and interest. Sometimes I'll use samples, or audio bits from other tracks I've made, sometimes I'll make them from scratch. This all took about 3 days.
The final part to the whole process was adding a lead line and padding out the intro and breakdown, to give the whole thing a bit more character. Then it's a case of doing beat and bass edits, smoothing over all the transitions (intro to drop etc), adding sound FX, and of course tightening up the final mix. That said I do like to get the mix right as I go - it saves so much time and effort once you've finished writing the track. This part was probably another 3 days of work.
What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
Staring at a blank arrangement window is definitely the hardest part. Other than that I must confess I'm not the greatest on the keys, but I find ways around it.
How do you deal with 'hitting a brick wall'?
I usually take a day off. Working hard is essential in the music business, but forcing yourself to try to be inspired is futile. That's how I see it anyway. Getting a bit of distance from sitting infront of your computer once in a while is healthy. I often come back feeling refreshed.
What piece of software and hardware could you not live without?
My Mackie 624's. I love the sound, and I couldn't imagine using anything else at the moment. Software-wise I would be lost without the trusty old channel EQ!
What piece of equipment would you most like to own?
So many old synths I'd love to own, but I think I'd like the DynAudio's they've got at Metropolis Mastering. They're about 20 grand though, I think!
Is there a piece of equipment you regret getting rid of?
Used to have this giant Crumar Trilogy that was a bit crap, and very noisy, but I miss the pad sound from it. So wonky and out of tune.
What piece of software or hardware are you most looking forward to launching this year?
I really don't keep as up to date as I should, I must confess. Does the next Grand Theft Auto count?
What's your current live/DJ set-up and why have youchosen this over everything else available in the market?
I use Traktor for DJing, with 3 CDJs, an F1 Kontrol and an X1 Kontrol. I used to love playing off vinyl - it's still my favourite format. Vinyl with Traktor is cool, but the turntables aren't reliable enough to use with Traktor in most clubs, I can vouch for that first hand. To be honest I'm still refining it, and finding the best way to play. I got the most I could out of vinyl, playing on three decks, but I don't even feel like I've scratched the surface with Traktor.
Is there too much choice in the music technology market these days?
Yeah, probably. That's why I try to keep it simple, and only buy what I know I'm going to get use from. Otherwise you can really get caught up in having to have all the latest stuff, and spend all your time learning it, rather than being creative. But maybe that's just me, I'm sure other people can learn on the job.
How do you think the technology affects the music producers release?
What's the secret to good mastering?
I think the secret to good mastering is taking it to a mastering engineer and him not having to do much to it. If you've been working on your mix from the get-go you shouldn't leave the engineer with a lot to do. They can only fix so much. I like to take it to Beau at Masterpiece and just have him get another 10% out of the mix if that makes sense.
What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from you in 2012?
I'm working on a new single at the moment as a follow up to my new EP called 'Liberty', which is out on October 29th on Cyantific Music. PLUG!
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