In the next in our 15 Questions series, SAW Recordings' Satoshi Tomiie talks Sonic Academy through his current set-up from iPad Djing with Traktor through to his production workflow using Ableton Live and Pro Tools….
Where did you learn your skills from. Self-taught or education route?
I spent some time watching professional sound engineers, how they do it. And then I just experimented and tried things by myself. I never really learnt from someone. Over the years the way to produce this music has changed, but the basics are still the same and there's a lot of plugins today that are emulators of real hardware, which I learnt on.
What is your current studio set-up?
I write my music on Ableton Live, so Ableton is the place for my rough sketches. And then I do my mixdowns on Pro Tools. I have a few real vintage analogue machines, which are part of my permanent set up, like a Roland SH101, a Roland TB303, and a Minimoog Voyager. I also have a TR909, and some other analogue drum machines and effect boxes which I pull out from time to time.
What made you decide to use your current DAW?
Years ago, I was in Guy Gerber's studio and back then I didn't use Ableton but he showed me how it works and how he produces music. I found it a really interesting way to produce music. It is an excellent way to write music and tweak one sound into music, unfortunately the sound quality of the final product I'm not convinced. It has improved, but I still feel to my ears that Pro Tools has a better sound quality overall.
Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception…..
I generally lay down the drums and bass first, and some other parts of a loop, and during that process I will bring in other ideas, like a loop or a riff and then the direction might totally change. I just play around in Ableton and see what happens!
What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
I think finding the right groove, that you develop into a track, is probably the most difficult part. Once it is flowing however, then it becomes pure fun. But getting to that point can be hard work.
How do you deal with 'hitting a brick wall'?
The best way, when you hit the wall, is don't force it. Leave the track there and do something else. Come back a few days or weeks later, and another idea will come to you. Unless, of course you have a deadline, in which case you will have to force yourself to finish it! But thankfully, I don't have many deadlines looming on me these days, as I release most of my music on my own record label, SAW Recordings.
What piece of software and hardware could you not live without?
Well obviously, Ableton Live, Pro Tools and my laptop! Those are essential for me. Plus my SH101 - it's my perennial bass player, and I rely on him like a band relies on their bassist!
What piece of equipment would you most like to own?
A Jupiter 8 synth, because it's such a classic Roland synth and the sounds that it is capable of are awesome. But it's very bulky and my little studio simply doesn't have the room for it.
Is there a piece of equipment you regret getting rid of?
I got rid of my SP1200, and my MPC3000 and those were very good machines and sometimes I miss them but I can live without them..
What piece of software or hardware are you most looking forward to launching this year?
Nothing that I can think of. I'm pretty happy right now with my set up!
What's your current live/DJ set-up and why have youchosen this over everything else available in the market?
I use Traktor, and control it with two iPads and a Denon controller. My DJ set up is always evolving. I love what Traktor is capable of, and the iPad for me, is a dream controller. Of course, touch screen has its limitations, but this set up allows me to do so much more than I could ever do with vinyl or CDs.
Is there too much choice in the music technology market these days?
Yes there's a lot of choice, but that's a good thing. In the end, you can always find the set up you're most comfortable with.
How do you think the technology affects the music producers release?
It's so much easier to produce music these days, which is a good and bad thing. Good, because a lot of fresh blood is coming into the scene. Bad, because a lot of these new producers tend to focus on the technology rather than on the music. As such, there is a deluge of sub-par music on the market these days, that all seem to contain the same plugin sounds and loops. There's also too much cannibalisation in genres these days, with lots of producers copying the "hot" sound of now, in an attempt to score a quick hit. But overall, I'm confident that the cream always rises to the top. I hope!
What's the secret to good mastering?
Hire a good mastering engineer!
What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from you in 2012?
I have a few new releases coming out on SAW and other labels in the next few months. They are all part of a kind of new direction for me, which is "classic house", with a modern twist. Think acid house, 303s, deep Chicago beats and evolving, fluid arrangements!
Satoshi Tomiee - The Backside Wave EP is out now on SAW Recordings
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