Dot Project / Chris Raiden -
DnB legend, techno producer and mastering engineer.
Live sets are becoming more and more frequent and moving away from DJ sets, How can I make a DnB live set?
He used samples of landmines for kick drums and knives being sharpened for high hats. This was recorded and found sound, the sounds he was able to find were recorded with an SM47 and recorder with an XLR input. - Foley gave the piece of music a rich and organic sound that had very interesting harmonics, they are very different from what could be found in a synthesiser and are naturally complex.
Parallel compression was an important factor in Chris’ opinion, he thought that it allowed the character of the original to be retained whilst using the right type of compressor to create extra attack or whatever extra characteristic is needed (this should be on a bus).
One interesting technique that was used, is setting the pre-delay time to be quite slow but in a way that starts to groove with the music. This technique was employed on drums to give an extra sense of groove.
The reverb units that he recommended were the eventide blackhole and eventide ultra, respectively these can be used for atmosphere and closer room reverbs.
Another interesting topic that Chris discussed in his talk was employing convolution reverb in an interesting way. Instead of using a classic impulse response in your convolution reverb you should use some rhythmic material such as a drum loop or other interesting found sound. This is best applied to something that sounds quite static initially, yet with a rhythmic convolution added you can get some very interesting sounds.
Another recommendation that Chris used was to try a distortion plug in called Dent. This enables you to distort sound heavily and then modulate the parameters with various lfos and envelopes. This was used in a way that almost turned regular samples into a synthesiser (if enough care and automation is applied).
His approach to writing music was to create an initial idea very quickly, using samples he had already collected and applied some light processing - he clarified that in general it is not good practice for him to truncate each one of his samples, instead we should be looking for the small artifacts and obscure samples that happen toward the tail of the envelope of sound. So once he has got something that feels like it is an established idea, his process of writing and composing is to ‘capture the chaos’ that was produced in the live writing session.
One way that Chirs created his basslines was with FM synthesis. The core of his idea was to modulate the carrier signal with a white noise modulator. This plus other sine waveforms as modulators created distortions that has a characteristic of white noise to them in the way that the top end distorted but with the tone of the original carrier wave. This was also heavily saturated to distort and to some extent, even out the dynamics of the bassline.
One source that Chris used for sounds was an EMR coil microphone or electro-coil microphone. This was originally designed as a tool for ‘tapping’ phone calls and recording them. Yet if you use a considerable amount of gain, then put the microphone near a piece of electrical equipment it will pick up the electromagnetic radiation which creates a varied and unique sound. This sound is once again full of complex harmonics and is very difficult to reproduce, give a greater sense of unique sound to each composer's sound palette.
A small tip that he shared was using a DBX160 for kick drum attacks in parallel was a great way to get a kick drum a nice extra punchy sound.
In his live set-up he uses:
The set up above was great through trial and error when performing live and creating a balanced between things that are created on the night and elements that have been created beforehand. Another thing to note is that this system has built in fail safes that will allow him to cut sound and fade out smoothly if everything gets too overwhelming in a live show.
He recommended a piece of software called the dynamic spectrum mapper V2 which is from plugin alliance. This works in a similar way to a multiband compressor but taking the curve of a professionaly mastered track and then the DSMv2 ensures that the current track doesn’t go above the set frequency curve. This is an expensive plugin that he considered to be suitable for his mastering work.
He also mentioned SK note v3 an alternative to many of the analogue emulations that have been appearing on the plug-in market at the moment.
Two tracks that Chris referenced as an influence on his music were eskmo - cloud light and amon tobin - ISAM.
Joe Ford - Signed to Shogun RecordsIn his arrangements one tip that he has found very useful is to play the note just above or below the tonic of the key to create tension, then on the ‘drop’ or main section of a dance music track he will return to the tonic key to give a feeling of resolution.
Joe felt that an important part of DnB should be something that comes from a human source such as vocal tones, shouts and even heavily processed speech. This is to give a sense of realism and an organic flavour to sounds which could otherwise be criticised of being sterile.
Joe ford echoed the sentiment of Chris in the earlier session saying that he wrote a good set of sounds in one session and then wrote his music in a different session, this allowed him to use different ‘hats’ as an electronic music producer sound creator/designer first, then writing and arranging and finally mixing the sounds at the end. Keeping the sessions separate enabled him to be more productive in his writing.
One tip for mixing that he thought was very effective was to create a separate layer for your sub bass, then, any time the kick drum hits he would create a small fade on the sub bass so that there was absolute clarity in the low end of his productions.
When creating his drums he would synthesise them using a software synthesiser called massive. One interesting tip was to create the sound 4 semitones lower that you wanted then use a pitch envelope on the resultant sound in a sampler such as NI Battery to create the final sound with a punchy and clean attack. The drum itself was created by using pitch envelopes that very quickly pitched down a sine wave 64 semitones this gave the initial attack, then this process was repeated and altered to create the body of the sound. The two files were then aligned in terms of phase as best as possible and finally minute audio fades were used to preserve each elements clarity. This was then layered with a kick drum sample that was high passed to retain the kick drum character and some of the room ambience from the original drum. These elements were then gently saturated and limited to create the final drum sound.
In general he would use massive to create his snare drum body and attack, then he would use FM8 to create the attack and body of the kick drum.
He used serum to create his bassline, this process involved setting many oscillators, parameters and effects to all be modulated in different amounts by one MIDI controller knob. This sound was then re-sampled into a sampler called kontakt to choose the best ‘phrases’ of bass that could be eventually used as a bassline. Then where possible the sound was stripped of its original sub bass and re-layered with a sub bass that had been previously created. This contained the fundamental an octave harmonic and finally an octave plus 7 semitones. These were respectively mono, slightly widened sound and then chorused and stereo widened to create a solid low end. To finalise this sound Joe used a limited and multi-band exciter to get the most from his bass sound, the compression coming from the limiting and subtle distortion made the separate elements of the bass (modulated serum and layered sub bass) to sound as one element in the track.
One plug-in he strongly recommended was Trash 2 by iZotope.