Did you start out as a DJ or producer?
I started out DJing at 13 then finally got into producing at 18. At first both seemed like two separate worlds to me but as I’ve spent more and more time doing each the process of creating sounds and then playing them out seems like one piece of the puzzle. From DJing you learn what tracks you like and what different vibes work at certain times and how just by playing certain types of records you can totally change the mood of the dancefloor. With producing you learn how to craft those sounds.
When you listen to other people’s records you understand the structure and how they were made. “That hi-hat sound comes from a 909,” or “That bass was made using a Juno 106″… For me both sides fuel the other. DJing helps to make me a better producer and producing aids my skills at DJing.
How long had you been producing before your first release in 2009? How did you get to that point?
I was 18 in 2004, so that means I had five years of working on producing until something clicked. It’s funny because with me if I’m totally honest I’m never truly 100% happy with my tracks. Whenever I hear them out I’m always thinking, “That part needs to be louder in the mix,” or, “Maybe I should have used another element here” – especially in my really early stuff! I’ve learnt so much more production and mixing wise since those first few releases.
I guess lots of people are like that. I’ve spoken to friends that make music and lots of them say the same thing. I never enrolled in a music course, I’m pretty much all self taught apart from a few times working on tracks with friends where you pick little bits up from them and vice versa. But mostly learning comes from making happy mistakes on your own. It all comes down to time and effort. The more time you spend doing something the more likely you are to become better at doing it.
What’s your studio setup at the minute?
I’ve got a MacBook Pro that runs Ableton Live 6, two KRK VXT6 monitors, a MIDI keyboard, a Behringer MIDI controller for adjusting channel levels and panning when mixing down tracks and then just various VSTs. Oh, and there’s always a can of Coca-Cola and sandwiches or pretzels involved when I’m doing tracks – they’re probably the most important part of the whole setup!
The more time you spend doing something the more likely you are to become better at doing it.
Your early productions in particular seem to have a certain retro and sample-based aesthetic. Is sampling and that ‘classic’ house sound central to your music making process?
Sampling definitely is. I’m really a hip hop kid and hip hop is pretty much all sample-based. Most people treat sampling like a swearword but when done creatively you can create tones and textures that are near impossible to create with synths. I’m a massive fan of David Duriez and when I read his biography, he said: “I never used a synth keyboard or MIDI instruments, my thing is sampling and editing.” It’s easier to hear in the disco looped stuff he did but there are some tracks where I’m like, “No way!”
Your Def Jams EP has more than a few nods to hip hop. Is your production technique also heavily influenced by hip hop?
I think I make my tracks with the same predominantly sample-based approach of lifting drums, hits or whatever from tracks and then cutting, tweaking, filtering and EQing until my heart’s content.
So is sampling still very much the heart of your music making process? Have you been tempted to move into the world of hardware?
I’ve got my eye on a few bits of gear but I don’t know, to be honest. My generation has grown up with PCs and Game Boys in their hands so I’m more than happy to sit in front of a computer screen for hours and hours on end as it’s what I’ve always known. Whether you use hardware or software what really matters is the sound that comes out the speakers. If that’s good that’s all that counts.
Where do you find your source material? Is it through crate digging again or do you use sample packs too?
Anywhere and everywhere. Sample packs, old records, new records, movies… anywhere I can get decent tones and textures from. The wider your source is, the more variation your productions will have.
What do you find the most challenging part of the production process?
It changes from time to time. One time it could be when writing a track I don’t like anything that I’ve made and will scrap it and start again. Sometimes that track I’ve ended up finishing sounds nothing like it did when I was originally laying down ideas. Other times it could be that I’m not quite happy with the arrangement or mixdown and I will have to re-do it a couple of times. That’s what you get when your work is of a creative nature, it never tends to be just one problem and it can vary from time to time.
You mentioned people like MAW, Sneak and Todd Terry earlier, are these guys big influences on your productions?
For sure, those guys and their records will be part of my make up forever. Along with Kerri Chandler, Boo Williams, Glenn Underground, Cajmere, Gemini, H-Foundation, Inland Knights, Phil Weeks, Swag… we could be here all day!
Who else inspires you at the moment?
At the moment anything that Gerd puts out whether under his name or his Geeeman and NY Stomp guises is pure gold. Dachshund, Deetron, Mr. G, Chris Carrier, Kris Wadsworth, Nikola Gala and Tony Lionni always put out good records and are always in my sets. I’ve also found myself recently listening to more and more techno. It’s just what I’m feeling at the moment. Stuff from the likes of Skudge, Savas Pascalidis and all the early stuff from Kevin Saunderson. That’s the route I’m going down production-wise right now. I find that when I play those kind of tracks out people sometimes say, “I didn’t expect you to play like this,” but I’ve always been into those kinds of records and love to play them when the time is right.
Finally, what stuff have you got coming up?
Remixes, remixes and more remixes. Most notably on Morris/Audio, Silver Network and also OFF Recordings. Then one for Halo from H-Foundation’s label Surface, for which I’m remixing a track by Samu.l, one for Jay Tripwire’s label and one for Rebekah’s new label, both of which see me flexing my techno muscles.
Then I’ve got new EPs in the pipeline for Tsuba and Air London which will be out early 2013 and I’m also sitting on a few tracks that I’m holding back for myself to send out when the time is right.
Listen to Jordan Peak on his SoundCloud.