Maelstrom talks sampling, gives us an insight into his creative process and launches a competition for producers to win great prizes from ZONE Records, Maelstrom, Gesaffelstein and The Hacker.
With releases on the likes of Dirtybird, Boys Noize Records, ZONE Recordings and Sound Pellegrino, Joan-Maël Péneau has established himself as a consistent exponent of unclassifiable club music, fusing elements of techno with electro, breakbeats, dark sci-fi textures and the occasional hit of acid.
Alongside working on EPs for ZONE and Bromance, Péneau has spent part of the last year creating an exclusive royalty-free sample pack, Dystopian Elements, which he’s giving away free of charge. To accompany the launch of the pack, ZONE are also running a competition offering producers the chance to win a huge prize bundle by submitting their tracks created using the samples.
To download the Dystopian Elements sample pack and find out more about the competition, head here.
Read on to hear Maelstrom discuss his own approach to sampling, the evolution of his creative process and why he’s hoping to hear his samples used in unexpected places.
Attack: Where did the idea to put together a collection of samples come from? What made you decide to do it?
Maelstrom: Before buying an analogue oscillator-based drum machine a couple of months ago, I often struggled to find interesting drum sounds. Most of the samples you’ll find are either samples of classic Roland drum machines, or boring and generic drum hits aimed at specific music styles. So I progressively started learning how to design my own drums, using both hardware and software synths. Basically, all you need is an oscillator, a noise generator, an ADSR and a resonant filter. I ended up with a large collection of drum hits that I started using in my own productions.
I get a lot of messages on socials asking advice about production and studio techniques, and I usually answer the same thing to everyone: there are no rules, there isn’t a ‘right’ way of producing good music. Using what you have in your own setup and knowing the instruments you’re using really well is the first step, and then finding a way around their limitations will take you to unexpected places that will eventually lead to interesting music. I guess this sound bank is an answer to these questions: you don’t own a drum machine, then make your own drums with a synthesiser. If all you have is a microphone, record your environment, the sound of a fork hitting a record box, and turn it into a drum hit.
there are no rules, there isn't a 'right' way of producing good music
How much of your own music is sample-based?
I don’t use samples often, but when I do, it will mostly be classic Roland drum sounds when it’s needed, and industrial sounds recorded in factories or warehouses. Apart from these, I like to resample a lot, which means I’ll run a drum hit through a reverb, then sample the reverb tail, reverse it and use it as an instrument, or run a synth line through a delay and sample the feedback to start writing something off grid with it. For me, sampling is an instrument – it’s a way of turning things upside down or getting out of situations where I know I have something interesting going on but I’m kind of stuck with it, so I’ll end up using it as a sample, or making a multi-sample instrument with the original source to approach it with a different angle.
What interests you about sampling? Do you prefer to work with samples you’ve created yourself or do you also use commercial sample packs?
When I start working on a new project, I usually spend a couple of weeks recording synth jams or playing around with effect chains. Then I’ll arrange the results into folders and banks, so that when I actually start working on a track, I’ll be able to go back to these folders to find new ideas or sounds that I need in certain situations. It also helps giving my EPs an identity, as I often work on different drum patterns inside of an EP – most of the sounds will come from the same one- or two-week session, so the tracks will have that connection, they’ll have that colour in common.
sampling is an instrument – it's a way of turning things upside down or getting out of situations where I know I have something interesting going on but I'm kind of stuck with it
The only commercial sample packs I really use are Wave Alchemy‘s. They have these incredible multi-sampled packs of classic drum machines, with round robin variations and velocity layers.
So in terms of what you’ve put together here, were the sounds created specifically with this pack in mind or were they a collection of sounds you already had in your personal sample library?
I’d say half the sounds were created specifically with this pack in mind, and the rest I picked up from various other banks I made in the last two years
Tell us about the sound sources used to create these samples. What’s in your studio at the moment?
At the moment, my setup is based around an Elektron Analog Four and a Virus TI, so most of the samples have been made with these. I also recently bought a very cheap Arturia Microbrute which sounds insanely good and makes incredible sound FX and drums. It also has a small CV patch bay, which is very useful for sequencing the Microbrute with the Analog Four sequencer.