The kind of retro thing is obviously in fashion at the moment and there are lots of people making records which sound like they could have come out twenty years ago or more. How do you feel about that?
It’s funny. They’re even buying equipment that was used back then, to try and emulate it even more. It’s funny to me because over the years I’ve tried to get away from that, just because it’s a hassle, having twenty MIDI cables and trying to figure out why this synth isn’t playing or that one sounds different to yesterday.
Anyone who’s ever chopped samples in an Akai S series will know painful that was.
Exactly. I chopped them in an Akai S1100. When I did remixes back then it would take me a day. I’d give myself a day just to get the vocals ready to be chopped. I had to import each vocal stem – they’d send me the 24-track tape, then I’d have to get the stems transferred to DAT and if I had a ten vocal tracks I’d have to go through all the tracks, sample each one back into the Akai, put them each on a different key group and then get them ready to chop. That was my day.
People are buying equipment that was used back in the 90s, to try and emulate the sound even more. It’s funny to me because over the years I’ve tried to get away from that. It’s a hassle.
What are you using now for chopping, Maschine?
When I got back into doing remixes again I was thinking, ‘Wait, I’m not going to have to pull out the Akai?!’ For a while I just didn’t have anything that did it, then I bought Maschine and it was so complicated at first I was like, ‘I don’t even know how to turn this thing on.’ The remixes started piling up so I was forced to figure it out then I was like, ‘Oh, shit! This is cool.’
As far as the way you produce, obviously it was all hardware back in the 90s. Has that changed now?
Of course. It was all hardware back then. I’m a tech guy – I definitely love buying new equipment. I’ve bought gear every other day, it seems like – but it was a headache. That’s when Macs and sequencing first became popular, but you had to use all these different programs just to run MIDI. It sounded good but it was frustrating. You were using ADATs for vocals and transferring back and forth. It was definitely a hassle. Now I have three Macs and I have the same setup on each of them, so I can go on the road, take my laptop and go in the studio. They’ll ask me what I need and I just say give me a USB keyboard, a USB cable and a line out from my computer. With that I’m good to go.
What’s the key software now?
It’s still Logic. I have Ableton but I’m so good at using Logic. People say Ableton’s so fast but I’m just as fast in Logic. Trust me! I’m still using Maschine and tons and tons of drum samples. Back in the 90s it was hard just to find drums, which is why a lot of the time I ended up using a 909. A lot of times I didn’t actually want to use a 909 but that’s all I had. I use Sylenth a lot, I use the Korg M1 plugin a lot. I like finding cool patches for Massive online, just searching around. It’s a lot easier to find good sounds now than it was in the 90s.
What were the main pieces of gear back then? The 909, S1100, the Korg M1 must have been in there…
I changed synths a lot. I used the Juno-106 a lot in the early 90s, then I think I got the Korg Triton. I used the Roland JD-800 a lot, the one with all the knobs. I used the Proteus tons of times. I used the Yamaha TX81Z on Nightcrawlers for the horn sound.
That’s a great synth.
I actually have one now. I bought one again. The Lately Bass preset was really really popular. That was the reason everyone bought it. Another thing I had was a version of Auto Tune which Antares brought out in a rack mount. I remember using the Auto Tune feature before anybody used it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is sick!’
Did that make it onto one of your tracks?
I don’t think it did. I bought it when I started doing more pop stuff. I had a talkbox because Jodeci were using it a lot and I wanted to find something that did it.
That’s what everybody thought that sound was when it first came out. Nobody knew what Auto Tune was so everyone guessed it was something like a talkbox or a vocoder.
Exactly. I had a Roland one too because I just spent all my remix money on equipment. I lived in New York, I didn’t need a car, my loft was really inexpensive so I had unlimited equipment cashflow.