To frame it in the words of Mick Jagger – “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need”. Extrawelt shows us around their studio.
Extrawelt – My Studio
Most children have dreams about their future at some point. They want to become a policeman or an actress, help save endangered animals, fly a plane or simply travel the world. Some just want to get famous or rich or both.
Few people are gifted. They have the willpower or the talent to become scientists, doctors or artists or just whatever they want. Some become true heroes either by coincidence or because they devote their whole live to make our planet a better place for everyone, taking risks no matter the cost.
But the reality is that most humans never get to live their dreams as they live in a time and place where it is simply impossible to do so. War, poverty, the need to get food on the table, the need to take care of others or even their own health issues force them to make do with the cards they’ve been played. Yeah, and there are always those who are born rich and powerful just so that they never have to pay attention to others. Finally, some are just damn lucky bastards! And while we sometimes do work our asses off, we are definitely the latter as we are allowed to do what we love: Music.
Shure V15 VxMR + Technics SL-1210 MK2
“Get it right at the source.”
These wise words do not only apply for music production but also for listening. Yes, vinyl is heavy, expensive and breaks easily. Yes you have to order and wait for it or even go to a shop and talk to someone… so yeah, it’s really inconvenient. And no, not every vinyl sounds good.
However, if it does (sound good), then it easily beats any digital source as it’s simply more pleasing to the ear…at least to our ears.
Roughly 20 years ago, our mastering engineer LUPO (Andreas Lubich) told us about the outstanding capabilities of the Shure V15VxMR cartridge. We tested a couple of systems against it, some of which were pretty expensive. While it’s arguably simply a matter of taste, this one sounded best to us. And it still does.
Unfortunately, it’s not made anymore and it’s quite hard to find one in good shape. Now, we don’t want anyone to go and spend the crazy amount of money that people selling this stylus for today ask for but we would rather encourage folks who are interested in vinyl to try different styluses and find the one that suits your taste and speakers.
This stuff really, really matters. Maybe even more than the fancy speakers you have. Simply put, this is our preferred way to playback music.
Apogee Symphony System + UAD II Octo Thunderbolt
Now and then, we feel our productions sound pretty ugly. It took us a while and lots of money to find out that throwing money at this particular issue doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, especially, if you invest in converters instead of acoustics.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s very nice to have a good sounding and reliable system and when we bought these, the Apogee Symphony was state-of-the-art and pretty much the only alternative to the even more expensive Avid solutions. At the time it was a big step up from our previous AD/DA’s.
But now, you can get much more capable converters at a fraction of the price we paid 11 years ago. From time to time we get caught in what’s called “converter shame” and we secretly throw a green-eyed look to producers with Antelope, Burl or UAD systems. But then again, we probably won’t improve our work tremendously by throwing money at new converters.
It’s really nice to have the Octo though. The UAD plugins sound great and while running them on an external processor keeps us from using them on the road, in the studio we would probably have to buy a new computer to get all that processing power for native plugins. That would mean spending even more money…again..
Chandler EMI TG12345 Curve Bender
Didn’t we just said throwing money doesn’t make any difference??!
Well, at least to us, there are some outboard pieces that truly stand out. They add character, girth, silk, glow and punch. Sure…why not keep the money, get the UAD plugin version and go to Ibiza for the summer. The plugin sounds pretty much the same, our live-show-wasted-ears wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyways. That’s all true.
Working with outboard equipment is not exactly efficient and to most electronic producers or mixing engineers it doesn’t make any sense at all. But to us it comes natural. To be able to use something like a real Curve Bender is way more inspiring than any trip to Ibiza, a new car, or a Rolex for that matter… And while that Rolex surely looks great on Instagram, to us our music is way more important.
A lot of colleagues or guests ask us why the heck we still work with hardware as modern software not only is much more cost-effective but way more convenient to use. I mean nobody hears a difference anyways, at least not in our world were people stream music on their smartphones while chatting, tweeting, twatting and what not.
Those are all perfectly valid questions. Plus, looking at a patchbay scares most producers that are born post 1980. Once you get a hang of it, it’s actually pretty simple. If the layout is well designed and the patchbay is logical, getting where we want is as easy as opening an plugin.
We think of all our hardware as a highly specialised template that helps us to get quick results. It’s all there, always, instantly. If not, it’s just a patch away. Sure, we can patch in the Curve Bender just once but if we really, really need a second one, we can always open the plugin.
Rhodes Mark 7 + Vermona 14
Other than the Fart Piano (which we will show you), we always wanted to get a Rhodes Mark I, Mark II or a Suitcase and while we were at it a maintenance engineer! But to frame it in the words of Mick Jagger – “You cant always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you get what you need.“
We knew we wanted a Rhodes. But we didn’t know that we needed a Rhodes. Sh!t, we can’t even play it properly! We wish we could. We do try sometimes though. And it feels sooo good to play a real instrument!
The Vermona is the next best thing. While both instruments are limited in what they can do, (one being a monophonic synth and the other one always sounding like a Rhodes) we more often than not find ourselves grabbing those before opening a soft synth. Because once you touch them, there is music…sort of.
Speaking of real instruments: controlling a synth is very different from controlling a guitar or a violin. However, the need of being in control in order to get beautiful results stays the same, no matter what kind of instrument it is. Whether it is software or hardware, electronic or acoustic, if an instrument needs too much attention in order to be controlled it might take away the ability to get any results at all. That’s one reason why we stay away from modular systems or complex soft synths.
There are some guys and girls who are true masters in controlling synthesis, which truly is an art in itself. And the nerd in us is freaking out while watching others being able to work those monsters… We appreciate and adore producers and keyboard players who are able to handle and play almost anything they touch in a musical way.
But we definitely do not consider ourselves as masters and we’ve learned to respect our limits. So the ARP is as far as we go in terms of flexibility in a synth as this 40 year old colossus is already way over our heads…
Studer’s Gin + Furz Piano
Now we could present Attack readers with some fancy pictures of our Studer console. However, let’s be honest here: Studer’s Gin is way cooler!
And as we don’t know how to play a real piano, we invented a super secret trick: we keep our guests occupied with our infamous “Fart Piano“. Everybody just loves to play the Fart Piano, which keeps them distracted so hopefully no one ever discover our weakness with the real keys.
If this doesn’t work out as planned, the gin serves as a fallback…
Extrawelt’s ‘Unknown’ LP is out now on Cocoon Recordings.