UKG producer Joss Ryan has a new EP out in collaboration with UK vocalist Rachel Foxx, their ‘Never Say Never’ EP. We asked Joss to show us around his studio.
Welcome to my home studio in my flat based in Stoke Newington. I’ve got an open plan basement studio flat which for everyday living lacks a bit of natural light and windows… But for a studio setup it works really well! I’ve always been a big lover of synths and outboard, interested in how they work and the unpredictability of non-digital hardware, but unfortunately my place was robbed near the beginning of lockdown and my precious Subsequent 37 was taken. Not that it changed my love for hardware, but did make me realise that I can work in the box and get to where I want to be. I recently sold a few other things (Culture Vulture & Microkorg) to fund some UAD plugins and a Sonarworks setup to help with the mixing part of my work, and now work mostly ITB.
After a solid month of reading review after review online for different microphones in my budget, I came across a thread about a Canadian company called ‘Advanced Audio’, who build mics based on famous models. I had the Aston Origin before, and while it sounded good, it was a bit harsh in the highs for me and this really showed with certain artists I was working with. The CM87 looked great, like a U87, and claimed to sound just as good. So I took a chance… And I’m really glad I did! It sounds smooth, shines under a lot of compression and doesn’t overcook the top end. I don’t see myself needing another mic any time soon, and for less than £400 I think that everyone should get one.
I had a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface for as long as I could remember, and I always thought “I don’t need a premium interface, this works just fine” until I used a studio with a UAD setup. The fact that you can use preamp emulation plugins and an autotune plugin in REAL-TIME absolutely blew my mind! As I started doing more of my sessions from home, I knew I needed to get one to make my life easier. The learning curve is there when it comes to the UAD Console software, but it’s really user-customizable and over time I’ve built a workflow that saves a lot of time in sessions. I used the Neve 1073 preamp on the Unison slot, followed by the Antares Realtime Advanced Autotune (when needed) and bussed to a Pure Plate reverb aux. I always record everything into Logic dry with a copy of the microphone settings on the audio channel.
I must have bought this about 10 years ago and I’m still not good enough to use it on a track yet! Hats off to people who can use this properly, it’s a skill I just can’t wrap my head around. Even though I can’t talk with it, it’s still really fun to use and has become a party trick in sessions. I’ve been featured playing terrible talkbox on artist’s Instagrams for a few years now…
HIP HOP TAROT
My girlfriend bought me these as a studio gift last year, they’re so cool. All of the greats are in there with really beautiful artwork to match. I’ll get artists to draw a card at random at the start of the session to use as their artist persona, or we’ll listen to the most popular track by that artist as inspiration for our session. Super fun and look good as art.
KH310 & HS5
My (really big) babies. I LOVE my Neumann KH310 monitors. I know they’re probably overkill for my setup but I just have to think of them as an investment. Before these I had a pair of Adam A7X’s for about 8 years, which I really did love, but yeah after that long you feel like you deserve a change. I went down to a shop called KMR audio and spent a morning trying out some different monitors. My front runners at the time were a pair of Genelecs and a pair of Focal Shapes, both around the same size and price mark. I was leaning towards the Focals, but then they asked if I wanted to check them against any others. I had never heard or seen the KH310’s before but they looked so damn cool so I picked them. When I asked how much they were, I knew I couldn’t really afford them so it became a thing of ‘Let me just listen to my favourite songs on these to round off my morning”. I left with them. I couldn’t not leave with them. I listened to ‘What’s The Difference’ by Dr Dre and felt like I was hearing it for the first time. I’ve also got a battered pair of Yamaha HS5’s to check my mixes on.
I’ve never been good at music theory or understanding it for that matter. I failed music at school even though I wanted to be really good at it, but luckily I found that I could play by ear and have worked on improving my critical listening since. I saw this Kordbot reviewed online somewhere and thought “this is too good to be true surely!?”. It’s a midi keyboard with pretty much every chord and scale built into it. You hold a chord button and press a key, and it plays that chord in that key. You can save chords to the 12 buttons at the top and create your own little chord bank. It does way more too, but even at its core is a super useful tool for finding spicy chords quickly.
Lighting and atmosphere is really important to me when I’m being creative, and living in a basement I really had to get creative. I found these USB LED lights on Amazon and they’re such a vibe! The orange and green is really nice at night, although it looks a bit strange when all the other lights are on… I could unplug them when I don’t need them on but who’s got time for that!?
Luckily for me, and maybe even because I hadn’t used it in a while so it was packed away, my Novation Peak wasn’t stolen during the break-in. This synth can do a great job of sounding like any other synth, really fun to use, and has wavetable options. I’ll sometimes just sit at my desk and make some new sounds without making any music from it, it’s almost therapeutic focusing on one sound for so long. I actually used a sound I had made when I first got the synth on a track from mine and Rachel Foxx’s new EP ‘Never Say Never’. I used it for the synth lead sound in ‘Show Me Your Love’ which comes in at around 58 seconds in. It’s a simple square lead but the peak has some great sounding distortion on it which crunched it up a bit.
I’m really big on gaming and have been since I was a little kid. I’ve got plenty of consoles, but I wanted something that I could play old games on while I’m on the move. This thing is basically an android phone in a gaming format and can play anything from Gameboy to PSP games! It’s fun to have around and looks nice on the desk as well.
When I first moved into this flat, the acoustics were BAD. I know it looks really weird but I would walk around clapping when I was viewing places to live so I could hear how bad the echo was. This place was not good. I knew that I needed some kind of acoustic treatment so I tried making my own first. I did okay, making some basic panels with some stands but I had just moved in and didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with the actual unpacking. It was starting to become stressful… So I bit the bullet and bought some proper panels from GIK. I love them, they look good and they do the job. It took some time to work out the best place for them but I noticed the difference straight away, and gave me a much better starting point for the Sonarworks measurements than if I didn’t have them.
‘Never Say Never’ Rachel Foxx and Joss Ryan is available now.