ASC In The Studio

ASC has been a prolific producer in the drum & bass scene for the last ten years but most recently he has been pioneering the genre-bending ‘Autonomic’ sound alongside the likes of dBridge and Instra:mental and last year released his album Nothing Is Certain on Instra:mental’s Nonplus+ imprint to widespread acclaim.

His latest project is a sample pack for Loopmasters called Experimental Drum & Bass. We spoke to ASC to find out a bit more about how he works in the studio

How do approach starting a new tune? Do you have a standard workflow of building beats/bass first, or focus on another part to begin with?
There’s really no standard way of doing things for me these days. I used to start with the beats and then go from there, but these days it could be anything, from effects to keys or pads, that starts a track off for me.

Do you usually wait till you’re in the right state of mind before starting a track or do you just sit down and see what comes out?
Both really. If I’ve got a specific idea, then I like to sit down and map it out properly. I even go as far as writing down flowcharts and other diagrams that probably make zero sense to anyone other than myself.

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
Yeah. I’ve been writing a lot of techno recently, so for that type of stuff I’m always working on the percussion side of things before I get to the ‘main’ parts of the track.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?
Nearly everything gets finished. I pretty much always see every project through until the end, so I’d say about 95% of stuff gets completed. I’m quite prolific though, so there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t see the light of day.

Where is your studio set up and what does is consist of? Do you use any hardware or are you software only?
My studio is in our house in a converted garage. It’s a mixture of both hardware and software.  When I moved to the USA, I sold all my gear and went purely software for a number of years, but I missed the outboard gear and decided that I needed it back in my setup.

Are you the sort that likes to use old vinyl to get snippets of atmos, FX, melodies, etc or do you use synths mainly for your sounds?
Anything and everything. I love to create sounds on my synths, but I also love to sample weird stuff and twist it up.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?
A lot of it. I’ve got a massive library that I’ve been building since 1999 which is very useful.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you’ve got and do you actually use it much?
My Roland D-50. I use it all the time. I only just got it recently and I love it.

Which sequencer do you use and why?
Renoise. I use it because it works perfectly for me and the way I work.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?
I haven’t checked anything new out in a while for fear of spending money! In all seriousness, if I’m happy with my setup, then I tend to just make do with that rather than looking for new additions, but I eventually get the urge.

What’s your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?
Dynaudio BM5A’s and Sennheiser HD-280 Pro’s. I love the Dynaudios but hate the Sennheisers, so I never use the headphones.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
A pair of monitors with a flat sound that doesn’t colour or add to the sound is essential. Other than that, using your eyes and training yourself to listen for imperfections has gotten me a lot further than studying frequencies, etc.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?

Tell us more about your Loopmasters sample pack and how you approached making it…
It’s largely an extension of my sound and ideas. I approached it much in the same way that I do with any of my tracks. There was no special workflow really.

What can you tell us about your next release?
My next release is a brand new project on my own label Auxiliary, called Symbol #1. It’s a three track untitled EP on limited edition orange vinyl out April 11th via ST Holdings.

What else have you been working on recently?
Lots of ambient and techno.

What do you have coming out soon?
There are all sorts of releases dropping this year, but rather than list them, check out my blog for up to the minute news on everything I’m doing.