DJ Vadim In The Studio

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The Electric are a new group spearheaded by the renowned beat-taster DJ Vadim alongside Sabira Jade and MC Pugs Atomz. Their debut album Life is Moving is out soon on Vadim and Yarah Bravo’s label Organically Grown Sounds (O.G.S) so we spoke to Vadim to find out 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?
Every song is different and also the way I’m working is forever evolving because of equipment and experience. Sometimes I start from a riff or drums or sample or I hear a song and I copy it and then change it…

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
Not really. I just make it, just do it, just live it, just love it.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?
Probably like one in ten. The last couple of albums have around 16 tracks. Those 16 for each album are chosen from a pool of around 30 or so finished tracks and then there are perhaps 100 or so bits that those come from. Each track may have taken lots of changes… it depends.

Like when I did Terrorist – the way I started it was the way it came out but on the Oneself album virtually every track I changed… Yara and Blu hated me for keeping changing the tracks! It’s just that I want perfection… searching for the perfect beat.

What time of day do you work best?
I guess late at night. It’s quiet, no-one phones and the shops are closed so I can’t go anywhere.

Where do you get your inspiration / motivation from?
Life, music, art, love, God.

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?
Sleep, go out for a walk, go to the gym… but to be honest in the last two years I have felt uber creative. In fact I feel this is my best period right now.

Where is your studio set up and what does is consist of? Do you use any hardware or are you software only?
The studio is in east london. That’s why at the end of my sleeve notes I always put ‘Mixed at the Timberyard, EAST LONDON INIT!’. I have shit loads of keyboards, synths, percussion, drum machines, compressors, EQ… lots of valve gear. I have soft synths and do use them a little but it’s mostly live real gear. Real pads all pounded by me! Of course I use lots of digi effects though, love ’em!

What’s your most used plugin and what makes it so essential?
Well, there are two – CLA Drum EFFX and also Effectrix. CLA is like an EQ, reverb, gate effect you put on drums and it really brings drums to life. Effectrix is different, it really messes with the sound, changes it totally with stuttering, morphing, speeding up, slowing down, pitching up, reversing, etc. and adding reverb phase, delay, chorus, filter on top of the other effects… It’s hard to explain because I haven’t heard or seen another effect that does what it does. It has lots of options and lots of potential.

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?
I use synths. Samples are mainly drums and vocals and big things. Atmospheres are taken from pads and strings and stuff like on a Triton.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?
I used to do that before but to be honest I can’t be bothered, no-one would ever know, so why bother? If I have a crowd sound in the back of a song would people know or care that I sampled it from a BBC library record or that I recorded it as a football match?

Well, perhaps like three people but they would have been happy either way. I mean do people listen to records for the guitar solo or detailed programing or is it simply the song? People can say whatever but in reality what are they drawn too?

Most people even in the underground are like sheep and they follow what other people say to listen to and then build up ‘stories’ around the artists they like. But when you are a producer and you hear about this incredible artist or that and you know how to make music and you hear what they did it’s not so incredible most of the time. It’s just a load of hype.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you’ve got?
I love my Roland Handsonic 10. Just bought that a month ago and I’m using it on everything. I edited all the drums sounds to my own patches…

What’s the best piece of equipment you’ve ever used?
Well that’s hard. The piece I cannot live without is my computer because I use Cubase but apart from that I live by my guitar amps. They are valve from the 70s and I use them nearly for everything – vocals, drums, keys…

Which sequencer do you use and why?
Cubase VST. I tried Logic and that was cool and I use Ableton for live shows but I grew up on Cubase. Whether there is something better about it I’m not sure and I don’t really are. I think it’s not about what you use but what you do that matters. Just because you’ve got the best sequencer or studio doesn’t mean shit if you ain’t got no ideas or just gonna do cheesy Tiesto shit.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?
Well, apart from the Handsonic, I like the V drums but it’s too expensive.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
It’s about getting a good balance. Not too dull, not too bright. It’s about getting the right exposure and aperture just like in photography, it takes time and experience. It also may sound great in your studio but a bag of shit on a hi-fi. So I am always trying it out. I use computer speakers for tests and also in the car, plus the engineer who mixes my stuff I think is amazing – big Al Mawdsley, he does everyone from Roots Manuva, TY, Cinematic Orchestra… great guy.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?
Autotune even though I do use it a little. The problem is people sometimes just whack it on the whole vocal so everything is autotune.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Well, everything. It’s taken me 15 years to get to this point. Understanding music really and how it’s made, its components and what people like. Just really getting to grips with drums, bass, vocals and keys is a challenge and understanding how music works. When I make music now I think like an orchestra and I think – do I need more high end stuff, or mids and what about bass stuff? I think of instruments to use in those categories.

Tell us more about your new project The Electric and how it works in the studio…
Well, I make the music and they do the vocals. Most of the songs we did on the road, in the car, in the hotel. Some were started with Sabs singing a line and then me copying it on the keys, etc. and building around that.

What else have you been working on recently?
I have two other albums, one with an African singer called Sena and a new DJ Vadim album. Apart from that, loads of remixes, DJ mixes… people can hear it on djvadim.com or check Soundcloud for my remixes and Mixcloud for the DJ mixes – live sessions from different cities. It’s all free!!!

What tracks, producers and labels are you feeling at the moment?
Mancini & The Creepers from Bristol – amazing hip hop LP, the best album of 2010 hands down for me. Also Julieyn Dyne, Lewis McCallum, Isacc Aseli, Comfort Fit, Flako, Andreya Triana, Aloe Blacc, Greg Blackman and Wretch32. The majority of stuff I’m feeling right now is European. A lot of American stuff I’m hearing is very bland or not progressive. People just rehashing the same old ideas. Of course that is a generalisation because there is good stuf. Just not everything that shines is gold!

Who would you like to co-produce with?
Damon Albarn.

What tune would you like to remix?
Bjork.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Go and listen to Mancini & The Creepers.

 

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About Author

Colin Steven co-founded Knowledge Magazine in 1994. He also runs a book publishing company called Velocity Press specialising in electronic music and club culture.

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