Ed Solo In The Studio

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Ed Solo cut his teeth in the world of drum & bass in the 90s, but he’s best known for his collaborations with breakbeat dons like Krafty Kuts and Deekline. He also makes dubstep and if one thing links all the music he produces then it’s heavyweight BASS! With this in mind, he’s made a bass-only sample pack for Loopmasters called Bass Lab Vol. 1.

We spoke to Ed to see how he goes about making music, what equipment he uses and to get some production advice…

How do approach starting a new tune?
I normally have some idea or concept of a tune before I start. I start on the drums first with a simple riff or sample running with it so that it doesn’t get boring when working on the drums.

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?
Yeah, it helps if I’m in the right state of mind, but if I’m not I will probably be messing around with some equipment or something which sometimes gives me an idea to start a tune.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?
I would say more than 85% get finished, though some of them might take a year to get done. Pretty much everything that is finished gets released.

What time of day do you work best?
At night usually, I’m rarely up during the day, so it would be hard to tell you which I prefer! Also I get very creative when I’m very tired but I have to be careful in that situation because I usually make a lot of sloppy mistakes in Logic, much to my surprise the next day.

Where do you get your inspiration / motivation from?
I listen to the radio a lot, which can often inspire me if the music is good. I suppose everything I hear influences me on a subconscious level.

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 my bedroom and I have quite a lot of equipment compared to the usual “computer, keyboard and monitors” set-up.

I use a MacBook Pro with Logic, a Apogee Duet soundcard (I actually found it hard to tell the difference in sound quality between the Apogee and the Macs headphone out), a Mackie 24:8:2 mixing desk, Dynaudio BM15 actives, Dynaudio sub, Yamaha NS10s, Roland Alpha Juno 1, Korg MS2000, Casio CZ101, Casio VZ10M, Yamaha CS01, Yamaha DX100, Akai MPC2500, TLA EQ1, SEX1 microphone and various outboard reverb and delays.

What’s your most used plug-in, and what makes it so essential?
I use Logic’s ES2 quite a lot, mainly for bass, I think it’s because I know it very well, although it does have some limitations on the LFO’s.

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 used to use lots back in the day, but not so much now. I have started to take little samples and snippets from my iTunes library with the help from Mixed in Key. I think that kind of thing is missing in modern dance music as it used to make stuff sound more organic instead of everything coming from within the computer and never seeing the real world, which can sometimes make stuff sound quite sterile.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you own?
The name Casio is usually associated with words like “cheap” and “toy” to most people involved with music, but I just got a Casio VZ10M recently from eBay. It’s from the mid 80s and uses Phase Distortion Synthesis which is very similar to FM synthesis but better and a bit easier to use.

If you just listen to the crap presets you would have no idea of the gnarly bass sounds this thing is capable of, although you would have to put some time and effort into programming it. I did not have the Casio when I made my Loopmasters sample pack, so I’m gonna use this a lot on volume 2.

What’s the best piece of equipment you’ve ever used?
That’s hard to say, probably my ears, or my laptop for its versatility.

Which sequencer do you use and why?
I use Logic Pro 9, I switched from Cubase on an Atari back in 2001 and never looked back. Some people can be snobs about which sequencer is best, but it’s just a tool at the end of the day, the main thing is the ideas in your head.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?
I’m really liking the softsynths from U-He at the moment, which are Ace, Zebra 2 and a new one in development called Bazille which uses Phase Distortion Synthesis like the Casios. It’s just one guy who makes them all, and they are very reasonably priced for what you get. Korg’s Kaosilator Pro is good too. The Novation Ultranova looks interesting but I have not had a chance to check it out yet.

What’s your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?
My main monitors are Dynaudio BM15 actives with matching sub, and a pair of Yamaha NS10s that I have EQed to take out some of the mids. I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD850s which are very nice and can help with bass levels.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
I think writing a track and mixdowns are very connected to each other, so things like gaps and space play an important role, as well as what frequency range things fall in (i.e. try changing the octave of riffs). I often use Logic’s Overdrive on snares because they are often the loudest thing in the mix, and it stops them clipping the master. Try and get the mix to sound good before you squash the fuck out of it with your limiter of choice. Other classic tips are: take breaks, listen at different volume levels and comparing your mix to others that have good mixdowns.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?
Stereo wideners that are not mono compatible always get on my nerves, a lot of people put a Logic sample delay on just the left or right, you can use stereo spread instead and get the same kind of effect and still be mono compatible.

A lot of people are clueless when it comes to phasing issues, I got a promo the other day and the snare was out of phase and completely disappeared when I put the track in mono. Also the whole loudness wars thing is a sad situation.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Hmm, good question, probably less is more.

Tell us more about how you approached your Loopmasters sample pack and why you decided to concentrate on bass…
I’m quite well known for my bass and there are not too many bass-only sample packs out there. I wanted to make it more about the multi-samples so people can use my sounds with their own riffs. I have put bass loops on there as well, so less experienced people can get tracks started straight away and it helps people to hear the sounds in a musical context.

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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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