Lenzman In The Studio

Lenzman has just released Masquerade on Metalheadz Platinum along with a follow up to his sick hip-hop mix from last year, The Reminisce Mix Part 2. We caught up with him to find out how he approaches music making 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?
It kind of depends on the tune really. For the most part I probably start off with the beats, get the basics going. Once I’m content there, I’ll usually add a pad to give the track a key to work from. And just start expanding from there. Other times I might have a sample of some sort I want to work with. In that case that’s the starting point, and I’ll have to get the other elements in a track to fit in with it.

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?
I used to try and make tracks whenever I could. But that led to some serious frustration sometimes! I go through patches of writer’s block where I find it really hard to write music, I think everybody does. Everything I do in those periods, sounds like sh*t to me. I’ve found that it’s better not to force yourself in those cases, because when you try and try and you can’t seem to make anything then it just gets worse and worse.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?
I’d say about half of what I start gets finished. And out of everything I actually finish, I’d say about 80% will get released. I’m not sure how this will play out in the future however. I’ve noticed I’m getting more picky about my own productions all the time.

What time of day do you work best?
After a couple of coffees! I get up in the mornings and try to produce during ‘normal’ hours. Back in the days I used to work at night a lot, but now I’m doing this thing full time, I need to give myself a certain rhythm.

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?
As I said before I try not to force things when I’m not feeling inspired. So instead I’ll do things I need to do for my taxes, or interviews like these. Or I might record a promotional mix or something else to help with my overall career. And when I’m feeling lazy I don’t do anything at all!

Where is your studio set up and what does is consist of? Do you use any hardware or are you software only?
I’ve got a very basic home studio. I’ve never been a massive audiophile and my knowledge of equipment is rather limited. I try and make up for that with instinct and clever use of sampling. I’ve got a microKORG, a Focusrite audiocard and some Mackie HR824’s as well as a brand new Macbook Pro, but that’s about it really!

What’s your most used plugin?
At the moment, I’m still on Reason 4, which doesn’t support any plugins!

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?
Yeah, I love sampling old music. Jazz, soul, blues, soundtracks, you name it, I’ve sampled it! But I also use synths a lot. With me it’s more about the combination.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?
Well, I would say that the main hooks of all my more jazzy stuff is always going to be self-sampled. Of course I will sometimes use things from sample packs, but if I do, I always try to edit it in a way that I’ve made it my own. Actually, I’ll also try to do that if I sample something myself. For instance, say I use a vocal sample, I will try to rearrange words so that new hooks are made, instead.

Which sequencer do you use and why?
I’m still on Reason, but that’s going to change soon. The main reason I used Reason (haha) is that it’s what I know how to use the best. When I decided to get a bit more serious with making beats in the mid 2000s. I actually got shown a few cool tricks in Reason by Icicle & Switch and that got me started. Having used it for about five years now, I’ve learnt so much about it and it’s going to be hard to make the switch. But I do feel that Reason has its limitations and will make a change to either Logic or Ableton soon.

What’s your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?
As I mentioned before, I use a pair of Mackie HR824’s. They are very nice and give that ‘club’ feel to your studio.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
I don’t consider myself to be an expert on mixdowns at all! But there are two things which I can say really affect them. One: the quality of the samples you use. You just won’t be able to get an amazing mixdown if the samples you are using in a track aren’t great quality. And two: decent monitoring. Of course, you need to know your monitors, but if they aren’t halfway decent, it’s going to be very hard to consistently get decent mixdowns.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Less is more.

What can you tell us about your latest release?
My track Masquerade has just come out on Metalheadz Platinum and is backed with a slamming remix by Die, Interface & Cartwright. Check it out if you haven’t already! Coming in the next couple of months will be my follow-up to Open Page on Metalheadz: Lazers / Broken Dreams.

What else have you been working on recently?
I’ve just started my album for Metalheadz. It’s in the very early stages, so I have no idea when it will be out, but that’s what I’m working on right now.