Lynx In The Studio

Lynx has enjoyed a great 2011 with the release of the first tracks on his own Detail Recordings imprint. Having first arrived on the drum & bass scene in 2007 with Carnivale and Disco Dodo on Soul:R and Creative Source respectively, his debut album with Kemo in 2009, The Raw Truth confirmed Lynx as a major player. With his album Devil’s in the Details out at the end of November featuring a special sample pack, Lynx lets Kmag into a few of his production secrets…

How do you approach starting a new tune? Do you have a standard workflow of building beats/bass first, or focus on another part to begin with?

I usually start by building a drum track if I plan to write a groove based track. However sometimes if it’s a deeper track where the focus is on musical elements rather than a dominant groove, then I will put down some chords first. It’s really about finding out as early as possible what the main part of the track is and using everything the other elements to emphasise that.

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 go to the studio anywhere from three to six days a week to write tracks. So I have a good opportunity in that time to get into the right state of mind. Over 15 years of writing, I now find it’s much less critical to be able to catch an inspirational moment. I can always get into the zone even if initially that day I don’t feel inspired.

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?

Often my approach does change depending on the type of music I write. Often I write music out of rebellion of something – for instance when I need new inspiration in I often write ‘glitch’ style music. I thrive on trying things it’s difficult to do as a deep dnb artist – using big cheesy lead noises, making the groove as wonkey as possible. Generally finding an imperfect way of completing the track. All these things arent the norm in dnb music. It’s a way of finding new challenges.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?

I probably finish around 85% of the tracks I start, and out of them 70% will be released.

What time of day do you work best?

I work best at night time. Something happens after dark where the writing process just becomes much faster and I feel more relaxed and less critical with everything I put down so the workflow is much smoother.

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?

If I’m at the start of writing a track, then I might listen to some music, search for samples, take a break and have a cup of tea. Usually just a five minute break away from the studio can be enough to get you back in the zone. If I’m bored of a particular track I’m working on then I might try mashing up some of the parts of the tune, but keeping the arrangement of the original in case ther’es nothing actually wrong with the tune and I’m just having an off 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 set-up is in a complex of studios called Airtight in Chichester. I prefer not to write at home as its far to easy to get distracted. I use Cubase as my main sequencer. However, I do occasionally use Logic and recently Ableton on the road. I use mainly software but do have few synths and hardware bits that are always fun to use. Moog Voyager, Alesis Andromeda, Akai, EMU samplers, Mackie desk, Mack.

What’s your most used plugin, and what makes it (in your opinion) so essential?

My favourie plugin is the Edirol Orchestral instrument. By the sheer nature that electronic music isn’t ‘real’ sounds, I find layering and integrating the Orchestral instrument into my track adds a human touch. It’s very easy to use and the plugin is extremely stable and takes up very little processing power. The sound isn’t the best replication of Orchestral music out there, however you can get a huge amount of variation in tone of each sound by messing around with it. Orchestal makes its way into nearly all the tracks I write, whether its from subtle background sounds for attention to detail to upfront brass and string sections.

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 personally don’t use vinyl samples too often when writing on my own. However I do quite a few collaborations, recently with Hellrazor who has a vast collection of old and obscure vinyl, so it’s really fun to go through sounds that might compliment a current project that is being worked on.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?

I don’t often use sample packs – I use VST instruments and plugins more often. I go through phases of doing a lot of recording of vocalists and musicians then not do any for a while, it really depends on how I’m feeling at the time and what particular tracks need.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you’ve got and do you actually use it much?

The coolest bit of kit is either the Moog Voyager or the Alesis Andromeda synths. Both great fun to use, particularly the Andromeda. Often you feel you have no control over it, but that’s makes it so fun to plug it straight into record to audio and jam with the track and go crazy with the oscillators, filters, ribbon wheel etc and just see what happens!

What’s the best piece of equipment you’ve ever used?

I used to be a sound engineer and worked with some pretty good bits of kit. Manley Eq’s, Pultec, Trident desk etc. But one guy I was engineering for with all this kit couldn’t finish a tune! So it’s not what you got its how you use it!

Which sequencer do you use and why?

I use Cubase SX 3. It’s really time for me to upgrade to Cubase 6 but I’m happy with my workflow as it is and don’t want to rock the boat with a reinstall! I have always been a fan of Cubase over other sequencers because it finds the balance between being a logical easy to use sequencer and a deep intricate program that can be personalized to your own taste.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?

I really want to get the new Melodyne. It looks awesome now it can understand Polyphonic material!

What’s your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?

I use Mackie hr824’s at the studio and Genelec 6010a for at home. I really don’t use headphones in the studio. I struggle to adjust levels and get any sense of balance. There’s something about the sound passing through the air before reaching your ears that make things much clearer to me than headphones. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know!

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?

The best thing I ever read regarding mixdowns is that in the old days sound engineers were called level engineers. In essence, if the arrangement is right and the sounds are good then that all that is needed is level adjustment. As for personal advice, more doesn’t mean fatter – in fact, in my experience, the more you put in, then the thinner your track sounds. Layering kicks and snares is all good, if there is space in the mix. If not, you’re just giving yourself a mixdown nightmare.

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

Fifth synth leads in dnb. I thought we saw the beginning and end of that with Logistics’ Together tune 10 years ago. It was a great tune, but I’m shocked people still find that sound exciting. In fact, isn’t it bigger than ever?

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?

I started with very limited equipment – a Commodore Amiga computer and a sampler the size of a credit card. Four channels of audio and a 30 second sampling time. I dreamed of the day I would have a big studio as then my music would be so much better. I now know that it’s not about the studio you have, it’s how you express yourself in your music. That’s the most important thing.

Tell us a bit more about how you created the sounds on your new sample pack and what you set out to achieve with it?

I think people will be excited as a lot of the sounds and beats in the sample pack are from previous release tunes, and now people can get their hands on them and create their own music using them. Aside from that, I tried to create sounds that would inspire others. I wanted to create a sample pack that wasn’t a ‘Lynx construction kit’ but a pack that would challenge their way of thinking about music. Often my sounds aren’t the fattest, but it’s really how you bring combinations of sounds together that is the beauty of music.

This sample pack really encourages that way of thinking. I aimed for the pack to appeal to every ability of producer. It will be great for beginners and professional artists alike. In the sample pack there is a nice variety of sounds and tones for dnb musicians and far beyond. There are some killer hooks in there too, I have a feeling I will be hearing a few of these hooks in some future dnb releases….

Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?

My second album Devil’s in the Detail is out November 14th on my label Detail Recordings. It’s my first true solo album and a real 360 degree look at my take on drum and bass music. It already has huge support from Andy C, Marcus Intalex, dBridge, Hype, Shy FX, Camo & Krooked, John B, Bailey, Calibre and many others.