Makoto In The Studio

Tokyo’s Makoto has been Japan’s chief drum & bass ambassador for well over ten years. He’s had 12″ and album releases on many of the scene’s top labels like Good Looking, Hospital and Innerground but these days you’ll find the bulk of his work on his own HE:Digital imprint. His latest release is the Release The Bird EP with vocalist Deeizm, we spoke to Makoto to find out more about his approach to making music…

How do you approach a tune? Drums first? Melody?
Melody or chords always come first. I used to try to start with the bassline or drums first, but it didn’t work for me. I think my music is all about harmonies.

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
I don’t think there is difference whatever I make, but I think my music could be more musical when I do slower tempo.

What time of day do you work best?
After midnight, I don’t know why but I can really concentrate during night time, maybe because everyone is sleeping.

Where do you get your inspiration / motivation from?
It always comes at a different situation – sometimes when I go to bed, when I wake up, when I go to shopping, when I’m listening to other people’s music etc…

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?
I used to force myself to get an inspiration. I tried sitting in front of my computer for hours, sometimes it worked, but not anymore. When I don’t feel it I just get away for a bit, do other things and then come back.

Where is your studio set up and what does it consist of?
It’s in the east side of Tokyo. I use Logic 9 on Mac Pro and a few hardware keyboards like the Fender Rhodes, Roland Juno-106 and Gaia, Moog Little Phatty and Korg MS2000R.

What advice can you give us about recording vocals / working with vocalists?
Use a good mic, pre amp and compressor. Also record at a good level, not too loud, not too quiet. Make the vocalist comfortable to sing and give them good monitoring on the headphones.

What’s the boring, workhorse plugin/piece of kit that you use all the time?
It was chopping beats or samples on Recycle but I don’t use it much anymore.

What’s the best piece of equipment you’ve ever used?
Fender Rhodes, Moog Voyager, Roland Juno-106.

Which sequencer do you use and why?
Logic 9, I have been using it for ten years. I really like it and feel comfortable with it. Also, it’s getting better and better with every update.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?
I’m really liking Waves Signature Series plugins at the moment, especially the Toni Maserati one as I can use the world’s top mix engineer’s touch and I actually can learn how to process the sound, it’s great.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
I’m terrible at mixing down, sometimes I do so many versions. The way it always works for me is turning all the faders down to zero and starting again. It’s important to have good monitors. I also sometimes use IK Multimedia’s ARC monitor correcting system, it’s pretty good.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?
There is not much but maybe sampling loops from tunes and then just putting beats on top. I just think it’s not creative enough.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
How to mix on computers. It took me years and years to learn how to mix on computers. I think I’m OK now though. When I started there was no way to mix on computers, so I used to do it on the hardware mixer, so it took while to change.

What have you been working on recently?
I have been working for my next album last nine months. It’s pretty much done. It’s going to be multi-tempo BPM album from 70bpm to 170bpm. I also have done remixes for Kettel and Angela Johnson recently.

Tell us more about the new EP with Deeizm…
It’s digital only release of four tunes which we are proud of. We tried to make good music you can listen to. I think that’s what we are all about and what we do at gigs.

What tracks, producers and labels are you feeling at the moment?
I always love what Marky and S.P.Y do, positive vibe tracks. I am also into Floating Points and Joy Orbison’s stuff recently.

Who would you like to co-produce with?
I have done many collaborations with producers in the past so I’d like to concentrate on producing myself at the moment. However, I’d love to work with more vocalists though.