Matta In The Studio

Bass music duo Matta have just released a sample pack called Dark Garage & Dubstep on Samplephonics. Read on to discover how they approach working in the studio and how you can win one of three packs we have to give away.

How do approach starting a new tune?

We pretty much always start with the drums in order to get a good groove and a solid foundation for the track. When we first started out producing, as soon as we had the drums working, we would always dive straight into the bassline as that has always been the most enjoyable part for us.

We found that a better approach is to build up some FX sounds, pads, drones, extra percussion – and in some cases a whole intro – to give the track a little bit more depth and a texture before attempting the bassline.

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?

It would be a luxury to always be in the right state of mind before starting a new track. We always try and get an idea of what we want to make before we start something new but sometimes we just jump in a see what happens.

It will often take longer to get something working but the results can sometimes be more interesting. We have banks and banks of synth presets we have made to use as a starting point too.

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

Not hugely in terms of the way we would build a track from the ground up. We’d still usually start with a beat but, in the case of a more chilled out track, we would definitely concentrate more on the overall soundscape and get some melodic elements first. In the case of a heavier track we would concentrate more on the bass and variations of it.

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

It’s difficult to say but probably around two tracks get started to every one we finish. We have quite a few unfinished tracks on our hard drive and if we are really stuck for inspiration sometimes we go back and have a look at half-finished projects as a starting point.

However, when we go back to tracks we make sure we really strip them down in order not to end up having the same problem of not being able to finish it again.

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

Other than going back to half-finished projects, it’s mainly simple things like doing anything else, going for a walk, listening to some tracks from other artists we like or even to listen to music outside of the genre to clear the palate.

There is always things we can do like, play around with a synth and see what it is capable of, make some new sounds, organise sample libraries, etc. Days where we lack inspiration is always a good opportunity to catch up on listening to promos we get sent too. There is also Countdown and Deal Or No Deal!

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 set up at home and it consists of a Mac desktop, Focusrite Sapphire, a pair of Behringer controllers (BCR & BCF 2000s) and a Novation Xiosynth. We work pretty much solely in the box. We often record found sounds through a mic or onto a recently purchased Zoom h4n to include in our tracks. We have a few banks of random percussion and sound effects made this way.

What’s your most used plugin?

Probably sample delay. We use it a lot on our FX and percussion parts. If you delay the left or right signal by about 600 – 800ms the sound appears a lot wider which helps with bringing things out of the mix.

Another plugin we use a lot is the Tone2 filterbank. It’s got some quite unusual filter types and we use it to either completely change the shape of a sound or subtly add movement to it. Also we love the Reaktor Space Master reverb because it can be used to both create space and mangle sounds.

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?

We mainly use synths and try and sculpture things from scratch to try and give it an individual sound. We have been known to get out microphones and sample various things which can be really interesting once you clean them up and apply some crazy effects to them. The only sampling we have ever done from vinyl is from old battle records where you can get some nice snippets of vocals or stabs which can sit in the background of a track and build an atmosphere.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you own?

Without doubt it’s the Korg Monotron. We’ve never used it for a bassline but it’s quite fun to mess around with and record weird effects and riser sounds into the sequencer. There are other bits of slightly more sophisticated equipment we’ve had access to but the immediacy and simplicity of the Korg makes it the coolest.

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

A friend of ours had a Novation Bass Station which was a lot of fun to mess around with. We’ve never used one on a track but for sheer hands-on fun you couldn’t beat it.

Which sequencer do you use and why?

We use Logic and have done for some time now, but we rewire it with Ableton to use the time stretching and sampler functions. Ableton handles that stuff so much better than Logic. I actually think the way things are handled in Ableton makes the workflow very good but we still prefer the Logic environment and the standard plugins that come with it.

A lot of producers we know have made the switch to Ableton but we are so comfortable with using Logic that it’s hard to justify changing when we can use the best bits of both programs using Rewire.

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

We have a pair of Genelec 8020’s with a Genelec 5040 sub. When we are on the road we just use the headphones we are most familiar with the sound of – which happen to be a pair of cheap Phillips in ear headphones – but we always do the mixdown in the studio as they are nowhere near accurate enough for detailed mixing.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?

Firstly, we always try and put a bit of time between finishing the track and mixing it down. That really helps us notice things that we may have just got used to when writing. Always low cut things to leave enough room for the sub and hi cut things to make room for things like percussion, hats and rides.

Also, we never mix with any limiters on the master. We also like bussing all our drums together to process. compress and effect as a whole and we usually do the same with bass sounds in order to compress, low & hi cut and make use of sidechain compression.

A general rule would be to try and roughly mix as you go along as this helps at the end to complete the mix down. Don’t be afraid to remove FX and processing from things as you go along and don’t be afraid to replace things like the kick and snare further down the line .The amazing kick sound you had when you first created the beat might not cut it the further you progress with the track. Also it’s always worth A-B’ing to a track you think is similar.

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

Probably overuse of the bitcrusher. We do use it sometimes but more as a compressor or often used subtly to make things a little less clean. The classic crushed to death sound get used way too often in our opinion.

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

In terms of production there are too many things to mention! You don’t really have to be the greatest technical producer to make good music. At the moment it’s so easy and cheap to start producing music and there are so many great tutorials online that there is huge amount of tracks out there that ‘sound’ pretty impressive.

The most important thing is to be brave and try and create something original. It will really set you apart from the thousands of other demos that labels get sent and I think in general electronic music fans are always on the lookout to get behind some truly imaginative music.

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.

The main starting point was to figure out what we would personally want out of a sample pack we had purchased. We have tried to strike a balance between processing the sounds enough so that the user can drop them straight into a tune, but not processing them so much that the user loses the flexibility to get creative and add their own FX and processing. Also, we have tried to give the user the essential parts for making a whole track – drums, bass, lead, pads, percussion and FX.

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

Apart from the sample pack which was a big undertaking we have an EP coming out on Walsh’s Biscuit Factory label and another EP which is more bass music orientated which we are sorting the details for as we speak.

We have also begun producing for a great singer called Animai which we are pretty excited about as she has some amazing tracks. There will also be some new free tracks we will be giving away soon as we like to give people supporting us something whilst we wait for release dates.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

We’ve got loads of free tracks and mixes on our Soundcloud and Facebook pages which hopefully people will enjoy. Apart from that we are going to be doing a tutorial soon too so watch out for that.