Mcleod In The Studio

Drum & bass producer Mcleod has released acclaimed music for labels such as Samurai Red Seal, Spearhead, Warm Communications, C.I.A, Utopia Music and Dispatch but his latest project is a sample pack with fellow producer Villem so we spoke to him about it and to discover how he works 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?
Nine times out of ten it is beats first but if I hear a particular sample or find a particularly good noise on a synth then it can start with 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 spend nearly all of my spare time out of the 9-5 working on music so it’s generally a case of just starting something and see what happens. My state of mind is definitely a factor though! If I have had a long/stressful day at work sometimes I simply can’t be bothered.

Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished? How many get released?
I don’t really have a lot of time to work on tunes by myself due to having a full time job and always having the likes of Villem, Symptom & Saxxon up for teaming up on some tunes. I prefer working with others when writing music so this isn’t really a problem. In regards to how many get finished and signed out of the tunes myself and Villem start I’d say 90% get signed once finished.

What do you do when you’re not feeling inspired?
When I am feeling uninspired I generally spend time gathering samples for the next session.

What does your studio consist of? Do you use any hardware or are you software only?
I only use software in my studio. I would love to be able to afford some hardware synths though!

What’s your most used plug-in, and what makes it so essential?
That’s a tough question. The Fab Filter Pro Q is probably the one that gets used the most for obvious reasons. Another good VST is the Sugarbytes Turnado, that is getting used more and more, it’s good fun to use and has some really interesting FX on it.

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 love sampling records and CDs due to my love for hip hop and the whole culture of sampling. Synths are also used a lot too though! I find that sometimes it can be a lot more time effective to record an atmos/pad via a synth rather than ploughing through a list of samples to find the right one.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?
Quite a lot of the generic stuff like beats and percussion come from sample packs but the real magical stuff tends to come from something found whilst sampling.

What’s the best piece of equipment you’ve ever used?
There are so many great bits out there it’s hard to say! I am really impressed by the soft synths from U-he, especially ACE & Diva they are very authentic analogue sounding synthesizers. The UAD plug-ins are pretty impressive too, I haven’t unfortunately got any but Villem has and they sound great.

Which sequencer do you use and why?
I use Presonus Studio One. It’s a great DAW but there are a few things such as the sampler that let it down. However, its audio editing capabilities are really good and its user-friendly layout are definite upsides!

What’s your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?
I monitor using a pair of Adam A7X’s.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?
Referencing your song to another song that you think has been really well made/produced, you will soon hear the discrepancies in your song if any!

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Getting the beat as good as it can possibly be before getting carried away with other elements. It’s always hard going back and making the beat as good as it needs to be when you’re in too deep.

Tell us a bit more about your new sample pack with Villem and how it came about…
Villem made a sample pack last year that was really well received and we are always making noises together when we see each other so we thought it we be a nice idea to spend some time out of making tunes to compile some fresh samples for other producers to use.

How did the process work between you creating it?
We have been both working on the pack together and whilst on our own in our spare time. It’s been a great learning curve for the both of us because we have learnt some new processing techniques and made some great noises that we will definitely be using in our own productions!

Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Me and Villem have got releases coming on CIA, Warm Communications, Utopia Music and we have also done remixes for Dispatch and Flexout Audio.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Nothing else to say apart from some shouts! Big up to Mako and all the Utopia Music crew, Symptom, Saxxon, Gigante, Riya, Total Science, Fields, Geoff Presha, Heath @ Warm Comms, Steve Bcee and all that have supported our music.