Royalston In The Studio

Royalston has just released his Voltage Controlled Drum & Bass sample pack via Loopmasters / Hospital Records. Known for his raw, analogue sound with a tech-y edge, we spoke to the Med School Music producer to find out how he made the pack and how he works in the studio.

At what age did you get into producing and how did you learn?
I started producing when I was about 18. I learnt by making really horrible music for quite a long time. Actually – the first few tunes I made were okay, I just used my ears and knew next to nothing. Then I read about production/ compression/ EQ and my next tunes really sucked… and continued this way for quite a while. 15 years later I’m still dissatisfied with what I make but it’s definitely better than before.

Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception…
Depends on the type of track – if it’s production based I might start with a cool sound (such as a loop from my sample pack *product placement!) and build around that. I find hardware is great for this part – just getting ideas and playing around. The computer is great for laying out full songs and refining things.

What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
Right now it’s getting my computer to run smoothly. When that’s not a problem I think the musical aspect – getting songs to go somewhere is the most challenging and the most satisfying thing about making music.

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
Sure, but right now I’m only really making drum & bass. I’ve done film music in the past and in some ways it’s much easier as you have a brief.

How do you come up with melodies or chord progressions?
I just start messing around on the piano. At some point I will breakdown all the musical elements and see what is going on from a theoretical point of view, then see where I can take it next.

What are the best tools for beginners?
Ableton and a piano/ keyboard or a guitar.

What are your favourite plugins and synths, and what makes them so essential?
All the plugins in Ableton are great. Low CPU and they sound good.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you own?
Probably the modular.

Which bit of kit would you love to have for your studio?
A computer that runs smoothly and a really nicely tuned room.

Is there a piece of equipment you regret getting rid of?
I sold my Alesis Andromeda for next to nothing as I really needed the money. I miss it, but it was a terrible synth to actually use and program. Sounds amazing though.

Which DAW do you use and why do you use it?
Ableton. It’s fast, doesn’t get in the way too much.

What audio interface do you use?
I use a Lynx Hilo and RME Fireface 800.

Any new studio technology or gear you like at the moment?
I bought an Elektron Analog Rytm but it hasn’t arrived yet. I paid for it 4/5 months ago so I’m pretty keen to play with it. Unfortunately they don’t seem in a hurry to deliver them to customers. I hope it is worth the wait.

What’s your monitoring situation like?
I have Focal twins which sound great.

How do you go about compression?
I do compress some elements in a track but reading about compression was one of those things that ruined my music for years. I’m not sure what the big obsession with compression is. Essentially it’s just volume control and envelope shaping (with some distortion side effects as well). Both of which you can do directly and more accurately by editing your audio envelopes. I use limiting more, and that’s just to catch little peaks that might stray into the master buss.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns and mastering?
Keep them on the quiet side if possible and they will probably hit harder on a rig. If your mix sucks 9/10 times it’s the drums.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Music theory. You don’t really need to use compressors.

What piece of advice would you give to producers still honing their craft?
Practice. Learn an instrument.

What’s key to creating your own sound?
I have no idea really, but I think it’s just practice. Trying to make something you haven’t heard before, even if that is just a different combination of previously heard elements.

Whose productions do you love right now?
Etherwood, Misanthrop, The Presets, Stray, Fracture and Camo & Krooked

What track would you love to have the stems of for a remix?
Maybe ‘Step & Flow’ by S.P.Y

Tell us about your new sample pack – how did you approach it?
Making my sample pack was a really long process. I thought it would be simple but making all the individual patches was a complicated task. I recorded huge chunks of audio – with me turning knobs and repatching sounds – then I went back in and found the good bits.

I wanted it to be dirty and analogue so I borrowed gear and dug out some old equipment I don’t use much. All the experimenting was quite fun. Many of the modules are DIY home built so they are quite unique in their sound. I’m most proud of all the percussion sounds – I use them myself quite a bit.

Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I’m working hard on my second album. I hope to see it out next year.

Read all the interviews in our In The Studio series