Sleeper In The Studio

Dubstep producer Sleeper is best known for his heavy tunes on labels like Chestplate but his latest release is a bit different, a sample pack called Dubstep Beats & Bass Volume 1 that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Read on to discover how Sleeper works in the studio and you can download some exclusive demo samples from the pack at the bottom of the page.

How do you approach starting a new tune?

I spend a lot of time designing sounds and building sample packs so when it comes to starting a new track I have a huge amount to draw from. Sometimes I won’t start a track for a month or so and just build sounds non-stop.

I’ve been working like this for a while now and find it really pays off when it comes down to putting a track together, ideas can flow much quicker when you don’t have to spend too much time on each sound as you go.

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 most of my time working on music and that time is usually split into either building a track or designing sounds. When I’m in the right state of mind and feeling creative I’ll work on a track and when I’m feeling less inspired I’ll be building a library of sounds or making synth patches and effects chains so when that creative state of mind comes, I’ve got loads of fresh sounds to use and I can get my ideas out quickly.

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

Yeah, kind of, only when it comes to sound selection though really. When I’m making more techno sounding stuff I like to use more distorted, crunched up sounds and dirty textures, so the sound designing beforehand would have also been approached differently in order to get those kind of sounds.

Things like arrangements have to be approached differently too, I’ve started doing a lot of live arrangements over the past year or so which I got into through writing techno.

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

It’s changed a lot over the last few years since changing my approach to production; the sound design stuff helps massively. Years ago the majority of my ideas would never get finished but now most of them get finished properly and released in some way or another and I think it’s all down to having my sounds ready to go when I come to make a track.

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

I don’t believe in writers block. I think that whatever your art is, there’s always something that you can be doing. Whether it’s designing sounds, making a sample pack, going to your local record shop and looking for samples or just learning something new, there’s always something that you can be doing that can go towards a final product.

Also, I always find that if I’m not feeling inspired enough to start a track, all I do is make some fresh sounds without the pressure of actually writing a track, then before you know it you’re buzzing off some new sound you just made and a track ends up coming out of nowhere.

What does your studio consist of?

My set up has always been really basic, I bought a few nice Akai MIDI bits last year for recording live arrangements but other than that it’s just my PC running Live 9 and Cubase.

What’s your most used plugin and what makes it so essential?

Fab Filters Pro Q EQ plugin gets used on every sound I use so I would have to go with that one. For synths I’d have to say Ableton’s Operator, it’s really powerful and also really easy to pick up once you have a decent grasp of frequency modulation. I’ve been getting my head around it for the last eight months or so and use it for about 90% of my stuff now.

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 used to sample a lot of old soul and jazz years ago when I was making drum & bass but I’ve not sampled a thing for a couple of years now, so at the minute I’m pretty much 95% synths and effects. I do love doing it that way because I know all my sounds are completely original and I like seeing a whole track emerge from the same four oscillators, but at the same time I do miss the digging.

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

I don’t really have much kit but my Akai APC is pretty cool and I use it on every track now. It’s basically like having a full size mixing desk for your Ableton projects, which is great for recording live arrangements as well as sound design. I’m definitely getting the new version when it comes out, I might even get two. I’d recommend them to anyone looking to add a more human feel to their arrangements.

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

Technics 1210s.

Which sequencer do you use?

I’m using Ableton and Cubase. I’ve always used Cubase but after trying Ableton last year I now only use Cubase for the final mix downs and spend most of my time on Ableton. I find it a lot more geared toward creativity, everything from effects chains and routing to sample swapping and editing all seems so much faster and more fluent in Ableton, especially with a good midi set up.

The midi stuff is so easy to use that you can take things to a more complex level with sound design and effects automation on arrangements. Cubase seems so stale and robotic in comparison but I much prefer the sound engine and mixer on it which is why I still use it for my final mixes.

Any new studio technology or gear you like at the moment?

I don’t really have much studio gear but I picked up the Korg Monotron Duo and Delay about a month ago and have got a lot of use out of them so far.

What’s your monitoring situation like?

Pretty bad to be honest. I’ve just got Alesis M1 Actives, they are pretty much the cheapest monitors you can buy and they have recently starting making a very strange high pitched crackling sound so I think I’m due an upgrade.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?

If I’m honest, I’m not really the best guy to ask about mixdowns, it’s easily my weakest area in production and the part I enjoy the least. One thing I would say though is to just try and mixdown as you go, making sure each sound is how you want it before moving on to the next. Also space in the mix is some pretty basic advice, giving each sound its own frequency range and space allows them to really stand out.

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

At the moment it’s got to be that percussive hit that all the big ‘EDM’ guys are using in triplets, you know the one.

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

I think that has to be the sound design thing. Years ago I never realised how beneficial it is to sit and make sounds before you start a track. I think I would have saved a lot of time if I had started doing it from the beginning.

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 started the series of sample packs because it’s something I’ve been really enjoying over the past few years, I’ve always been interested in sound design and it’s something I’d love to take more seriously in the future so I’m hoping this series will end up being a portfolio of professional work.

I created the sample pack in a few different ways. Most of the bass sounds were from NI Massive in Cubase and resampled several times with various effects and the rest of the pack was from the Operator synth in Ableton.

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

Yeah, we are just sorting out my next release on Chestplate and I’m also looking at releasing some stuff myself at some point, hopefully this year.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

Yeah, just keep an eye out for more sample packs. I’ve already started working on the next one which is going to be more focused on grooves, rhythmic loops and percussion.

Also have to say thanks to anyone who’s already supporting Beats & Bass Volume 1, especially everyone sending me clips of music they are making with the samples, it’s really good to see what people are doing with them.