New Zealand dnb duo State Of Mind tell us how they made their new album Eat The Rich and also answer your questions for production tips.
So firstly congratulations on the new album! It’s diverse but still each track is full of that SOM energy and great musicality. How long did the album take you guys in total to complete, and was much of it produced outside NZ?
Thanks! Well, I think it took about 18 months in all. The oldest track on there is probably Black Raven, the newest Fast Life. That was literally finished a couple of weeks before deadline. Most of it was produced here, or at least final mixed here. I think the only exception to that was Unconscious which was done entirely in Holland.
What is your current studio set-up?
We use Cubase 7.5 now. We both have studios, although the one at my house is a bit more geared towards post production and mastering while the one at Pat’s is geared a bit towards recording vocals etc. We use various monitors – mainly DynAudio BM6A Mk 1’s and NS10s. We also have KRK V series and Yamaha HS-80s. I use a Lynx Aurora converter setup and a UAD duo firewire. We both use Macs (ditching PC was the best move we made). There is a whole swag of out-board too. API 2500, Manley Stereo Pultec, Moog LP, Buzz Audio Opti Comp, Alesis Andromeda, Roland Space Echo. Some nice kit.
The album has a definite polish it to it, did you make a decision to use certain gear for the album to maintain a certain sound, or was it a case of ‘whatever is doing it’?
No, it was pretty all over the show. We have some gear and plugins that gives certain sound so we do use that in certain situations. For example, the plugin The Glue gives a real snappy compression sound great for big in your face loud mixes, while our API tends to be a touch softer so better suited to more rolling compressed mixes like on tracks like Fast Life, Bigger Faster Stronger or Black Raven. There are a few plugins that got a lot of mileage too, like Driver by NI, Trash 2, the UAD plate 140, Cooper Time Cube, Fab C, Fab Q. Those ones all get used on basically every track.
On Bigger Faster Stronger, the vocal has an awesome sound and depth to it; can you give any tips on how to get that kind of mix and overall finish?
I think that one was done with a combination of UAD’s Cooper Time Cube to give it a certain width (basically it delays each channel a little to phase it) and mono sends. Each mono send then gets panned and gets its own delay. Play with the feedback and times and see what comes out. If you get it right you start to get that Phil Collins sound (which Ii guess some people might think is bad but fuck them, I love it). Then that lot all gets sent to stereo reverb. Then everything is grouped and fed through our Buzz Audio Opti-Compressor. I use that on every vocal track. It sounds so good. It just holds everything together.
Is there a particular track on the album that to you sounds immense on a system? Are there certain ones that get the best reaction played out?
No-Operative always has a great reaction. When that Reece thing comes in during the first build-up people go nuts.
State Of Mind were also kind enough to answer questions from Sample Genie members:
Laszlo Berta: If you record (musical) samples, do you tune them? What’s your method?
Well, we work out what the key of the sample is at the time of recording it. Then we note that down in the sound file. So it might read something like ‘Big Girl Wail G”. Then when we work in G we can look through to see what we have. There’s no messing around going, hmmmm this might fit but I’ll have to transpose it five semi-tones, etc.
Harry Schrecengost: Did you ever use sample packs for most of your track elements at some point in time and, if so, what kind of things would you do when you got new batches of samples? Any practices that you thought helped make those sounds more SOM’s sounds and less stock?
We do use sample packs and we don’t. That sounds kinda whack I guess. What I mean is we would rarely build a tune around one sample pack sound. But sure we use them for risers, FX, bleeps, cymbals, textures. Sometimes bass noises and stuff get used and we re-sample them in Kontakt. Why not? There is some great stuff out there…
Andy Hayman: Can you give any advice on the best way to get intros and build ups to join with the drop?
Have a good intro idea. That’s basically it. If you have a good idea for the intro then it all happens pretty easily (in terms of build-up). I find it’s pretty hard making one pad playing one note exciting but that’s just me.
Frost Sub-Culture Sounds: So lots of people will do some kind of mastering or whole mix processing to get things playable; can you give any pointers on things to do here or anything to reach for to get things solid?
Try and get it sounding as good as you can before the processing goes on. Also, don’t reach for any magic bullet plugins because they don’t work in my mind. Our mastering chain will typically involve multi-band compression, general bus compression, subtle EQ if needed and limiting or peak control and, finally, dither. Really the master chain is about 5% of the sound. The other 95% is the mix itself.
Matt Wtr: Can you think of any methods you adopt to give tracks a warmer, crunchier tone?
That’s a hard question, because what is warm for one person is dull for another. What is crunchy is distorted. It’s a bit of a trick. For us, if we need to warm the track we tend to use the Slate Tape emulation on the drum bus or our Manley Pultec on the master. It kinda depends on the track. Picking samples from a good analogue source helps too. If every sound in the tune is made with VST’s and all in the box, it’s that much harder to give a ‘warm’ feeling to the end product.