Deep dubstep producer TMSV recently released a sample pack called Future Dub for Samplephonics so we grilled him about it and how he works in the studio.
At what age did you get into producing and how did you learn?
I got into producing at about age 17, I’d say. I learned by experimenting and checking out forums such as The Grid on the Dogs On Acid forum. That was just before every bit of production knowledge was available on YouTube, so I had to rely on written info and a lot of trial and error.
How did you get your music noticed in the beginning?
I used to upload my music to Soundclick and MySpace back in 2008 and 2009. Through websites like dubstep.nl and things like AIM I was able to come into contact with certain DJs (shouts to Myrkur, Phaeleh, DJ Foster, Nicon, Joe Nice, Mala and whoever I shamelessly forgot to mention), who started playing my tunes.
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?
More often than not I start with a drum pattern. Just a kick-snare pattern or a hi-hat loop, if it sounds right, is the right start for me and provides a basis to throw all kinds of sounds at.
Usually the bass comes next, but it really depends on the type of tune. Dubstep usually gets the drums-bass-sample-percussion-FX type treatment, but my more downtempo synth type stuff always comes together differently.
Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
Definitely. I still usually start with drums, but different genres really call for different vibes, and the vibe is often determined by a certain sound. I like using lots of weird sampled sounds for deep 4×4 house music, whereas I almost always draw for big synth sounds when I make 85 BPM-ish music. Getting into the tune I’ve started depends on the mood I create early on with the first couple of sounds.
How do you come up with melodies or chord progressions?
Usually I just play around on my MIDI keyboard or in the piano roll until I find a bassline or melody that I like. I often write chords after I lay down a bassline to be absolutely sure I can have the bass in a nice frequency range. I’m starting to break away from that method though, because I feel like it limits my musicality. Not every tune has to have the same bass range.
Out of the tracks you do start, how many get finished?
Rough estimate: I start a lot of tunes but I finish a very small percentage of them. Maybe 5 to 10%? Perhaps even less. Lately a lot of what I finish does get released, maybe about a quarter of my latest tunes. That might have more to do with my low output than with labels picking up my music though.
Where is your studio set up and what does is consist of?
My studio setup is at home, in the fairly large room I rent. At the moment I’m on a desktop PC with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface and 3 Korg Nano Series MIDI controllers, of which I most often use the keyboard. I have Yamaha HS8 monitors, which are fantastic in my opinion. I use FL Studio as my main DAW and I sometimes use Ableton for a change of pace.
I’m basically software only, apart from a microphone and a couple of instruments (an electric guitar, a melodica, a half working children’s practice keyboard, a miniature conga type thing and a broken flute).
What are the best tools for beginners?
I think beginners are best off using either FL Studio or Ableton because they’re both not very traditional DAWs. FL Studio can get you pretty decent sounding (at least to a beginner) stuff very quickly and has an amazing workflow because of the step sequencer and piano roll, and has a great mixer. Ableton definitely has better ‘traditional’ audio editing capabilities and a certain workflow that’s a lot more hassle-free than most other DAWs. Ableton is also very popular and is cross-platform, so collaboration is pretty easy.
What are your favourite plugins and synths?
My favourite workhorse effects are FL Studio’s Parametric EQ 2 because it’s a decent equaliser that’s very CPU light and the Kjaerhus Classic bundle. Fabfilter’s Pro-C (+sidechain!) and Pro-Q are great as well. For distortion I like to use CMFuzz (also known as CamelCrusher). I like Ambience, TAL Reverb 2, epicverb and Fruity Reeverb for reverb effects. Synth wise I really like Synth1, Sylenth, FL Studio’s 3xOsc and TAL Noisemaker.
What’s your monitoring situation like?
I use Yamaha HS8 monitors, Sennheiser HD25 headphones and AKG 240S headphones (which I rarely use these days).
How do you go about compression, do you compress each track individually?
Yes, I compress every sound that needs it. Drum sounds are almost always individually compressed (only if needed, by the way). The more I understand about compression, the less I use it indiscriminately though. I only load up a compressor if I know a track needs it.
Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns and mastering?
I don’t really know much about mastering, but I do have some mixdown tips. Buy monitors or at least amazing headphones, seriously. I waited for about 7 or 8 years before I bought monitors and finally being able to hear exactly what’s going on (which was always a vague term to me) has made a tremendous difference.
Always cut out as much low end as you can from everything except the bass and possibly the kick without sacrificing the sound’s character. This really helps when putting sounds in their place in the frequency spectrum.
Also, turn down every sound when you load it up. I mean turn it down like 50% or more. I’ve recently started doing this, and it really helps me. Having lots of headroom before you finish your tune and turn it up and/or limit it, lets you correct errors in volume, layering, compression or EQing without redlining your individual tracks or master channel. Just make it a habit and you’ll see what I mean.
What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?
Basically every technique that makes you sound like everyone else in your particular corner of the musical universe. There’s not one technique I find especially annoying or overused, but I do think that today’s availability of software and tech knowledge makes it very easy to make great mixdowns that sound amazingly bland and samey after one or two listens (this is a musical thing as well as a production thing, I think).
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Picking your sounds and being able to hear what is truly usable is a producer’s most valuable tool. Less is more. Also ‘how compression works’.
What’s key to creating your own sound?
Not caring too much about making your music fit into a certain sound. Don’t be afraid to recreate or imitate your favourite artists’ sounds, but do whatever you feel sounds right and I’m sure your own sound will come sooner or later. I think an artist’s sound also comes from what kind of sounds or samples he makes or picks before really getting into the musical aspect of making a tune.
Tell us about your new sample pack – why have you done it and how did you approach it?
I did it because Samplephonics, the publisher, asked me to. They did a pack with Ipman before and they told me they thought I could make a nice sounding pack.
The main thing for me was I wanted to have a good balance between usable samples and material that really sounds like TMSV, you know? I think you can probably throw all kinds of sounds from the pack together to make a tune that kind of sounds like what I would make, but I aimed for the sounds to be flexible and dry enough as well, so that anyone who decides to get the pack can use the samples in something that’s completely their own thing.
Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Look out for the Artikal compilation that’s coming out soon. There’s also an Artikal 12” forthcoming. I’m focusing on a couple of different projects right now, so I hope I can announce some more non-dubstep stuff through Bandcamp or maybe through a label soon.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Check out my Bandcamp page. The 1988 EP has been out since May, and you can buy either the download only, or the cassette + download release. Keep an eye on my Facebook and Twitter pages for news about new music, and expect more stuff that isn’t 140 bpm / dubstep soon.