Toydrum In The Studio

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Pablo Clements and James Griffith have been members of UNKLE since 2007 but recently forged a new musical partnership, Toydrum and are based in their own studio in Brighton, the Toy Rooms. They produce and compose for an eclectic mix of projects and have just released a mini album called Distant Focus Vol. 1 on their own Underscore label. With Pablo being renowned for his technical ability in the studio we spoke to him to find out how he works in the studio…

At what age did you get into producing and how did you learn?
Always produced own music since I started making music at 16. Making music became my profession when I teamed up with Paul Mogg as producer DJ/s under the name of Psychonauts.

What producer or artist were you trying to sound like when you first started producing?
I never tried to sound like any other producer however I was influenced by the sounds of records I was listening to in my early days of making music. Such as hip hop and dance producers like Mikey Most, Dust Brothers, Major Force, Brendon Lynch and Connie Plank.

How did you get your music noticed in the beginning?
I was recognized as being a DJ more than being a producer at first. As the Psychonauts we were the in-house DJs for Mo’wax Records.

What are the best tools for beginners?
The best tool for a beginner is to learn their own DAW inside out, don’t keep straying from one program to the next, be the master of your machine! Mine was an MPC drum machine then I moved to Logic. However, I still use both programs today

Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception…  

Starting point will be listening to old obscure records, sampling tracks to get inspiration by looping them up on Abelton Live.

To turn a sample into an original full song, James and I will work on the inspired piece together, mainly on the chord structure turning the sample idea into a song. At this point we usually lose the sample inspiration and the song takes its own direction. Post this point there is no set rule.

What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
Finishing the song.

How do you come up with melodies or chord progressions?
James usually sits with an acoustic guitar and plays around until something catches our ear, then we’ll try it with different instrumentation. Something sounds good on the guitar but might not sound good on other instruments. Once we have the chords then melodies usually start to materialize.

Tell us all about your Toy Rooms studio and what it consists of…

The studio is made up of a control room and live room. The equipment is a mixture of vintage and new.

We have a lot of vintage synths from CS80, EMS Sythi, PS3100, Macbeths and a wall of Eurorack modular system. Loads of guitars, drums, pianos, harmonias and much more.

What are your favourite plugins and synths?
Favourite synths internally are Kontakt because there is never ending world of sound for it and Iris because it is fantastic when scoring music to picture. Externally EML Electrocomp 101 because it is a filthy, dirty sounding synth and our sound seems to like that synth.

Our favourite plugins are the UAD series because the sound quality is stunning.

Which DAW do you use and why?
We use quite a few but our main one is Logic because it’s the one program I know inside out. We use Ableton for ideas and samples Protools for studio sessions and putting multitrack drums in time.

What audio interface do you use?
Apogee Symphony I/O.

Any new studio technology or gear you like at the moment?
Really like Machine Studio, Eleketron, Rytm, Electron Analogue 4, Arturia mini brute, Verbos Eurorack and Make Noise Erb Verb (actually all their stuff is great).

What’s your monitoring situation like?
Event Opal, they sound great.

How do you go about compression?

There are different ways of compressing music depending on what you are doing. There are great internal and external compressors – we love our Uri 1176s always.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns and mastering?
There are different forms of mixing and mastering depending on the genera of music you are working on. If you are working on a dance track you will mix and master to the loudest place you want it to be.

But if you are mixing on an ambient score you will try and make the music small so it’s not intrusive to the dialogue in the film. There is no right or wrong way; it’s up to you to find what you like.

What’s the coolest bit of kit you own?
Two EMS Synthis.

Which bit of kit would you love to have for your studio?
We have everything we would want but we do have Ken Macbeth’s Elements on its way.

Is there a piece of equipment you regret getting rid of?
No, but there are pieces of equipment I regret buying!

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
Learn to finish a song; don’t kill yourself forever trying to make the perfect piece of music. Music is an art; it is a snap shot of you at that time.

What piece of advice would you give to producers still honing their craft?
Own it.

What’s key to creating your own sound?
Originality, blurring the outer limits in your own way – it will then become your own

Whose productions do you love right now?
We like all styles of music so always hearing new stuff that interests such as Arca, Floating Points, Ame, Caribou… there’s tonnes of great music out there.

Tell us about your new Distant Focus Vol. 1 mini-album and how you’d approached it…
The mini album was based on creating music for a script our friend wrote. We split the script into six parts, from reading the score this helped us focus on the music.

Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
There are many to come that we can’t tell you about, but the ones we can tell you about are:

Distant Focus Reavision, a remix package with remixes from Trentemoller and many more. NYX EP1 featuring Joel Wells, this is produced by Tim Goldsworthy and Toydrum and The Evangelist featuring Gavin Clark with Toydrum.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
You can find all our news on toydrum.co.uk and our latest releases on Underscore Collective. You can also follow us on Twitter.

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About Author

Colin Steven co-founded Knowledge Magazine in 1994. He also runs a book publishing company called Velocity Press specialising in electronic music and club culture.

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