Villem In The Studio

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Drum & bass producer Villem is about to release a sample pack so we spoke to him to discover how we works in the studio…

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?

I have various different approaches, sometimes I’ll hear a sample that would inspire a certain vibe, sometimes I’ll play around with some chords on a synth, sometimes i’ll be listening to music and try and work out what they are doing, sometimes i’ll just chuck noises at logic with no thought.

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’ll wait until I get inspired. There is so many other things to be doing that starting tracks is a small part of the process.

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

I’ve found that if you want to write a dancefloor bassline tune then starting with beats and bass is the one. If its more deep/leftfield then starting with a sample creates a more imaginative vibe. Nowadays I’ll check the key of the tune before getting to deep into it as when you come to the bassline, sometimes the root note is too low.

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

I can tell if a track is worth pursuing after coming back to it from the first session, if its not I’ll bounce anything worth keeping and move on. Most of the tracks that are finished are getting signed.

What time of day do you work best?

When I first wake up, go straight into the studio and work for 2 hours. My minds clear of the days clutter and can really hone in on music. Sometimes I’ll not eat until late into the day, being hungry helps creativity, and when you focused in the studio you don’t even feel it, then suddenly you wonder why your feeling weird!

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

Mixdown, sample, critical/analytical listening, send music to labels, speak to other producers about collaborations, learn jazz chords

Where is your studio set up and what does is consist of? Do you use any hardware or are you software only?

I have a separate room for my studio, with an iMac running Logic 9 with Adam A7x and a Adams Sub8. The walls are treated with custom built rockwall acoustic panels. I have an old dusty Mackie 1402 which i run everything through. Hardware wise I have Juno 106, Novation Supernova 2, Emu e5000, Akai SG01, and some FX units. Software: I have UAD Satellite Quad, plus a tonne of plug ins in Logic.

What’s your most used plug-in, and what makes it so essential?

Nothing comes close to the Fabfilter Pro-Q, it might not be the best sounding EQ but its so versatile and easy to use. You can create some unique sounds with this plug in by having so many EQ points to play with. It gets used on almost every channel of my tracks. (Special mention goes to UAD Shadow Hills for its delicious mastering capabilities)

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?

Used to sample from vinyl, but now mainly from CDs or films. I work A lot with synthesizers, there is something about creating your own sounds that is very rewarding.

How much of your sounds come from random samples, i.e. stuff you’ve recorded yourself etc, rather than sample packs?

I would say its a combination of both, most of the synths will be recorded by myself, yet most the beats will be break samples backed with sample pack hits to create a larger sound. By the time I have processed the beats together it will all sound as a coherent whole and would be hard pressed to hear where the samples come from.

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

My favourite bit of kit is the Juno 106, its so warm and fat. The chorus is huge on it. Sometimes I’ll just sample the chorus with no notes playing just to get a background fuzz on a track. Its very intuitive to use and a good way to learn about synthesis.

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

I used to have this old piano that sounded so warm and imperfect, the way a pianos strings resonate together when sustaining just a single note is beautiful to me.

Which sequencer do you use and why?

Logic 9 – I’ve used Reason, Ableton, Cubase and finally came to Logic, it was awkward to start with but once I had set up a lot of esx24 sample instruments it creates a fast work flow. They’ve improved the audio functionality a lot in Logic 9 and I’m finding I’m using less samplers and more audio nowadays. Also many of the people I work with use Logic 9 and this certainly helps collaborations over the internet.

Any new studio technology or gear you’re liking at the moment?

Most the UAD plug ins I’ve purchased have been great, but I like to use things for a while and not get a new plug in each week. I feel technology is a blessing and a burden, with so much information out there and new products it can get in the way of just sitting down and writing music.

Whats your monitoring situation like? What speakers and / or headphones do you use?

As I said I’m using Adams A7x with Adams Sub8, the studio is small so this is more than adequate. I have AKG K702 headphones that are nice and clear for a second reference.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns?

Best advice I’ve been given which gets the fastest results is to reference other peoples mixdowns whilst your creating your track. Especially the drums, get the drums right then its easier to balance everything around them.

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

I don’t tend to dwell on things I find annoying, much prefer to spend my time finding things I enjoy.

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

Speaking to people who are at a higher stage in their career can provide a tonne of information that would take myself longer to work out. It can really accelerate your learning. I spent a long time fooling around by myself which I guess is good in some respects as I got to make my own mistakes and find my own way, but having someone to guide me would have sped up the process.

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.

Sample packs have dominated drum & bass past and present. Andy C & Ant Miles famously created Valley of the Shadows using many samples from a free CD on Future Music in 1993, Digital creating Deadline using a Reinforced sample CD… the list goes on.

I wanted to create a sample pack that can be used by any producer whether beginner or established. So the pack contains easily usable samples like full breakbeats, or more simple bass tones which are great for a basis of building a bassline.

A lot of the sounds have been created using outboard equipment which gives them a distinctive timbre and I always find these cut through the mix better compared to software equivalents. A lot of young producers will only have a limited set up as it takes time & money to build a studio, this will give them a taste of what outboard equipment can do.

Also as a bonus I was able to record a Fender Rhodes 73 through an Roland Space Echo, this is hard equipment to come by, so for a small price you can create with samples made on thousands of pounds worth of equipment.

Why are you releasing it independently?

Well, I’ve been wanting to create a sample pack for other producers for a while. I saw Emperor and Centra had released theirs independently and felt it was a great idea.

I love the fact I can conceive the idea, create it and begin selling a high quality product within one month, no waiting for others or third parties, it’s instant. Also these samples are gonna be brand new, less than a month old, so producers will be using very fresh sounds.

I think right now is so exciting for new musicians, once they’ve established themselves they can really take hold of their own careers. I’m looking forward to having my own record label.

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

Next up is Warm Communications, track called ‘Whatever Whatever’ written with Mako & Fields. That’s released in June 2013.

I’ve got tracks signed ready to come out soon with Samurai, CIA, Utopia Music, Symmetry, Dispatch, Metalheadz and V Records.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

I’ll end by saying if you feel you have a talent in something or just a huge passion then pursue those with all your heart. You’re only here once.

VILLEM Drum & Bass Sample Pack Vol 1 is available exclusively via www.villemmusic.com from 20 May 2013.

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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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