With the releases of his new EP, Crungle, out on Simplify Recordings, and an upcoming tour supporting the EP, i thought it was about time i caught up with my old mate Adam Zae to chat about his production techniques, the EP and of course Ableton Live!!
What’s you current DAW and set up?
I travel a lot and have just moved to Singapore so staying in box has always been a big priority for me. Ableton running on a Macbook does the trick. Heavy use of Native Instruments Komplete with a ton of extra Kontakt packs to keep life interesting. I’m a sucker for a Native Instruments sale.
What is it you like about Live?
Ableton’s workflow is just ‘right’ for me. I can’t explain it better than just feeling like every part of it makes sense, the knobs are in the right places and making tunes is a quick, simple and not ‘fiddly’ affair. If a DAW gets in the way or ‘slows down’ your writing process at all, then it might not be the right one for you.
How does your writing process work? What’s a day in the studio like for Doc Werewolf?
Every track I write starts the same way, with what I think of as a ‘point of interest’
This is what is exciting, quirky, different, special or interesting about the track. Be it a killer riff I just noodled out on a keyboard, a weird sample I ripped off youtube, a snippet of an acapella I illegally sampled or a recording of a watermelon being smashed with a hammer that I’ve layered with a snare hit. SQUELCH.
You use a lot of samples or is it all sound design?
It varies from tune to tune. Some tracks I have too many ideas and so much of it is built out of software and imagination. Others I use more samples. I rarely like to just throw a sample in and walk away though because I don’t get to have any fun that way. To that end most everything is chopped, screwed or hacked in some way or another if it’s sampled. I don’t have anything to prove, it’s just how I get my kicks.
You do always get fat drums. How do you process them? Are you a fan of grouping them on a buss or do you work on them individually?
I like to keep my mind open drum wise. My main kick and snare are almost always built by editing together the waveforms of a few different samples I like. Maybe the attack from one kick, a nice sub drone and layering it with some other weird sound or effect. Maybe I find a nice snare and cut some bits out of it to tighten it or attach some bits of attack from a clap to the front then layer a textural sound into the tail. Then when bussing I base it on what it needs to stand out in that particular mix. Send the kick and snare to a buss with some EQ and sausage fattener or a guitar modelling VST to get a proto NY compression effect with a nice tone, for example. Or just a light bit of room EQ for the whole lot and leave it at that. And I’m not afraid to throw a lot of sidechain compressors on everything else in the track to push it all aside for the kick and snare. Even in genres where that is taboo. Fuck it. Big drums.
I know you love your Live Racks – how do you use them creatively?
I’m really enjoying creating racks that have macro knobs on them. I have just started experimenting with a “huge-iser” rack that throws a bunch of complementary reverbs and FX on a source with one turn of the macro knob, allowing me to turn an upfront sound into a wide, huge thing with space and depth, then bring it slamming back in your face for the next go round the park.
Have you used the new Glue Compressor in Live?
Not in depth. I’m yet to start really effin around with the new stuff as I’ve only recently upgraded. I’ll report back if it gives me any good ideas.
Every Live user I’ve spoken to can’t stop raving about Live’s in-built EFX’s. What’s your thoughts?
I do understand the appeal of 3rd party FX. Some of them sound great indeed. That being said, the greater proportion of EQ, compression, reverb and limiting I did on my new EP – Crungle – was using stock Ableton plugs. For me it’s all about learning the knobs of any plugin you use inside out before you deploy it. I’ve had some bad results by hastily incorporating new plugins into my work flow.
Any Live tips you want to share?
I’ve actually decided to share a little gem I’ve created called ‘In the Hass’. It’s an ableton live rack that allows you to create a Haas effect with the turn of a knob for stereo width control and adding voice to elements of your tracks. (The Doctor Werewolf Haas Ableton Live rack and a quick primer on how to use it will be up tomorrow!!)
You can only have one compressor, one EQ and reverb – what are they and why?
At the risk of making enemies, ableton stock plugs suit me fine. Maybe Pro Q just cause I’ve had a bit of a fiddle with it and can see it becoming addictive. Remember: it’s not the size of your notch, but the frequencies you cut with it that matter.
You new EP came out last week. How long did it take to put together? What plugins got a good work out?
The lead track, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ took a couple of years from the first riff to the final mixdown. Just kept having new ideas for basses/sections and never being totally ‘ready’ with them, but wanting to keep going with it because I loved the overall energy of the tune. I finally nailed it around the time I finished ‘We Have the Technology’ and ‘Da Butt’, which came together in about a week each. Dunno how they did, but they just did. In terms of plugins, Massive as usual got a fair flogging. I also heavily pushed the M/S mode on the old EQ with this release.
What’s up next for DW?
I’m returning to Australia for a national tour in Oct/Nov to showcase the new DJ show and production sound I’ve been on. After that, just gonna be writing tunes and DJing until they spread my ashes to the wind.
Doctor Werewolf’s free Ableton Rack – In The Haas – will be up tomorrow!!