In the studio with Sbastien Lger
It is also a DJ's second home. But for Sbastien Lger, his studio is actually his home it is located in the attic of his apartment in Amsterdam.
As we found out in our exclusive interview, this recently renovated factory of club music is interesting and unique for many reasons (just wait till you hear what speakers he uses!).
What was your first ever studio set up like?
I had only one machine, an Akai MPC-2000. It was a sequencer, mixer, and sampler, all in one. That was my studio 14 years ago. That was it.
I made and released some tunes on it, but they weren't very good [laughs]. My first four or five EPs on vinyl we're made using only this machine.
What sort of sound we're you making back then?
It was kind of like French touch or Chicago house. Disco samples, funk samples, and drum samples. It was like filtered disco, which was the big sound at that time.
How did you learn how to make tracks?
When I actually bought this machine, I didn't know what it was, or what you could do with it. I only found out you could do loops and samples with it when I got home! So I learnt how to make music on the machine through trial and error. I didn't know anything about making music before that.
How long did it take until you had produced your first track?
I actually did my first track on the first day I got the machine. It wasn't great, but it was a track. I was, and still am, a really quick worker. My first commercial release happened about three months later. I played with that machine all day, day after day. That's all I did really.
That's quite extraordinary that you managed to release your first music without ever having any formal music production training or prior knowledge. Did you ever study music?
I studied music when I was younger. It used to be on my DJ biography, but in the end I felt a bit ashamed to have it on there as I don't know how to play instruments anymore. So I took that off. I haven't touched drums or a piano in years.
Both my parents are musicians, which probably helped me to develop my ears, but technically, I can't play a proper instrument. I don't consider myself a real musician in that way.
So what do you consider yourself then?
I'm a producerI guess I'm a musician, but through machines and production tools.
Where's your new studio located?
In Amsterdam, in my flat. It's just a room where all my gear is really. There's no special soundproofing or acoustics stuff. The room is in the attic/roof of my place, so it has a triangle-shaped ceiling which makes the acoustics sound perfect. There's no resonance or reverb in there at all. The room is really dry.
Why did you decide to build a new studio?
My studio has always been inside my house. I never really built a proper studio, I've always just had a room where I make all my music. So all I really did is renovate the room and renew the furniture to make it look nicer. That was the most important thing, as my fiance likes to hang out in my studio sometimes, and I was a bit embarrassed with how it looked [laughs].
What gear do you have in there?
I have quite a lot of gear in there, but less than I had a couple of years ago. I used to be solely an analog and hardware producer I only added a computer a couple of years ago. My old studio was a happy mess of synths, drum machines, external FX boxes, and recorders. All of it was MIDI. I made music in a very spontaneous way because of that.
Today, I have a computer in there with Ableton Live. Ableton is such an easy program to use to re-edit works and redo any mistakes you make during the creative process. The way I make music now is actually very similar to how I made music when my studio was all hardware.
For instance, back then I used to jam on all the gear and create a pattern or loop that I would work on for three or four hours. And then when I was happy, I would just press record on the CD recorder and jam it in one session. It was all freestyle, with no pre programming.
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I still work like that today. I'll experiment with a loop, or four big loops, and jam on them until I have an idea of how it will sound later. I use a combination of hardware and plugins. For the plugins, I map them to a MIDI controller, so I have the same feeling as touching a button on a piece of hardware.
All of that runs through Ableton Live, which is so creative and easy. That's my work flow. I turn knobs, I hit keys, I work with the dry/wet control on a reverb, I send things here and there. The process is fun and spontaneous.
So you hardly ever touch the mouse and keyboard to make your music?
I try to stay away from the mouse and keyboard as much as possible, as I like to work spontaneously and keep the small details that arise from working in that way. Even a tiny detail, a mistake, a slight mistiming, can make a track sound that much more special than a song made with straight, pre programmed loops.
Because you work in such a spontaneous and live way in the studio, have you ever thought about taking that live set up on the road?
Yes. I'm actually working on taking that jamming/freestyle approach into a club. I used to jam over the top of my DJ sets with drum machines, like the Roland TR-909. I really do miss that in my DJ sets today.
Playing two records together is nice, but it's a little bit limited. I feel like I want to bring more freestyle elements into my sets. I'm thinking of doing a live show combined with CDJs, or maybe doing a straight up live show.
What would your live set up be like?
For sure I'd have a 909 and a 303, and I'm currently beta testing this great new drum machine from Arturia called Spark. They will be the centerpieces most likely.
Tell me more about Spark.
Spark is a step sequencer, that allows you to add your own drum sounds, and then you can modulate all of those sounds in real time like an instrument. It works in combination with a computer.
The great thing about it, is that you can put all your own sounds on it, and it works via MIDI, so you can sync it to anything MIDI controlled. The controller itself is very cool. I think it's due to be released in June and I'm thinking of taking it with me to gigs.
It sounds quite similar to Native Instruments' Maschine?
It is and it isn't. It's different to Maschine as there are more hands-on controls on the Spark. I think it's a lot more user friendly than Maschine, because although Maschine offers more possibilities in terms of what you can do with it, the Spark is much more suited for the live environment. I think Maschine is better for studio work, whereas Spark is more for DJs and live musicians.
With Maschine, one button can control many parameters and effects, and you have to press buttons in combination sometimes in order to access the many different layers of options and menus, so it can get pretty complicated at times.
Whereas the buttons on Spark control just one thing each, so that's a lot simpler and safer when playing live. It reminds me of the way old drum machines work.
How many hours a day do you spend in your studio?
It's pretty much the same as it has always been. I spend all day, and sometimes all night in the studio. I really like making music, as much as I did when I first got into it. My day usually consists of waking up, and if I have ideas, or if I'm in the mood to make music, I will go and do it for the whole day.
What's your most productive time of day to write music?
I'm more productive at night than during the day. I don't know why, maybe it's because nightclub music sounds better at night time. I feel the vibe much more at night, and I'm much more into it. Daytime is more for mixdowns, and working on the technical stuff.
I'm at my most creative at night. As soon as it gets dark, I write.
What speakers do you have in your studio?
You won't believe me. My speakers are actually these tiny computer speakers that I bought about 10 years ago for 60 Euros.
They're not studio monitors or designed for music production, but they sound amazing. The set up is basically two little speakers and a sub woofer that sits on the floor it's a 2.1 system.
You're right, I don't believe you.
It's really weird, but music on these speakers sounds better than anything else that I've tried, and I've tried everything Genelec, Mackie, KRK, all of the monitors that are designed specifically for studio use. Every time I make music on these speakers, it sounds perfect straight away, whilst all those brand name monitors, they never worked for me I'd always have to come back after testing a track out in a club to work on the mix.
Whereas these computer speakers, what I hear in the studio is what I hear in the club. They are super cheap, but the bass is so nice. Every range of frequency is covered perfectly. I've even got three pairs just in case the company stops making them, as I'm scared to lose them, they're that special.
Who is the manufacturer?
They're made by Kinyo, a cheap Japanese brand.
How much of a technology head are you?
I'd say I'm a big geek. I read music tech magazines all the time like Future Music mag, Computer Music, and Sound On Sound. I also like blogs there's this blog called DJTechTools, who always have some nice tricks and things to check out. I always read the main blogs of Native Instruments too.
Even as a kid I loved technology. I've got an iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook Pro I've got the whole Apple right here [laughs].
Finally, name some of your favourite plug ins.
I don't use a lot of them, because I use everything from Ableton Live pretty much. But for a compressor, I use The Glue by Cytomic which is my main compressor. It's very versatile.
The Arturia Moog is probably my number one choice for basslines. It's very simple and straight forward, but flexible.
I will point out that I got the thought for this posting speaking to Christina at PropertyHunters. Many thanks for that. Guess you will find ideas in unexpected places.
http://www.guttersdirectmn.com/ - Thanks Zoe! I recognize you are incredibly busy 🙂 Thanks for making the time 🙂
http://2innovative.net - Thanks a ton for the late-night work Davian 🙂
http://www.proentertainmentnashville.com - Your grammatical ability are incredible!
http://speedrivermoving.com - A good site.
Posted in Music Post Date 08/13/2015