Down the Production Hole with Audio Soul Project

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 26/10/10 15:47

Down the Production Hole with Audio Soul ProjectWith future-proof techniques that are the envy of producers all over the world, Chicago's Mazi Namvar (aka Audio Soul Project) evidently remembers house before house was broke. His 'ARP warming' approach to electronic music creates immense depth and groove. Hell, he's even studied philosophy. His productions have spanned labels like NRK, Gourmet, Brique Rouge and Dessous and his passion for technology that lets him 'touch' music makes sense as his has been touching others since the 90s.

Now, into 2010, the head of Fresh Meat Records is about to bring a new soundtrack to the slab. Hip Shake Heartache is the title of his second artist album, due out this November on vinyl and later on download. So what better time to 'touch bass' with Don Namvar?

Mazi started out making music on an MPC, and unlike many artists in the field he's not afraid to show the underbelly of his sound. In fact, going beyond the call of duty here, when we asked for one secret, he gave us two. All of this adds massive value to his contribution, so read on to enjoy his flow as we go Down the Production Hole... 

First can you tell us something about your frames of reference/what you think makes for a high quality electronic sound recording?
The most important thing about the quality of any kind of recording is the source material. What is making the sound? Are you using a VST plug-in, are you sampling a vinyl record, are you using analogue synths, are you using high-end microphones to record live sound, are you playing real percussion or are you using pre-made loops and over-processed sample CDs? All of these things are more important, in my opinion, than any digital or analogue processor, sound card or mixing desk. There is a saying in mastering: 'You can only polish a turd so much.' Of course, once you have the kind of sound source you creatively are after then the signal path is critical. Here in my studio I have three or four microphones I use depending on the kind of recording I'm doing, I have a Mackie Onyx series mixing desk and the E-MU 1820M audio interface which has pristine Pro-Tools quality A/D converters. That way I can capture any external sound very well. Inside the computer it's pretty much the same as many others I suppose. I have a series of plug-in processors that I like to use (Waves, Sonalksis and SoundToys for example) in a Cubase, Logic or Ableton Live environment. It doesn't take much to have a great recording, but the few things you do need are essential.

What's your current music production set-up like?
Well I got into this a bit with the previous question... In addition to the outboard recording gear, I use an Evolver, an ARP Odyssey, a Moog Voyager, a MicroKorg and from time to time a Jupiter-8 (borrowed from a friend). I have a couple old 80s rompler drum machines, the Alesis HR-16B and the Roland TR-707. I have two production computers, a Windows 7 based PC running Cubase and a Macbook Pro that runs Logic. I also run Ableton Live on both machines.

Within that set-up what is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade?
Of course without the heavy duty modern DAWs music creation would be a major pain. You can have the greatest modern or vintage synthesizers but without a proper sequencing behemoth like Logic or Live you're going to have a hell of a time getting anything down. It's possible, I started writing music on an MPC and loved it, but it definitely takes more effort and time. For me the most 'essential' things are Cubase and the other two programs I just mentioned.

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
I'll give you two secrets.

Number one is Reductive EQ. A mistake many producers make is adding EQ when they feel something is missing in the mix. For example, if one doesn't hear the hi-hats enough the tendency might be to EQ more high end into them. But this is usually a mistake. Try removing some bass from the kick or lowering the volume of your snare or even slightly turn up the hats without adding any EQ and more often this will make a better result than adding EQ. Specially in the digital domain, additive EQ typically creates all sorts of problems with transient sound that can cause problems later on in mastering or when being played in the club. If your original sounds aren't bright enough or bassy enough sometimes it's better to try a different sound instead of adding ridiculous amounts of additive EQ which will only work as an ugly band aid. Of course if you're trying to sound like Justice, then go for it - compress the shit out of the kick, EQ the crap out of your hi-hats, side chain everything and voila you have a winner!

My second secret is the ARP Odyssey. It is difficult to program and keep in tune; things break down all the time and need soldering or other kinds of repair. But when it's in tune and doing what it's supposed to the mad sounds I get out of this monster cannot be matched by anything else. I love it!

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
Best thing I was ever told when I started out was to take my time and that is still, I think, the best advice to give. Especially now in the 'digital age' everyone wants to be living the dream and now! If what you want is a quick climb and a quick descent into irrelevance then this might be a good move for you. But if you are starting out and love what you make and want to continue doing it for years then take your time, learn your craft and keep steadily expanding your creative horizons.

Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
Well it's already here but I see the future of music production getting more and more tactile. So many devices come out every month that allows the producer a new method of controlling the sounds he or she is trying to make. I think this is a brilliant trend. Using a mouse and a computer keyboard is so boring when trying to make a groove that will move people. Devices like the Akai APC40, the Jazz Mutant multi-touch display or Native Instruments' Maschine are making it easier than ever to 'touch' your music. I think this is an important trend that's been missing from computer music.

Title: Hip Shake Heartache
Label: Fresh Meat Records

Out on Vinyl: 29th November 2010
Download: 05th January 2011.

Fresh Meat Records is proud to announce the release of the second Audio Soul Project album, “Hip Shake Heartache.” With global attention quickly returning to U.S. House music, the time is perfect for one of Chicago’s important working producers, Mazi Namvar, to bring his considerable talents to bear on this sophisticated album of beautiful and original music. Following-up on the acclaimed 2001 album “Community” (NRK), Mazi wrote, recorded and produced “Hip Shake Heartache” over the course of a year, working with a cadre of vocalists including Ron Carroll, Alexander East and Nathan Drew Larsen along with seasoned musicians Jimmy Tripp and Richard Gow. This emotional and often bittersweet album is a personal story of old friends, music, treason, relationships, endings and new beginnings - recounted and fictionalized in the graphic novelette issued contemporaneously herewith. The short story, written by Mazi, was illustrated by local artist Ernesto Perez.


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