Down the Production Hole with Joel Mull

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 24/2/11 12:10

Down the Production Hole with Joel Mull Sweden's Joel Mull speaks about his prolific production techniques, using Ableton, and how he envisages the future of electronic music.

In terms of tunes, Joel is a world titleholder of techno and the dark rolling bassline. He's been spinning since the early 90s and his productions span labels like Drumcode, Saved, Cocoon, and Harthouse, which is home to his second album, The Observer.

His new album is called Sensory and it's out right now on his pal Adam Beyer's Truesoul imprint.

Adam's label might be a pretty regular haunt for the soulful man-like-Mull but this is the first time we've had him here talking tech with us, so enjoy the trip as we join him 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?
When it comes to techno/house and dance music in general, the first thing that comes to mind, in my opinion, is the quality of the production and the way that the specific track is mixed. I feel you should be able to feel the rolling of the bass; but that's just my taste. And, of course, if you play digital, always try and have the best quality possible.

After all these years of searching and tryouts, I still get confused about how my own productions are gonna sound out on a big sound system. It's a never-ending learning process for me - and that's the fun part of electronic music. You always learn new ways how to make it. The combinations never end...

What's your current music production set-up like?
At the moment I'm working from home in a small studio set-up. This set-up is with Genelecs 8030 and a subwoofer, then I have a Nord Lead 2 synthesiser, used mainly as MIDI keyboard, and some days I tweak and record sounds with that. Then I use the Maschine from Native Instrument for drum programming and Ableton Live 8 as a sequencer.

Occasionally I rewire Ableton through Logic 8, but I usually get stuck in 'arrangement mode' in Logic so I prefer to work only in Ableton

Within that set-up what is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade?
Ableton Live. I like to try and record the whole track as much live as possible - and Ableton allows me to do just that. 

Back in the 90s I began to record music live in one take without overdubbing and straight on to DAT. After one or two or five takes I'd start to arrange and add the 'bling' to the track: the FX and tweaks, then came the final mix...

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
Oh my... I don't think I have any cool tricks. But one thing I do is chain connect more than one effect on the sends.

I love to experiment with effects and run a sound through to see what comes out on the other side. For example, a delay that is sent over to a reverb that has a gate on it, then run by a chain further into a delay with the possibility to pitch the sound up or down. (I don't know how this would sound but it's just an example if you understand what I mean.) It's about 'washing' the sounds and adding colour to them. 

One really nice thing in Ableton 8 is the way you can cut up a drum loop or sound into small parts and in that way you can rearrange and play with the loop in a whole other way. It's called 'slice to new MIDI track' and it's very simple to recycle your favourite loops in a new way.

I'm an old sample freak and began producing music with an Ensoniq EPS sampler, with the possibility to record one minute in stereo. That was a lot back then - and you learned fast how to cut up sounds and save memory!

Below is a simple [Ableton] explanation:

Left click on the audio loop/sound you have, and you will find 'slice to new MIDI track'.
Left click on the audio loop/sound you have, and you will find  - slice to new MIDI track .

Then it will cut up each sound into small slices and you will be able to play around with the loop in a whole other way...Then it will cut up each sound into small slices and you will be able to play around with the loop in a whole other way...

You will also be able to mix every 'slice' in your own way
You will also be able to mix every  slice  in your own way

And you will be able to completely rearrange the sounds.
Also you will be able to completely rearrange the sounds.

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
Having your sounds organised helps a lot. You want to be able to work fast if you have an idea. It's the worst when you don't find the right sounds, because then you can easily loose the feeling of the track.

I think the first 45-minutes of a work session is the most essential part in the process of writing music. So, in order to catch the moment, have your sounds in order. Don't overwork it; rather simplify than complicate things. 

Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
Oh it's amazing how things have changed over the years... Just to think how the technical aspect of electronic music has evolved...

When I began making music it was a privilege to own a mixer and a synthesiser and samplers. You had to have money to be able to make music. Nowadays everyone who has a computer can make music.

So who knows? In my wildest imagination perhaps we will be able to just transmit our thoughts into sounds in the future. That would be amazing, but is not going to happen in my lifetime. We humans first have to evolve our senses a bit more...  

Joel Mull

Latest Release
Sensory LP - Truesoul
Dannyboy EP - Truesoul
High Coast Highway / Walking Straight EP - Jericho
Dustin Zahn + Joel Mull - Close Your Eyes EP - Enemy Records
Undine EP - Spectrum Recordings
Adam Beyer & Joel Mull - Forming Dies EP - Drumcode

Next Dates
Fri 11 March - Format @ Club Air, Amsterdam - NL
Sat 12 March - Brau Club, Chemnitz - DE
Sat 19 March - Sensory Album Launch @ Panorama Bar, Berlin - DE
Sat 26 March - AgeHa, Tokyo - JP
Fri 29 April - D Club, Lausanne - CH
Fri 6 May - Tresor, Berlin - DE
Sat 7 May - Electrokuche, Cologne - DE
Sat 21 May - Drift Festival, Nijmegen - NL

Joel Mull Online
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