Down the Production Hole with DJ Emerson

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 18/5/11 14:25

Down the Production Hole with EmersonGermany's DJ Emerson (Simon Emerson Kidder) is next up to answer our Down the Production Hole questions. Emerson's career stretches back for a decade and during that time his style has evolved from break-beat to techno. He is founder of the Micro.fon imprint, and his output also covers the likes of Chris Liebing's Spinclub Recordings (part of CLR) and Andrea Engels' BluFin.

Earlier this year he produced the 'Rawnom' EP together with Dualton under their new Pawn Shop People alias on Smut Music, plus 'Paperplane' on XLR1507. He also released the Rubberband Man remixes on Kiddaz.fm - the umbrella imprint that he manages along with Holgi Star. And back on Micro.fon (which is a subdivision of Kiddaz.fm) you can hear how he's keeping his technoid groove rolling on 'Non Human Beat'.

To achieve such sounds, Emerson works closely with fellow countryman Brian Sanhaji, who lends him an ear in terms of mastering, but how does Emerson get to the mixdown moment? What keeps him focused through the creative process?

Find out the answers to these, and much more, as we go Down the Production Hole with the Berlin-based beatmeister... 

First can you tell us something about your frames of reference/what you think makes for a high quality electronic sound recording?
Don't give too much attention to what others say; try to make it sound good in your own ears. Never mind unconventional thinking and producing. A proper techno or tech-house production should never be too clean and clinical; it needs to create something from the sounds edging into each other. Also, you should never use any compression on the pre-production. If you don't have equipment worth a million, it is better to leave this to the mastering engineer of your choice.

It is also important to speak a lot with the mastering engineer, and explain to him how you wish it to be, because there are several ways of doing it and some mastering engineers are not familiar with the way a track should sound in the club. I work with Brian Sanhaji who is touring the world every weekend as a live act and with whom I've played many gigs, so he knows exactly my sound, which helps quite a lot.

What's your current music production set-up like?
Well, basically for on the road production a simple 13" MacBook with Ableton 8 as a sequencer and Maschine from Native Instruments as drum computer and some synths and additional plug-ins, but never too much as I try to keep as focused as possible. I use AIAIAI TMA-1 headphones both for DJing and producing. Then in the studio a G5 Mac with Ableton rewired through Logic Pro and an old 32-channel Tascam mixing desk. I use Event 20/20 active monitors with a subwoofer.

Within that set-up what is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade?
It's the sound of a TR-909 that inspires me the most and helps me to get started (especially as I always start with beats), and my sample bank that I've collected over the last 12 years. Then I run random samples through the Effectrix VST plug-in from Sugar Byte. Most of the time I come up with a strong groove from which I build the track. The Effectrix is amazing; it's my favourite DAW effect.

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
I prefer to work with bounced tracks, as soon as I find the right sound for something. That keeps me away from playing around with the MIDI files and the notes too much. Once it's bounced and the MIDI track is deleted you can never go back. This makes things easier for me. (Too many possibilities seem to drive me crazy.) I always make four stems in the end that I give to the mastering engineer, like four separate tracks with just the hi-hats, the bass, the bass drum(s), and the rest. That leaves a lot more possibilities and headroom to the mastering engineer, which makes the track sound stronger.

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
I completely stopped working with loops and presets because I want a more unique sound. I think more people should try to be creative and create something that sounds like their very own.

You don't need to be a total synthesiser crack; just record sounds that you like with your iPhone and try to make something out of it using lots of bit crushing and long verbs, etc. That way you always have sounds nobody else has, and this keeps you one step ahead. One thing I learned from my friend Pierre Deutschmann is that you need to be very organised.

Always start the same way, for example with a bass drum and then build the groove and track from there. It might also be that sometimes certain sounds do not exactly match your taste, but they make total sense in the context. So always try to build a track from scratch in the same way, matching all the sounds to each other. Even if you leave some things out, in the end it's all fine tuned within. Basically, the first two hours are the most important time you will spend on a track or remix. Never do remixes from tracks that don't inspire you; it's a serious waste of creativity. You need to be well organised so you can always go with the flow of creativity. If you have to search for a long time you lose the interest and flow.


                 CLR Podcast 080 DJ Emerson by DJ Emerson
Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
I like the thought that everybody can make electronic music nowadays independently of how much money they have at hand. And I like the new wave of techno coming along lately. It's very fat, much slower, and has this kind of deepness and thickness that amazes me.

With the production techniques today you can create a lot of atmosphere without using too many tracks - besides musical trends always come back in circles: it goes, harder, deeper, slower, faster, techno, house, minimal, break-beats, and back again.

I think a good artist represents his own style through all these various trends. If you always try to stick to the trends you're gonna fail sooner or later, because you do not have a real identity as an artist. People do not come to you because you do not have a specific sound and this gets more and more important as there will be more and more producers and digital labels and fewer distributors that select the music.

Emerson
Upcoming shows   
Fri 27 May - Kiddaz Showcase W08 Konsthall & Studios, Stockholm, Sweden
Sat 28 May - Löwenherz, Nabburg, Germany
Fri 03 Jun - Mikroport, Krefeld, Germany
Sat 04 Jun - Altes Zollamt, Stuttgart, Germany
Sat 11 Jun - Douala, Ravensburg, Germany
Sun 12 Jun - Alter Wartesaal, Köln, Germany
Tue 14 Jun - Flex, Vienna, Austria
Sat 18 Jun - Kiddaz & Friends Tresor, Berlin, Germany
Fri 24 Jun - Wer nicht hören will muss fühlen R.a.w., Berlin, Germany
Sun 26 Jun - Umsonst & Draussen Suicide, Berlin, Germany   
Sat 09 Jul - Gray Club, Koblenz, Germany
Sat 23 Jul - Greenbeats Open Air Grüner See, Mühlheim, Germany
Sat 30 Jul - Open Air Zeitlos, Öhringen, Germany
Fri 02 Sep - Dachstock, Bern, Switzerland   
Sat 10 Sep - Day and Night Festival Galopprennbahn Freudenau, Vienna, Austria
Fri 30 Sep - U60311, Frankfurt, Main, Germany   
Sat 08 Oct - Kiddaz & Friends Batterieraum, Berlin, Germany   
Sat 15 Oct - Beatfreaks Astra, Berlin, German

Emerson Online
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