Noisegate ventures into the world of Melbourne based music producer, mixing and mastering engineer; Simon Moro, who is credited with engineering 4 ARIA #1 albums and numerous other ARIA nominated works.
He talks us through his production process and experiences, along with some tips and details on his favourite go-to gear in his incredibly equipped Ninety Nine 100 studio.
In our feature video, Simon walks us through his process during pre-production of Ariela Jacobs track “Reckless”, recreating some of the session using Native Instruments Komplete and Arturia V Collection Software Instruments along with guitar amp simulations from the Digidesign Eleven Rack.
How did you get into producing, recording, mixing, and mastering?
I was a singer‑songwriter in high school, with a fear of music theory. I loved music and playing the guitar, but had a brain block with music theory. It seemed like the most convoluted code to me and I was unable to decipher it. The idea of being subjected to it consistently over a few years in a music performance course at university seemed like torture. So I decided to study sound production instead. I pretty much fell in love with studio recording in the first few weeks of the course. Incidentally, I got over my fear of music theory. It’s one of the best things I did for my career. All it took was looking at it from a different perspective, with the right teacher.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the studio came to be?
My production room has evolved over the years as I refined my speciality, workflow, and interests. It’s built primarily for mixing and mastering, and also functional for production too. I have a hybrid setup and find an analogue workflow speeds up the process of getting a good vibe.
For recording, I always hire studios with big, versatile rooms. I do this primarily because smaller, project studio rooms are often difficult to capture a good sound in ‑ which leads to challenges in mixing later in the process.
What gear can you not live without?
I guess my desert island kit would be my Grover Notting Code 101 monitors, 48 Ch Digidesign D Control and Pro Tools HD rig ‑ assuming I still get my plugins too!
For production and demoing ‑ I pretty much use Native Instruments Komplete and the Arturia V Collection. I love that between those two products, I can pretty much cover all the sounds I need. And quite often, especially with synths, the final productions are using sounds from these libraries.
So far as my day to day mixing setup, I’m summing through an SSL Sigma mixer, and have various bus compressors and EQs. I trained with Michael Brauer, and have my own take on his multi‑bus approach. On my ABCD buses, I generally use Vintage Designs VDC, Distressors (EL8‑X), Manley NuMu and a Focusrite MixMaster. My vocal multi (lead vocal parallel split) is usually across an Avalon 737, Focusrite ISA430 MkII, Amek CIB and Hart Audio Federal. I use a TK Audio BC2‑ ME or DBX 160SL for drum parallel compression.
On the master bus, you’d find various combinations of a Clariphonic, TK Lizer, Avalon 747, Elysia Karacter, GEM Audio Preceptor T and IGS Tubecore 3U. FX wise, a TC Electronic Reverb 4000, EMT140 (mono), Line6 EchoPro and an Orban Spring Reverb are usually hanging off my patchbay, and sometimes an old TelRay delay.
Most of my main effects are plug based though. I like SoundToys, Brainworx and Waves. My go-to delays are Waves H‑Delay, SoundToys Echoboy or Primal Tap, or Native Instruments Replika XT. For Reverbs, I’m using a few Eventide plugins (mainly the SP2016), Brainworx BX_rooMS, and Native Instruments RC24. The RC24 tends to be my go‑to reverb.
Do you have a philosophy/process on how you prefer to capture the right sound?
I think that the least considered factor in recording these days is the room. The trend in project and home studios, with the affordability of generally pretty decent gear, has meant that untreated, poor sounding rooms are being captured in brilliant detail. For this reason, I’m always choosing a studio based on the desired sound, achievable by the rooms they have available. I’ll often record different instruments at different studios. I might track vocals and guitars at one studio, and drums in another… and strings in another. The room is very difficult to remove from a sound without negative artefacts, so it’s very important to get it right. Plus, it’s more fun working in big studios ‑ I like to give that experience to the artists I work with, too.
Of course, the other very important factors are The composition, the arrangement, performance and instruments. You’ve really got to start with the composition, get that right, then move to arrangement and orchestration, followed by a great performance played on good instruments… in a great room! The reason it’s so important to get the composition right is that if a boring melody is played well, on a cool sounding instrument, by a brilliant player… it’s still a boring melody. Listeners will be less likely to engage ‑ and possibly be a little confused because they can hear that the production is solid, but they just don’t connect.
Why might an artist or band benefit from working with you?
I think one of my strengths as a producer is communication. The first things I want to know about an artist are:
- Where are you at in your career?
- What have been your challenges so far?
- What do/did you sound like?
- What do you want to sound like?
- and, do I think I can help?
I think it’s generally so easy to jump straight into ‘booking a session’, but I need to know, a) if I think I’m the right person for the project, and, b) am I excited about the project?
I have one agenda as a producer, and that is to help the artist realise their vision for the songs. I’m lucky enough to have experience working with a wide variety of genres and have good connections with different experts that I can bring into a project. I can bring together co‑writers, programmers, session players… even full symphony orchestra if you need them! I’m not in the business of pushing ‘my sound’ onto an artist. I want to make their sound. That’s much more exciting to me.
Visit Simons Website: www.ninetynine100.com