In these unprecedented times, lots of us are being forced to lockdown or self-isolate in some form. While it might feel like we’re all living in a crazy sci-fi film, we can make the most of this challenging situation and take the opportunity to make use of our home studios to finish that magnum opus or banger that’s been in the works for years! Here, our senior Noisegate team members give us a little insight into their home studios and discuss how they record, what their favourite piece of gear is and how they will make use of their time during lockdown.
Michael Cusack (Anthurium)
I’m more-so interested in experimental music than traditional verse>chorus>verse>chorus songs. I cover ground from ambient soundscapes through to glitchy IDM. So my equipment choices are primarily driven by a desire to explore new sounds and rhythms in a hands-on manner. The centrepiece of my home setup is my Eurorack modular system, which I started about 8 months ago. The beauty of a modular system is that you can build a system to do whatever you like, mine is geared to be a collection of interesting ways to sequence and mangle sounds. Key favourites include the Erica Synths Sample Drum, Make Noise Morphagene, Westlicht Performer and the Make Noise QPAS filter. I also have an Arturia Minibrute 2S, which is a fantastic partner to a modular system, providing key utilities and a nice analogue synth voice at a much more manageable price than buying modules for all those components individually.
I also have a Dave Smith Instruments Tempest, which is probably my all-time favourite piece of music hardware. It’s hybrid analogue/digital voicing and fantastic sequencer make for an amazingly unique and flexible instrument. Recording is done via a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, all 8 inputs are utilized for multitracking into Ableton Live, allowing me to tidy up unruly mixes and add software based effects, like the Polyverse Comet reverb, and the Soundtheory Gulfoss Intelligent EQ. Monitoring is via Fluid Audio’s FPX7 speakers, which have incredible detail and high-end response. That said, my room isn’t acoustically treated at all (yet) so my final mixes are done with headphones.
My next purchase will likely be a class-compliant audio interface that I can use with iPad. I’ve been ‘borrowing’ my partner’s fancy new iPad over the last few weeks and have been super impressed with some of the iOS apps available now. I’ve heard the Arturia Audiofuse is great for use with iOS devices, but I haven’t done a lot of research yet so we’ll see.
If we get locked down (and it seems likely), i’ll probably spend some time recording weird textural and percussive samples around the house. I have some contact mics too, so I might have a dig around the garage and see if I can hammer together some kind of weird ASMR texture box that i’ll stick the mics onto. Could be fun.
Stephen Lane (Lander)
My fairly modest set up really revolves around tracking bass guitar, the UA Apollo Twin has one of the best sounding ‘plug and play’ tones I’ve come across. I use the Noble preamp / DI, utilizing the full tube signal path, this fills out the bass tone nicely allowing it to sit really well in the mix. These two combined ensure I get a really solid fundamental bass tone to which I can EQ/add effects to after the fact. I’ve recently jumped on board the Ableton Live train, using the Push 2 controller really helped me to understand the user interface, which differs drastically from my previous DAWs of choice. The controller component makes is super easy to loop and quickly punch in ideas when building up a track.
The Noble preamp DI was a game changer, it gives me tonal control of my bass in the studio and live. It’s a tube bass preamp that fits into carry-on, every bassist should have one. Overall, I’m pretty happy with my set up, but if you gave me a blank check? An original ‘63 Fender P bass would be fun, otherwise I’m pretty lucky with the gear I’ve acquired over the years.
I’ve just recently tracked pre-production drums and bass for an upcoming EP I’m working on. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks editing / tuning the mix and working on some whack bass sounds. These are interesting times, in the coming months I’m pretty sure there will be a heap of heavy bedroom-produced tracks dropping.
Tom Kunz (Prime Al and Studio 114)
My personal production style flips from Hip Hop to House depending on my mood. I also do film audio post production and audiobook recording/production in my studio, as well as mix my own band’s tracks, and occasionally record rappers. I recently acoustically treated the room so I‘m finally happy with it in terms of how it affects my mixing.
I record through a Focusrite 18i8 interface or through the Tascam Model 12 (OR through the Tascam into the Focusrite if I’m feeling adventurous). I use Ableton Live for producing and Protools for mixing and mastering. I monitor through JBL LSR305p MkIIs, which are a great all-round mixing monitor that translate very well across most platforms I reference on. Most of my drum tracks come from my Maschine Mikro however I like to keep my production fresh by getting my melodic content from different sources, from analog synths to soft synths, sampling vinyls to recording my own samples.
My favourite piece of gear right now is the Model 12 as the preamps and onboard FX, EQ and Compressor are great and can be pushed for some nice colouration of sound. My go to is my Maschine Mikro MK3. I wish I had a UAD satellite so I could use UAD plugins or UA’s LA-2A clone because the LA-2A is god. During the lockdown I’ll be catching up on my mixing, producing as much music as I can and practicing. Hopefully I’ll livestream myself playing live because I’ll have no good excuse not to.
Ableton Live is at the centre of everything here. I switched completely from Pro Tools to Live back in 2007 and haven’t looked back. I make everything from Death/Thrash metal to prog rock, to pretentious orchestral arrangements to Synth / Vaporwave.
Guitars are recorded either through the Mesa preamp into the UA Apollo then through cab modelling software (either IRs or something like Two notes WOS), or for other tones I go direct into to the Apollo via amp simulation. Vocals done directly to UA Apollo.
Keys are done using whatever synth is currently making me feel emotionally complete (currently Modal ARGON8), or for organ, EP and Mellotron I used the Nord Electro, and for just about anything else including piano, synths and orchestral instruments, the Korg KROME EX. Alternatively I use an Arturia Keylab to control Arturia V-Collection or NI Komplete. Drums are courtesy of Toontrack Superior Drummer 3, NI Battery or Drumlab, and sometimes Stylus RMX. Mixing via UAD or Waves plugs.
Favourite piece of gear is a tough call, although I’ve been recently captivated by the Modal ARGON8. Great for super clean bright sounds, but also thick and warm, and can get super gritty.
My Gibson Les Paul has been with me for many (20) years. Along the way I added Bareknuckle Mule and Nailbomb pickups. Recently dropped an Arturia Audiofuse interface on the body and did some nasty damage. The interface was fine. I also picked up a Fortin Grind pedal which sounds great in front of the Mesa Preamp. Drive / boost pedals don’t work so well straight into an interface so it’s nice to be able to record using a real valve preamp stage.
The Apollo Twin has completely transformed how I work. Sounds amazing, the plugs are unbeatable and onboard DSP means the laptop doesn’t break a sweat, tracking or mixing. Plus UA gave me this sweet Luna cap at their NAMM booth this year (see above). So they still have my endorsement.
During lock-down I’ll be looking at finishing at least one of the thousands of tracks that I’ve written the first 30 seconds of. Additionally, I’ll be making technical Death Metal using Fortin Grind pedal and playing Doom.
Leroy Amphlett (Binofski)
My studio has made a number of transformations over the years as I’m constantly experimenting with new synths and software, I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to that kind of thing. I produce House music with heavy inspirations from the UK, Detroit and Chicago. I’m obsessed with those swingy drum grooves, simple melodies and groovy basslines, and as a DJ, this is the kind of thing I’m playing in clubs and bars.
At the moment I have a Roland boutique JU-06A, SH01A and a Korg Monologue all connected via MIDI to Ableton Live. This allows me to use my Push to play and sequence my synths using clips in Live. I also have a few Korg Volcas and a Roland TR-8 drum machine, which I mostly just use for hi-hats and percussion elements — I love the immediacy of its built-in sequencer. All of this is all running through a Komplete Audio 6 interface into a couple of Mackie MR5 MK3s. I also use Maschine and have been since Native Instruments released it 10 years ago, I love how it allows you to generate melodies incredibly fast.
My favourite piece of gear is always changing, however what I’ve been using a lot recently is the Korg Volca Nubass. It’s a tiny little bass synth/sequencer that creates squelchy acid basslines similar to a 303. It’s got this crazy little blue Nutube valve circuit built into the oscillator which gives it heaps of grit and character. The Roland JU06A has been a recent addition to my studio and I absolutely love it. Chords, basslines, pads and the sequencer is awesome.
I’m really interested in the new Elektron Model:Cycles for its wild percussive and metallic sounds, plus I’ve never owned any Elektron gear so I’m keen to see how it goes. However, more than anything I really want an Akai MPC1000, I owned one ages ago but sold it and have regretted it ever since.
I’m pretty keen to clean up my workflow a bit, things like creating some more Ableton Live templates for different kinds of projects and organising samples and plug-ins into Collection folders so I can just grab the things I use the most quickly. Other than that, pumping out more bangers!
David Haberfeld (Honeysmack)
To be fair, I must put the disclaimer that my studio might be a little more than a home set-up. My synth and drum machine collection started back in the late 1980s, and while it may seem excessive, I started making electronic music well before there were social media influencers or affordable computers for that matter. My studio is full of all the iconic x0x boxes from Roland, along with stuff from Korg, Elektron and a Buchla Music Easel. I make Acid Techno bangers through to experimental ambient and dub inspired electronica. I’m not a keyboard player and not interested in any form of traditional music making approaches, hence why I gravitate to gear with built-in sequencers. Overall, I view the studio and everything within it as my instrument.
The way I compose/produce is through a focused improvised jam with hardware. It either works at that moment or it doesn’t. I don’t spend hours preparing or crafting sounds, sequences, samples or phrases, it’s a jam that develops very quickly or I move on. First comes the performance and then I extract a track from the recording, not the other way around. All my different sound sources are tracked into Ableton Live via my Mackie 1640i which also doubles as my audio interface.
My favourite pieces of gear are my multiple TB-303s and clones, although my insatiable modular synth habit would be on par. One day I’d like to update my recording system to something from the UAD Apollo range, and my doctor tells me I need to still buy more 303s. Although, on a serious note I don’t really need anything, I have way too much!
I Recently had my new album released on Awesome Soundwave, so now is the best time for me to take stock of my studio and redesign some of its ergonomics to better suit my modular synth approach and workflow. I’m forever jamming my boxes, because that is how my tracks are created. During these silly times I’ll be naturally self-oscillating (pardon the pun) along with some live-from-the-studio shows, soon to be announced!