Studio Focus: Maelstrom / Hugh on September 18th

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For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m a techno and electro producer from France and also a DJ, I have worked in the past with labels like Gesaffelstein & the Hacker’s Zone or Veronica Vascika’s Cititrax, but lately, I have been focused on my own label RAAR that I started with Louisahhh about 2 years ago.

What is your current studio set up?

The central piece of my studio is a Midas F16 mixer, it gives me so many options and a great workflow as I can route any channel from the mixer to the computer, or from the computer to the mixer. then I have hardware synths and drum machines that are not always in use at the same time. The Elektron Rytm is also central, it’s one of my favourite machines ever, mainly because of its incredible sequencer. So basically, I have Ableton Live on my laptop that’s connected to Arturia’s Beatstep Pro, then the Beatstep is sending MIDI or CV signals to all of the other hardware devices in the studio, and all of the audio is routed to the mixer and then back to the computer.

When working on a track, what is your process?

Usually, I’m going to work on a basic structure with a drum kit, a couple of synths and fx, and then record it live on separate channels. Once that’s done, if needed, I will come back to it and add a few elements or fx and edit the recording to keep the best parts. Once I’m happy with the arrangement, I run the audio tracks back into the mixer and record the stereo mix because I like the summing of the mixer better than summing with software.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

For synths, I usually start from scratch and build patches until I get something interesting, although I have a few presets stored that I go back to often, on the Juno alpha for instance or on the Analog 4. For the drums, one thing I do often is to design drum sounds on the synths, record them and compress/eq in Ableton, and then transfer the results into the Rytm which can finally be layered with the inbuilt drum synths of the Elektron

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If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

A good way to fight creative blocks is to unplug everything in the studio and try a completely new or unusual combination, like run a drum machine through a synth filter, or use a sequencer to trigger another one so that unexpected accidents happen. I also sometimes leave the studio for a few days or weeks and go back to working only with software - I recently got Arturia’s vintage synths collection and made a few tracks with only these sources.

What advice would you give for getting tracks ready for the club?

My main advice is to use EQs - make sure to get rid of any frequencies you don’t need: there’s always some frequencies going on that you don’t necessarily hear but that will make your mix muddy if you don’t get rid of them. I always make sure that I only have the part of the spectrum that I need on any given channel, it really helps to get a clear and punchy mix with a lot of definition. You can always want to use that strange subby sound hidden behind a hi-hat sample of course, but it has to be a conscious decision so that you can control what’s going on in your final mixdown. Mixdown is key.

What’s up next for you, any releases in the pipeline?

I have a split release with DeFekt on a French label named Acid Avengers in October, then there will be a couple of electro influenced EPs early 2018 and probably new stuff on RAAR before next summer as well

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