This week I was the featured artist in the Elektron newsletter. They did a quick interview coving mastering and my workflow when making music, which I’ve copied below.
If you are an owner of the Machinedrum or the Monomachine you have most likely stumbled across the extremely comprehensive lists of tips and tricks Tarekith has assembled for said machines. Not only a true Elektron wizard, he also runs his own mastering studio and is the author of several music production guides. His skills are evident in his music. The spaciousness of his finely crafted songs makes them seem almost tailor made for summer outdoor parties.
1. How do you divide time between mixing, mastering and creating electronic music?
These days it’s probably 90% mastering and mixdowns, as that’s how I make my living. So that kind of work always has to come first, which is fine with me as it’s something I truly enjoy doing all the time.
Once my work is done for the day, then I have time to myself to work on my own music. After being in the studio all day working, it’s nice having something portable like the Machinedrum or Octatrack that I can take out on my deck and make music in a different environment.
2. Do you have any special mastering tricks you want to share?
Well, I don’t think it’s really about there being any special tricks, which is a misconception I think a lot of people have about mastering. The best advice I can offer for people looking to master their own music is make sure that whatever processing they do is really needed. I think too often people over-process when self-mastering, either because they heard “artist x, y, z” did something a certain way, or because they don’t know any better.
Really though, that kind of thinking should be part of the entire production process. Have a reason for the things you do, don’t just do things to your music ‘just because’.
3. Electronic music making offers so many possibilities, which can be both a blessing and a curse. How to you avoid getting distracted by choices?
I think early on a lot of people (myself included) go through a phase where you collect gear, be it hardware or software. But pretty soon you start to realize that you spend more time looking for the right sound, instead of writing music. At least that’s how it was for me anyway.
So I made a pretty conscious decision early on to whittle down my gear collection to a few pieces that I really enjoyed using, and that offered a broad range of sounds. The Machinedrum is a prime example of that, loads of fun to play, tons of great sounds, and it works live or in the studio equally well.
I always thought that the one thing that’s missing from a lot of electronic music is that sense of musicianship you get when you dedicate a lot of your time to learning an instrument. So for a long time I looked for gear that I could spend years mastering how to use in every way possible. The Elektron equipment is awesome for that, incredibly fun to use day to day, but so deep in what they can do that you’re still learning something new years later.
4. What would you say is the biggest difference between how you approach music making today compared to when you started out?
Well right now I’m actually in a phase where I’ve made a decision to focus on making music like I used to when I started out! Mainly just getting away from the computer and a lot of the micro-editing I used to do, and spending more time with only a couple hardware boxes to make most of my music.
Nothing wrong with software, I’m just over that phase of spending 8 hours slicing, dicing, and programming a 4 bar drum fill! Plus, because I spend so much of my day in front of the computer in the studio for the mastering business, it’s nice to just be able to sit down and focus my attention on something like the Octatrack.
It’s still a really powerful way to make detailed or complex music, but I can do so in a way that’s a lot more fun for me, and less visually oriented too. In fact, if there’s one downside to spending 90% of my studio time mastering other people’s music, it’s that I haven’t had as much time to master the Octatrack as much as I’d like! Every time I sit down with that box I’m blown away by something new it can do I hadn’t thought of before.