September 12, 2012

Identity Festival 2012: In the Studio

Artists from all over the world came together to play the Identity Festival Tour this summer. In the blazing heat, on burning hot asphalt, even in torrential rains they kept the music playing and the crowds dancing. But when they needed to escape the elements after their set, we were ready and waiting. We parked the Mobile Studio by the stage. We cranked the AC and stocked the fridge with cold drinks. After a little R&R we turned the artists loose in the studio, powered up our cameras, and let the magic begin. Check out this video with Space Jesus, Mr. DOT, and Stephan-Jacobs working on the Mobile Studio.

Stephan Jacobs: I was super tired before I came in the studio.

Space Jesus: Dude that’s what you need. A little coffee, a little electronic music.

So first of all why don’t you each tell me who you are and where you’re from.

Mr. Dot: I go by Mr. DOT, but I’m Sean Tyree. I’m from New Jersey.

Space Jesus: I’m Space Jesus and I’m from Philidelphia.

Stephan Jacobs: I’m Stephan Jacobs from Los Angeles.. whoo!

What did you guys just get done doing?

Mr. Dot: Well, me and Space Jesus were..

Space Jesus: Yeah we were working on a really good song and Stephan came in and just ruined everything. (Laughs)

Mr. Dot: He ruined it all! We had a nice beat going and a nice little bass line and he comes in, sits down in the seat and f***ks everything up! I mean he just tears the whole session up. And that’s really what happened. (more laughter)

Stephan Jacobs: I didn’t want to invade but they were like please, please!

Space Jesus:  Yeah, yeah I wanted you to come on in. It was a welcomed invasion.

Stephan Jacobs: He was on the keys (points to Mr. Dot) working on a bass and I was just like let me mess with the bass a little bit. So, you know I twisted a couple of knobs…

Space Jesus: Yeah it was awesome stuff to see. I mean I work with some of his sample packs (points to Stephan-Jacobs) and it was cool to see how him do some synthesis stuff.

What kind of gear do you guys use?

Stephan Jacobs: The Akai 49, we were dropping some keys on that just laying down some stuff, Sennheiser mic, a Macintosh computer, Ableton Live..

Mr. Dot: I stay with Akai. The APC’s, the MPK’s… Akai is dope.

Stephan Jacobs: Maschine...

Can you tell me about the Akai products you normally use? What do you think about them?

Stephan:  Akai is dope. I really like their smaller stuff because it’s really convenient for traveling. It fits in my bag really easily and if I’m on my bus I can just open up my computer and play a riff on the controller. You know, it’s a whole other bag to have a full keyboard.

Mr. Dot: Yeah and the touch on Akai is really good. Some other midi controllers may be small but there bounce and their feel is off. With Akai the small controllers have a very sensitive touch. I definitely like that.

Stephan Jacobs: Yeah you were really good on the keys, by the way.

Mr. Dot: Thanks, man.

Mr. Dot: Yeah there was definitely some stuff I’ll take with me. I mean the way this man was making sounds (points to Stephan) in split seconds that would take some people 4 weeks to create… it was dope. This guy is dope. Just so everybody knows.

Stephan Jacobs: Yeah hopefully we’ll finish this track and we can pass it around.

Have you got a song title?

Mr. Dot: ”Mind is Gone” or “In the Zone” something like that.

What is your go-to gear when you’re in the studio?

Stephan Jacobs: I primarily use virtual synths on the computer. I do like using outboard gear, but sometimes it’s not that practical when you’re on the road. With a Moog or a Voyager or whatever external synth it may be, it’s really nice to run those through a preamp in my opinion. And you’re not going to setup a preamp and all that stuff on a bus or a plane or in a hotel room. All that setup can be daunting. I think if you understand synthesis well enough you can get sounds that are pretty close to what you want. And then you can always run it through some outboard gear later. Like if you have a bass line, you can run it through some Avalon compressors and warm it up a bit.

Mr. Dot: Yeah, I mess with old school people and they tell me how people recorded back in the day, and they’re like, “You don’t understand. When you’re getting a track done, if you want to mute a whole part you’d have to have everybody line up and literally take the track off of the tape being run. So it’s dope that now you can take your laptop, Native Instruments or whatever you’re using, a little midi controller and you can literally be in McDonald’s making classic music.

Stephan Jacobs: I do it in Starbucks sometimes.

Mr. Dot: Because you get free internet?

Stephan Jacobs: Well I have internet at home too, but I like to get out of the house sometimes and there’s one right down the street.

Mr. Dot: If you’re on tour it’s so hard to find internet. Starbucks can come in handy then too.

Stephan Jacobs: I do agree though that we’re in a new age for musicians. All you need is a laptop, really.

Space Jesus: I don’t even use a mouse anymore, man, just the trackpad.

Stephan Jacobs: Oh, I prefer a mouse actually.

Mr. Dot: I prefer a mouse too but definitely not on a plane.

Stephan Jacobs: No, definitely not on a plane

Mr. Dot: Imagine sitting next to people who are like, are you serious?

Stephan Jacobs: Mice on a plane.

Mr. Dot: Haha, yeah. New movie.

Stephan Jacobs: Hahaha yeah, everyone’s got mice and they’re all elbowing each other. (Laughter)

Earlier you were playing on the Moog Slim Phatty. Can you tell me how that sounded?

Stephan Jacobs: Yeah, I really like the Moog products. I’m actually quite familiar with them. I’ve had access to a Voyager and I’ve used it in a couple tracks recently. I’ve been getting some really gnarly bass sounds. It’s just a matter of tweaking it.

Space Jesus: I have a Slim Phatty, and I just end up using it’s raw sound and resampling.

Stephan Jacobs: Right, just chopping little parts to make a bassline from like 20 samples.

Space Jesus: It’s just nice to know that your fingers are making electricity zap between little glass tubes.

Stephan Jacobs: I used a lot of Korg products. Even before I was fully into producing I was making whole tracks on electribes. I had a red and a blue one and I think that’s what opened the door to synthesis for me in some ways. Like knowing the hands-on cut off, the filters, and everything, it’s all relative no matter what synth you go to.

Space Jesus: Once you know the vernacular and know where things are you can basically move from anything to anything.

Stephan Jacobs: Yeah.

Can you tell me about some of the stuff you use live?

Space Jesus: I use an Livid Ohm 64.

Stephan Jacobs: I also use that. I use the Livid and a Leamur and an Akai keyboard for vocoding. But I’ve been having some issues with that stuff so I haven’t been able to use my full setup. I’m busy working that stuff out.

How do you integrate all of that in a live setting?

Stephan Jacobs: Well it really depends on the computer. It needs a good brain. That’s what I’m realizing. Even the computer I have, it seems to be fine sometimes but now when I’m taking it out into the heat of the day playing the daytime sets, I’ve had to unplug everything and just bring it back to the basics and use the Livid.

Do you guys use any instruments when you’re producing tracks? Would you use a guitar or something like that?

Stephan Jacobs: Oh yeah, totally.

Could you tell me a about what you use?

Stephan Jacobs: I’ve recorded guitar, vocals, saxaphone, flute, drums, …all kinds of instruments.

Mr. Dot: Electronic sounds are always cool to use but there’s nothing like the sound of a live guitar. You can’t recreate what a live guitar or a grand piano sounds like. I mean you can have a really good grand piano sample, but when you actually record a grand piano it’s a totally different sound. It’s much bigger and much warmer.

Stephan Jacobs: I’ve tried recording Didgeridoos, but it never really worked out.

How well do recorded instruments mesh with electronic music?

Space Jesus: You can make it work out anyway you want with Ableton.

Stephan Jacobs: Yeah, it makes a unique piece of work when you use a little bit of this and that. It’s a big stirring pot of whatever you use and sometimes you don’t intend to use two things that you don’t think go together and you put them together and you chop them up and you’re like, “ Oh, Cool!”

Mr. Dot:  Yeah, definitely.

Space Jesus: Sometimes I’ll leave a Zoom Recorder out on the table overnight when people are over hanging out and you’ll get bottle caps thrown on the table and, s***t, like all kinds of crazy noises over the night.

Mr. Dot: You’ve actually done that?

Space Jesus: Yeah, I’ll go on a bike ride through the woods and hold a Zoom in my pocket and just lay that lightly in the background of a track.

Mr. Dot: Wow, that’s thinking outside of the box. If this was the box, he’s thinking outside of that.

So you guys all got a chance to collaborate with each other today so can you tell me how that went? How do you feel about collaborating with other minds?

Stephan Jacobs: I love to collaborate.

Space Jesus: Yeah, I learned 7 or 8 tricks that I’ll hopefully be able to remember.

Stephan Jacobs: It’s funny, my manager and publicist are like, “you have to collaborate less.” And I’m like, “Why?” (everyone laughs)

Space Jesus: I love the collaboration tracks.

Mr. Dot: Yeah, I’ve collaborated with a lot of artists. Sometimes when you collaborate with some people it just doesn’t click. It depends on who you’re dealing with. You have to have a certain knowledge of the program you’re using or just of music. But recording here today it was really cool to be around people and not have to explain anything. You say something and everyone knows the language you’re talking about and you just move so quick.

Stephan Jacobs: I picked up on the vibe as soon as I walked in the room.

Mr. Dot: He picked up the vibe and then he ruined it, hahaha! He just said, “Well, I’m going to flip this over…”

Stephan Jacobs: “…and spank it on the bum.”

Mr. Dot:  Hahaha yeah, that’s exactly what happened.

So, the last question I’m going to ask is about this bus. What are your impressions?

Space Jesus: It’s awesome man, I wish I could live in it.

Stephan Jacobs: UniqueSquared! Can I ride with you guys to Atlanta and just work on music the whole time?

I’m not going to stop you.

Mr. Dot: My first impression coming onto it was that this is any producer or engineer’s dream. It could really go down in here. You could really make some classic stuff.

Stephan Jacobs: I mean just having this here makes me less homesick. I mean I got in the zone tonight. That’s part of my life and my everyday thing as musician. It’s studio zoning with friends and I feel like I got to express a little bit of that. Rather than being in my headphones in quiet zone over there, we just fully jammed out.

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