Bogdan Raczynski in the Studio
- Words: Cameron Macdonald
When an artist compares making rhythms to cooking beef-stock cubes, it’s a surefire sign to not take his music too seriously. And that’s exactly producer Bogdan Raczynski’s charm. On his latest album, Alright! (Rephlex), he cross-breeds gabber, drill ‘n’ bass, and breakcore into a caffeinated, constantly mutating strain of electro-pop. The Polish-born Canadian has been a longtime regular on the Rephlex label, and his work has even attracted Icelandic pop icon Björk, who collaborated with him on the 2005 single “Who Is It?” Unlike many bedroom studio artists who’ve passed through our In the Studio feature, Raczynski keeps his gear very simple: Just a worn-out laptop and headphones. XLR8R probed him about his studio (or lack thereof), his production techniques, and his new album.
XLR8R: If I walked into your studio, what would I see?
Bogdan Raczynski: I use a dead-tired laptop [Fujitsu Lifebook T2010] and a pair of clunky headphones. Typically, you can find me in the kitchen, as I’m always working on new recipes. I don’t have a studio per se.
What’s your secret weapon?
My tea kettle. My special boiled-water-and-honey combo in the morning revs me up and warms me up so I can let my mind wander.
Are there any new studio techniques and gear that you used on Alright!?
With each successive album my process and technique gets simpler and simpler. I spend less time looking for samples and more time just trying to please my mind. Ultimately, that’s what my music boils down to: enjoying myself. On earlier releases, I would actually hunt down samples, sample my own sounds, use software synths to make sounds, filter, etcetera. Now I just use stock sounds. I have my five to six trusted spices and a variety of ingredients that I use on a regular basis and I stick to them.
Do you usually stick to a few particular synth models for performing your songs’ lead melodies?
Absolutely. I don’t muck about too much. If it pleases my ear, I go with it. I’m not interested in focusing on finding weird sounds because I don’t want people to focus on the technique of the music; I want them to just enjoy the music very immediately. It’s like food or anything else sensually pleasurable–the more you think about it or are taken back into reality, the less sensual or pleasurable that thing is.
Did a lot of DSP work go into Alright!? Do you program your synth patches from scratch?
Not at all. I’m an absolute technical dunce. I’d fail any music-technology tests. I don’t explore techniques or technology. But I can rock the rave like you wouldn’t believe.
Do you usually mix tracks using headphones or do you prefer listening to the monitors?
I try to mix with the most absolute shit set-up I can find, because when I was growing up I didn’t have the best amount of cash for speakers in my car or home. I want it to sound proper on any crap set-up.
What are some “shit set-ups” you’ve mixed with in the past?
The first tracker [an old form of sample-based music software, in which a typing keyboard is used for notation] I composed with was absolute dog shit. Rather than the standard vertical grid, it was notation-based. So you were able to load in whatever samples you wanted but had to plonk down actual notes on a scale and work out tracks that way. It was a nightmare and everything sounded as such. But it’s hard to complain too much with freeware. It’s like saying I hated that I had access to cheap noodles when I was borderline broke and starving.
What advantage is there to sticking with a simple laptop as opposed to working in a full studio?
I think most people mistakenly feel that they need more gear or software to complete their sound. They’re constantly damning their own music because, “Oh, if they only had this expensive plug-in or mixer or...” It’s like saying you need a professional kitchen with all the latest copper pans and expensive Japanese knives in order to make a family-pleasing dish. The truth is that simple is always better.
Do you prefer software synths or hardware synths?
I’m strictly software. I find hardware to be too time-consuming. I can’t dedicate the time to tweak knobs and play with wires when my delicate stock is simmering away in the kitchen. One minute too long and your stock pot is burnt on the bottom and you have to start over.
Beatwise, how did you create the rhythms for your new record?
Sometimes, I make my own stock; sometimes I use stock cubes. But only the organic stock cubes–the other ones have way too much sodium.
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