Artist Tips: Matthewdavid Shares a Few of His Production Secrets
There's no shortage of innovation in the Brainfeeder camp, but one could argue that of all the artists Flying Lotus has signed to the imprint, Matthewdavid (a.k.a. Matthew McQueen) just might be the most adventurous. The LA-based producer, sound experimentalist, and cassette enthusiast—who also heads up his own label, Leaving Records—is releasing a new LP this week; entitled 'In My World,' it's a surprising effort that sees him expanding upon the ambient leanings of past work while embracing his own vocals like never before. At first glance, it's seems like quite a departure, yet there's no mistaking that the music still sounds like Matthewdavid. Curious about the album's creation, we asked McQueen to tell us a bit more about exactly how he made the record. Granted, XLR8R already took an extensive look at his set-up for an In the Studio feature back in 2012. This time around though, he was willing to go into even more detail, and broke down a handful of his most useful studio techniques.
All day everyday. No reserves, I tend to go in on the threshold—way in—and see how it sounds. Do you not like an over-compressed sound? Then back off! Or don't even use compression! But personally, I can't do without it, and I think it says something about the experimental/unconventional practice of my music. There are compressors with a more transparent sound (outboard/analog!), and compressors with a hyper-sensitive and colorful sound; I've been going between the two a lot lately, [putting] compression on vocal groups with many, many layers of vocal tracks in the group. This topic leads into the next…
Secrets of the bedroom production illuminati… I always do it. Even though many engineers, producers, and other miscellaneous "proper industry folk" have advised against this, it always gives me a greater sense of satisfaction. All traditions out the window, I always mix down with master-bus compression and multi-band limiting. I treat my track in the box as I'm constructing or even writing my song. And by just adding that signature sound overall with mastering experiments in tape saturation, or miscellaneous outboard gear (compression EQ), I can attain a loudness and dynamic texture to the whole without leaving my laptop.
In My World
Shouts out to Silk Rhodes (upcoming on Stones Throw, cough cough) for lacing me with this knowledge I will bestow now upon thee. Dense chorus harmony layering, each layer/track with a similar but not exactly the same GarageBand chorus effect. Try it, trust it—a great sound. I'm sure there are other chorus plug-ins and outboard hardware boxes that generate the same sound, but every Mac comes stock with GarageBand. I'm sooooooo in love with this sound for vocals. I implemented multiple chorusing experiments with the Ableton chorus, other developers' chorus, and even some special chorusing pedals on my album; [it was all] inspired by this GarageBand effect to add a depth, width, and doubling/layering sound to vocals.
This is really useful for me when I can't find my perfect fifth on my own, but want an original harmony backup vocal or synth in Ableton. I duplicate the audio track and adjust the sample up or down a fifth, seventh, or an octave even (warp on). With the pitched duplicate quickly mixed in to the project serving as a model, I can play or sing that melody now on its own original audio track—using my voice mostly, or even another instrument. Instead of using that duplicated, re-pitched clip (which can actually sometimes sound pretty cool, with the bass cut for instance), the original/virgin audio provides for a clearer, truer, cleaner harmony.
Flip the hits.
I've been stoked on cover songs, remixes, edits, and interpretations of classic tunes for a performance setting—there's nothing like classic jump-off jams to set off an audience and bring people together, you know? If you hear a tune on your favorite oldies station that really inspires you, or is nostalgic, don't be afraid to go ahead and sample it, flip it, and create something fresh from a classic and recognizable song. Chart busters of '60s, '70s, '80s, and yes, even '90s soul and R&B make great crowd-pleasers, and adding that updated/electronic touch to the tunes gets folks freaked out! It doesn't even have to be a complicated project—a simple edit or mash-up with a jungle break (Amen preferable) and an 808 bass drop is what I'm thinking… 😉