A few weeks ago, XLR8R announced the launch of a new series, Ask the Experts, in which our readers can send production questions directly to established artists. It's not every day that the average beatmaker has the chance to pick up a little advice from one of their heroes, or even speak with someone who actually knows what they are talking about, so Ask the Experts was created to help make that kind of top-level production knowledge more readily available.
For our first edition, we've enlisted none other than Modeselektor. One of electronic music's biggest acts, the Berlin duo has been around for nearly two decades. The pair also heads up the excellent Monkeytown and 50Weapons labels and works in collaboration with Apparat as Moderat. With all of that experience, we couldn't think of a better outfit to kick off the Ask the Experts series, and it seems that the XLR8R audience agreed, as we received dozens of enthusiastic questions from around the globe. Obviously, the Modeselektor boys couldn't address them all, but they have tackled a few of their favorites. Those questions—and Modeselektor's answers—are below.
I have been making music for some time, but I almost always reach a point where I’m stuck. I get to the point where I have this little funky loop and then I hit a wall where I can't transform these, let's say, 16 bars into a whole track. So, my question is: How do YOU proceed from a loop to a basic arrangement? Or, speaking in a broad way, how do YOU compose/arrange? Celebrating the loop for hours is nice, but I desperately need to finish some tracks. Help!
Hi! As "musicians," we would say: don't talk about music. Listen to music! And, don't talk about how to make this and this. Do it! The secret is to know the moment when the magic loop has the power to turn into a track arrangement. When we've use processed loops, we've put them in our old-school looping Max/MSP patch and made some sessions. That's what we did in the past during live shows.
Of course, it's a pain in the ass. Some tracks will never work as a arranged piece of music, and some tracks we've finished in three hours.
One of the main problems I have seen in my short life as a producer is the making of kicks. I know there are a plenty of ways to build kicks, but I still don't get how to make some good one. For example, if I use 707 drumbass samples, I will obtain the percussive side of the the 707, but without a fat and subby result. My question is, how do I create fat kicks that can be used in techno or house music without making the whole track terrible?
For those kinds of kicks (huge release, etc.), they need the right tune. Also, put it more in the back. Not too much, but gently.
How do you know when a track is finished? Also, what is the one piece of gear, hardware or software, you can't live without?
A track is finished when our friend Siriusmo enters our studio with some cups of coffee and a package of cigarettes, listens to the track we are doing, and says, "Oh my God. Fuck. Oh no, leave it like it is." (Most of the tracks from the Monkeytown album where finished in that way.)
As for the gear that we can't live without...
Main piece: computer
Software: Logic (still)
Drum machine: TR-808 (the lady)
Basic synth: Korg MS-10 (the simple)
… and tons of other gear.
How do you organize all of your works in progress? Do you have lots of experiments or do you usually start a track and end a track?
First question: there is nothing to organize, except the appointment in the studio.
Second question: sometimes we have too many experiments.
Do you guys mix inside or outside the box? Which mastering studio is the best for you?
For Monkeytown and Moderat's II, we gave all our arranged tracks (including the computer) to a mixing engineer. His name is Francesco Donadello, and he is a pro. The mastering was done at Calyx Mastering in Berlin. Another good mastering studio we use is Dubplates & Mastering.