Friday, 18 September 2015

Jacob on Mastering Audio Techniques!

Mastering is the final process in post production before the audio is sent off for duplication. It is considered by many to be the most important step. Mastering engineer Howie Weinberg describes it as “Photoshop for audio.” This is an accurate statement as the process uses a variety of tools to enhance the recording to be as good as it can be. It needs patience and a meticulous ear for audio as the tiniest of adjustments can impact greatly on the final sound of the master. Moderation is key! Each engineer will have their own way of going about mastering however, they will all use the same kind of dynamic processing tools; EQ, compression, limiting, noise reduction and dithering to name a few. Unlike mixing which involves processing each individual track or instrument so that they fit together neatly in the stereo field, processing in the mastering stage is applied to everything.

The first step involves transferring the final mix into the preferred DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The industry standard as always is Pro Tools, however there is a handful of software such as SADiE, Pyramix, Sequoia that have been written with mastering in mind. There aren't great differences between the DAWs, it is mostly dependant on the engineer's preferences. After that the “silence” between each track is edited. As CD players take a small amount of time to unmute after skipping a track, it is vital that there is a gap (around 300ms) of silence at the beginning so that the first transient of the song is not cut out.


The next stage is the most important and time consuming. It is the dynamic processing or “sweetening” of the audio to maximise the sound quality. This is done using the processing tools mentioned earlier. Equalization is applied in small amounts to balance the track. It is important that each frequency band is balanced with the rest so that they are complimenting each other rather than fighting for space. Compression is used to add punch and warmth to the mix as well as loudness. In mastering, a Multiband Compressor will be used. It does the same job as an ordinary compressor however it allows the engineer to compress sections of the frequency spectrum which makes it all the more accurate and efficient. Limiting will allow the loudness to be pushed further without peaking or clipping. Compression and limiting must be used in moderation, an overly compressed track that has been pushed too far will be left with a small dynamic range, making it sound flat and dull. The final stage in the “sweetening” chain is Dithering which is simply the application of a low level random noise if the audio is truncated. Truncation describes the reduction in resolution of audio i.e. from 24-bit to 16-bit. When this happens, the sound quality is diminished as the extra 8 bits are lost. By adding random noise, it helps in masking the distortion produced by truncation, making the many short-term errors much less noticeable to the listener. This is a very powerful tool should always be applied before truncation!


Once all of these steps are complete and both parties are happy, the final master can then be transferred to the final format (CD-ROM, half-inch reel tape, PCM 1630 U-matic tape, etc.) From this the song or songs can then be duplicated.


The success of mastering relies heavily on the monitoring and listening environment in which it was mastered. The better the speakers, the more detail is heard therefore the greater the accuracy. This goes for the processing tools used as well, professional standard EQ, compression and limiting help greatly in achieving a finer sound. This is why a professional recording studio set up is desirable. Mastering can be thought as the final push in highlighting what's great about a track or album. By carrying out each step correctly, it can make a good piece of audio into something well polished, professional sounding and marketable!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Nikki Loy


Nikki Loy can be forgiven for not seeing eye to eye with this industry. It is seldom kind to its inhabitants. It is fickle and common place, at times crude and mostly superficial; it seemly randomly rewards talent with a constant play on networking and a liberal amount of time spent clutching at straws. Despite all this Nikki chooses to work in this environment for one reason above all others. Because she has a gift and she has a God given right to express that gift for the good of her and all around her.

When I first heard Nikki’s voice I have to admit to being blown away by it. It has an ability to convey emotion which covers a range and depth seldom seen in an unsigned singer. Her choice of material and stage presence complements her vocal talent completely. It is her ability that she is focussed on and whether she is busking in Oxford town centre or singing to hundreds at large venues, she has the ability to make people stop, listen and for that moment believe in the narrative and nuances of the song.

With talent such as hers she has a duty and a responsibility to continue to work in music. Music touches people and has the ability, like no other art form, to make people better people. She understands this and knows that many paths lie here to the same place. Many doors, which seem randomly strewn by circumstance, here open to the same room. A place, a room, where she can change people’s lives for the better.

It is music that has that power. It is the musical art form as personified by musical artist's such as Nikki, that can inspire, persuade, inform and initiate great change in people. It is the recording studio and the live venue where the skills of the musical artist are presented to the world. Oxford has many great live venues for music to be heard. Perhaps you will see Nikki playing at one soon. You will be in for as treat if you do!

Dakota


As I write this Dakota are late again for there practise session here at the studio. Yesterday they broke the studio record for lateness having planned to arrive at 10am but did in fact turn up at 4pm(!). But I don't mind. They are a very likeable bunch who play and sing fantastically and so it's a pleasure to have them when ever they can make it. When organising rehearsal services here we tend to find the band leader of the musicians in a band organise the session in the same way as somebody would try to heard cats.

Dakota are from Leamington Spa, a four-piece who have followed the success of their recent free download with the release of the their d├ębut single “Wild Child” through Genuine Records and Right Track Distribution/Universal Music. As if by design, Dakota's euphonious slice of self-styled ponce rock warms up the Autumn days and is marks this band out as one to watch over the next few months. A highly addictive chorus is combined with exuberant timpani drums and juxtaposed against a slightly sinister character assessment of an old flame courtesy of singer and chief songster Ben Talbot. All very impressive.

“Wild Child” is the first release from Dakota's debut album, “Here, There, and Everywhere” which is set for release in the autumn. A heavy contender for topping the album charts and joining the illustrious gang of Number 1 debutantes, HT&E was borne out of a broken heart and Ben's struggles to come to terms with the realities of heart ache. With such pieces of pop mastery aimed at the mass market, Keane, The Feeling and Scouting For Girls et al had better watch their backs.
I am looking forward to hearing them rehearse again, albeit over a short period of time than I would have hoped. When they arrive it is a 40 minute set of drum, guitars amps, and additional mixing kit for them to simulate there equipment in rehearsal as it would be live. Its a super sound that they generate and I would recommend checking them out live if you possibly can. Just don;t expect them top be on time to the gig!

The Golden Age of Recording


It seems that, despite advances in recording technology, many producers create records that sound like the hits of the '60s and '70s. This is understandable, as these are the records that helped form our opinions of what constitutes good-sounding music. From my own perspective, having also been brought up on music of that era, I have to say that there were some very good recordings made back then. Even in the cases where the musical performances were somehow less polished than we might expect from a modern record, and the sound was a hint lacking in top-end, or slightly on the noisy side, they still had that magical quality. So why is this so difficult to recreate today? Of course, all those old records were made using entirely analogue gear but, even though there are distinct differences between analogue and digital domains, both are equally capable of making great-sounding recordings.

I think a major reason for the difference in sound is that the recordings of the '60s and '70s were made by gigging bands comprised of experienced players, as I've mentioned in this column before. These days, many recordings are pieced together in project studios, rather than being captured using the live-recording-plus-overdubs method. No matter how good your playing or programming skills, the sound of a recording built up track-by-track will never have the same vibe as the recording of a real band doing what they do best.Those old recordings also tended to be made in fairly large spaces with significant amounts of spill, which produces a different sound to that of a garage studio, no matter how well-treated the latter is.Possibly the most significant difference between old and new records is the techniques used to actually produce them; 40 years ago, there were far fewer processing tools available to damage the material!

After all, what did they have in the early days of recording? Razor blades for editing, compressors and limiters to look after level fluctuations, a plate reverb, a tape-loop echo and EQ that was often no more than treble and bass. And that was pretty much it, so they had to get the performance right and position their mics to capture that performance as well as possible. Mix engineers used to be called balance engineers and that gives you a clue as to the process. When everything is miked properly, you don't need to do much more than balance the instruments and voices, which, back then, was often done on the way into the recorder, because the material was probably being recorded direct to mono, stereo or four-track.

Today we have plug-ins to fix everything from timing and tuning errors to excess noise, more EQ bands than we know what to do with, exciters to add top end, enhancers to add low end, vocal modellers, dozens of flavours of compressor and simulations of just about everything else, past and present. It takes time to learn what any piece of gear can do, so what chance do we have of using 300 plug-ins to their best advantage, even when they're actually needed? Perhaps if something is out of time or out of tune we should just play it again; if it isn't bright enough, move the mic or try a different one, and if it sounds wrong in the mix, try to figure out why, rather than beating it into submission with EQ. Maybe then we'll be able to make records that come just a little closer to what was achieved in that supposedly golden age of audio and all recordings will stop sounding the same because every producer uses the same plugins.

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Clientele


In this fast pace world that we live in with creative clients wanting to produce audio for all kinds of reasons I find myself reflecting on the studios client base and thought I would share my thought on the studio recording process. It seems to me that clients who want to use the studio come in three categories. First there are the business clients who require audio for pod casts and audio books. They have specific recording goals and time frames and are therefore easy to work with. Usually the work involves reading from a script but can be an interview style recording which involves some form of improvisation from the participants. All very clear cut and easily achievable.

Then there are the business clients who require recording for the band they manage. They do have goals and time frames but this can, and often is, unrealistic. It is not that they do not know the process its the fact that there way is always the right way when they bring into the mix the added complication of their expert “producer”. He is human, usually, and so used to a specific work flow or set up. He therefore requires a certain amount of “retuning” to suit the studio he now finds himself in. This is well understood by Cooz's and is completely normal and so a good one will make this transition look easy by taking the helpful advice offered and is great to work with.

A bad one will criticise just about every aspect of the house and generally be grumpy for the whole of the session wondering how he can possibly work without compressor X or EQ Y. The final client type is the private individual/group. Again they can have a great deal of knowledge of recording and be excellent to work with but, just as the “producer” can be blinded by his expert knowledge. There can be groups that have alliances that are difficult to disband into effect work flow if they are unwilling to get off their high horse about what they do know and trust that the in-house guy knows best in the recording environment they have chosen to be in.

What I like about working with musicians and groups is there ability to play music. It is, after all, what they do and what they do best. What Cooz's records does is in the recording studio is record music. As Bob Katz points out this process is both an art and a science. It is something that requires experience, talent and hard work to do well. There is no one piece of equipment, technique or process which gives the best results. The organic nature of the process is what makes it so appealing to me and so interesting to work through in order to achieve the best results. In recording music, just as in playing it, best results are achieved when your ear directs you to what is possible to do with the group you work with. This is usually not what you would expect but in working through the process the session, if managed well, can achieve all that was initially desired and more.

Video Streaming


There is no doubt that today's recorded music is often part of a larger audio/video experience. Pop videos have been around for years with some costing nearly as much to make as feature films, but video equipment is now relatively inexpensive and this has enabled a huge number of musicians to increase their exposure via the likes of YouTube. However the presence of video streaming of music on the internet is still rather rare. Bands coming to the studio are interested in video production but live streaming seems a rather odd proposition.

At the studio we have the facility for bands to play their music whilst simultaneously being streamed live to the internet for their fans. It is a great way of promoting the bands sound and image to venues and A and R representatives. With video production and video streaming coming down in price it seems a cost effective way to promote bands and artists in the 21st century. When combined with other forms of promotion it provides a band with a great way of being noticed.

We have a first rate sound recording facility that processes audio to 2 track stereo very effectively. We have collaborated with associates who have knowledge of video streaming techniques so that video from the cameras and audio from the desk and protools hd is merged. Video production is a technical process that lends well to live streaming with all the material recorded and edited after the event to make a nice piece of video promotion material .

With bands striving to get a following in this technical age it makes since to use new media in all its guises. Bands who are able to do this posses a very good awarenesses of how to present themselves to camera; an all important skill in these video promotion rich times. Do get in touch if you or your band want to explore any avenue of video production and give video streaming some serious thought as a way of promoting your art to the masses.

Vintage Recordings



I am often asked by clients what gear will help to make vintage-sounding recordings, but what exactly is the vintage sound, and is specialist recording equipment really necessary? Many of the classic rock and pop records that we look back on with affection were recorded in the days when vinyl was the principal release medium, and because of the characteristics of vinyl records, recordings had to be mastered in a very specific way to make them play correctly. For example, you can’t add a lot of high end to a vinyl record, and while you can record reasonably high levels of bass, the more bass you add, the wider the groove spacing needs to be to accommodate it, which then results in a shorter playing time..

Consumer music reproduction systems back then also tended to be less sophisticated — everybody had a tweeterless, all-in-one record player in their bedroom, so even if the records could carry the levels of bass and treble we use today, few would have been able to hear it. The practical outcome is that records were appreciated mainly for what was going on in the mid-range, which, after all, is where most of the musically useful information lies. By the same token, it could be that engineers of the day were able to focus more clearly on the mid-range because there was little extreme top or bottom to distract them

Today, although digital technology can record any audio frequency at any level, it often seems that the ‘smile curve’ reigns supreme, with the mid-range being something to suppress to make way for even more tizzy treble and boomy bass. You can check this out for yourself by listening to some of the better records made in the ’60s and ’70s and then comparing them with today’s offerings. As an example, listen to anything from the Tamla Motown stable or ‘All Along The Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix — you can hear every instrument, yet there’s nowhere near as much top- or low-end as in a modern production. The result is that it is more comfortable to listen to, even when cranked up loud, and it doesn’t lose any of its excitement for that.

It is also demonstrable that the older people get, the less tolerant they become of aggressive-sounding mixes, and given the shifting demographic of record buyers, this is perhaps something record companies should take into consideration. While some of the instruments we use today, such as synthesizers and electric guitars, have no acoustic counterpart, it still seems to me that mixing fashion has drifted so far away from the natural sound of the instruments and voices being recorded that many records are fatiguing to listen to, and that’s without broaching the thorny subject of over-limiting at the mastering stage. So, to return to the original question, could it be that the most important piece of equipment needed to recreate vintage-sounding mixes is already installed between your ears, and it’s just a matter of getting it recalibrated?

Recording, Mixing & Mastering


Over the past few years, as the cost of recording systems has fallen, those people striving for more professional results have realised the benefits of buying better microphones, more highly specified analogue to digital converters and other carefully selected pieces of hardware. This makes a lot of sense as most hardware products don’t suddenly become incompatible with the rest of the system if the computer OS changes, and high-quality microphones can last a lifetime. Why is it, then, that many of these same people seem to throw away most of the benefits of their high-performance recording systems by compromising with the basics of the recording process? Many Oxfordshire bands know a little about recording and mixing and it is usually the 'sexy' stuff they know about. What is the best high end console, the best microphone, the best amplifier. A client from Birmingham once pointed out to me the virtues of a particular signal path which is his words never failed to get excellent results. However I have news for all you gear heads. There is more to it then that.

At the recording stage, many project-studio recordings are let down not by the equipment itself but by poor acoustics in both the recording and mixing areas. If your vocals sound boxy or lack focus, the chances are that buying better microphones and pre amps will simply allow you to record the boxy ambience of your room with greater fidelity. This is one of the reasons clients come to Cooz's studio. We have three different acoustic spaces to choose from each designed with an acoustic signature to enhance the recorded sound at source and not to inhibit it. There are many ways to improve a difficult sounding room. Often basic technique can make a huge difference to the quality of the recording. It does not look very professional but it's amazing how a duvet or two can transform a vocal recording if carefully placed!

At the opposite end of the recording process, we have mastering, and it is here that we have to face the thorny question of loudness. Over the past few years, various strategies have been employed to try to make mixes sound loud when played next to another artist’s work, usually involving some pretty assertive compression and limiting. When used carefully, compression and limiting can help knit the elements of a mix together, making it sound more polished, but, sadly, commercial record companies often pressure mastering engineers to push the subjective loudness of mixes to such an extent that real damage is done, the practical outcome of which is that the consumer finds the mixes harsh and fatiguing to listen to. Bob Katz's excellent book: Mastering Auto – The art and the Science, is a must for any home recording enthusiast who wants to chart a passage through the process of any recording effectively.

But why such a quest for loudness? Radio play is part of the equation — naturally, you want your record to sound just as loud and appealing as all the other commercial releases. However, radio stations usually add some fairly hard multi-band compression of their own, so that an over-limited mix can end up sounding truly horrible. The use of MP3 players to play songs in a random order, rather than as albums, has increased the pressure to keep mixes loud. Experienced mastering engineers using the very best equipment currently struggle to make their mixes sound pleasing to the ear at the loudness levels record companies and artists demand, so it comes as no surprise that those trying to make their home recordings match the level of commercial releases using only basic plug-ins often spoil their music in the mastering. Maybe it’s time to say ‘enough is enough’ and do what’s best for the song, not simply what makes it loudest. If anyone complains, tell them that after five million years of evolution they should have figured out how to turn up the volume!

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“While She Sleeps”


As a person who listens to a lot of heavy metal bands,While She Sleeps are the only metal-core band I really took a liking to. I'm going to educate you on the band, share what experiences I've had, how I feel about their music, and why I like them so much.

The band consists of 5 members all from Sheffield, Lawrence Taylor the vocalist, Sean Long(backing vocals & piano) and Mat Welsh the guitarists, Aaran Mackenzie the Bassist, and the drummer Adam Savage. They are currently signed to Search and Destroy records in the UK, The End Records in the US, and Shock Records in Australia. They've really come a long way since they formed, they even won a Best British Newcomer award at the Kerrang! Awards 2012.

Their first debut mini-album called ''The North Stands For Nothing'' was released on the 26th June 2010. To this day I'm still blasting this album out of my speakers. It's great to “mosh” along to as the songs have a heavy sound. I also love that they made their songs not just heavy but melodic too. Every song has great meaning, with well written lyrics. What's great is that Mat Welsh (guitarist) self-produced & mixed this album. Now that's dedication! Later in the year they actually signed a deal with Good Fight Studio to release this album in America! Just goes to show that this album really paid off.


Their second studio album called ''This Is The Six'' was released on the 13th of August 2012. This album consists of 12 songs. I enjoy every song for the same reasons I like the first album: The songs are heavy, the lyrics are genius, and they are all very musically-talented, so whatever music they make, it always sounds great to me. I still to this day listen to this album a fair bit as the songs are catchy and the lyrics are unforgettable.

The first time I saw While She Sleeps at a gig, was on the 19th January 2013 at 02 Brixton Academy. They were supporting another metal-core band called Asking Alexandria. Needless to say they performed much better than 'AA'. The capacity of the venue is 5000 people, so it was pretty cramped, however I was near the front so I had a great view. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the band because I was too busy 'head banging' all night. The feeling of seeing your favourite band perform is incredible. I felt so happy to finally see them in front of me, doing what they do best. I was ecstatic. I'm also pretty sure people behind me got a face full of my hair.. Seeing your favourite band gives you a massive adrenalin rush. It's such a thrill being able to show your support and love to the band, and most importantly scream your heart out! It was such a great gig, the atmosphere was sensational, and the band performed excellently and were a pleasure to watch.



The next time I attended one of their events it was free!It was their Brainwashed album release party in London at the House Of Vans It included meeting the band, chilling with them, a 'merchandise' stand, signing, booze, and an acoustic set. The band were exactly how I expected them to be. They were extremely bubbly and all had outgoing personalities. Each of them took the time to listen to what I had to say, allowed me to have a good laugh, and even take a few pictures with me! It's great when a band are generally nice people, considering you're the one buying their music, etc. The acoustic set was brilliant. The whole crowd were clapping and singing along. It was such an amazing atmosphere to be in, listening to acoustics is very chilling. Sean Long's guitar solo's blew me away, and I was glad to hear Lawrence's vocals again, after he had suffered from a throat injury. The band played in-sync with each other, and there wasn't a single fault made, even when they didn't have long to rehearse.



Their 3rd and latest album ''Brainwashed'' was released on the 23rd March 2015 through Search And Destroy Records. There are 12 songs on the CD and 15 on the Deluxe album. I bought the deluxe, and I love it! They've really improved over the years, and this album was a big hit! The sound of the songs remain the same, and the lyrics as genius as they have always been. You can really relate to a lot of the lyrics. The songs have brilliant guitar solos, fast-paced drumming, and incredible vocals. I'm attending one of the bands tour gigs on the 30th April 2015 so I'll be hearing them perform most of the songs from this album. I can't wait!

Pat Walsh on his Home Recording Obsession

In general I would say that I'm about as low budget as it gets. I have very minimal equipment and just try and use what I do have to maximum effect. When we are ready to record a song I first map out the structure of the song in my DAW, Acoustica Mixcraft 6. I’ll label sections of the song and lay down some scratch MIDI drum tracks. I generally like to have the whole song mapped out before I start the process. Sometimes changes will be needed (even radical changes at times) but for the most part I am very Hitchcockian about the process. Once I have all that done, it’s time to start recording.

I usually lay down the guitars first and then the bass. To record the guitars I usually plug them directly into one of my preamps. I’ll use my Focusrite ISA One, but if the song calls for some grittiness I use my modified Art TubeMP.  From the preamp they go into the line level input on my Presonus Audiobox interface and then into my laptop. Before it heads into my DAW I monitor it using the Audiobox Virtual Studio Live (sometimes I will EQ and compress the audio using this software but not always). I usually use digital amps to craft the sound I want but if I want to record my amp I will use a Shure SM57 into the Focusrite ISA One. For acoustic guitar I usually will try out different rooms with my Rode NT1A and decide which sounds the best for the given song.


After the guitars are laid down I usually will record a scratch vocal track so that I can start to get a feel for the shape of the song. At this point, If I have ideas, I will start embellishing with MIDI instruments. I am definitely not a minimalist when it comes to this. I will throw on strings, synths, piano, ambient sounds, and anything else that I think can add to the song. Tons of ideas will get tried; few will actually make the final cut. I trigger the MIDI instruments with a YouRock Guitar. I think this device is primarily used to play video games but I find it effective for doing this as well.  Not as effective as keyboards, but unfortunately I only know how to play guitar.

The next thing I focus on is the drums. I’ll record our drummer Pete, using 8 Samson drum microphones plugged directly into the Presonus Audiobox. He plays along to the song with the scratch MIDI drums and a click track accompanying the piece. Before I even start mixing them I listen to the raw drum sounds. For the most part the drum performances are usually excellent. Sometimes though it can be difficult to give a performance that’s exceptional all the way through using this type of recording process. If that is the case, then I may start sampling the best sections using Short Circuit. In other cases, I may think that acoustic drums aren't the best fit for a song and I will use Drumtracker to convert all of the drums to MIDI drums. Usually though, the performance is strong I will use it as is. Since the Audiobox is not a stellar interface I usually bolster the snare, kick, and toms with MIDI drums. Drumtracker is what I use to do this, and this can be pretty time consuming! Sometimes I may not use live drums at all and I will use Toontrack’s Superior Drummer which I trigger with my Alesis drum pad.


Before recording the vocals I will give the track a basic mix. I mostly use Waves plugins (I especially like the Puig and CLA plugins) as well as Voxengo ones. I find that the best vocal performances are given when the mix sounds great in the headphones so I try to get everything to start sounding great. I record our singer Audra with a Rode NT1A into the Focusrite ISA One. I don’t have a dedicated studio so we usually use a walk in closet with blankets to get a good sound. I generally think that the sounds are great. When I can, I will use a friend’s studio vocal booth, but that isn't always an option. I find as long as we are diligent in setting up our makeshift vocal booth, the fidelity is perfectly fine. After the vocals I give a full mix, and make any edits that I think need to be made in order to make the song as good as possible: Maybe a section needs to be redone; maybe the drums need a different sound; maybe it needs fewer strings. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

Once I have the song mixed I then master it using Izotope Ozone 5.  While mastering it I like to listen on a variety of sources – my monitors, expensive headphones, cheap headphones, crappy computer speakers, etc. I find that this is the best approach to get a good mix. I don’t have formal training in using any of this stuff and it has taken me a long time to learn every aspect of doing this. Sometimes it can be very frustrating when I can’t get a sound I want, or can’t get the mix I want. But I always step back and remember that it’s all in the service of making the best song possible. And I’ll do anything to achieve that.

Eminem

Eminem is without-a-doubt the most famous and successful rapper in history. He's produced over 300 songs over the past 20-something years of his rap career. From Infinite, the first album he released, to Shady XV, he has continued to grow and mature, and bring more and more to the music industry. The origin of his success derives from his raw passion and determination to succeed - even against the odds that faced him – along with support from music artist friends such as Dr. Dre, Proof, Royce da 5' 9'', Notorious B.I.G, Xzibit and so on. It is known scarcely that Eminem's genius comes from his adamance to listen to every famous rapper he could at a young age to fully understand the art of rapping, and influence his subject matters.

The 42-year-old superstar grew up in Detroit and befriended Proof at the age of 15. After Proof was shot in 2006, Eminem found it immensely hard to deal with, but eventually managed to cope once he kicked his valium addiction and composing songs 'You're Never Over' and 'Difficult', both tributes to Proof. A lot of people say that his best work was before Relapse was released in 2009, but personally I feel his music hasn't decreased much in quality to this day, and all of his work up right up until the Marshall Mathers LP 2 has been out-of-this-world.

Eminem has collaborated with hundreds of other rappers, singers and songwriters, ranging from Elton John and Adam Levine to Dido, P!nk, and Lil Wayne. In my opinion, his more 'poppy' material, like 'Monster' featuring Rihanna and Akon's track 'Smack That' which Eminem featured in, isn't quite as affective at presenting the raw emotion and meaning behind his message as some of his music, such as 'No Apologies' or 'Spend Some Time', and as a young, amateur rapper, these styles of his music have been a huge influence on my own work. I write songs about serious matters such as depression and governmental corruptions, not the kind of rap which degrades women and promote illegal substances (I know Eminem has been known to write lyrics about both of those topics but he is overwhelmingly poetical and careful how he words them there is reason to ignore it).

As far as I know the 'rap God' was the first hip hop artist ever to use multisyllabic rhymes in every song he wrote, and as a rapper I know how difficult it can be to write a rhyme that's a little bit more complex than 'cat', 'bat', 'rat', 'that'. As much criticism as Eminem gets, namely about how he's going downhill, he will always be the best rapper of all time in any true hip hop fans eyes.

Inspiration as a Songwriter


Many years ago when I first found my passion for music I was just following everyone else's love for all mainstream songs at the time, of course at the time I was enjoying what I was listening to but that soon changed. As time went on I began to realise that you shouldn't be afraid to step outside the box and discover a love for something else that some people may never agree with. Everyone has their own opinions and that's how its supposed to be, I love hearing peoples opinions as it sparks more thoughts in my mind and takes me down new paths.

Like I was saying as time went on I discovered a passion for abstract, unusual sounds creating very atmospheric music – I loved the music to take me somewhere else far from reality. The band that provoked this passion was 'Daughter' – a not very well known band from London. I thought their music was beautiful in the sense that you could really feel the emotion and create a clear image in your mind. I loved that they weren't afraid of using abstract sounds and doing things that were very out of the norm in the music industry.

Discovering the band 'Daughter' made me have much more confidence in song-writing. I realised that for me its not about who can make the most money from music that they don't really like writing, but its about writing music straight from the heart. Its about writing music for yourself and then if other people understand where you're coming from with your music even better. I don't want a huge fan-base that like my music because its mainstream, I want a fan-base of people that hear the passion in my music and go through the emotions that I do when I'm writing it and performing it. Music is meant to tell a story, its meant to take the listener on some sort of journey and to me if it doesn't do that then to me its not real music!

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Lo-Fi for dancefloors

Since the beginning of digital recordings and how cheap it is to create music today, it's undeniable that there is a lot of terribly amateur sounding pieces of music. This is not necessary a bad thing, after all, nobody loves The Velvet Underground for their musical expertise. We like them for their crudeness, and because of this, there are many talented musicians that deliberately choose to have their recordings sound cheap, rusty, and bad quality, even in the digital age of pristine, perfectly sounding mp3s.


One of the most influential curators of this 'rusty' lo-fi music, specifically within electronic music, is the New York record label Long Island Electrical Systems or L.I.E.S for short. Upon flicking through their discography you would notice firstly that it is an almost exclusively limited vinyl collection. It stands out from the crowd as every record sticker holds the same signature and a minimal 'logo with text' look. You can instantly tell the whole idea is based around regular guys creating records in their studio-joint-bedrooms with very crude equipment. They seem to completely disregard the idea of a 'good mix-down', or 'correct' song arrangement. The best example of this way of making music would be a track titled Teen Romance, by Dutch hardware synthesiser fetishist and musician Legowelt. This is a track entirely made on 80s-00s drum machines using recording techniques you would have typically found in a suburban home studio in the 80s expect that they have, of course, created and released this in late 2013.


The music is indeed special as its reception within the genre testifies. It's very rare for a press of records to sell out in this current market without the tracks being augmented by perfect mixing, perfect mastering as well as press photo shoots for the lead artist. In a recent launch of Kanye West's top selling single 'Black Skin Head' we hear of him doing interviews in which he promoted the controversial idea of racism in public life. I have no doubt that this enhanced his public profile; and if it sells more singles in the process, well that would be a nice benefit for him and his record company. However L.I.E.S is consistent in selling well with a business model that does not include these promotional tricks. There support to artists enable many to release singles for the first time without any established history of success in selling their material. They support many artists who have started making music by employing basic hardware such as a reel to reel tape recorder, a shabby sampler and/or a set of guitar pedal effects as well as the obligatory a few hours in the night to play around.


These records get more listens/sales/attention than your average digital counterpart in this genre. This fact makes me question the authenticity of a 'good sounding record'; lo-fi treatments can bring your music to life and it now is a viable and popular alternative with this genre of house and techno. In my opinion a touch of 'analogue clumsiness' can change a track from a lifeless straight-out-the-box three minute arrangement to a project that sounds like it was made by a human being with soul and spirit.
There are digital VST emulations of these crude 80's recorders, synthesisers and effects out there. They are normally used in moderation in professional studios examples of which can be found in VST recreations of Fairchild compressors and EQs but sometimes it's worth going all out on a piece with lo-fi hardware treatment, whether it's just on an interlude track, or a whole album. It will really give a different edge to a sound.