samedi 6 janvier 2024

Kitchen Notes : The Holocaust Humanity on The Politics of Personal Destruction

Depuis le temps que l'on voyait des signaux sur Bandcamp et les réseaux sociaux, on a commencé à y croire à nouveau et c'est enfin fait, the Holocaust Humanity a sorti un nouvel (excellent) album. Le trio américain est donc de retour avec 7 titres d'électro-indus instrospective, posée et très acccessible. Je ne vous raconte pas la chance qu'on a à Electraumatisme de pouvoir entammer cette année avec une nouvelle Kitchen Notes extrêmement complète que nous devons à Nathan Hewitt. Vous allez vous régaler.

It's been a long time since we saw signals on Bancamp and the social networks, so we started to believe in it again and now is the time, The Holocaust Humanity has just released a new (excellent) album. So this americain trio is back with 7 approachable electro-indus tracks with introspective and serene mood. I can't tell you how lucky we feel at Electraumatisme to start this year with a new more than complete Kitchen Notes we owe to Nathan Hewitt. You will love that.

Gears and software

What gears/softwares did you use for The Politics of Personal Destruction ?

Hello and thanks for your interest!
On this album I primarily used a Kurzweil K2500S, a K2500XS and a K2661 for most of the synthesizer parts. I also used a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, an E-mu Systems EMAX II, a Korg Wavestate, a Korg Opsix, and a Model D Minimoog clone for various little things here and there.
For MIDI, I used two Midiman Midisport 8x8 rack units to interface the synths with the computer and I used a Midas M32 digital console for all the audio routing. I used a couple of different microphones for vocals but mostly, I used a Shure SM7B. Sometimes, depending on the song, I prefer the sound of the SM7B compared to a condenser and it’s great when you get in close with it.
As for software, tons of random effects, plugins, and soft synths (probably too many to mention overall) but everything was sequenced/recorded in Steinberg Cubase 10/12/13 Pro.

Your favorite gear(s)/software(s) ?

My favorite gear would probably fall in line with the earlier question. I love Kurzweil. Hands down the most powerful synths I’ve ever owned or used. They have a fairly intense learning curve and deep menus that can sometimes scare people away but even after 25-30 years of use, I’m always discovering something new inside them. Their connectivity to computers via SCSI is unrivaled.
I also love the classic E-mu Systems EMAX II for the speed at which you can navigate. It has a fantastic workflow and it’s very easy to fill up a bank of samples quickly. I love the soft-buttons as well. In my humble opinion, they’re the best buttons on any synth!
I still have a Korg 01/WFD that I love because it has great percussion/drum sounds and also because it was one of the first synths I ever bought.
As for my favorite software, I love soft synths like Arturia’s V collection, the Roland Cloud stuff, Omnisphere, BFD, XLN Audio Addictive Drums, Plex, Reaktor, etc..
I’m a big fan of Steinberg Cubase as my main DAW. I’ve used a lot of Logic and ProTools too but I always go back to Cubase for my own work. It has a very powerful MIDI editor which is important to me. I bought my first version back in the early 90’s so that’s where I’ve always felt most comfortable.

Any evolution in your setup ?

Aside from some newer synths like the Korg Wavestate and Opsix, I still mainly use my K2500XS and K2661 for everything. My K2500S has some specific sounds/sample banks on the internal harddrive that I sometimes get into but it typically lives in a flight case as a backup and I only take it out to use as a MIDI controller or an extra set of keys when needed.
About five years ago, I bought a Midas M32 40-track digital console. It sends and receives 32 inputs and 32 outputs from the computer simultaneously. It can also feed a digital signal via AES-EBU back to the K2500XS or K2661 so I can digitally sample whatever the console is hearing at that moment. It’s a dream come true being able to save particular setups as scenes and snapshots that can be recalled later at the push of a button. It also greatly helps with hands-on automation/control of various parameters inside Cubase. Definitely a game changer for me.
I used to record everything through ADAT lightpipe or SPDIF, one stereo channel at a time directly from each Kurzweil into the computer via a RME Hammerfall which only had ADAT lightpipe inputs/outputs. Strictly digital. It sounded superb but it was very tedious and time-consuming. Either that or I used a large-format analog console that required soloing each channel I was recording and then sending that channel to a limited number of inputs on an analog audio interface. In those days, I was always swapping things around and sharing inputs to get tracks into the computer so it’s nice not having to do that anymore!

Sound Design

Do you use/tweak presets  ?

I have used presets before, perhaps a piano sound or drum sound, etc. but generally I try to alter them so that they aren’t exactly “out of the box”. Sometimes a preset will sound very close to what I hear in my head when writing so I try to retain what I’m hearing in the preset while also giving it a new aspect or feature that wasn’t there before.

Do you design you own sound  ? On which synth/plugin in particular ?

I definitely design most of the sounds I use from the ground up, particularly on the Kurzweil K2500XS or K2661.
It’s very easy to make something brand new that’s complex and hasn’t been heard by anyone before. The V.A.S.T. system is extremely powerful. I used to use a lot of sound design applications with my K2500S like Sound Diver, though not as much these days.
On some of the newer synths I own (like the Wavestate or Opsix) they have a randomizer feature. You can literally press one button and create a totally new, random sound. I will sometimes spend several hours simply clicking that button hundreds of times and saving the results I like as new presets.

Any particular synth history  ?

A personal synth story, let’s see. Well, my parents bought a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak when I was just a kid, maybe ten years old. I was forbidden from touching it because I accidentally wiped out the patches on it once. My dad used to take the fuse/fuse holder out of the synth and hide them from me but I figured out a way to use tin foil and a spare fuse to power the synth up. I used to sometimes shock myself in the process but that’s when I started learning about synthesizers. Eventually, my parents gave me the Six-Trak in my late teens and I’ve had it ever since.


Writing/composing method

What would be your main writing/composing method ? Do you start classical rythm/bassline then arrange around it ? Do you already have structure in mind ? Do you improvise, record sessions then select ? ...

I guess I’m lucky in that I almost always have a song structure in my head before I start writing. I have a slight autistic side so music just makes sense to me that way, sort of like Tetris blocks falling into place. Many if not most times, I can easily translate what I hear in my head to what I want to hear in a song but not always, of course.
Typically, I start with a bassline or melody and then build a drum track into it but sometimes I do the exact opposite, starting with a drum track first.
Other times, I will have a vocal phrase in mind and start building around that, particularly if it’s a weird time signature. That spawns a lot of creativity for me. I definitely love to improvise too. I will start with absolutely nothing and tinker for a few hours on various pieces of gear while recording, just as a simple scratchpad sort of thing. Then I will go back and listen for the segments that inspire me enough to develop something real from them.

Producing/mixing method

Do you produce/mix in the box or do you use mainly external gears (effect/comp/eq...)

I do a lot of both, actually.
Typically, I pre-mix and eq as best as I can on the digital console first, mainly just getting rid of some of the low-end frequencies before I record, etc..
To preserve headroom. I also make sure to gain stage everything to around -18dB. I try not to print too much to the signal before recording it so that I don’t ruin a good take with a bad eq or compression setting.Most of my effects are added in post-production for the same reason. I don’t want to get stuck with something I can’t undo.
On vocals, I definitely use external compression and gating beforehand but it’s very light on both. Once I’ve gotten the vocals recorded, I do a lot of processing inside the computer, particularly when it comes to compression. I love Universal Audio’s LA-2A plugin for final vocal compression and my digital console also has a LA-2A plugin that I use as an insert on the beginning of the vocal chain. That or the 1176 plugin.

What is your most painful / enjoyable step in track production ? Sound design, arrangement, mixing, mastering ?

The most painful step in production for me is listening to final mixes over and over again.
Regardless of whether the song will go on to be mastered elsewhere or not, I will listen to something hundreds of times. By the time I consider it finished, my ears are playing tricks on me and I can no longer tell if it sounds good or not. I start to second-guess myself. I can spend weeks doing that.
My most enjoyable step is definitely writing the music, when I can hear it starting to come together. I think I’m most enthusiastic when a song is 65-70% done. I’m over the “hump” so to speak, not quite done yet but I have a clear vision at that point and I know the direction I’m heading. The music is still new and I’m actively adding parts, refining things, etc.. I love “working” the song into something from nothing. Once I get beyond 70%, I start to nitpick and that’s when I drive myself crazy. Everything up to that point is very enjoyable and despite the painful obsessing I go through at the end, I love to sit down a few weeks later once the ear fatigue has subsided and listen to the final result.


Nathan Hewitt's tips

Hmm. I would say to always keep experimenting. Don’t be afraid of doing something wrong or using what tools you have in the wrong way. Many unique and wonderful things happen due to accidents.
As for general rules I try to follow, gain staging is important. I level-check everything before recording, usually at -18dB so I don’t accidentally clip if something gets too hot. I shave off a lot of the low-end frequencies (100Hz-200Hz, etc.) particularly on vocals, bass sounds, and drums. All of that low-end can really eat up your headroom which equates to less space for the music. You may not even hear the low-end frequencies but they’re in there eating away at your mix. If you tame them in the beginning, you’ll get a louder mix in the end and you won’t have as much of a need for compressors and maximizers.
As for effects, try not to print effects to tracks before getting them into the computer first. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you discover something isn’t to your liking.
When applying eq, I almost always cut rather than add. If your mix needs more high-end, try cutting the low-end frequencies first. if that doesn’t work, a little boost on the high-end will get it over the top!
I also try to mix as much as I can in mono. Mixing in mono can reveal a lot of problems you wouldn’t hear otherwise, particularly with levels and eq. Once you get your mix sounding good in mono, you’ll find that it sounds incredible when going back to stereo, like The Wizard of Oz when it transitions from black and white to color.
Another tip I would suggest is not laser-focusing on one tiny part of a song or mix and getting stuck there, especially if you are writing or “in the moment.” It’s easy to put something under a microscope and lose sight of the big picture. You can derail yourself. Let the idea(s) happen and worry about the fine details later.
I would also suggest listening to other music, music that isn’t your own, while making your music. Your ears adapt to what you’re doing and sometimes after many long hours, that can be a curse. Give yourself and your ears a break, even if it’s a short one! Your music will still be there when you get back and you’ll have a different perspective.
Last but certainly not least, always believe in yourself!

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