|FXpansion caught up with Shirobon to talk about the studio processes and techniques he used on his latest EP 'Back Tracking'.|
Shirobon is an electronic musician from London. In 2006 he made music using a Game Boy and released the albums 'Golden Apples' and 'Connected'. From 2009 he started experimenting with other styles of music and learning about the use of synthesizers and modern production techniques, leading to the 2012 release of an electronic album '22:22'. Shirobon has now gone back to his chiptune roots with the release of his new EP 'Back Tracking' using the sounds of the Game Boy, Commodore 64 and synthesizers.
FX: How has your approach to making beats changed since 22:22, what features in Geist do you use to get your drums to where you want them?
S: When making the album 22:22 I did all my drums in audio channels.. since then I have changed my workflow and now do all my drum patterns in Geist. It's much easier to get ideas down and experiment!
I am a fan of layering drums to create new ones, the ability to quickly put sounds together and edit the pitch and envelopes makes sound design a breeze! Especially when you can still use your own plugins on each layer to help gel everything together and sound unique.
Another thing I tend to do a lot is assign the velocity of the pad to the pitch of the sample.. I do this a lot for tom rolls so that the harder you hit it, the higher pitch the tom is. This also sounds great on percussion and snares for adding various to drum loops without filling up all the pads!
FX: How did you use Etch to create the Yai sound on "I Need You"?
S: I am a big fan of making synthesizers sound like they talk. A lot of people have been using the signature 'Yai' sounds for dubstep and such.. but they make them using low pass filters and bit crushers and I wanted something more organic sounding rather then bit crushed.. so what I did was open up strobe with a simple saw patch, then I set the envelope with a short attack and medium decay. Then I opened up Etch and set both filters to notch with about 40% resonance, one at a lower frequency and one set to a higher frequency. Then I set the envelope follower on both filters so that the envelope moves the lower filter higher and the higher filter lower, by doing this I am basically controlling the filter movement using the envelope in Strobe, it's like giving strobe 3 filters! Last but not least I gave the sound some drive in Etch to thicken up the sound and drive the notch frequencies.
FX: Tell us about how Strobe was used on Back Tracking? Are there any techniques you find you use over and over?
S: Strobe was used as the main synth in Back Tracking (not including the video game sounds which are made using a gameboy/commadore 64). I use Strobe a lot for plucks and chords sounds.. I have found myself using the 'analogue' knob quite a lot! It's great for adding some dirt, it also thickens up the mix a bit when you use them on chords! The chords on the first hooky break down in 'I Need You' was basically Strobe with the analogue knob turned all the way up! Another trick I do is to modulate the pulse width on the square a lot. I'm not a fan of the strait square sound but you can get some great stuff out of modulating the pulse width, if you stick a fast LFO on it you can get sounds similar to a super saw!
Back Tracking is available now to buy on bandcamp.
Interview with Shirobon June 9th 2010
FX - How did you first get interested in making music?
S - I think it was when I was around 6 or 7 when I got this little toy keyboard! I used to make little melodies and forget them a minute later. It developed from there I suppose!
FX - Who are your musical influences, chiptunes or otherwise on the electronic scene?
S - My main influence is 'Yasutaka Nakata'. He is a Japanese electro pop producer and I get a lot of my influence from the artists he produces (capsule, perfume, ami suzuki). In terms of chiptune influences i would have to say Xinon, USK, Sabrepulse, cTrix, Henry Homesweet and Calis. They inspire due to the fact that most of them use vintage consoles but don't try to make typical game music with them. Instead they actually make real music with 8bit sounds.
FX - Typically how do you approach a new track?
S - I take a different approach every time! Sometimes I start with building the drum tracks to get the pumping feel going, then other times I would start with a progression or a nice hook, everything else comes from there!
FX - What are you favourite bits of kit in your musical set up at the moment?
S - Right now it has to be LSDJ, DCAM: Synth Squad, East Wests Goliath and my talk box!
FX - Do you use any effects tricks in your music using games consoles?
S - I have a few! I've been getting into the habit of automating wave shapes each time the note is triggered, wave duty cycles are a lot of fun too, you can get some NASTY sounds with those!
FX - What FXpansion products do you own and how do you use them, any tips or tricks you would like to share?
S - I own DCAM: Synth Squad and BFD2. I love DCAM's Strobe! That thing is PERFECT for basses and leads! I love how you can assign the mod wheel and LFO to completely change the sound! Make sure you have a fiddle with the filter drive! That thing is key to rich/thick sounding bass's. BFD2 is great for those real sounding drums! The way you can layer the different room mics and such bring you some amazing results! Best drum sampler I've ever used hands down!
FX - What radio stations or podcasts do you follow, if any?
S - I don't really follow much podcasts in all honesty! I used to like the micromusic's player for listening to weird and funky chip music but that was about it.
FX - You have a new album on its way, will there still be a video game feel to your music, what can we expect to hear?
S - The new album is a nice breath of fresh air! It wiggles its way around a few genres but if I had to classify it under one genre I would called it 'Power Electro!'. I still involve a few chiptune sounds here and there but I wouldn't call any of the songs pure 'chiptune'. I've just had a few vocalists in the studio and it all sounds very exciting!
FX - Where do you see yourself in ten years time in terms of making music?
S - Well, I'm a very musical person. So I would like to see myself getting really involved with all aspects of music, from sound design to creating cheesy pop to producing other artists... Bring it all on I say!