Home > Uncategorized > 9 music production questions with Charlie May – reposted form assivesynth.com

9 music production questions with Charlie May – reposted form assivesynth.com

The first in a new series of interviews on massivesynth.com with established producers about their thoughts and processes on the topic of sound design. First up we welcome Charlie May.

As the architect behind many of the stylistic blueprint shifts in dance since the early heady days of acid house, Charlie May knows a thing or two about what makes a dance floor tick.
One half of revered progressive house pioneers Spooky; the engineer and producer of many of Sasha’s biggest singles and albums; highly respected solo producer in his own right, May has remained at the vivacious beating heart of house since the early ’90s.
A huge thanks to Charlie May for taking the time to give us a deeper insight into his thoughts and processes on the subject!

cm1 9 questions with Charlie May

1) I’ve read a lot about analog gear that is used in your productions. What makes analog rather than digital such an appealing choice for your music?

CM : i think now digital is finally a contender for analogue .. not just in recording quality but the plugs ins and synths are just amazing .. the beauty of analogue was that you didn’t need so much of it .. i think this still holds true. a couple of good synths, an eventide and a mixer and you can do a lot. digital toys are everywhere .. it takes so much time to firstly find what you like then actually get good with it ..

2) During the sound design phase of a project do you start with a particular sound in mind, or do you design sounds to fit specific tracks?

CM : both approaches work and are needed at different times … most tracks start with a sound .. or an idea about a kind of track or sound i want to hear. it has always been easier to just make a cool noise rather than specifically engineer a sound to fit some place specific. that’s why too much equipment makes you lazy . i am more likely to just keep flicking thru sounds and synths than stop and make something ..

3) What is your typical process when designing new sounds?

CM : there is no real method .. but i try and break down the sound in my head into smaller components and then make a decision about what machines would be best to build that sound with. much of the time i am just trying different combinations of techniques that i know do specific things. sometimes it is just a stab in the dark .. or hit the randomise button .. : )

4) You have a very unique sound and a lot of the character comes from the effects. How much of your sound is created in the synthesizer and how much is processed afterwards in your DAW ?

CM : these days there are such good fx built into synths .. but i tend to use the whole studio to build a sound .. usually always taking the sound out of the computer and thru analogue boxes and fx. then record it back in .. i add more processing at the mixing stage .. it is about layering to get that thickness .. so often sounds will be reprocessed over and over.

5) Could you pick a sound or effect in one of your released tracks and give a little insight into its creation?

CM : i use a similar approach to many sounds .. for example with something like the main riff in xpander it is all about the effect .. the delay. the original sound was from a matrix expander funnily enough .. it has this rasp to it and very complex organic but subtle movement in the sound .. that’s the trick .. to make the original sound alive so that the fx on top respond better .. a bit like making paint stick to a wall by sanding it first .. is the same principle .. effects only sound as good as what you are processing. for the delay i used a zoom 9030 .. is has a unique sound .. very mid range and the ability to chain together in interesting ways .. there is a mean chorus on that box that somehow warms and fattens the whole thing in a really unique way. i still use it alot. then it is all about compression or using envelopes to shape the transients of the sound … actually that particular sound is a sample of the original sound .. then effected all over again .. it was a mistake of sorts since i no longer had the original synth when the track was made. so double effected. with slight variation.

6) Where do you draw your inspirations from when you design new sounds?

CM : there are so many amazing new producers around now .. whose sound designing ability is amazing. but i also just listen to the world about me alot .. make field recordings .. your ear gets used to picking out certain things that are interesting in daily life .. when you stop and listen to the world you realise what an incredibly loud place it is .. and constant, ever evolving … am always looking to replicate that natural organic flux that even man made environments produce but with electronics .. so that what at first appears to repeat is in fact varied .. for that reason my bench mark record has always been eno’s ambient 4 ‘on land’ .. not only beautiful but mechanical and yet sounds like nature made it. that’s the strange thing .. at a certain level of magnification nature is math and ordered .. yet zoom out and we perceive it as chaos. maybe that’s a human survival mechanism .. so we blot out the noise .. perceive uniformity and then notice variations more .. the breaks in patterns.

7) I remember listening to an interview with Sasha talking about the influence Burial had on you guys for the direction of Involver2 at one point. How big an influence are other artists and genres when you come to design your sounds, and can you give some examples?

CM : massively so .. whether conscious or not the music you hear and like registers and often re-appears in a new form in your own work. it is wise then to listen to a wide range of sounds … for example i love dubstep as mentioned .. i love very minimal micro electronica and avante garde music .. drones and cut up/ mashed organica …the attention to detail is a pleasure to listen to. although i don’t make music in those styles they are references for technique .. so i will try and put some of that into my own music. it is sometimes less i think about the result as the approach. some music just oozes discipline and i want more of that ..!

8 ) Music production forums are full of posts of people asking how to ‘make X sound by Y artist’, it would seem people want a quick fix when making sounds. How important do you think learning synthesis is for music producers, especially in relation to creating their own sound?

CM : incredibly important .. far better to know one box inside out than have a heap of stuff you know vaguely. also one synth will relate to others so you can become familiar with new things much quicker. that lessens the learning curve. someone like barry jamieson whom i work with is incredibly fast and knowledgeable. he will pick up a new plug-in or synth and know it inside out in a few days … because he has spent time getting to know the basics and simple stuff to a very deep level. there’s no way around it .. you have to be a nerd. the geek is god.

9) If there was one tip or trick you could give us when designing synth sounds – what would it be?

CM : don’t give up or try to hard either .. sometimes the answer is just around the corner but you are trying too hard .. step back and forget what you are doing for a moment .. usually i get where i want to go when i least expect it ..when i my thoughts are elsewhere .. it’s a strange process… you kind of have to know a lot and forget it all at the same time.


Reposted from http://www.massivesynth.com/useful-articles/charlie-may-sound-design-interview/

See more articles, news & mixes at http://technomusicnews.com/

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