Thursday, August 4, 2011

Manchester Week: Jules Schimmer

Closing out our feature on Manchester this week is the brilliant JULES SCHIMMER.  Recently he's been releasing great mixes on his SoundCloud and he is currently working on new tracks that you'll see sometime soon.  You'll also find a wealth of his awesome remixes there as well.  Like the other Mancunians, Jules very much loves the sounds of the 80s, which ties this feature together really well.  If I had to explain Jules' sound to a new listener, I'd simply say "he makes his synths Schimmer".

Check below to find out about Jules' influences, what he uses in the studio, and read about his live shows.  He'll also break down an amazing bass that's featured in his remix of Anoraak, which will help you get started on making your own great bass patches.

1. Describe your sound. What are some of your influences? Who are your old and new favorite artists?
JS: "I like to think that I straddle all the sub-genres that are loosely gathered under the nu-disco heading; from italo-disco to electro to Balearic style house. I like sooooooo many artists it’s hard to choose, some of my current favourite artists are Holy Ghost!, Fear of Tigers, Kid Kasio, RAC, She’s The Queen and I’ve been really inspired by my fellow Mancunians The Sanfernando Sound, Mindscramble and Kid Machine. When I was younger I was hugely inspired by the like of The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Sasha & Digweed and Altern8."

2. What is your hardware and software collection like?
"I’m really limited for space in my studio so I use mostly software synths at the moment with the Sylenth and Korg Legacy collection being my favourites. I try to use them like hardware by assigning the parameters I want to automate to knobs on my Behringer BCR2000 controller and to the sliders on my MIDI keyboard and I twiddle the knobs to record the automation in real-time. Not only is this method loads of fun it also adds a degree of humanisation to my tracks. The only hardware synth that I have at the moment is a Casio CZ1000 that was broken until a few weeks ago. I’ve really enjoyed messing about with it since I fixed it."

3. Outside of synths, what is your production setup like? Do you have any favourite plugins?
"My setup is based around a hyper-powerful custom-built PC running Ableton Live and a few other plugins. A lot of the VST’s that I use are freeware, I’m a huge fan of the TAL plugins and I honestly do not know where I would be without the Kjaerhus Classic Collection of plugins – I use the compressor on everything. I also tend to use the native Ableton plugins quite a lot too; the EQ and compressor are both very clean sounding so for sonic tasks where I don’t want to use any vintage emulations or have any saturation present these are my “go to” tools.

In terms of sexy, high end gear I have the Waves SSL compressors, EQ’s and channel strips and I love using Izotope Trash, especially when I’m doing parallel processing. I’m also a big fan of Speakerphone for putting cool FX on vocals.

One plugin that I couldn’t live without is the MDEX plugin that comes with the Korg Legacy bundle. It’s got presets for pretty much every effect that you could possibly think of and it’s really easy just to flick through them. I’ve had many “happy accidents” using this technique and even though I might swap the MDEX reverb for something a bit sexier like Altiverb I still like the fact that it’s a great source of inspiration."

4. How do you typically start a track?
"I generally just sit down in front of the computer with a glass of wine and just start messing around, trying things out; I never have a complete idea in my head. I do have a routine for remixes though, I start by loading up and timestretching the stems and then I’ll pass the bassline through Melodyne to establish the key and scale of the piece. A lot of producers say that having a project template speeds up their workflow but getting ideas off the ground using Ableton Live is so easy & fast that I always start with a blank sequencer page."

5. What are your live shows like?
"My DJ setup revolves around a PC laptop running Ableton Live and my trusty Behringer BCR controller, a Native Instruments Audio2DJ soundcard and whatever CD decks and mixer the venue has. I really can’t say enough good things about the BCR, it’s cheap, flexible and quite durable – it’s a great controller. Likewise the Audio2DJ soundcard has been a fantastic purchase too, it allows me to route my 2 “virtual” decks into separate inputs on the house mixer. I prefer having an analogue mixer as the final link in the signal chain, I like having a large monitoring section and if I expand the faders in session view in Ableton I lose a lot of screen real-estate. Plus if I clip a little on the analogue mixer it’s not as bad as clipping within Ableton."

6. How long have you been making music? What inspired you to start?
"I’ve been making music and DJ’ing for about 8 years now and I’ve made a few different genres of music under different monikers. I’d always wanted to be a DJ from being around 11 or 12 years old, I recall buying my first ever copy of DJ magazine and reading an interview with a DJ where she explained that if you could count to 32 then you could DJ. I was hooked from that point onwards, I started buying vinyl every weekend and eventually I began to wonder how these tracks I loved so much were made. Then about 8 years ago I finally splashed out and bough myself a set of Technics and enrolled on an introduction to music technology course so that I could start seriously DJ’ing and making music. Around this time I hooked up with DJ Jon Wolf and he got me a gig at his night in Manchester and I started to DJ every weekend, I still DJ with him at Obsidian these days, he taught m a lot about how to get smooth transitions in mixes. I also got involved with some people from the college where I was doing my music tech course and I put together a laptop, decks & fx set as a support act at the nights they used to run inLiverpool. Perhaps the most important and most influential person that I met in these days was Jason from The Sanfernando Sound. I was DJing at an after party of a mutual friend of ours, we got talking about drum machines and we hit it off straight away. Jason had lots of hardware synths and drum machines but no computer and I had a computer but no hardware and VST’s were a bit rubbish in those days so we pooled our gear and we used to spend endless weekends and evenings in the studio at my old house. Those were some of the best times in my life ever and me and Jason still love to hook up, play each other new tracks, pontificate about other peoples music and stay up late drinking rum."

Jules has also shared with us a bass patch from his remix of Anoraak's 'Crazy Eyes'.  The patch can be heard clearly throughout the track below.

"1. I created an apreggiated bassline using the Sylenth soft synth and it sounded a bit lightweight so I duplicated the channel and split it into two sections - Top & Sub.

2. With one I rolled off all the top frequencies below 130Hz to create sub-bass and then used a sidechain compressor to duck it around the kick and create more space in the lower frequency range and allow the kick to punch through in the mix. I know sidechaining had become an almost cliched technique but it works very well in this situation.

3. With the top sound I took out as much of the lower frequencies as possible without making the synth sound weak and thin. I then added Abletons ping-pong delay to create a bit of bounce in the part and then compressed the result to make the delays louder in the mix.

4. I created a return buss and inserted Izotopes Trash, sent some of the top synth part to it and had a play around with the various compressors, amp simulators and distortion units in Trash until the synth sounded warmer, fatter and tougher. Finally I finished off with an EQ to take off the top and bottom frequencies on the return buss so that the sound sat better in the mix.

There are some other tricks going on in this sound using the native Ableton arpeggiator but I'm keeping these to myself for now. Mwahahahahahaha!"

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