Glitch Mob AMA Roundup
Hey folks, it’s fiyarburst! I’ve been organizing these and stripping out non-production-relevant questions as I see fit, but if you have any suggestions for improvement PM me!
I was at your concert at Redrocks last year and I threw a hat on to stage but you did not grab it, it was a nice fedora.
Sorry about the hat. Anyways.....
What's your organization scheme? How do you manage to produce effectively given the complexity of your music?
we stay very organized so that when it's time to create we don't have to sift thru crap to get music done
we organize the song in colors - each section gets its own color. that way we can talk about it easier "the pink part needs more necksnap". we also mix the songs in sections, and this makes it easier to keep it all organized. sometimes the intro gets a different set of plugins than the hook, etc.
we organize our plugins by category. so we have a folder of plugins for drums, synths, stereo, EQ, etc. that way we the toolset is somewhat organized and limited which keeps us from spending time getting lost in plugin folders.
same thing with samples. we keep a very organized sample directory that has been curated so that we don't go digging thru libraries when its time to create
What sort of updates would you guys like to see with Ableton Live 9?
Do you think Bitwig will be the next big DAW?
we didn't get on the bigwig beta, we will definitely try it though
What instrument/device do you use to interface with ableton most...keys, pads etc or none of the above and just plug in notes with the mouse?
none of us are classically trained, but we can all play a little bit of piano, guitar and drums just from messing around. we play everything into ableton with a keyboard. in fact that's the only controller we use. we like to keep it minimal
When writing a new song, how soon in the process do you start introducing production "tricks" you use like edits, sound design etc. Do you flesh out the basics of a tune and then go back through and trick it out or does the tricking out process happen as you write, like when you're developing parts?
we leave the sound design tricks to the VERY end of the song. it's the last thing we do. we focus on the melody, harmony, song structure, vibe, transitions... everything. then once that's good we go in and work on the details to make it sonically come to life
On average, how long does it take you to produce an original song?
Roughly a month. We have done some faster, and some slower. But that's about the average. We did the TV on the Radio remix in a week. Daft Punk was 2 weeks. Drink The Sea took about 9 months total to make, with 10 songs... that's a little bit less per song
(later question, deleted) A tune can take as little as three weeks to complete and as long as a year and a half to complete. It varies. We all have well over ten years of studio time under our belts.
Do you work with midi or audio? Depend on the situation?
We work with MIDI and audio.
question about ableton tricks
Well, we hate the fact that you can't draw a velocity curve for something like a snare rush (for example). That damn pencil tool is just a pain in the ass when it comes to stuff like that. To get around it we have been automating the MIDI Velocity plugin in Ableton. Works like a charm.
How long did it take you together or individually to make your first good song?
I think our first collective tune was the Nalepa's "Monday" Remix and that took a few months to write.
Do each of you do something different for your songs? Or do you all just do anything and everything?
We all do everything, it's a very fluid process. nobody has a particular job
how often do you guys conflict over a note in a melody.
we don't have much conflict internally. by now, we are able to work very smoothly and trust in each other's ears that it will be good when it's finished
generic question about collaborating
If you want to collaborate with someone, get Dropbox! It is the crucial glue that helps make the process so much easier.
Can you give us a little insight into how you, as a trio, compose music?
Well.... Sometimes the process starts separately and we might bring demos to the table and choose which ones to develop. Sometimes we all sit in the lab and come up with something together from scratch. Regardless of who's driving the ship it's all about constantly stirring the pot of the collaborative creative vision.
You all seem to have your own style and workflow, could you give 1-2 lines on what your job is in the group and how?
the jobs all change all the time, there really aren't any set duties. one day someone will be working on drums all day, and maybe the next day it's someone else. we like to change it up and keep it dynamic.
Did something happen to you guys between like Crush Mode and L.A.N. and Now that is pushing you guys to make music that is more of a journey rather than just hard hitting?
well... our tastes evolved, and life happened. the way we produce music is really a reflection of what is going on in our lives from day to day. at one point we were really spring on making blappy crunchy hip hop beats and then we just gravitated more towards telling a story. that's not to say we will never make stuff like crush mode again.
Are there any paradigms regarding production that you strictly adhere to? This could be an overall approach or for certain techniques like EQ, Compressions Etc.
there isn't really a certain protocol we use to produce. we like to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and really get creative.
if anything, it's that we like our music to tell a story. all of the songs have a narrative behind them that paints a picture
How does a young artist carve out his/her niche? What was your journey like towards finding your unique brand of sound?
we never really decided on what sound we wanted to make. It's just the natural progression of our sound, of our musical sensibilities. we never said "we want to make music that's cinematic dance music"... it just happened along the way as we were living life and figuring out how to tell our story.
we like to make music that's immersive for the listener and for whoever is in the audience - we want it to transport you to another world and take you on a journey.
dancing is important! we want people to move and be moved. but it's also very important to use to speak to the heart as well.
Do you guys leave your midi how you recorded it, or do you guys quantize it to sound the way it does?
it depends on the song. sometimes we will leave notes unquantized and messy to give it a human feel. we like to have the notes be a little sloppy, but intentionally so. sometimes if the notes are perfectly quantized we like to go back in and scoot them around to give some swag to the rhythms. we don't like stuff to sound completely exact and computerized
how do you finish a track
Well..... as far as finishing a tune goes, sometimes less is more. Hone in on the best melodies and base your tune off of those ideas. Everything else might just be filler and noise.
When creating melodies/beats do you guys prefer to work within the DAW or have you ever worked with MIDI and then importing and working from there?
We only use MIDI files when doing remixes, otherwise it's all from scratch
Many of your songs feature a lead that sounds like it's made from a piece of looped female vocal (the lead inStarve the Ego, Feed the Soul is a prime example).
Is this how it's made — a small vocal loop?
No that is not a looped female vocal. It's an Arturia Minimoog with the LFO speed modulating the cutoff and then run through an Audioease Speakerphone.
Thanks for the kind words.
How much of you music is sample based or out of a synth?Where you do get samples from usually?
Mostly synth based. We are big in making our synths sound like samples. We do sample a bit here and there, but we're gonna keep that under wraps. Not trying to get sued.
In the song We Can Make the World Stop, the intro melody specifically, were you able to achieve the wide variety of sound in each note through pure automation, or did you use separate synths?
in we can make the world stop we tried a new technique that we discovered just for that song. we played the melody in a ton of different instruments - strings, guitars, horn section, whatever (all in kontakt) - and then edited the audio all together by hand to get the right rhythm and feel.
After you have a sound your are really happy with using session view, do you take the time to create clips that play together, or go directly to the arrangement view?
we don't use the clip view when we are composing in the studio - everything happens in the arrange view. but the entire live show is powered off of the clip view
Hi guys, big fan! I listen to your stuff all the time and I hear a TON of this crazy timestretching all over the place, and no matter how hard I try I can never seem to come close to what you guys do. The one particular example that comes to mind is in We Can Make the World Stop - right at 4:23. How do you achieve this effect?
Stock Ableton clip stretch with the "complex" algo
The drums in particular on that track sound really unique to me and i was wondering if there were any tricks involved with getting that sound
I just sampled a lot of strange sounds from field recordings.
For all the glitches, stutters, and cut effects, how did you go about making them? and where does that process fit into your workflow?
That record was made long before all of the glitch plugins of today. All of the glitches and edits were done by hand editing audio.
Do you guys create your synths from scratch?
Yes. Most of the time we make our own sounds. However, sometimes we will start with presets and effect them heavily into a totally different sound. Don't let people tell you that you're not a real producer if you use presets. That's not true. A good sound is a good sound. It's all about how you put it all together.
Hey guys, I know you're crazy when it comes to using many different plugins. Do you have any favorites/essentials at the moment?
we are all over the Brainworx Saturator. we find a plugin we like and put it on everything for a while. it's that one right now :)
Do you have any particular VST's that you like for bass?
reFX Vanguard is great
Doomsalato’s fucking question about tuning drums
We do tune our drums a lot of the time. It's a personal preference - it's not necessary, but we just like the effect it has. mainly the kicks, especially if they're really sub heavy.
Do you use the Ableton Grooves, or do you prefer to do most swing manually?
we don't really use Ableton Grooves - all of our rhythm stuff we like to do by hand to have fine tuned control
How do you get your kick drums to sound fat and punchy?
we spend a LOT of time on our drums. they are the meat of our mixdown.
we layer them - sometimes one kick drum will be a combination or 4-5 samples.
a LOT of it has to do with balance and separation. the final mix is super important - always solo your tracks and make sure to cut out the low frequency of stuff if it doesnt need to be there. you'd be surprised how many samples or synths have hidden low frequency noise that is mudding up your mixes. we do a lot of EQing and carving to get everything to sit just right
there's layer of distortion, EQ, and just the right amount of compression to get the drums to have the "necksnap" we love so much.
sometimes we'll bus them to a reverb - the huge kick drum in animus vox is bussed to a short reverb to give it that earthquake rumble.
I was wondering what techniques you guys used to get your drums so particularly damn clean and punchy.
The key is really in the mixdown. Give yourself plenty of headroom. Even crappy kicks and snares can sound great with a ton of headroom. If you drop all of your faders ahead of time, you can always turn up your kicks and snares later.
A lot of what i love about the glitch mobs sound design is your epic taiko esque drums.. Could you guys explain the process of creating/mixing them? What kinds of sample libraries/vsts do you use for them?
We use a lot of taiko kits from NI Kontakt as well as Stormdrum. They have a lot of of lows in them so they take EQing and compression to not eat the whole song.
What sort of stuff are you guys using on your send tracks?
we usually just use send tracks for reverbs and delays. the DubStation and SpaceEcho get a lot of mileage around here :)
what's one of the more unique/interesting/or even useful but somehow overlooked processing techniques you've employed? I recently heard about reverse compression (compressing a reversed waveform, bouncing it w the compression, and flipping it back) and was wondering if there's other neat little techniques I haven't thought of.
use custom side chain patterns. a lot of people just think of side chain as a utility and just use the kickdrum as the source. however if you use it as a creative tool and create your own patterns you can get some veddddy interesting results...
Any tips for getting the most out of your distortion without losing too much of the low end in the process?
Use one patch for the sub, use one patch for the distorted bass.
On our track"Between Two Points" there's a moment where the vocal rises up and sounds to be cut and resampled as a synth line - how is that done?
Cubase Autotune :)
what methods do you use for making your sounds duck in and out quickly, and also what samples do you usually use for those swoop noises? (both of these are referring to laundry and ants)
lots of sidechain compression. lots of sounds/field records reversed. you can take anything and reverse it to get some swoopy bits!
Your Drums, synths, and basses fit SO well together. Can you give some tips on how you mix together other than the usual EQ/Compress? Or is there not much more to it?
So much of the trick of mixing is in the simple volume fader and pan knob. Master that shit.
You guys have some pretty thick sounding tracks. Want to share any premastering secrets? Favorite plug ins for the master out?
on the master bus we use UAD fatso, URS channel strip pro, UAD SSL comp, Pultec. but it depends on the song. sometimes there's nothing on the master bus... or sometimes we will do the processing more internally during mix phase, in groups
What's your opinion on the loudness war?
Well..... we understand the loudness war. We don't really care about it. We are really just trying to make the best tunes possible at an acceptable listening volume.
What is your opinion on "clipping"? Do you think that clipping can hurt can hurt a mix or do you find it okay to leave it as long as it sounds good?
To each his own. We don't really play by the rules. We say use your best judgement.
All of your mixes are superb. How do you balance having elements sound big and punchy but mixing them down so that other elements have room to breathe.
Well.... lot's of trial and error, practice and just the experience of having done this for many years. The two most crucial elements of the mixing console are the volume faders and pan knobs. Master that shit! It's the backbone to a good mix!
You all seem to gel so well live. how do you handle mixing your outputs, getting a fairly consistent and balanced master without sounding separate?
we send out every element from ableton to the front of house. so there's 24 channels of live audio coming out of our rack. everything is separated which is sent to a sound engineer that travels with us. he's at front of house and he mixes us every night of the year so he knows how to tweak it to fit each venue specifically. this gives him the ability to do something like boost the lows on the kick without boosting it on everything else
I've seen pics of your studio and have noticed that you have your monitors tilted sideways. what is the purpose of that?
we get asked that a lot about our monitors... we tried it out and it just sounds better that way. there's no psychoacoustical reason behind it ;) the tweeters are just closer to our ears this way
what kind of mics do you guys use for recording?
nothing fancy just an m-audio sputnik. for vocals we use a neumann that we borrow from our friend
i am aware that you guys use macs, do you guys also use pc's and if you don't which software do you wish you could use on mac that is made only for pc?
we are all big apple/mac fanboys, we don't really know much about PCs. i used to use windows95 to play doom2 tho
How much outboard gear do you guys use? Do you route your midi from DAW to synth and audio return or do you just record audio in and work with that?
we don't use any outboard gear at all. we used to have a bunch of gear - synths, compressors, drum machines, eventide harmonizer, etc. but we got rid of it all. we wanted to go all "in the box" so that everything could be done faster. it speeds up the speed at which we finish music, and also it makes it easier for us to recreate it on stage when we don't have to lug any hardware with us. the UAD processors make this all possible, we have 4 Quad cards so that we can have enough processing power to get thru the huge sessions
Is the Lemur viable for composing as much as live performance, or improvisation? Speaking of the Lemur, is that even a product to consider anymore, or could an off-the-shelf tablet get the job done?
for us, the technology is just there to help us express ourselves and play music. we use whatever is going to help us get creative on stage. the Lemur is the only thing we have found thus far that allows us to do what we do and make a completely custom controller that can have bi-directional communication with ableton. but since the lemur is discontinued, we are looking into other options for the next tour and show...
we are also huge music tech nerds and we keep an eye on what's coming out.
I've seen several pictures on facebook of your ableton live set for gigs. Any chance you'd share/sell a template in the future?
no plans on posting our ableton set anytime soon, it's so custom i'm not sure it would be useful to anyone else aside from us. but we would be happy to do a walkthru and explain how it all works
How long does it take you to build your live sets, and what are the different components and effects assigned to each person?
As much as 3 to 6 months
How do you guys synchronize your sound? Is it all done in scenes or do you guys have some way of communicating live?
All instruments and controllers are plugged into one computer
What's your favorite ableton effect live?
Are there any sacrifices you make in order to make your music translate well to a live setting?
the only thing really is that we aren't playing mastered music, so it can't stand up very well next to a DJ playing fully mixed tracks. when skrillex played before us at UMF 2 years ago we purposely had to turn everything wayyyy up to match his mastered songs. our stuff is not squashed thru a limiter, it's more dynamic that way. but it doesn't have the typical EDM crush smash in yo face -boreta
we are very involved in the process. on the drink the sea tour we actually built, programmed, and carried the lights around ourselves. you can see pix of us grinding home depot sheet metal on our facebook around fall 2010 ;)
I am half of a two man electronic jam band in which I play (and loop) bass and trigger our songs/samples in a DJ-like fashion. I was wondering how you go about doing it?
During each song, each person is playing their part live. We play as much as 3 people can play at one time. Anything beyond 3 parts gets thrown on a backing track, but we also have the ability to effect and manipulate the entire mix at once.
I have asked all the other AMAs this question in some form, but to start, I have always admired your guy's performance chops and am just wondering as to how you see the divide between traditional DJ sets and more controller (or live instrument) based performances.
the method is irrelevant, it's all about moving energy.
Every time you play, you look like you're having such a blast. What is the most 'fun' part of your workflow? (live drumming, sample chopping, etc...) How does performing this (instead of playing it back as a prerecorded clip) affect the end result, what extra do you find it gives you?
we do have a lot of fun when we play! that's really the reward of all of this. getting to go out and perform for people and see the looks on their face. there's no feeling like it in the world. we designed the system we perform on so we could rock out and really get into the music. we want to be able to express ourselves on stage and really have crazy energy. DJing and "pressing play" can be a lot of fun, but with 3 people on stage we want to push it and see how we could come up with a new way of performing that hadn't been done before.
do you have any advice for young musicians like myself?
the best thing you can do is: be yourself. tell your own story - nobody else has it. and work hard - keep your head down, focus, and you'll get there. read malcolm gladwell outliers if you haven't - 10,000 hours is about right
at the end of the day it's still all about the music. really focus on that and everything else falls in to place. hype and trends all pass, but music lives forever
[deleted question about pirating software?]
Well..... If you don't have the dough and piracy is your only solution then to each his own. But if you use something loyally, try to go support the developers.
how did you get the funds to start up?
we all started out with very humble setups - just a computer and a sound card. none of us are independently wealthy. all of the gear we have came from music sales, licensing, and touring. we have been fortunate enough to have fans that buy our music and come out to shows to support us!
you really don't need a lot to get started and make big tunes. we bought gear once we had the extra funds to do so. but drink the sea was written on a pair of genelec monitors and a mac pro. nothing too fancy. sometimes having a small setup can actually work to your advantage - limited toolset can push creativity a lot.
If you could do one thing different as you were rising through the ranks, so to speak, what would it be?
we wouldn't do anything differently at all.... maybe eat more poutine.
good general advice though: spend less time on the internet and more time in the studio
what really helped you make the push from "good" producers/musicians to fucking amazing record-label-worthy producers/musicians?
e never set out to be kings of our genre or anything like that. we just focused on being ourselves and telling our own story. we work every day and try to push ourselves creatively. we enjoy pushing outside of our comfort zone. i don't know if that answers your question... but it really all just happened with a lot of hard work and dedication. we try to not follow what's trendy or popular and just focus on making music that has a story to tell and has energy that people will connect with
How old were you when you started making music on a computer and what software did you use when you were first starting out?
edit: i was 18 and i used this software called player pro which was the only tracker for macintosh at the time
boreta: i was 16 and i started with fruity loops then moved on to logic 3.0
gets out walker and cane
How do you feel about the issue of production technique secrecy - a policy so many professional producers seem to live by?
To each his own. We understand the idea of trade secrets however we are transparent with our fans. Better to teach a man to fish than to give a man a fish. If we can inspire you guys in a positive way that leads you making amazing music, then everybody wins.
What has been the best lesson you've learned throughout your rise to success?
be yourself, be grateful, and understand humility. we wake up every day and say thanks that we get to make music for a living. and we take it very seriously that there's a group of people out there who made this all possible.
I've seen a few things, including interviews and some suggestive Facebook posts, that make the implication of drugs playing a role in your creative output.
that's a very big topic we will tackle in a separate AMA some time. :) the short answer: psychedelics have definitely played a part in shaping our world, however these we focus on musical exploration. -boreta
Obviously the musical landscape has changed since you guys began producing music, but if you guys were teenagers again just entering the world of music production, what would be your first move?
the fact that i started out DJing actually was really beneficial. when you DJ you learn how music flows together, how to program the energy of songs, how to interact with the energy of a crowd. that makes it into your head and translates to the studio. i'd do it the same again - focus on DJing and producing at the same time. -boreta