The mighty jozif dropped by the Point Blank studios this week for another masterclass session. jozif has been on a sharp ascent recently, knocking out some top quality releases for labels like Culprit, Crosstown Rebels and InFine, among many others. As well as his great music, jozif has been travelling the world DJing from the US to Russia and everywhere in between, picking up high praise for his techniques on the ones and twos, as well as his offbeat, emotional approach to production. jozif’s tracks have a very ‘live’ feel to them, thanks to his hands-on production process – and he’s been known to use strange techniques to record sounds, implementing household objects for his track The 508, which was released on Crosstown Rebels last year. He came in for a highly entertaining, insightful masterclass here at Point Blank, which you can rewatch below…
A bit of background…
A name that continues to gain attention across the international electronic music circuit is dj and producer jozif. The born and bred London artist has worked his way to what is now undisputed success with typical (to those that know him) ‘jozif swagger’; passionate, determined and wildly talent driven. Charming the pants off both the dance floor with his DJ sets and the record industry via his productions; jozif’s infectious presence and low-slung grooves continue to define him as a stand out artist.
Breaking through with stellar force in 2010 with releases on Wolf + Lamb, Vitalik and an RA podcast mixed entirely of his own productions and edits; mass support from industry and public alike paved the way for the launch of jozif’s limited edition label Fist or Finger alongside Craig Richards. Featuring jozif’s dance floor A-side’s and Craig’s experimental reinterpretations on the flip, their debut release ‘Beats In Space’ was an instant sell out, their second ‘Brick Jane’ following suit and 2012’s ‘Room 3’ is set to do the same. Cementing things in 2011 with the ‘Sunrise’ EP on InFiné followed by a slew of remixes and re-works for the likes of Compost, Mobilee and Suol, Shonky, Rui Da Silva and Til von Sein; jozif has undoubtedly secured himself as an in- demand and talented remixer. Tying up 2011 with ‘Twilight’ alongside Roc-A-Fella signed RnB and soul singer/songwriter Terri Walker on More Music; jozif once again emphasized his musical diversity.
That diversity is catalyst to continued recognition and support from the likes of Damian Lazarus, Steve Lawler, Andrew Weatherall, Art Department and Droog, all of whom have all fallen hook line and sinker for jozif’s quirky and impossible to pigeon hole beats. Sculpting a soundtrack that weaves through loose and lazy drum patterns, wiggly b-lines and dramatic strings, jozif’s productions are tinged with slo-mo ambience and a rolling undercurrent of funk that not only resonates with our musical heart strings, but evokes the dirtiest bump and grit of a twisted 6am dance floor.
Last year jozif released ‘Standard Rising’ EP on Culprit as a follow up to ‘The Lady B EP’; noted for its sonically rich palette and supported by many including Radio 1’s Pete Tong. With The 508 also appearing late in the year, on Crosstown Rebels, and his debut mix CD for Balance appearing in 2013; it’s safe to say the jozif show has only just begun. He’s traversed the globe with regular appearances at London’s fabric, Paris’ Rex and Berlin’s Watergate; and picked up recognition from many of his peers and predecessors. His ever-present relationship with fabric and its resident and musical director Craig Richards soars whilst his 2012 residency at John Digweed’s Bedrock saw the pair share in its renewed success. jozif strikes a rare and confident balance between classic principles and the enigmatic sounds of tomorrow.
Marcus Barnes: Hi Everyone. Welcome to Point Blank Music School here in London. I’m Marcus Barnes and today we have a very special master class with jozif. He’s going to be breaking down one of his tracks from the Balance CD that he’s got out right now. So let’s go and do this thing.
How are you doing, jozif?
jozif : I’m all right…
jozif : …thank you. Yeah.
Marcus: How’s everything going in London?
jozif : It’s going all right now [laughs] Now I’ve got the computer working. There was a little bit of a hairy moment there. Yeah, no, fine thank you.
Marcus: Can you tell me a little bit about the track before you start breaking it down for us.
jozif : Yeah, of course. Basically with the new Balance CD that I just mixed, I wrote two records to go on the mix CD so it wasn’t just like a mix CD. It was obviously two of my compositions on there as well. This particular one there’s two of them: one’s called BTS Three and one’s called BTS Five. And this one, BTS Five, I guess is a very, I guess, a typical Jozi-y type record. It’s very over-emotional and lots of strings and lots of type of rubbish in it.
So basically I’m going to talk about this one today because there’s a lot of stuff going on in it. As you’ll probably see if you come in whenever you look at the screen grabs there’s like six billion different channels on it. I was going to talk about the BTS Three, but it was so simple that I kind of think it would probably only take us about three minutes to talk about. It was like a kick in the [inaudible 00:32]
Marcus: Wouldn’t really make for the best master class
jozif : Yeah, exactly. It would have been the shortest master class on the face of the planet. I’m going to talk about it. This is BTS Five. There’s a lot of arrangement in it. There’s a lot of process in it. Unfortunately on this particular laptop, though, I don’t have a lot of the plugins that I actually used for it because Kontakt is not on this machine because I murder Kontakt all the time. It’s not on this laptop. But what I have done is I’ve just bounced down the audio so we can actually hear what’s happening. But I’ve kept all the MIDI files in there…
Marcus: Oh sweet.
jozif : … so we can actually physically see what I played and we can actually have a look at it. And also, I took some screen grabs of Kontakt as well, just in case anyone doesn’t actually use it, we can actually see what she looks like and how I used it. So that’s it – BTS Five. Don’t ask me why it’s called BTS Five, by the way because I don’t even know.
Marcus: Before we get into it, I just want to let everyone know that jozif’s Balance CD is out right now. It’s a brilliant mix and make sure you pick it up. It’s really good. It’s got this track that he’s breaking down and a lot of other great tracks on it. Make sure you pick it up. Let’s crack on.
jozif : I don’t know whether you want me to play the record first. It’s quite a long record, so I don’t know if we’ll be able to sit through it. I don’t know if you want me to play it for you first.
Marcus: What do you guys think?
jozif : It’s up to you. We can listen to it and then we can go through it. Or I can just start talking to you about the parts of it. It’s totally up to what everyone wants to do. Should I start just going through the parts or play the record? Someone tell me. ‘Play the record first’ someone’s shouting at me. Okay.
Marcus: Let’s do it.
jozif : Here we go then. I’ll make sure it’s not going to blow your eardrums off. [music track plays]
So you can hear it’s quite an emotional, stringy type of business. Basically the whole thing about this record, what I was trying to do, whether or not I achieved it or not, I don’t know, but the whole point of this record was that I wanted something that for a prolonged period of time really didn’t do a huge great deal. Something that was kind of going to be a bubbling under type of thing, lots of pad. Something that’s going to be almost holding onto a whole bunch of energy, but at the same time not actually releasing it. And almost verging on like ‘Oh come on’. That kind of feeling so when you’re playing at a dance, someone’s going to go ‘What, What, there’s nothing happening here?’ Because all the way up until the two minutes, I think, up until that 65 mark there, the only thing that’s really changing is the bass line.
So what I wanted to do is use all these pad-y bits to try and make sure that they were something that was keeping the interest to a certain extent, but not giving anything away. And then the whole point was, this point here from the 97, then just to smash it with something which was like ‘What on earth is this silly little orchestral over-the-top-ness?’ And again that only lasting for, I mean, whatever it says on there. Not even a minute. So from there to wherever it crashes off. Like no time at all.
So it’s almost like you’re waiting for a whole long amount of time where nothing’s really happening and then something goes ‘Wow’. It’s just this huge orchestral thing and then after that it just goes back to kind of [music track starts] that bit. Then there’s a new arpeggio that gets introduced after that. [music track stops] But that’s it then. So you go from spending all this time going, ‘Come on get on with it’. [music track starts] Because it’s just that. Going from that then to this ridiculous [makes sound] string-y thing with all that. [music track stops]. So that was the idea.
Like I said, whether or not it worked or not is another thing entirely. As I said before, on this particular laptop, unfortunately, I don’t actually have the Kontakt plugin that I use for pretty much everything. Only because, I don’t know if you’ve used Kontakt, it’s such a huge, huge program, that it would blow this little thing up. All I did was bounce down the audio so we can listen to it bit by bit. But I’ve also kept these MIDI parts so we can go through it. I wanted to just talk about the layers, is the main thing. Because I don’t know whether you can hear it or not in here, but there’s a lot of layers. I remember listening to this interview that Sasha did eons and eons ago about the way that he deejayed and the way that he sort of approached his production, which was using lots and lots and lots and lots of layers to try and build energy and to try and build some type of vibe and to try and build the ethos of the track, the sound.
So this is one of those records, where you can see there’s this kick and there’s this drums and this percussion here and everything underneath there – the bleep, the bell, the bed – everything under there is a musical part. So what did the whole point of me trying to get all this together was get it all in there, write all the different parts and then find the best place to put them. Because if you un-muted all those tracks and you left them in there, the frequency range would be bonkers. You’d have no room for anything. And you’d just be like ‘Mate, this is driving me mental.’ There’s too many sounds fighting for the same position. Whenever I’m doing this type of record, when I’m writing this type of very layer-y, music-y type thing, what I tend to do is overwrite all the time.
I always keep going, keep going [makes sound]. I write another part. I hear sort of a string-y bit or a pad or a bell and I think ‘Oh that’s cool. It might lead to something else.’ And I’ll just write another part. Because when it comes to doing the arrangement, I kind of quite like the idea of having too much stuff. So you get to that thing where you come to the arranging bit when you go, ‘I really like that bell bit. Well, actually maybe it’s not as good as I thought it was so we’ll put it to one side.’ Either bin it or put it to one side. Like I’ve started and only recently put it to one side for maybe another project or another idea. But I always find it’s better to have too much stuff so then you have this huge palette in front of you when you come. Particularly with a record like this anyway. Like I said, the other record, if we get time, maybe I’ll show you the BTS Three at the end because it’s just like the total opposite to this record.
But with something like this anyway, I always find it’s great to have loads of different textures and different sounds because it’s all going in kind of the same direction. It’s all very music-y. It’s all very pad-y and it’s bell-y bits. And the other thing I just wanted to say before we go on listening to the parts was when I come to writing these really music-y bits, well actually it’s probably the same for my drums as well now that I come to think about it, I tend not to process them too heavy when I write them. I tend not to process them too hard when they’re in the MIDI phase. What I tend to do is write them all first, get them to a point where I think, ‘Yeah, that’s kind of cool’, and only at the end when I bounce it all down to audio, when I’m totally happy with it, then I’ll start really processing it with effects and stuff.
Because particularly with a record like this anyway, when if this was all still written in MIDI, even my studio computer at home would struggle for the CPU to run it all. So there’s going to come a time when you’re going to have to start bouncing stuff down to audio. Because your CPU simply wouldn’t be able to run it. When it’s in MIDI format, I hardly really ever process it at all. It’s only when I’m 1000%, it’s like ‘OK, that’s the bit and that all works’, and I start bouncing it, then I’ll bounce it down to audio and then I’ll start processing it later.
Because I think what sometimes can happen is if you process it and then you bounce it down to audio and you don’t like the sound of it, or the EQ isn’t right, or you’ve got big reverb on it, and you start chopping it up then you’re scuppered because you’re like ‘Oh, I’ve already processed it’. Then you have to go back and it’s just a pain in the arse. So, yeah, that’s what I always do. I wonder if I can just skip to the other project quickly because there’s another thing here I want to just show you, which has just got all the sounds in it un-muted so we don’t have to go through the thing. I wonder if this might actually blow the computer up. Everyone has to cross our fingers at this point.
So this is a classic example, you can see now that there’s a whole lot of plugins that actually don’t work. I’m not sure if this is going to… Do I have to do this thingy? I’ll have to do this bit. Are we all right? Am I good now? Am I fine? Oh, good. Okay. This is the same record, but it’s just everything un-muted with no automation so it’s probably easier for us to look at. So going back to the layers thing, which I wanted to talk about is the big main string-y bit, which is the really over-the-top bit, which sounds like this. [music track starts] And then it goes [makes sound]. [music track stops] The audio bit obviously looks like a piece of audio. But the MIDI part actually looks like this. So it’s not like rocket surgery. I know it looks a bit weird because it’s got all the little dots in it, but it’s just a very simple repeating pattern. But obviously there’s a little key change there, which gives it that depth. But what I use for this, which I was saying before about Kontakt… I don’t know, do any of you guys use Kontakt? No.
Kontakt is amazing. I love Kontakt. It’s fantastic. But it’s very, very heavy. There’s one of the libraries that I use on Kontakt is this thing here, which is this Session Strings Pro, which is a huge, huge bank of string sounds and it’s great. You can see my really silly Alicia Keys piano there. [laughs] I’ve been outed as an Alicia Keys fan. It’s quite good actually. But, yeah, I use that for all the string-y sounds because, actually we can play, I’ve just had a thought, we can play in the EXS24, the same song. If it’s going to work. [music track starts] Yeah, so this is the same… This is the MIDI part, but in the EXS24. You can kind of see it’s…but actually you can look at the part. [music track stops]
Q1: [inaudible 16:59]
jozif : Maybe that’s another record. [laughs] I’d have only known that I could have written it to a different track. I use that Kontakt for so much stuff because it’s… Like I said, the sounds are really, really great. You can do a lot. I know my way around it, which is helpful. I’m pretty certain if I was probably proficient on EXS24 I could probably get it out. The sounds on that Kontakt Session Strings are actually fantastic.
Marcus: It’s like it was made for you.
jozif : I know. It’s good. They should have given it to me for free, really. All of this, the majority of the sounds on this record, the musical sounds anyway, actually, no, in fact the drums are actually done in it as well, are all done on Kontakt. The only thing that isn’t done on Kontakt is this little R3 sound, which is part of the bed, which is done on my Korg R3 little outboard keyboard. Which I kind of bought and thought this is going to be a really good idea because it’s really easy to play and there’s a good arpeggio on it and there’s loads of really cool things on it, and I probably really only use it for things like this. [music track plays] That’s how much I’ve got out of it in probably two years. I’ve literally gone ‘I know’ [makes sound] and that’s it. So that was good really 600 quid well spent. What I wanted just to play you was, this might sound a bit convoluted because the levels aren’t necessarily right, but I wanted to just go through the layers to show you how many layers there are in it. And how it makes up the sound basically. [music track starts] There’s a little bell sound here. Again this is out of Kontakt. This is in one of the synths. I think it’s called Carillion. There’s a little pad-y thing here which is the strings and there is another pad there. There’s another pad. This is arppegio, which will play in a minute because that comes in at the end. Where’s the other bed. I can’t remember where everything is. Hold on. Let’s just play it from there. This is another string bed there. So you can hear… I mean, even if you just solo that.
Marcus: It gives it so much depth man.
jozif : There is so much stuff in here. But again, like I said before, it’s a case of trying to get all of these sounds to talk to each other all at the same time. Because what can all too often happen is, someone was telling me a long time ago about bottom end stuff. They were saying you’ve got to be careful not to muddy it because there’s no point after like 70 or 80 Hz. You’re just going to lose space, particularly if you’re putting stuff on vinyl. But also what I’ve found is that the same can be said for all the stuff in the mids and the tops because… I don’t know if you guys use this. This something I use all the time. I use it both on my output and on the channels… is the analyser tool on your EQ, which is fantastic for me. Because it basically tells you where everything is happening. So without that on, you can kind of go ‘Well I can kind of here it. This is fine.’ But if I end up using headphones or somebody else’s studio or whatever, or if you simply don’t know, this tool is absolutely fantastic. Because then it gives you that ability to go, ‘I can actually see maybe that I need actually more here.’ And when you start layering layers like this and you start putting the EQs together, then you can then start to see what’s actually fi-. Because sometimes, I mean, unless you’re in the most amazing studio on the face of the planet, you’re never going to know until you go and play at Fabric and you go ‘Oh, Crikey Moses.’ All you can hear is [makes sound].
As technical as this sounds, and as unfortunate as I find it, it’s a necessity sometimes to use your eyes and use the technical ability rather than just go ‘Oh it kind of sounds all right to me so I’m not going to do it’. So sometimes it’s really good to use things like this to meter… In fact, there’s a lot of the metering aspects that are in Logic, which are really, really useful.
So like I said, there’s a lot of stuff here, which I mean if you listen to this string bed for example. Even though it’s really heavily effected and it’s very gentle and lovely, if you listen to this pad, not that one, that’s such a sweep-y pad. It might be one of these, one of these pads is very similar. See that one is very similar. That one has just got such a huge effect on it, that when I use this bed to come in to the other main string line, that bed then comes out. With a record like this, it is just about trying to get everything to talk to each other. Which can sometimes be difficult, which is why this record probably took me about a thousand years to actually do. And about a thousand versions. I’m not sure if I can show you how many versions I’ve actually got on here. On this machine, there’s that many versions. And that’s only the versions I brought over today.
So this is the string-y bits. Also, what I was going to tell you about was…Where are the hotkeys on here? So there’s a plucky thing on here. You can see that I’ve obviously named my tracks. They’re really clever, the way I name them. ‘That sounds like a pluck so I’m going to use that.’ Or, ‘The doofy, dinky, swirly one.’ I’m not very technical. This is something again which I wanted to talk about Kontakt. And I know I’m sounding like I’m sponsored by Kontakt today. There is something really useful, going back to this Session Strings thing on Kontakt. There’s a thingy on here which is called the Animator, which is why I’ve screen-grabbed it here so you can see it. This Animator is an arpeggio for the strings. So there’s a lot of stuff in here that you can hear it going [makes sound]. There’s this plucky bit. Might help if I actually did the right bit. We’ll get there in the end, sorry. Which is what this sounds like. This particular part, this staccato part, was just the same note I used for the bed or the same chord I used for the bed. But because I was getting to a point where we had so many of these pad layers and it was all very elongated, and, you know, well, long, I wanted something to sort of chop it up. And that’s what this bit is for. To give it a little [makes sound] bit of a stab. And then talking with the other bit. Because then you just get that bit to play on the other bit. Again it’s just giving it that character.
If you start putting them together, they start to all kind of talk to each other. And there’s a big main bit over the top, which then also sounds like this. I’ll turn this up. This is the main riff then, this is coming over the top. So, that’s how it all starts to kind of come together. But like I said, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s just about trying to get it all to come and talk together. Which is a drama, as you can see. So yeah, that’s the first part. I don’t know if anyone wants to talk to me or ask me anything about Kontakt or strings or whether just banged on a little bit too long about that. That’s kind of what this record is actually about.
Marcus: Was there a specific thing that really inspired this track? Or was it just a case of …
jozif : I started with the strings on this record. Nothing really inspired it. To be honest with you, I never really do that with anything, unless I’m doing a remix or an edit, it’s very, very rare that I’ll sort of sit down and go ‘Oh, yeah I really have to do this.’ Because it’s usually with me it’s like whenever I sit, because I just sit every single day unless I’m traveling, it’s like every day I’ll just sit in the studio.
jozif : Yeah, you’re always playing around.
Marcus: Yeah, for sure. And it’s like, and for me, what I kind of quite like about writing music is you talk to different people and different people say different things. Some producers will say, ‘You know, I sit down and I make a beat and then I go from there.’ Other people will say, ‘Well you know, I don’t really start with anything.’ I’m one of those people that doesn’t start with anything. I just kind of go, ‘I think this actually.’ Because I never sit down and actually write a record because I have to write a record. What frightens me the most is someone who says, ‘Oh I have to put a record out every single month. I have to write a record.’ That frightens me and I think I’m probably totally incapable of actually doing it. So with me I just sit down and I start it.
I think originally, if I remember correctly, I’d started messing around with this Session Strings thing because I’d probably only just got it. Or something like that. And I started to faff around with it and I went, ‘Oh this is actually…’ And I started with that string-y bit. Then it turned into what it is now. I never really have a plan really. I probably should at some point. Might be a good idea.
Marcus: You seem to be doing well off the way you work anyway. Most of the stuff you’ve had out has been really on point. It’s kind of like it has a character to it that’s all you.
jozif : Yeah, I think probably a lot of people’s music does have a certain character for them. It just depends who they actually are. There are some people that kind of write the same record over and over and over again. Or their records sound like other people’s. But that’s kind of their character. Which I think is fine. At the end of the day, writing music and playing music is just about what you want to do. And if you want to go, ‘I want to write a Nick Curly record’, then go and write a Nick Curly record. Happy days. If you write and it’s a good Nick Curly record, then I’ll probably end up playing it in a night club.
I think a lot of times people can get quite sort of snobby about stuff and they can be a bit like, ‘Oh God, what do you know? He’s not even doing anything new.’ Listen, none of us are really doing anything new. None of us are reinventing the wheel. It’s not like we’re Jim Morrison. But anyway, this particular one anyway started with this stringy bit. What was it I wanting to talk to you about? The drums as well. But this is a little bit tricky because you can see here my Kontakt has a little strike out on it because, and also I might talk about the bass as long as we’re here. I don’t know if anyone has heard of this ABL2 bass thing. It’s by a company called Audio Realism. I think it’s a 303 or an AOA emulator. I’m not super cool on the names of stuff unfortunately. It’s like 90 euros. It’s like 70 quid. It’s so cheap, but it sounds amazing. So I use it for loads of stuff when it comes to bass because you can get like a really great sound out of it. Now this is obviously just the audio. Now I don’t even process this that much. It’s a shame I can’t. I wonder if I can [??] But again with the bass stuff, you can see even on this version that I have sent this bass through something. Because if you look at… I know I might be going off a little bit higgledy piggledy, but stick with me. When I open my Logic screen, even on this one I’m particularly obviously on my studio machine, that I have these templates up already. So like I was saying before about not processing stuff too much early on, what I tend to do is, let’s just say we write three drum tracks and you’re going to go kick, snare, clap, high hat, and all the rest of it you get it together and you go, ‘Oh this is quite cool.’ Whether their pieces of audio or pieces of MIDI, I’ll then group them together and put them in this one bus.
The kick will always stay on her own because to me a kick I think she just has to do her own thing and let her go. But the drums and the percussion stuff, I kind of quite like the idea of getting them all together. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bit of a control freak and I like stuff grouped together nice. Which is why you can see everything’s not in colors and groups and blocks in my session field. I probably spend more time doing that anything. I think, ‘Oh it must be blue.’ Like a complete weirdo.
Marcus: There’s always got to be a method to the madness somewhere.
jozif : When you spend this much time on your own, looking at blots on a screen, it’s going to come out in a little way, you know what I mean? So, yeah, just talking about the bussing and the grouping of stuff. I’m probably sure everyone does this. With drums and with rhythm stuff I tend to sort of group stuff together so it all just kind of has the same kind of texture and the same type of color for it. I also then, with the template that I have, have these, they’re just these simple busses for things like stereo delay and the reverb because, I mean on this one there’s a ring shift and I think that’s probably the first time I’ve ever used that.
But particularly the stereo delay and the delay designer is like… I found myself, when I first started really getting heavy into Logic about four or five years ago, that I would be repeating myself over and over and over again. Because I’d be like, ‘Oh you know what? I really want to just send that to a quick little stereo delay.’ And I’d be like ‘Right, right auxiliary, insert bus’ and I’d be doing it all the time. And it was only when I was with my friend once that he says, ‘Well, you know you can just set up so it’s always there.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amaz…’ Because the other thing with me is I tend to forget a whole lot of stuff. So there’d be a lot of time when I first started using Logic that I’d go, ‘Oh I set up a stereo to have separate bus.’ I’d go, ‘Right. How do I go…?’ I can’t remember how to do that. Right, go to point blank online. How do I do that? I’d go into one of your things [makes sound]. I’d do that every single day. So this is really good. It’s time saving and it’s amazing.
My template now, particularly on my machine in the studio at home, the big one, it’s great because it just loads up and all the stuff that you’re going to find yourself repeating yourself over and over and over again, it’s always going to be there. Not necessarily about writing techniques or even arrangement or programming or anything, but from a technical standpoint, I find, anyway, that I find myself doing the same thing. Like, just throwing this thing to a delay or compressing something in this type of way, because drums unless you’re recording live drums, I find that programming drums on here I find I’ll kind of compress them in the same kind of way. It just saves you time. I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again. So yeah, that’s that bit. Sorry, I got something in my eye. Sorry, did you want to ask me something? I’m just rabbiting away here.
Marcus: No, you’re doing super well. I’m enjoying it.
jozif : Ah, thanks. He’s like a good friend. He says, ‘You’re doing all right.’ It’s like going to the doctor’s. ‘You’re all right. It’s fine. Don’t worry.’ Crikey.
Marcus: Have another sip of your beer. No, it sounds really good.
jozif : Does anyone else want to ask anything while I’m going along?
Q2: Yeah, I wanted to ask you if you compress your bass?
jozif : I do, yes. I do. I’ll tell you what I also do with my bass, depending on what type of record it is, which apparently you’re not actually allowed to ever do, which is put loads of effects on. Like I put reverb on my bass sometimes because to me it’s one of those things where as long as it sounds really, really good, and going back to the analyzation thing on the EQ and it doesn’t get in the way of anything, I kind of quite like the idea of going, ‘Oh this kind of sounds good to me so let’s just do it.’ I mean, I do loads of stuff that probably people in your course are telling you not to do. I definitely…I always… Like I said, when I group stuff together is the kick will be over here, the drums will be what I call the rhythm section, which will be all the mid parts, they stay together. And the bass, she’ll be on her own as well because I think when you have the kick and the bass and the drums, those, regardless of how many musical stupid bits you’ve got in the middle, those three bits all need to talk to each other. Because if they don’t, that to me is the nuts and the bolts of a record really. Because it doesn’t really matter what else you do over the top of it. I always use that same example of that King Britt remix of Josh One. I mean, nothing happens in that record but it has the best kick drum, that best clap/snap I’ve ever heard in my life. And it’s just [makes sound]. And that bass line, you could listen to that for a thousand hours. And nothing happens. But because those three elements are talking, it’s romantic if you’re as weird as me.
Marcus: How did you come across Kontakt anyway? Did somebody recommend it to you?
jozif : I think it’s just one of those things where when you’re writing music for stuff and you sort of read magazines and stuff, you just kind of come across. I guess it’s the same as DJ people. They’d come across Track to Scratch or SmartWave, what it’s called, the first one. You just kind of get it. But to be honest with you I had loads of problems when I very first used it. I hated it. I could never get it to work. Half of it was my machine wasn’t really good and the other half was it was just so big. But to be honest with you, what I really wanted to do was try and get away from using the standard Logic stuff.
But what ended up happening in a weird way was I went totally the other way and got loads of stuff from Native Instruments. I got like Kore and Kontakt and Mouth and trousers and kitchen sink. I got all this stuff and then I reconfigured my machine. My hard drive crashed so I went and wiped my machine and went, ‘Okay. I’m going to start again.’ So I reinstalled Logic and I had some stuff I had to finish so I thought I can’t really bother to reinstall all the Native Instrument stuff so I’ll wait. And I re-found all the Logic stuff and I was like, ‘Bloody hell, all this stuff’s brilliant.’ Because it is really good. Because I think it’s like anything you kind of, you’re frantically trying to find something that everyone else isn’t, but you kind of tend to forget that it’s really good. And it’s like one of those things where the tools at your disposal, it’s how you use them.
Like the EXS24 now, I use that all the time, even if it’s loading in my own samples. Like I’ll record some drums and I can stick it in there and it’s fantastic. Again, like I said, it’s like anything. It’s just like all these different tools if you can have as many at your disposal as possible. But again, I’m kind of contradicting myself a little bit there. It could be a case where you have so much stuff that you never actually use any of them properly. Even my dad used to say, my dad used to be a professional musician, he always used to say, ‘At the end of the day, the best thing to do is get one drum kit. Know that drum kit inside out. One set of cymb… As long as you know that inside out, then it’s amazing.’ Rather than being, well I’m kind of good on three different drum kits and I can kind of play the bass. I’m all right on the xylophone. Xylophone, triangle, you can see how good I am. You can see why I use a computer.
Marcus: So how long does it take to actually do the track from beginning to end?
jozif : This one took me a while, actually, because like I said I started with the strings. And I think I put this one to one side, and I wrote the string arrangement and the pads and all the musical side of it, and I left it. Because originally I thought it was going to maybe be like a TV piece of music, or it might have been an advert or something because it sounds a bit O.T.T. to play on a dance floor. So I think I put this to one side and then when I started to do the Balance thing, you know the Balance mix side… Originally the Balance wasn’t meant to be as emotional as it actually turned out to be. Originally it was going to be quite disco-y and funky and quite – it was meant to be quite nightclubby.
Marcus: …[SSS] …
jozif : Yeah, it was meant to be quite night club-y. But I did a few versions. One of my friends passed away and I kind of got a little bit emotional about it and I went back and just did a whole other thing. And when I did it, you know, I was like, ‘Well am I going to write two records to be on the mix?’ And one of them is sort of quite pump-y bit. And I thought by the time I got to the end of the mix I just suddenly heard this record in my head and I was like, ‘Oh I’ve still got that string section.’ So I pulled this out and went, ‘Oh yeah that’s great.’ Because as the mix goes on, and you’ll hear it, but as the mix goes on towards the end it starts to get a little [makes sound]. It’s one of those, you know, not one to listen to at 7:00 in the morning. It’s definitely not a calm down record.
There was one other thing I wanted to just quickly touch on, which we haven’t actually talked about any of the rhythm section, which is the drums. So again, surprise, surprise, I used Kontakt for this. But I used, for those people who don’t know actually about Kontakt, this thing in Kontakt which is amazing, which is this in their factory library they have this drum sequencer. Which I totally and utterly came by by mistake one day faffing around in there. There’s a whole library of kicks and snaps and claps and snares and everything. And there’s this performances option you have here. So if you can see…Can you see this on the screen? We’re just going to flip through these screen grabs because I’m sorry I don’t have it on here. But you have these different options on here. This is the drum kit thing. Then you obviously have the loop section here so you can up fade in. You can move it all around. You then have the Groove Box, which is fantastic. And then you have all the masters.
So it’s literally like having a drum machine. You can load all your sounds in. This drum, for the purposes of this, there’s only one drum track on here which sounds like this. [music track plays] I know it isn’t very loud. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but that one drum track is probably made up of… I think I put them in here actually somewhere. I did, yes. It’s made up of all these different… [music track starts] There’s a kick in here. There’s a perk-y bit in here. [music track stops] There’s all of this stuff. Which what I did on the drum machine was play one line, and then put it to one side, and record in and play another line, record it all in and then go [makes sound] and bounce it all in so it ended up sounding like this… [music track starts]..with this little perk-y bit. And that’s how [inaudible 40:55] with the drums.
Then you have this little bit and then you’ll see the kick. I can’t be sure where I got the kick from on this. Going back to the rhythm bit. What I was going to do with this bass line, I just remembered, what I was going to do with this bass line, because it hits right on the kick, what I was going to do was I thought it would be a really good idea to try and side-chain this bass line so that when the kick hit it kind of had a little bit of a… It gave a little bit more room and gave it a bit of a shape.
But I started to do it and I realized that even though technically that’s probably a really good thing to do, the sound I wanted to get is actually I wanted the bass drum to kick on the kick drum so it goes [makes sound]. And I kind of quite like that abrasiveness of that rhythm thing. Because everything off the top is going [makes sound]. I kind of quite like the bottom bit to go [makes sound]. I’m not giving no room for no one. So that’s that bit. But again, I was talking about Kontakt. I know I’ve been talking about that a lot, so… Yeah, I don’t know.
Marcus: How’s it been dropping when you’ve been playing it out?
jozif : I haven’t actually played this out a lot. No, because I played it in Barcelona when I played New Year’s Eve. I played it towards the end of my set on New Year’s Eve. I’m not quite sure if it was the right time to play it because there were a few kids in front of me kind of going, ‘Hm? What? This ain’t music. What the hell?’ ‘Yeah, but I really love this record.’ The thing is about writing music, it’s a bit tricky because like I said to you before, I don’t write records, I don’t write music for any other reason other than the fact that I love writing this music. Whether it’s this record or whether it’s, you know, I don’t know, I just started a remix for Adam Shelton and Ash on One Records. I might actually play to you actually? Am I all right to put this on?
Marcus: Is that Han… [SS]
jozif : Hanfry-what’s-his-chops.
Marcus: Hanfry Martinez and … [SS]…
jozif : Right. So this is a good example of, like, the total opposite of how I write records. So this nonsense that we’ve got here, which is a billion thousand layers of [makes sound]. This record has probably got two bits in it. [music track starts] There’s obviously the kick and the little bit of percussion on this one loop. So I’ll just skip it otherwise it’ll go on forever. That’s it for the whole record. I don’t have it on this machine so I can’t show you the arrangements of it.
Marcus: Yeah, it’s quality, man. I just got this today.
jozif : Again this is, like I said, this is the polar opposite to the other side. And that’s it. Nothing else happens. But it’s kind of one of those things where, because I just write for me, it sounds very, very selfish, but because I just write for me and I just write for that moment, this BTS record I was like ‘Oh, you know…’ [makes sound]. But then that remix, the thing that I just did with Valerie June on Sunday Best, I mean, that’s a very folky kind of thing. But it’s just about that moment in time. So, yeah, I don’t know where I was going with that. Being selfish, I think was the long and the short of it. When it comes to the right music that I write or music in general, I don’t think it needs to be too much of one thing. It can be anything.
Marcus: That’s it. That’s it man. I’m going to ask you some questions from the chat room if you’re open.
jozif : I’m totally open.
Marcus: Okay. Cool. Did it take you a while to train your ears to hear the effects of your processing? I guess it would have done.
jozif : Yeah. It’s a lot of trial and error, I think. I sat for a long time, I think for a long time I sat down and read a lot and tried to learn as much as I possibly could. There’s a lot of friends of mine that were really, really helpful early on. Because I was never really super, super into writing music on a computer ever. And the technical aspect of it was really, really frustrating. Because there’s nothing worse than going [make sound] ‘It’s amazing!’ and then going [makes sound]. And the computer goes, ‘Oh, no. You can’t do that because you haven’t plugged this in.’ It drives you mental. So it was a lot of trial and error. But it was definitely one of those things that, once you get there – once I kind of got there and once you kind of know, then it’s almost like, ‘Ok, that’s kind of what I wanted.’ Like I was saying before, about when you’re in your mixer screen, you know you love that little stereo delay. I mean, I use it all the time just to bleed through breaks and stuff. And little delay designer effects, that makes me feel happy on your ear. I think that’s the only thing you can do is go, ‘Oh that’s what makes it sound nice to me.’ As long as it’s not horrendous. Sometimes it probably could be. Yes. Yes is the answer. It did take me a long time. In the short say.
Marcus: How long do you reckon it took you?
jozif : Until now, I’d probably say. I think so. For sure. Processing drums and rhythm I think has been a lot quicker, because you can really, really hear the effects of processing drum tracks properly. Because if you listen to, it’s like if you go into your drums and you go into your drum bus, as if you play it with your processing on and you play with it off, then you can really hear it. But again, for me it has always been very much about tweaking. Because I’m not a technical person. I’ve never been. I’ve never been to a school. I’ve never really learned…I’ve read about it and I’ve tried to learn. But at the same time, a lot of it, I’m a very impatient person. I can’t sit for hours and kind of watch, as much as I’m probably sure they’re amazing, I can’t sit and watch tutorials for 20 minutes. I don’t have the attention span. I can’t sit and read a Logic manual. I physically can’t. I’m like, ‘Oh, just get on with it!’ And I’ll just throw a mess it up on my own. So it has always been very much a hands-on, make it up as you go along thing, with a little bit of YouTube guidance.
Marcus: Sweet. Well, it seems to be working out for you pretty well, isn’t it?
jozif : I don’t know. It depends. I kind of like the way things are sounding now. But again, it’s always for me writing music as far as I’m concerned. It’s always…It’s just a continual thing because, I wrote a record recently. I did a remix of someone recently, which I won’t mention what it is, but I listen to it back on the airplane the other day and I thought, ‘Shit. This sounds like something I did five years ago. This is bloody awful.’ But I kind of quite like that, that sometimes you get a punch in the face. You go, ‘You thought you were all right, but you’re not. Don’t think you can just swan in and do everyone.’ Because every so often you go, ‘Aw, I’m actually really shit.’ You need to concentrate. You can’t just turn up and go [makes sound]. You need to, at least I do anyway, you need to keep abreast.
Marcus: Everyone needs to slip up once in a while, don’t they?
jozif : Yeah. I think so.
Marcus: What’s your favorite EQ plugin or piece of gear?
jozif : EQ-wise, I’ve got the UAD stuff. I know how much I adore… The Wave stuff I use quite a lot. I mean, I kind of messed up a little bit there. I don’t know if you know about the wave stuff. I spent an inordinate amount of money on them because my friend has this great big studio and he was like, ‘Oh you’ve got it? These are so amazing!’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ Went and spent money on them when I could have been naughty and borrowed them off someone. They’re so amazing, that on my thousand-pound Atom speakers in the studio, you can’t really hear them make a difference. So I don’t really actually ever use them anymore. But I love EQs and I love the compression here on Logic. Only because I think I’ve been so used to how this, and getting to them how I sound. Because just very simple things like the ratio and the threshold, I kind of get that feel now where I can kind of go, ‘Oh that’s how I want it to feel.’
Marcus: …Probably get quite intuitive now.
jozif : For sure. But I guess that’s only… People will probably, Klo Vanstrum [sounds like 49:35] will probably say the same thing about Ableton. It’s just like going back to what I was saying before. It’s just knowing one thing and knowing it, and getting the result that you actually need. Not that I’m saying Waves are into rubbish. Just too cool for me.
Marcus: I just don’t know how to use them.
jozif : I just… You’re too cool for me. I’m sorry. So if anyone wants to buy any Waves plugins. That’s a joke by the way, Waves.
Marcus: Has anyone in the audience got any questions?
Q3: Do you use Ableton as well?
jozif : I do use Ableton.
Q3: What do you use it for?
jozif : I actually used Ableton before I used Logic. So I had Ableton 3 or 4, I think, a long time ago. 2003 or maybe a bit after that. I used that to try and get into trying to learn how to write records on a computer. But then, with all due respect to the writers, I could never get it to sound right and it never really worked for me. So I switched to Logic. But I still use it now. There are certain things that I rewire. You know you can rewire Ableton into Logic, so there are some things where if for example I’m searching for an idea and I’m here and I’m just looping something and I’m trying to get something, I’ll rewire Ableton behind Logic and I’ll grab something from either an old project that’s in a totally different tempo, or I’ll grab a sample or I’ll grab something just to chuck it in, just to sort of give my brain a creative kick in the bum. Because sometimes you can be sat here and you can go, ‘Okay, we’re two days in now, and okay, funny, but this is kind of running a little bit slow.’ Because like I said, I’ve got a very, very short attention span. So unless I fall in love with something very quickly, then I tend to go, ‘Oh, you know what mate? Me and you are over.’
I struggle to write music on the road. I’m useless at it because I use my MIDI keyboard for absolutely everything from playing my drums and my piano and everything. So I really, really struggle on the road. But recently I’ve been using Ableton with a really rubbish little tiny Korg micro thing. I mean it’s about as big as a toothbrush. It’s hilarious. I’ve been using Ableton for that. Because it’s very, very quick and very easy to get sketches and getting ideas down. But if I do come up with that… In fact, the thing that I did for Sunday Best, that’s the remix that I did for them started out in Ableton because they sent me the audio. And as you know Ableton is so quick to just chuck ideas into and just get it going.
Marcus: That’s what a lot of people say, isn’t it, about Ableton? It’s just really good for getting your stuff in.
jozif : That’s the only thing. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m not proficient enough on Logic or whatever, but just the audio version Logic does, I can’t get her to be as spontaneous as Logic. Even with the new flex time function. It seems very laborious just to try and get a piece of audio and go ‘Right, that’s not the same tempo, but now work it out.’ And Logic goes, ‘Well I will, but wait. Let’s talk about this.’ And Ableton’s like, ‘Well, just chuck it in, mate. I don’t give a shit! Let’s get on with it!’ She’s like the party girl, whereas Logic, she’s the one going, ‘Well, I don’t know, mate. Is this the right idea for us. You want to use this?’ And you’ll be like, ‘I don’t want your opinion, babe. I just want you to get on with it.’
Marcus: Spoken like a true rogue.
jozif : That sounds a bit sexist. It actually wasn’t meant to be that sexist. So, yes. I do love it. And I’m actually really looking forward to what they’re doing with Ableton 9. Only because they have promised they are going to sort the audio engine out in it, which is the only thing, for me, and I again I don’t know whether it’s because I’m not very good on it. But I was writing a record recently with my friend in Berlin and he only ever uses Ableton. And he comes from big bands writing in ProTools, so he’s super technical pro, but he only ever uses Ableton. Only ever. But he has to process the crap out of everything to try and get it together, whereas with her, and I don’t know what it is… And like I said, I don’t know whether it’s because I just don’t know, but with Logic, I can do the same thing in Logic that I do in Ableton and I just go, ‘Oh yeah, now that…’ And it just sounds good.
Marcus: Yeah. That’s it man. That’s the way it works. Do you get stuck when you’re making tracks? And if so, how do you sort of get past or through the wall?
jozif : I get stuck all the time. I got stuck at 2:00 this afternoon before I came in here. I got stuck with the vocal. What I have recently been doing is leaving it. What used to happen before was when I would get stuck, because I’m quite stubborn, I’d be like ‘You and I are going to sit here until this is done.’ Whether it’s 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, I’d sit down and battle it out. And sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. But now, I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve started to go, ‘Okay. Look. This isn’t working for now. You and I are not getting on. So let’s just leave it.’ And I’ll go away and work on something else. Or go and do the washing up or something. And nine times out of ten, what happens to me is that if I’m humming the record that I’m getting stuck on, or I’m singing a part and I’m going [makes sound], sorting the cat out [makes sound], I’ll be like ‘That’s that thing.’ And then I’ll go back and do it. Because I think what can happen is if you’re looking at these lovely, bold, color-coded block for hours, you’re going, ‘I hate you.’ You’re not going to get anywhere.
Marcus: And you’re straining to get it out. You’re like [makes sound].
jozif : And the thing is, I used to think when I first started writing music, I used to think that it was so beautiful and so romantic that there’s no way that it could be painful. There’s no way. And it was only after I really started writing music that I spent a lot of time with my father, who’s written loads of music, and I started talking to him about writing music, that he said, ‘Look. This is not all sunshine and roses. There’s going to be times when your banging your head against a wall. And there’s going to come a time when something’s going to fall out of the sky by complete fluke, and you’re going to be like, ‘Shit! I didn’t even mean to do that.’ And it’s going to change the whole record. So, again it can just be anything. It can be amazing sometimes and awful like others.
Marcus: That’s the beauty of music, huh?
jozif : That’s why it’s like drugs. It’s what you’re totally addicted to. You just never know what you’re going to get. Or was that chocolate? Sorry, that’s chocolate.
Marcus: Or Tiger beer. Just as we’re finishing up, can you just let people know what tracks you’ve got coming up? Anything that’s scheduled for release or.
jozif : That remix I actually just played you for One Records, which is Adam Shelton and my good mate, Saban’s, label. I don’t know when that’s going to be out, but you’ve got it, so it’s probably on its way out at some point.
Marcus: Yeah, I think it’s within the next month or so.
jozif : And then I have an EP, which is called Under the Thumb. This is a really good one with an amazing vocalist that I’ve just started working with. A girl called Jenni. So there’s a three track EP. And then Something for Left Room, which is going to be [makes sound] club music.
Marcus: Good stuff man. Nice one. Well, thanks for coming in.
jozif : Thank you very much. Cheers. Thanks for having me.
Marcus: Loved having you here. Don’t forget, everyone that’s tuned in, subscribe to our channel for more great tutorials like this and we’ll see you again for another master class. Thanks for tuning in.