Berlin’s reputation as one of the finest cities in the world for living, breathing and wrestling with electronic music made it the perfect place to start our new collaboration with Beatport – Producer Profile. We’ll be travelling the world to find out what inspires some of electronic music’s most exciting producers and artists about their city and how it affects the music they make in the studio.
The first producer we’ll be profiling is Heartthrob, whose techno stylings have seen him released on labels like Hot Creations, Minus and now, his own imprint Isnisnt. We visited his studio in Prenzlaeur Berg to talk about moving from Michigan to Berlin via NYC and Paris, how he met the Minus crew and what the outlook is for his new label.
Heartthrob’s studio is the perfect combination of analogue and digital, with some classic bits of kit like the Roland SH-101 and Korg MonoPoly mixed with more modern alternatives like Dave Smith’s Prophet 08. Using creative Max for Live techniques, Heartthrob combines outboard and software in perfect harmony creating unique sounds and riffs. In our video, he demos how this works as well as explaining how he deals with the low-end in the mix, for maximum impact in the club.
Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch all our upcoming Producer Profiles with more from Berlin coming very soon. Check out Heartthrob’s inaugural release on his new label Isnisnt below.
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Hi, this is Heartthrob, and you’re in my studio in Berlin. Today we’re going over the title track from the first EP on my label, Isnisnt, and the track is called Discount Dancer.
I move to Berlin about six years ago. I had been living in Paris before and needed a change. The record label I’d been working with, Minus, is located here, so I was allowed the artist, and it just made sense to be closer to that. Berlin itself is just such an easy city to live, especially as an American. As an artist, they’re very generous with Visas.
Beyond just being, like, a teenager, you know, in his bedroom, growing up, collecting records and equipment, I was living in New York . . . and this was about 10, 11 years ago. At that time, I’d been going out, and the techno scene in New York was very small. What was happening in New York besides some small house nights that had been going on forever were more of a hard techno loop-based discotheque nights. Kind of strange for such a big city, and oddly enough, Magda started coming into New York to play from Detroit. And this was before she even started working with Richie Hawtin. So we became friends, and I’d been making music, but I wasn’t really using a computer. I was just using a MPC2000 and a DAT recorder, some synths, so it was very raw, kind of crazy stuff. And she and Troy Pierce introduced me to Ableton Live, I think it was maybe the first version then. And that’s kind of what broke me into using the computer and going for soft synths and whatnot. It was more of a coincidence that, also, Rich moved to New York for a bit, and that’s how that phase of Minus started.
So, Isnisnt is a record label I’ve started, and the first release will be out in October. Right now it’s just my productions and some collaboration. The idea of starting a label came about after years of working with other people on their own record labels, and this day and age, it’s easy to publish music digitally and to press music if you have a little bit of money. You can still make records for not a lot. So that was the impulse and to have complete control. So the track I’m going to take you through is called Discount Dancer, sort of a jacking, weird, Latin, acid, disco track, in my mind. I relied, maybe, 50/50 on hardware and software for it. I used a Prophet ’08 for one of the main synth lines, a 101 for one of the base lines, some soft synths from Arturia, like the CS-80, and then my Eventide for some of the effects, and machine for the drums. Basically, when I started I was just a little jam, and I’d been messing around with the Max for Live MIDI plug-ins and figured out that if you send a tone of MIDI notes to a polyphonic synth, you can make some really interesting effects. That was kind of the first element that really got me intrigued in the track; it’s basically centered around using one melody that I wrote, actually with a monomachine; I use it a lot to write melodies because I like the way the sequencer continues to loop and usually just export the MIDI file out into Ableton and then edit that and build baselines and everything from that. So the elements that compose the track are variations of the same thing, just put through different synths and the actual MIDI notes being affected by the Max for Live.
So in this segment, I will go over how I use Max for Live’s MIDI effects to get some interesting and sort of playful variations on the main melody, or one of the melodies, in the track. So here on track 14, I have a CS-80 plug-in from Arturia where at the beginning, I have an Ableton Live’s MIDI effects rack set with two channels, one of them with a cord, one with pitch, a bit of note length. And in the second channel I have the Max for Live MIDA affect simple echo, and it’s set at negative five. So at this point in the track, 1:21, just solo it, and make sure it’s all armed, and it sounds good like this. It’s a little chaotic in the beginning, but as it runs through the song, it actually runs smoothly. So first channel for a chain, once removed, here it’s the higher notes and the bottoms are the lower. And together, surf computing a little bit, and since the CS-80 is polyphonic, you get a very full range of tones when used together. And to just to sort of indicate what it can do, I’m going to take this up from negative five to positive five. So here it’s building again. So, again, it’s something you just have to sort of mess around with and experiment, kind of find your own effects that kind of make it something unique and interesting. At least that’s what I do. Now, in this other channel, the organ channel, I have another setup using a MIDI effects rack. And first chain, again, I have a simple echo happening. And it’s good to see some automation happening, and just so speed it up; you can see, it’s unique and kind of strange movements happening. So now I’m going to go over just a bit of how I worked on the sub-base element of this track, and within the channel I have standard Ableton compressor, a VintageWarmer, and a plug-in from Sound Toys called FilterFreak. And with this particular recording part of it has quite a bit of, I guess it’s delay, a lot of delay just within the recording. So in order to keep the track’s overall arrangement from getting too cluttered, I used this particular filter just to kind of go in and out, take out and make room for some of the other elements. So in the beginning, it goes like this. Now with a kick and the sub happening, the frequency here is opening up, and you’re getting some of the sub-recording, I think it was a 101 stab or something going through an Eventide delay and echo plug-in. And now this other plug-in here PSP’s VintageWarmer, something I use quite a bit just to add a little bit of extra thickness. Also it’s quite nice to have a side chain going with a kick, but in this one I didn’t do that. Actually, I mixed it on a different board, whereas, this particular instance just internal for the sake of this demonstration. I think it’s always really smart to try to keep as much of the character without making things too clutter, and obviously this track has a lot going on. So it’s very easy for things to get out of hand. [Music]