Check out Jean-Marie Horvat’s samples and cuts on Sounds.com here.
STARTING OUT IN THE 90s
Everyone in the industry knows that I got my start in the studio looking over the shoulder of legendary producer Teddy Riley and he taught me so much. Back in the day there wasn’t really such a job as a “mixer” as we know them today. There were just great engineers. Nowadays you can give your track to a mix engineer and he can totally fuck it up. That’s what I do! I think I was one of the first people to bring a Pro Tools rig into a room back around ’97. We really went digital because of Teddy’s forward way of thinking. He compared analog and digital to acoustic and electric guitars saying, “You play them the same way but it’s a whole different effect”. Once we moved over to digital compressors he really knew how to make them rock – especially the C3000 Euphonix console, even better than a Neve or SSL board.
BECOMING A SLAVE TO THE MASCHINE
I’ve really simplified my production recently and here’s where Maschine comes in. I’m a musician so I tend to play ‘too-complex’. Maschine forces me to write more simply to begin with, then I can build up by adding arpeggios, plug-ins and more sounds. But it’s that essential simplicity that’s important to begin with. I start with foreground parts and then choose kicks and snares to carve a basic sound without even using any plug-ins. Then I just sample what I want and start to build the track around the raw samples. Those sounds there hit harder than a lot of other stuff – I don’t know why it is I always end up saying “oh my god these things are huge”. In fact, Mally Mall was the first one to say to me, “Dude your drums are crazy”.
SHAPING THOSE PUNCHY BEATS
In a mixing sense, everything is stripped down to the bare bones before I start, which is normally with the vocals and then I build around those. For production the trick of it is that you have to pick your sounds and I’m very selective. I’m a big fan of Universal Audio and Steve Slate but their plug-ins don’t sound like the original hardware Distressor and Fatso. So my go-to plug-in for punch is Arouser, made by the same guys at Empirical Labs. That compressor is highly underrated and I think it’s really the shit. For transients and reverb Native Instruments is the way to go with their RC24 and RC48 reverb plug-ins. You can dial in the sound you want, set it and forget it. I’m actually endorsed by Waves and McDSP so I do use those plug-ins too, but more on the post-production and mixing side.
TAKING THINGS FURTHER
If you really want to mess something up then use Replika – there’s actually two different ones and I use the XT version regularly with all the effects and analogue delay modes. The shaping is amazing. Sometimes I use multiple plug-ins to really fuck things up, like taking sounds and stacking up plug-ins like Sugar Bytes’ Effectrix and Fabfilter’s Timeless. That’s what I’ve been doing recently to create unique sounds. But even after that I’ll still bounce the sample down and use the raw file. Then I’m not scared of losing anything if my system crashes. I want to capture that moment in time, like our forefathers did. For example, if I use guitar pedal plugins then I record the result so I don’t have too many options to play with.
KEEPING SOUNDS SIMPLE
When you have too much shit to play around with you get confused, don’t you find? So a while ago I just deactivated a whole bunch of instruments and just kept the ones from Native Instruments and a few from Output in the Kontakt library panel. I do like to stay just in one environment. Does it sound stale? No, that’s where the plug-ins come in for screwing up the basic sounds. I recently started getting into using Roland Cloud samples. I was recently getting back into a vintage vibe and thought, “Man, I wish I had my D70” then boom, it’s right there in the Roland Cloud and I couldn’t believe it.
FAVOURITE PLUGINS TO CREATE AND MIX
I see people using synths like Dune and Sylenth, but I can do the same thing in Reaktor. There are these amazing sub patches in Reaktor that no one has even figured out because people read too many manuals without just experimenting, hitting buttons and delving in. That’s my style. I’ve also been using Polyplex a little bit, dragging and dropping sounds. I’m also loving the Brainworx bx_2098 EQ. That thing is amazing and does an extremely good job.
KEEPING UP WITH THE KIDS
I know I’m a little older than most artists out there so I have to force myself not to degrade young producers and not be a bitter old man. It’s easy for people to say, “Anybody could do that”. Well then, just fucking do it if you think you’re that smart. It’s really important to not be a music snob and just vibe like a teenager. My kids really keep me relevant so I often sit down and listen to what they’re into, stuff like Daniel Caesar and Metro Boomin, who I think is a genius. His production is simplistic, ugly, romantic and I really marvel at that. He makes his 808s sound incredible. I think by humbling myself that’s how I came up with Rae Sremmurd’s track “Powerglide”. They had no idea that I had mixed all these famous artists and I didn’t mind at all, I was really humbled and didn’t act like a dick. It’s cool that nowadays lots of people know who individual producers are. I’m pretty sure that Teddy Riley started with producer tags on records. Darkchild used to do it all the time too. It’s not really my style. What am I gonna put on there?… “Old white man 1-2-1-2”… I don’t think so! In my eyes it’s more about the artist and their creativity.
CUTTING VOCALS JUST LIKE BRANDY
To be honest, it’s 95% Brandy but it’s also down to some of the engineers that were on the job. Brad Gilderman and Paul Foley knew what mics to grab and how to use them. Sadly I think the days of cutting good vocals are gone. There’s no budget to spend time auditioning three different mics to see which one suits the artist’s voice, then find the time to pair it up with a great preamp and compressor. Paul Foley had the most amazing vocal chain: a Neumann U67 mic, Neve 1073 preamp, and a 1176 compressor. Then everyone wanted a Sony C800 mic, but it’s so bright that you’ve got to have the right impedances and gain staging, but Paul really knew what he was doing. When it came down for me to mix and EQ the stems it was the easiest job ever. It’s a shame that these young engineers just don’t learn that sort of thing nowadays. In the past, if you didn’t know how to cut vocals then you didn’t have a job. I have a little vocal trick with the reverbs, picked up from Neil Giraldo, taking the longest reverb I can and putting a 125 millisecond delay on it. That produces a really clean vocal with a great shimmery back end.
MIXING LIVE ALBUMS
I think it’s actually easier for me to mix a live record than a studio production because the energy is already there in a live recording. When mixing a studio track you have to manifest that energy. The hardest thing about live album mixing is fixing the playing and vocal mistakes. You have to turn them into “perfect mistakes”. Sometimes you can fix the problems of individual stems but often there’s bleed in the other mics too. So I try and mask with delays and shimmer it out.
PRODUCING SAMPLES FOR SOUNDS.COM
A lot of people don’t know this but the sound packs I’m putting out via Sounds.com have been individually processed, going through Neves, SSLs, Distressors or sometimes all of them. Then we sent the audio to Dave Kutch at The Mastering Palace for final touch ups. I’d love to do some more packs with complete sessions but that’s costly so I’d have to work out the budget for jam sessions and take samples from that.