by Native Instruments

Watch: The gentle art of distortion

Watch producer Matt Karmil talk about distortion, and how CRUSH PACK was used in his work.

Mix engineer and producer Matt Karmil took some time out to explain how distortion plays a key role in shaping his beautiful, textural ambient house.


Matt Karmil is a master of texture. Rough as sandpaper and smooth as marble, his graceful, granular sounds tell deceptively deep stories. His latest album, Will, explores a broad sonic landscape. From crackling ambient to pulsing, meditative beats, it’s a rich and rewarding record. A word that might not immediately spring to mind is ‘distortion’, yet Matt manages to unite his love of analog tape saturation with the power and flexibility of crushing plug-ins.

The result is a sound that is both nostalgic and modern. At the heart of Matt’s set-up is his modular rig and lush Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. These devices provide the pop and flutter that have always been a personal obsession.

At the tender age of 13, Matt began producing on a four-track tape recorder with a single microphone and an Amiga 500. His guitar teacher was an early influence, telling him “I’m not going to teach you the guitar”. Instead, their lessons were devoted to the language of sound, allowing Matt to explore the vocabulary of music and opening him up to a world of avant-garde artists. This openness to experimentation has stayed with him throughout his career: An unashamedly diverse, yet intensely focused sound.

The subtle use of distortion has long been a part of that sound. Like many musicians, Matt initially relied on simple stomp boxes to mutate and crush his signal chain. As he refined his skills and techniques over the years, Matt began to make a name for himself as a highly-regarded mixing engineer for critically acclaimed artists such as Matias Aguayo and Kornél Kovács. His work has appeared on stellar labels including PPN, Kompakt, Beats in Space, Idle Hands, Studio Barnhus, and the routinely excellent Norwegian label, Smalltown Supersound.

The natural evolution of this learning process brought him to explore the world of digital plug-ins, including, CRUSH PACK, with which Matt has created a formidably dense and instantly recognisable sample pack. In the accompanying video, Matt offers insights on creating these samples, and how distortion plays a prominent role in his production techniques.

“There’s a big place for taking those sounds and then putting your particular stamp on them, and using distortion to bring out the peculiarities of those sounds.”

From the subdued thump of his sculpted kicks, to the hissing chord stabs of his house-influenced productions, these distorted peculiarities help give his sound a unique and human flavor.

If you want to see what CRUSH PACK can do in the hands of Matt Karmil, why not enter our latest Metapop competition? The rules are simple: download the sounds that Matt created with CRUSH PACK, and make your own track with them. Click here for more info.


Download the free CRUSH PACK demo


You can listen to Will on Spotify now:

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