With his third album Spectrum out now, FM caught up with Dutch producer, multi-instrumentalist and Jazz Fusion fan Shook to chat about his approach to creating sounds, and why he can't bear to be parted from a single one of his synths.
When did you start making music, and how did you first get started?
"It started with the piano, which is still my main instrument. I have played for as long as I can remember. I started making music on the computer when I was around twelve. It was a good way to entertain myself because I grew up in a small village in Holland where there is not much to do. I first started making very experimental music and was influenced by all kinds of stuff! There were a lot of artists that influenced me during that process like early Ninja Tunes, pre 2000 drum and bass, old school hip hop and jazz music. Nowadays I get a lot of inspiration from ‘70’s electronic music pioneers such as Isao Tomita, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Wendy Carlos but also Japanese funk fusion artists such as Casiopea."
Tell us about your studio/set-up
"I first had a studio in my bedroom apartment but had to move out because of the noise I was making in the late hours. I now live in an apartment where I could make music in the day time only, but eventually I moved all my gear to yet another place where I can produce whenever inspiration strikes. I think that's pretty important for me in the creative writing process. When I am not near my studio I record ideas on my mobile phone."
What's the latest addition to your studio?
"My latest piece of gear is the ASP880 preamp and ID22. I love these! I really needed a good audio interface with a great sound and with loads of inputs, because I was used to plug everything out and in again. Now all of my instruments are hooked in from the start, so I don't have to worry about that anymore which leaves more room for creativity and music making.
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
"It's different every time. You never know when inspiration strikes. It can be a rhythmic pattern you hear at the train station or a melody that I accidentally play while improvising on the piano or just a certain feeling I have. If I have an idea I record it in my phone and when I am back in my studio I start building up a sketch and just play it in.
"When starting a new musical project it's always fun, and I try to challenge myself to not do the same thing all over again. I really try to capture real emotions and that special feeling in a song. For me all elements in a song have to be in balance with each other, melodic, rhythmic and sound wise."
Shook's essential music making tips...
Don't rely too much on pretty visuals on your computer screen.
"Don't stare too much at the screen and rely too much on visual information and settings and so on, but trust your ears instead. It can be very distracting to focus on graphical information that is happening in your DAW or the plug-ins you are using. When playing with different settings for hours and not actually going anywhere it often helps to turn off your monitor screen and dim all the lights and just listen to the track in a different perspective. It sounds very simple, but this can really help you to hear the mix better and know what can really improve your mix."
Sometimes it's a good idea to go back to your first few mixes
"When you are working on version 231 of a mixdown of a track, it's sometimes a good idea to go back to your first few mixes. I often go back to that first intuitive mix and find out it's the best and sounds the most natural sounding of them all. Maybe the settings are completely out of the ordinary and won't work on paper, but that's not really important. If it sounds good I just leave the fader alone and go with it. Maybe you would only need to adjust some small stuff like rolling off the bass end under 50Hz and so on. But I believe that sometimes your first natural feeling of a mix can be the right one."
Don't buy too much gear, but be creative
"I keep telling myself this, it's very tempting to get lost in lots of gear! But it's a good idea to get the best out of the stuff you already have. Whether they be plug-ins you own or instruments you have. Learn them, and know how to get the most out of them. It's with limitations you get creative. If you restrict yourself by trying to recreate an entire orchestra with one basic synthesizer, it's the limitations that gets you creative and often results in very interesting sounds."