Monday, 20 September 2010

Q & A with DAPAYK....

The minimal techno trailblazer explains why he does his own mastering, why we should be aiming for noisier mixes, and why the industry’s obsession with loudness is ruining good tracks.

Dapayk, real name Niklas Worgt, has been producing electronic music since 1993 and in the process has built up an enviable discography, the highlights of which include his minimal-meets-pop collaboration with Eva Padberg that spawned five must-have EPs and two albums, and his acclaimed solo LPs on his own Mo’s Ferry imprint. Having been at the forefront of the minimal techno explosion of the mid-noughties, fostering the growth of three of the most forward-thinking labels (Mo’s Ferry, Rygular and Fenou) and releasing on minimal heavyweights such as Contexterrior, Stil vor Talent, Trapez Ltd and Karloff, Dapayk’s star shows no sign of fading. We caught up with the minimal maverick to hear his thoughts on mastering, compression and the digital/analogue debate.

Loops? Or programming your beats from single hits?

Programming! Loops are fun to play around with and are great for inspiration, but you can’t call yourself a producer if your tracks are solely made using other people’s musical ideas. That said, there are hundreds of ways to make a loop your own by chopping it up, re-pitching it and processing it in unique ways.

What is the key ingredient in a track? Breakdown? Style of production? Bassline?

There is no single ingredient that makes a great track. Nowadays dance music is full of tracks with massive breakdowns. A hit definitely needs one, but tracks that I think of as DJ tools are important too. A quality ‘DJ tool’ track doesn’t have to have a huge breakdown: it can be understated but still never leave the DJ’s box.

When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?

It depends. For club tunes I start by building a percussive groove then build the beat and bassline and see where it takes me. For more traditional song-based projects I invariably start with the melody.

Do you mainly use analogue or digital soft synth sources? Do you think analogue makes a difference?

I use a mix of both. When I have time I love to play with my analogue equipment. I’m not an analogue fetishist but I do think you can hear a difference between analogue kit and plugins: hardware introduces very subtle nuances and noises into the mix. There have been studies conducted to see how people react to completely clean mixes compared to mixes with small amounts of background noise. They found that most people preferred the mixes with background noise.

Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors?

I used to monitor at loud levels when I first started producing, but when you work in the studio all day every day you learn to turn the volume down pretty fast. My speakers are not actually designed for monitoring electronic music, but they have a wide frequency range and reveal every detail in a mix. When I’m on the road I use Bose Headphones to write and produce. I’ve had them for years and I’m still really happy with them, even though they’re not designed for producing music with.

What are the biggest barriers that new producers face?

The price of quality equipment. Good kit is expensive and it takes time to be able to afford it.

How important do you think it is to have your music mastered commercially? Can you do it yourself as effectively and what tools would you recommend?

I do the mastering for our labels Mo’s Ferry and Fenou, and I also master some of my own tracks. I hugely respect great mastering engineers, but I know the kind of mastering I like and I’m of the opinion that even mastering engineers add their own personal sheen to the tracks they master – whether they do it consciously or not. With enough experience and good equipment you can do a good mastering job yourself.

What’s your opinion on processing the mix bus? Leave it clean or drive it to the extreme?

It’s common at the moment to push busses – and the master – to the extreme. Most people are buying music online and if a track sounds louder than others then the assumption is it must be better. The result of this new standard is a generation of over-compressed tracks with few transients that sound horrible – to my ears at least. It’s also completely pointless: DJs have gain controls on their mixers. To make a track louder all they need to do is nudge up the volume!

What do you believe is the secret to your success as a producer?

I’ve been making records since 1993 and have seen musical styles change hugely. But I’ve always been able to find inspiration in changing genres and find something I love in each one that has informed my own writing and production.

Any advice for aspiring producers out there?

Find your own style and stick with it, even when the genres around you change.

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