Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?
My name is Manuel Tur and I’m a music producer and DJ based in the city of Essen, Germany. I’ve been writing and putting out records for the last 10 years.
What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?
I’m no classically trained musician and an autodidact in the studio. I was still going to school when releasing my first record and haven’t really done much else apart from what I do now. I used to attend university for German literature studies for a couple of semesters but eventually continued to work on my music and improve my knowledge in production.
What hardware are you using?
I’m working on a Quad-Core Mac Pro with Mackie HR824 speakers and an Apogee Duet and a MOTU 24I/O audio interface. I’m mixing through either a Soundtracs Solo Logic 32-channel analogue console or TL Audio Ebony 16:2 summing mixer and use various dynamic & effect units. The Solo Logic has a lovely smoky vintage sound that just adds a bit of a human touch to every signal you put through it. The Ebony summer is more of a clean and high-end sounding unit with optional class A tube warmth, so I can choose between these two, depending on the project.
As for synthesizers, I’m currently changing my setup and just traded in the whole Roland JX-range for a space-saving MKS-70 which is the 19“ version of the “Super-JX“ (aka JX-10), controlled by a PG-800. The Super-JX has to be my favourite synth to date. It’s great for all kinds of atmospheric strings, pads and bellsy sounds and brings together analogue warmth with an intrinsic digital tone. I’m also using a Yamaha DX-200 for all sorts of FX and classic DX-7 sounds, as well as a Nord Modular for universal purposes. I’ve used an MFB-SYNTH LITE as a monophic analogue synth for basses and lead sounds lately but am looking forward to replace it with a Moog Slim Phatty in the next couple of weeks. Another universal weapon in my studio is the Yamaha RS-7000, an incredibly underrated groovebox / synth / drumcomputer / sampler that you can get for really little money these days. Almost all tracks of my project “Ribn“ (with Langenberg) were done with the RS7000 and we also used it for our live performances. Definitely worth checking it out.
Also, since a lot of my work is heavily sample-based I’m using an Ortofon Concorde Arkiv cartridge on a classic Technics SL-1210MK2 and an Ecler Nuo 2.0 Mixer to record vinyl to my computer. The Nuo has an incredibly creamy sound to it and absolutely improved the sound of any sample-based project I’ve been working on.
What software are you using?
At the moment, I’m running Ableton Live and Logic 9 as my standard DAWs, depending on the project. I like using Live when working with samples and laying out a quick basic track but usually finish everything in Logic before running the individual stems through one of my mixers. Another piece of software I use a lot is Celemony’s (recently Grammy-awarded) Melodyne editor, which is great to correct or manipulate audio material. One feature I use a lot is the audio-to-MIDI function which gives you tons of possibilities to experiment with all kinds of audio samples and convert them into MIDI commands for your synthesizers. I use this a lot when remixing records.
To record and edit audio I tend to use Wavelab. I don’t use a lot of soft-synths but definitely love Arturia‘s Analog Factory. Also, from time to time I still like to use the software I had started out with a decade ago: FL Studio. I really love this program for its simple yet powerful user interface and would kill to get hold of a fully working Mac OS X version, but this is probably going to remain a dream.
What would be your dream setup?
At the moment, I’m a lot into hardware compressors and EQs, so there is always tons of stuff to dream of. Right now I’m saving on an A-Designs Nail & Hammer combination but if I had to think of a unit that doesn’t exist yet, it would be great to have a 24-channel 19“ summing mixer with at least two stereo sub-groups and inserts for all of them. I really like the concept of summing mixers but none of them seems to have proper routing options yet, which is probably due to the compact 19“ format.
Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?
I try not to stick to one routine and keep changing my setup and work-flow continuously. It keeps the production process itself more interesting and you always learn new things. When working on a remix though, I’d usually import all files and stems I get from the original song into Ableton and see how much I can use and how I can transform even the bits I don’t like too much into useful parts, perhaps transform a vocal into a rhythm fill or extract drum sounds from a synth line. I guess I like to manipulate audio material in general.
Where do you shop for and discover music?
I discover most music on the internet, but also talking to friends who are perhaps not too much into electronic music always introduces me to new interesting music. Of course it’s still great to browse the crates in a physical store but these have become pretty rare unfortunately.
Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?
A friend of mine who works for an independent music distribution company just introduced me to The Caretaker last week. Some great ambient music with interesting experimental textures. My pal accurately described it as soundtrack to a ghost ship cruise.
Another album I really like a lot at the moment is “936“ by Peaking Lights on Domino Recordings. It’s a great cozy, psychedelic dub trip.
What’s brewing in your studio?
My second solo album “Swans Reflecting Elephants“ is coming out on Freerange on April 23rd and we have some really great remixes for the songs, by veterans such as King Britt, Jimpster and Blakkat, as well as lesser known artists I’ve really been liking a lot lately: Ugly Drums, Damiano von Erckert, and the Homewreckers. I’m very excited about this.
As my first album, “Swans Reflecting Elephants“ is mostly based on tiny sample fragments that I’ve extracted from a pile of Disco, Soul and Jazz records again. It’s exciting when you put together drums, bass notes, vocal bits, short guitar licks, strings or keys from completely different records and create a whole new track with it. It’s like putting together a huge sonic jigsaw puzzle.
Furthermore, I have a couple of remixes coming up for Larse, Paskal & Urban Absolutes, and Boris Dlugosch & Róisín Murphy.
Any production tips & tricks you’d like to share?
I guess the internet is full of technical production tips and I don’t think I’m able to add anything new. My only recommendation is to feed your most powerful studio tool and “sampler“, that is your brain, and listen to as much new and diverse music as possible. Also, taking a break and thinking about a track without listening to a non-stop loop can be quite helpful. Sounds banal but I tend to forget this myself from time to time.