Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?
I’m Peter Major, better known as Opolopo and maybe Actual Proof. I’m a producer, songwriter and DJ who’s been at it for ages but doing it full-time since about 2003.
What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?
I’m self-taught when it comes to music, but what I recommend is get yourself a music loving mother and father with a fusion and jazz addiction. Other than that, I think pretty much everything else is only a mouse click away. There’s so much information out there for free. You just need patience and a sense of what to look for. Also listening to what people before you did, trying to figure out how, is invaluable.
What hardware are you using?
A PC, RME Multiface sound card, MIDI controllers and a set of beat up but still working pair of ears. These are the hardware tools I always use, but then I have other bits like a Rhodes, EMU sampler, SE-1, Nord Modular etc, that barely get used anymore. Oh, there’s an Ibanez Bass, a cheap Music Man copy, and a Larrivée guitar that get some love every now and then too.
What software are you using?
Ever since I first played around with Propellerheads Rebirth sometime back in the previous century, I’ve been dreaming of having the whole production process at my fingertips within one environment. The idea of having everything contained in one project file, making it possible to work simultaneously on multiple projects with all settings and parameters called back exactly as you left them, is so appealing to me. All the possibilities with things like automation and the exact control software gives you, is feeding my creativity and shortens the time from idea to realization. Of course all this isn’t worth much if you’re let down by the sonic quality of the digital environment, but with the right plug-ins and an understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve, the pros far outweigh the cons – for me that is. It’s what gets your creativity flowing. If you’re turned off by software and only feel sexy when touching knobs and faders then go with the hardware.
Some of the plug-ins that do it for me are: OP-X – a beautiful emulation of the Oberheim OB-X. I love the organic analogue feel and randomness of the sound. The DCAM Synth Squad is a suite of synths that emulate analogue circuitry rather than specific synths. Great modulation capabilities! Another favorite is Korg’s Mono/Poly plug-in. I kinda grew up with this quirky but very versatile synth and the plug-in emulates it beautifully.
For FX and EQ I try to use the built in tools in Cubase more and more. One thing I use a lot, that got dropped in Cubase 6, is the QuadraFuzz distortion/filter bank. It’s great for speaker simulations and dirtying up sounds. If you have an old Cubase version you can just grab the dll and copy it to your Cubase 6 installation.
What would be your dream setup?
Having said I’m all for software, I’d still love to collect all the classic vintage gear. If nothing else, just for inspiration. The hands on feel, the look, smell and embedded history in those machines is something you can’t get in software.
Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?
Hm, not really. I guess I normally start out with chord progressions though. Especially when doing vocal remixes I always first play around with new harmonies over the vocals followed by bass line and beats. But it’s usually a very non linear process where I jump around and constantly mess with bits and pieces until I feel it’s all done. I do try and get the song structure done before I get too deeply into the production side of things but sometimes I get carried away with the first eight bars and want to nail the sound before going further. I think the process is I let myself go with what excites me the most in any given scenario. It’s important to try and feel excited as long as possible to keep things fresh. Even though I’m quite disciplined by now it helps to sustain the excitement to finish and complete things.
Where do you shop for and discover music?
I shop for all music on-line these days. All the usual places like Juno and Traxsource but also eMusic which is subscription based and has a somewhat different selection. Bandcamp is great for discovering new stuff that’s not available elsewhere. Soundcloud and various blogs are great recourses too.
Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?
Not necessarily the latest but some artists/albums that have stood out for me in 2011 include: Deboráh Bond – Madam Palindrome, Teeko – Light Up The Darkness, Brandon Coleman – Self Taught.
What’s brewing in your studio?
Right now I’m working on a bunch of stuff: A new album to drop after the summer. A new house EP. Various remixes, mixes and collabs. This is where working in the box is handy – I can work on all of these projects simultaneously. I also just finished a loop and sample CD for Loopmasters.
Any production tips & tricks you’d like to share?
Some random tips:
Don’t over compress your masters!
Cut at around 250 Hz to get rid of mud.
Check your mixes in mono.
Don’t over compress your masters.
De-essers are your friends and can be used for more than just vocals.
Haas panning (where you delay one channel of a mono sound to create a sense of direction of the sound) is an interesting alternative to traditional panning.
Worry more about your songwriting and musical skills than whether you’ve got the right/latest/coolest software/hardware.
And also, don’t over compress your masters…