Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?
Hello, my name is Phil Asher. I am the owner of Restless Soul Music & RSTLSS TRX. I am a Producer of Music and I play music to people on internet radio & clubs worldwide.
What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?
Basically with the help of some good friends and nemesis engineers (lol), I asked a lot of questions, bugged people out, made a pile of mistakes, eventually I ended up teaching myself. If there were three books I could recommend, they would be written by Luke McCarty (Co-Founder of Restless Soul, one half of the HHA), Felix Hopkins from Fluidity Studios, and Toni Economides, with whom I have had the pleasure of having him mix down my material for the last 15 years. Alas the aforementioned haven’t actually written any books yet, but if they did…
What hardware are you using?
My hardware set up is pretty basic. I am currently using:
Rhodes Fifty Four – this is the small Rhodes, without suitcase. Still sounds awesome.
JUNO-106 – I’ve had many different mainstay analog boards in my lab, the Roland JX-8P as used by Marshall Jefferson in his early years, the Prophet 5 as used by Mike Lindup from Level 42, but I always seem to come back to the 106. It’s my third one. Grab your 106, go to http://www.hinzen.de/midi/juno-106 and you can reset all the original patches and get busy creating your own, it’s so easy.
Korg Micro-Preset – quirky little Monophonic analog synth, great for Bass.
MOTU 828 – My old sound card. What can I say, she’s served me well.
UREI 1620 original – I think the Urei has a unique solid state sound, great for sampling through, or running an external music source through. I love it, it warms things up in a special way.
Pioneer EFX-500 – very versatile sound creating box. I use it to DJ with as well as in my productions. The Echo is very good, and it has a three band EQ.
Echoman EM-150 – Old school Dub-wise analog Echo box.
Shure SM58 Mic – I’ve recorded Vanessa Freeman, Shea Soul, & Zansika through this trusty Mic-piece. I use it for my radio show as well.
My son is a Music scholar. He plays Drums, Guitar & Piano. He’s one of my main sources of inspiration.
What software are you using?
I use Logic Pro 9.1. I’ve been on Logic since Logic 5 & I can’t fault its latest version. It simply is an awfully versatile piece of software. It’s great for recording Audio, Midi, Time-stretching, Flex Audio, Film Syncing. It does everything, logically.
For my drums I used to use the Akai MPC3000, but I now use Native Instruments’ Maschine. It’s got to be the best Drum-Sound manipulator I’ve ever used. Its dexterity in slicing loops, arranging songs, sampling, loading sounds even, is incredible. I like the Maschine because it uses sound files already on your drive, it’s totally non-destructive to the root sound as well, no sound processing ring on your favourite Kick, cut the tail of a pad, reverse it, chop it up, then delete it and reload the original, it’s mint.
I use Traktor by Native Instruments to do my weekly PushFm.com radio show, every Friday at 6pm GMT. I use Traktor for one reason: its versatility is unrivaled. It’s dope.
What would be your dream setup?
Honestly I don’t know. It’s a tough one that. I suppose my dream setup would be a good balance between Analog & Digital, Great A-D converters, good monitors, and a great room to do it in.
I think the software is already way ahead of us. Some of the programs available are amazing: Pro Tools, Logic, Maschine, Native Instruments. Choose wisely with your analog, go for substance over style, or just go for your favorite sounds. At the end of the day, you can have all the equipment in the world; “It’s what you do with it that counts.”
Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?
Well I generally load up my Maschine and get busy writing the drums & rhythmic beginnings. Then I add some keys, probably a bassline. This starts the relationship of the rhythm section of my piece. I’m not a pianist or even an accomplished keyboardist. I can sketch chords out & play a guide bass, just to let the musicians know where I want the harmony to go. Sometimes, especially with basic club tracks, I’ll play all the keys myself, basic stuff though, which seems to work for the club tracks. If I’m working with a vocalist, I will nearly always use a musician.
Once I or we have written the skeleton, musically, I start to etch out a basic arrangement, just to get some sort of body to the composition. This then, over a couple of attempts, begins to resemble the finished arrangement. Music & arrangement done, it’s time for mixdown & final arrangement tweaks at Toni Economides’ place in Wood Green.
I’ve been mixing with Toni for over 15 years now, and I think he is a genius. We can mix a Track / Vocal / Musical piece in two hours, or two days. It totally depends on the balance of sonics and amount of parts. A simple club track can be finished in an hour, but please bear in mind, I have worked with Toni for a long time. Our relationship is very close, as in we know each other’s musical tastes intimately. Therefore, we can draw on a plethora of references, going back to the early 1980s, for use in mixing techniques and tricks for our final mix.
What I mean is, I can say, “Hey Toni, remember the reverb on ‘Planet Rock’ on the lead line, or that vocal technique on Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, or the bass sound on MAW’s ‘Basstone’ track?” We can reference these factors into our sound. Not sample or copy, just listen to what they’ve done & try to implement elements of their philosophy into ours. Mix done, we run off instrumental, reprise, etc. Then we hit the Dubs, or Versions as I like to call them. The rest is online.
Where do you shop for and discover music?
Everywhere: Phonica, BMSoho, eBay, Discogs, zafsmusic.com, personal collections, record dealers, record fairs, charity shops, markets, Cornershop, fellow diggers, Beatport, Traxsource, Juno, Afrodesia Mp3, iTunes. I Like all audio formats, but I’m a bit fussy with Mp3’s (Yuck).
Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?
Aw yeah, I collect all sorts of music. I recently got a Dub I’ve been looking for: “Bionic Mix” by Joe Gibbs, and a Killer 7″ from Zafs Music called “Disco Fever” by Rhond Durand. I also nabbed a 2nd copy of Metro Area’s “Atmosphrique” on Discogs.
What’s brewing in your studio?
My latest EP, Rhythmical Whims, is a 3-track EP based around rhythm.
The first track is called “Juno”. It’s named after our new puppy & the indestructible Juno 106, on which I played the main theme, Kalimba type pattern, that runs throughout the song. I added Bass from the Juno, and the beats were all done on the Maschine.
For the second track, “Piano”, I was in the studio with Dwala & Matthew Bandy, I got the beat up on the Maschine, I picked up the Bass & started sketching out the bassline. At the same time, Dwala started to play something on the piano sound we had up. Matthew Bandy was at the desk and he started recording. Dwala & I played together for the length of the track (approx. 7 mins), while Matthew applied the effects to us live. We ended up with a 7 minute recording of Piano, Bass, Drums & Live Effects in the mix. A little bit of arrangement tidying, and “Piano” was born.
Track 3 is “Rhythmic 1”. I made this at home on the Maschine, added the pad washes on Logic & done. This track took about 45 minutes to finish. I love drums & rhythm, and I love mixing rhythms & sounds together. On this track, I used a household cigarette lighter to get the Chekere/Lo-Shaker sound. “Rhythmic 1” is the start of a long list of rhythmic adventures I have planned. All the tracks are mixed by Don Economides.
Any production tips & tricks you’d like to share?
1. Don’t be scared to try something. Experiment.
2. Always SAVE!
3. Get the music out there. It’s not serving its rightful purpose sitting on a hard drive. OK, it may not be ready, but it will inspire you to do better. If you don’t release it, you’ll never know.
4. Don’t stick to one type of music. Experiment with other sounds. You may not release them, but it’s great practice, and a way to find things out, that you can implement into your repertoire.
5. HAVE FUN!