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Producer Interview: Wolfgang Gartner – Part 2

By Francis Preve
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Yesterday, Wolfgang Gartner [a] outlined his approach to production, gear, and his take on the state of our industry.

Today, he delves into the specifics of his music making techniques.

Wolfgang’s a veteran with tons of tracks under his belt, so check out these tips.

What do you feel are the strengths of each synth in your arsenal?

The Little Phatty is by far my favorite.

I wanted the Voyager but the only one they had at Guitar Center that day was the LP and I was in buy-it-now mode, so this is what I got! (laughs)

The sound that comes out of this thing is so unbelievably thick and fat.

The bass pierces through the mix and sits right out in front.

It is a very basic synth in essence, with not a lot of capabilities, but I think that’s one reason I like it.

It’s a synth you can just turn on and start playing and it sounds good right off the bat. 

The V-Synth is completely different.

The sound that comes out of it is definitely not the fattest thing you’ve ever heard, but its capabilities are unreal.

You can pretty much design any sound you have in your head on this thing, but you’d better set aside a solid hour for it and you had better know exactly what you’re doing. 

It has a hefty bit of sample time, so I like to load in external samples and process them in its engine, like the formant filter that I’ve used quite a bit on vocals to get a really trippy “vowel-shifting” effect. 

And the Juno 106?

Well, everybody knows the Juno, right?

I don’t use this one quite as much as the others, but I still manage to get it in on almost every track.

I did the bassline for ‘Sesso Buono’ on this by playing the bassline in octaves and giving each octave its own channel and EQ settings — the Juno’s analog factor gave it some really interesting sort of flanging characteristics.

The Emax?

The E-mu Emax is a 12-bit sampler made in the late 1980s that was used a lot in old hip-hop and early house.

I use it mostly for crushing drums, but I’ve put just about every kind of sound imaginable through it at some point.

The bit rate conversion on this thing is like nothing else out there — it has a sound all to itself.

You can put a little vocal sample in it and pitch it up 10 semitones, and it sounds like the dirtiest, nastiest high hat you’ve ever heard in your life.

It really has the ability to transform sounds into something entirely different, just by transposing them, which I guess is probably a function of bit rate.

It’s like the ultimate bit crusher.

Anything else?

I do have this old Digitech FX processor that I am always using for reverb on my synths because it seems to blow any software verb out of the water.

And I also sometimes use an Aphex Aural Exciter for it’s Big Bottom feature on a bassline or two.

Other than that, I guess that’s about it.

About your mixes, they have a ton of punch and presence, and even a touch of gloss without being overtly commercial. What’s your secret to getting that sound?

Unfortunately, there isn’t really one secret, because it’s a ton of little things.

And ironically enough, all of the Wolfgang Gartner releases or remixes that have come out so far were mixed and mastered completely different to each other.

I was still learning how to mix with this new style; the way everything goes together sonically is completely different to the style I was making before, and I pretty much had to change everything about my mix technique.

I will say, for me personally, I think the answer lies in a dry master bus and a shitload of sub-groups.

I used to just throw a bunch of mastering plug-ins and multi-band compressors on the master bus and tweak the presets and hope for the best, without really doing any sub-groups.

(Actually, every record I put out in 2004 had a mild chorus effect on the master bus for stereo widening! I went a bit nuts there for a while.)

I was basically using these tools as a fix for the whole mix, when I should have been working on very small sections of it individually.

It worked okay for what I was doing at the time, but my standards are higher now and I really want to do everything professionally and properly.

Now, I usually start up a track with at least 15 or 20 sub-groups set up and all routed differently, like I’ll have the kick and snare on a group and compress those, then send that to another group and add a couple percussion elements and EQ or compress that group.

From there, I’ll route most of the highs like hats or shakers to one group and operate on them to make them all really flow together — maybe some compression, EQ, maybe a very mild flange or phase for some movement.

Whatever I do, I like to make sure and get my kick and bassline in the same group somewhere in the routing scheme (preferably with as few other sounds as possible) and put them through some type of multi-band compressor.

There are a ton of good ones out there, and with the proper settings it really helps the kick and bass sit together.

This is in addition to sidechaining the bassline to the kick, which is something I do in every track without fail.

I try not to use it as an effect but rather just as a fix, to eliminate those peaks when the kick and bassline are hitting the same note.

I use the same sidechainer every time, funnily enough it’s this nice little free one I found online called Sidekick.

Amazingly simple and I use it on loads of stuff.

The ‘Hot For Teacher EP’ was mixed down dry on the master and then sent to The Engine Room for mastering, and that really added a nice sparkly finish on it and got it up to competitive levels.

Tell us about your new label, Kindergarten. How did it come about and what have you got in store for future releases?

Basically, I had a lot of unsigned tracks sitting around.

Even though some of them are getting picked up by labels, not all of them are, and I feel like some of the best ones are getting passed by.

I have been running and distributing my own and other peoples’ record labels since 2003 in the vinyl and digital world and working with Beatport since 2004.

Kindergarten will actually be my fourth label.

Future releases will be all over the place.

I’ve got some more techy stuff, almost techno, more of the clubby electro vibes, I’ve been doing some fidget type sounds, some minimal — anything and everything! 

Finally, do you have any advice for up and coming producers?

Well, I know everybody says this and it sounds so generic, but it really is the truth: No matter what you do, don’t give up.

The key is to have a burning desire, and I mean a really unbelievable longing and wanting, to make music like your favorite producers, to be your favorite producers, or whatever your dream is.

After that, you have to be willing to do anything to get it (legally and morally, of course!).

It might take you 20 years, it might take you 2 years, but you will get there.

Aside from all that, I would also say to listen to loads and loads of music.

Not just what you are trying to make, but everything — and dissect it.

Find out what inspires you and figure out how to get in that mindset more often.

We all go through creative periods and creative blocks, so find out what makes you creative and what gives you a block, and structure your life so that it is giving you creativity.

Fall in love, travel, expand your mind.

Have some really crazy experiences — these things will change your music for the better.

If you love what you do, it will come through in your music.

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Click to see Part 1 of Beatportal’s producer interview with Wolfgang Gartner.