Mackintosh Braun is a formidable indie electronic duo from Portland who blend crisp, sophisticated production with sharp, emotive songwriting. They find themselves drawn to the technical side of music: sampling, sequencing, and high-end production. We had a chat to find out more about their use of Reason and their upcoming releases.
You use Reason live quite a bit, how does your set up look on stage? Our live set up is ever changing, but at the moment our keyboard player uses Reason 7 for all of his sounds for the live show. We use the Malström a ton for synth sounds because we love how versatile it is since we're usually creating patches from scratch. We also love to put the Scream4 on almost anything, crunchy is good!
Right now you're gearing up to release new material, incorporating a lot of old analog gear. How do you incorporate this with Reason? We did make a pretty big shift on this new record. We went from using mainly digital instruments on previous recordings, to using very few this time around. A lot of that had to do with the feeling we were aiming for with this album and the warmth and nostalgia you get from using analog gear. Also working with producer Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, Mars Volta) on this album helped us shape our sound into something different, yet still very reminiscent. He heard the demos and said he really wanted to take this album in a analog direction, we loved the idea of that, and it turned out to be something that we both fell in love with.
Reason still makes it's way into some songs on the new album though, sometimes we'd create a sound in Reason that was so great, why try and top it? Reason synths still have a very warm and lovely tone to them, so they fit really nicely on this album among the mostly analog components.
You have had your music in Greys Anatomy among other things, how did that happen? Our lovely label Chop Shop Records is mainly to thank for the placements we've received thus far. Alex Patsavas who owns the label and runs the music supervision side of things, has a truly impeccable ear for not only good music, but good music that fits particular shows and the scenes within them. Also, her crew that work beside her (Kasey, Brittany, Ginger, and Justin) are just as amazing. We also love John Rubeli, the president of Chop Shop Records, he's believed in our music from the start and has always fought for us. We have a great team behind us, it's a really nice feeling.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? Oh man... the dreaded writers block can be a tough one. I think for us, the less critical we are with our own writing, the more freeing it is. Sometimes you judge yourself at such a high level that it closes you off to things that might really be great. If you can finish a song, without critiquing yourself at every turn, then that writers block usually starts to fade and creative freedom can blossom.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? It's a cliché said time and time again, but stay true to who you are as an artist. If you do that and believe in what you're doing, other people will take notice and gravitate in your direction. There's enough room in this world for all types of creative minds, so don't try and be like anyone but yourself.
NU.F.O. stands for Newly Formed Objective and that objective for Boston residents Moses and EP1C is to combine their past experience creating music across nearly all styles and genres into a whole new electronic animal. If you listen to their catalog of releases, you’ll find it filled with House, Drum & Bass and Electro beats with vocals at the forefront, sung by both of NU.F.O.’s members: Moses & EP1C. Their vocal style has roots in Hip Hop, Pop, Rock and even R&B with lyrics that are both thoughtful and thought provoking.
How do you use Reason in your music making? All of our music is written, produced, mixed and mastered in Reason. The software promotes a creative workflow through its intuitive interface and hands-on feel. In comparison to other DAW's, we have found that production in Reason just feels more organic, resulting in sounds and songs that stand out. Our identifiable sound wouldn't be possible without it.
You work a lot with vocals in your tracks, any tips for vocal production? We produce a rough version of each track to serve as a canvas for writing the vocals. Once we track them, we re-approach the song to make sure everything works together in the best way possible. Reason's tools and Rack Extensions make it easier to treat vocals more like a sequenced instrument that can be edited and effected in the same impressive ways.
How does your live set-up look? Coming from a band background, when we first set out to do this project we wanted to make sure that our live show had some form of musical performance beyond what is typically expected of EDM artists. We perform parts of each song using MIDI keyboards and controllers in addition to dual live vocals. We accomplish this by running Reason on laptops with Balance interfaces. We use our actual studio project files and remove the parts that we play live. We also control our own vocal mix by running the mics into the Balance interfaces, through Reason. The best thing about doing it this way is that all of the vocal fx, routing and automation we used in the studio version are retained and reproduced in real-time on our live vocals.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch? It's too hard to name just one since we try to use different sounds as often as possible. In general, though, our go-to synth is Thor; especially when you run it into an Etch Red with some drive gain.
What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far? The best moments we experience are those where we're on stage performing something we've worked tirelessly to create and know that in that moment we're connected with the audience in a way that is unlike anything else. It's incredibly powerful and will never get old for us.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? Art doesn't have to follow rules. We believe you shouldn't be bound by the limitations of genres, styles, formulas or expectations. Write music that you want to hear, not what you think someone else wants to. In the end, your opinion is the only one that really matters.
Many keyboard players would give their left foot to play a major world tour. Kevin Hastings drew the winning ticket as he landed the gig with Rihanna's current world tour. With Reason as his main instrument, he is playing in front of sold-out venues on a daily basis.
Coming from a musical family, he started playing the piano at the age of six. Starting from a classical background, he soon moved over to Jazz and Rock. At the age of 18, he enrolled at Musician's Institute in Los Angeles, California and it was there he started making the connections that got him several high-profile touring gigs.
We met up with Kevin during sound check at the Rihanna show at the Hovet arena in Stockholm, Sweden to learn more about life on the road and how he is using Reason as a performance instrument.
In the video above, Kevin shows the Reason patch he is using to play the synth lead on the hit song Umbrella. Click below to download the combinator patch and try it out yourself! Umbrella combinator patch