Artist Drop: Chimp Spanner

Posted Nov. 5, 2015, 10:39 a.m.

Paul Ortiz is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer from the UK. His solo instrumental project Chimp Spanner is widely considered to be at the core of the new wave of technical and progressive Metal, and has seen him tour Europe and North America. More recently his attention has turned to commercial sound design and library music composition for various clients across the world.


When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
I usually head straight for the device I've been using the least! There are so many great sound sources, it's easy to over-look them. Even with the stock devices there's still stuff to learn or new ways of using them to find. And that's not even counting  all the third party ones I have. So yeah, I pick the instrument that needs the most love.

How do you use Reason in your music making? Do you have any examples of where you've used it?
Virtually all of my library music and sound design work at the moment is Reason, including a series of Kontakt instruments for trailer composers I'm working on. And it appears throughout my Chimp Spanner material; generally wherever I need some kind of soundscape or ambience, or super modulated/evolving sounds, I go straight to Reason. But fingers crossed, you'll be hearing Reason in a few adverts and trailers in the near future!

What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?
Over-thinking things, whether it's the actual music or the mix; you can spend hours working on a song but without really writing/creating. Lately I'm trying to work faster and more spontaneously. If I have an idea I just get it down, save it, catalogue it. The moment I start to dwell on the idea and over-complicate it, the "spark" is gone. I've been finding Blocks to be super helpful in that regard because once a section is done I just move on, and work on the next without constantly going back and fiddling.

Being a guitar player, do you have any go-to guitar rig presets in Reason or special tricks on nailing "that" sound?
Pre-tone shaping is where it's at, especially for low tuned or heavy guitar tones. I like to cut the lower frequencies and boost the high mids to really tighten things up. Scream 4 is good for this, or Blamsoft's DC-9.

What's the best music making tip you ever got?
Many years ago, a guy on a forum whose name I completely forgot gave me some feedback on a song, and was talking about the concept of the uncanny in music; making the listener feel like they know the song, even if they're not sure why/how. It's about leaving little signposts and recurring motifs, rhythms and phrases throughout. That's how I try to approach my writing. I guess it makes it more accessible, but it also naturally leads to more depth because you're constantly finding ways to reference the song within itself through mimicry, variation, all sorts!

You do a bit of sound design as well. Tell us a bit about your process there!
I'm a very "visual" kind of person, so when I'm making a sound effect I try to imagine what's making the sound; what space it occupies, how big it is, how it's moving or what it's doing. I find it helps me make decisions as to where to place emphasis, what kind of effects to use, etc. Sometimes it's a cool idea to just browse through concept art or watch trailers with the sound off and see what sound comes to mind. Or just coming up with a cool, descriptive or evocative name for the sound first can work too. I also try and keep things really clean/minimal. Not just for the sake of the mix but because large projects scare, confuse and frustrate me.

Do you have any production trick that you always use?
I love tape saturation effects, especially on low end stuff. Scream or Audiomatic is really good at this. I also like using ducking on my sends, so you'd send a bass to a reverb, but also to a compressor after the reverb so the effect stays subdued until the bass is silent. Stops things from getting too muddy.

What do you do when inspiration just isn't there?
I stop trying. Seriously there's nothing so frustrating as being surrounded by all the gear and software you could ever want and not being able to make a note with it. So I just do something else, which usually involves drinking tea and watching Star Trek, or sometimes just disconnecting completely and giving myself some silence to re-think what it is I'm trying to do.

What’s your three all-time favorite albums?
Ah! I don't know about all-time but Meshuggah "Nothing", Burial "Untrue" and In Flames "Reroute to Remain" - those albums will never get old!

The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
Thor, Antidote and Kong for sure. If I only had those three devices I think I'd be okay!

What motivates your creative ideas and creative activity?
An over-active imagination and the ability to enjoy my own company haha. But more than anything I just love to tinker and experiment and try new things out. I think I'd be doing it even if it wasn't my job. It's a great feeling to be able to take something from my mind and turn it into something that other people can enjoy!


Posted Nov. 5, 2015, 10:39 a.m.

Artist Drop: Dan Briggs

Posted Oct. 6, 2015, 4:44 p.m.

Dan Briggs is the bass player in progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me, jazz fusion trio Trioscapes and the project Orbs.  He's been an avid Reason user since 2003 and uses it both when composing and on stage with his band. Currently he is on tour with Between the Buried and Me and we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions when they made their stop in Stockholm for a show.

Be sure to play Dan's music pieces and when inspiration strikes, open in Reason or Take and collaborate with him!

How do you use Reason in your music making? Do you have any examples of where you've used it?
I use it from the very first note while composing to the very last. I started using Reason when I was in college in 2003, and really it was to use the ReDrum and I would import it into my session in Sonar. As the years went on I was implementing more keyboards into my writing, and then the Reason updates allowed you to record audio and have a session just like I had in Sonar so I just stopped using it altogether and moved my whole operation into Reason and it has been so easy and wonderful ever since.

When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
Well, my saved rack is Piano, a KONG drumset I put together with drummer Matt Lynch (Trioscapes), two Guitar tracks and a Bass track. That way at the very least I'm able to capture an idea just by starting the program, finding the BPM and rolling.

How do you use Reason in Between the Buried and Me? Do you use Reason in a live environment?
Both in the studio and now live. I had been arranging full songs in there, especially for the new Coma Ecliptic album, and a lot of the key sounds we ended up using on the record were straight from the demos Tommy and I did. So when it came time to put a rig together to play live, I didn't want to get a keyboard and try to replicate sounds as best as I could, so I ended up running Reason on a Microsoft Surface. It runs perfectly and the Surface is a super powerful and reliable device.

How does collaborating work for you in a band context? How does Between the Buried and Me usually write and arrange a song?
It's different for every band I'm in, which is kind of cool. Between the Buried and Me is very much about writing on your own and bringing it together after the fact. We're not super productive sitting in the rehearsal room trying to write songs, and especially the direction the songs have gone it's kind of like a singular vision and less chaotic like everything was in the past. That was literally the result of 4 or 5 minds all throwing ideas against the wall. I would think if someone listened to the new album it might make a little more sense as to how it's written. In Trioscapes, you know it's like a jazz/fusion trio ensemble so it's really about vibing off each other, a lot of magic happens on the spot. Orbs functions as a duo of musicians trying to bring other things out in each other; Ashley [Ellyllon] has really helped harness my creative energy and I've helped expand her mind as to what song formats can be. My new group Nova Collective is a cross continent group with two Americans and two Brits, so Reason has been a real life saver there. We're able to share the same Reason session with each other and everyone can learn a song based off of the midi, or I can show a guitar idea that can then be manipulated and changed, or key ideas that our keyboardist can expand upon. So easy considering how much distance was between us while we were writing!

Have you ever experienced writing blocks? If so, how did you overcome them?
I know when to step away, but honestly I'm usually locked in with a new project almost all the time when I'm home. I like to stay creatively active, and when there's new outlets and people to bounce ideas off of I feel like it could never end. I'm inspired by so many different things; obviously a million different kinds of music, film, sometimes even just reading interviews with creative minds or people in different art fields, or grey days, beautiful days, when the Cleveland Indians win, who knows.

What do you like the most: creating and writing in the studio or touring and playing live?
I like a balance. I like to keep things fresh creatively, so I love living in a project and then kind of moving on to the next thing, so touring on an album for two years I don't really mind, as long as I have other things going on, keeping me active creatively. Between the Buried and Me has been able to tour less the last handful of years which has been good for everyone starting familes and what not, but I stay feverishly busy in my "down time" so I love having time away from touring for that.

What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?
On the creative front, nothing really. Creating music is a joy, it's fun to constantly push and challenge yourself. The real struggle is after you've created something. Between the Buried and Me has a great team of people to help push it, but I don't really have that with any of my other projects. It's insanely frustrating because you feel like you're starting from zero every time even though you've been touring and putting out albums for over a decade.

What’s your all-time favorite album?
Impossible question! Some favorites: Oingo Boingo "Only a Lad", Dream Theater "Scenes From a Memory", Mahavishnu Orchestra "Visions From the Emerald Beyond", Genesis "Selling England by the Pound".


The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
KONG, Thor, and ReTron.

What advice would you give to other people who are motivated to become more creative in their music making?
Just do it! Find people to create with, don't limit yourself, just have a blast.

What’s your best music making tips for someone that is just starting out?
Just be adventurous, explore a ton of different music, find out what your favorite artists are inspired by and really dig deep.


Posted Oct. 6, 2015, 4:44 p.m.

Tommy Rogers Interview

Posted Oct. 11, 2013, 9:06 a.m.

Tommy RogersPhoto by Justin Reich

How do you use Reason in your music making?
Reason is a wonderful sound tool. Its like having multiple racks of gear at your finger tips. Easy sound manipulation and ways to create layers and synth sounds on the fly. These are all things that are key in my song writing process.

What's the best music making tip you ever got?
Write what pops into your head. Don't ever try to recreate something you heard somewhere else. When you try to create songs/sounds that fit a certain artist/genre, then you're limiting yourself and it will never allow your true musical self to show.

Do you have any favorite sound or patch?
Our bassist Dan just introduced me to the  creative efx called pulverizer demolition. I love noise and sound manipulation, so I've had a very good time messing with it.

What do you do when writer's block strikes?
It's only happened a few times, and you just have to stop writing. Don't try and force it. You will know when the time is right to start again. I never write unless I'm truly inspired mentally to work. I have this philosophy towards song writing and lyrics.

What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far?
One of the most mind blowing experiences for me was when the band I'm in played Radio City Music Hall last year. Its just one of those venues I never expected a band of our genre to ever play. My lady, son, and family were there as well, so it was a very special moment. The crowd wasn't amazing, but you can't ask for everything. :)

Other than that I still enjoy the moment a record is released and all the hard work pays off. I love the final product. The songs will be here longer than us, so it's an honor to be able to create something that surpasses my human existence.

Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians?
Be productive and original. Take our minds to places we didn't know it could go. Write what you want. Fuck it all.

Posted Oct. 11, 2013, 9:06 a.m.

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