Posted Feb. 7, 2018, 12:28 p.m.
Tora is a four-piece electronic band born in Byron Bay, Australia. The group formed in 2013, fusing plush, layered production and instrumentation with graceful vocals. Their soulful electronic music has had them compared to seminal artists such as Radiohead and James Blake. Tora has been busy touring and making a name for themselves at venues and festivals such as Glastonbury, Falls Festival, Splendour In The Grass, The Great Escape UK and Canadian Music Week.
We sat down to speak with vocalist and guitar player Jo Loewenthal about their workflow in Reason both in the studio and on tour.
What's your favorite addition in Reason 10?
I love Europa, that thing is such a beast, it’s got everything that I wished Thor had!
How do you get started with a new song? What sparks your creativity?
Usually I just sit down, load up an instrument and just play the first thing that comes to my head. I find if I don’t think about it and just roll with the first ideas, and keep following that path I usually end up with something I like. Once I’ve written some parts on a couple of instruments, I tweak the sounds to be the way I can imagine them to be in my head. I find that the times when I go in trying to create a particular vibe, it restricts me and prevents me from discovering new things, so I like to approach it all freely and just listen to my subconscious ideas as they pass through my mind.
What's the best music making tip you ever got?
When something isn’t impacting like you want it to, try muting some layers, it creates space and helps you realise what is clashing or what isn’t working. Also make sure that every layer sounds nice on it’s own.
"try muting some layers, it creates space"
Do you have any special Reason production trick that you always use?
I try not to use the same tricks in everything, to avoid sounding the same always, but I do love sidechaining long reverbs to give the whole track a pulsing vibe. I’ll make a parallel of an instrument or vocal part, then put a long reverb in the rack on that channel and set it to fully wet, then have a compressor after it and have a kick pattern routed into the side chain on the compressor. You can mix it in as loud or soft as you like, I usually keep it quite subtle but I find it adds a lot to the track when used in the right way.
The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
- Pulveriser is easily my most used device, I use it on almost everything.
- Audiomatic Retro Transformer is also something I use a lot, especially on synths.
- NN-XT is the most used instrument for me, I often sample my own sounds and put them into the NN-XT, I just love how much control it gives you.
Jo in the Propellerhead Studio in Stockholm.
What do you do when inspiration just isn't there?
Well that’s very rare, but it can happen. Usually I’ll go for a walk, or do something physical and completely unrelated to music to clear my head, then come back to the studio and listen to some music I’ve never heard before, also some of my favourite artists to get perspective. Usually by that point I’ll be ready to make music, but if not then I guess I’d just come back tomorrow, but I don’t think that’s ever happened.
"what am I listening to? This guy is twisted". I thought it was terrible"
What’s your all-time favorite album?
This question is impossible to answer, because I have too many faves. But there’s one album that really changed my perspective on music. I remember the first day I heard it I thought to myself: "what am I listening to? This guy is twisted". I thought it was terrible. But came back to it a couple of weeks later and suddenly I understood it and from that day on I had a completely different outlook on music. For me, this album is the most original and inventive piece of work I’ve ever heard, I don’t know how he imagined it up.
James Blake - James Blake (2011)
Posted Feb. 6, 2018, 1:02 p.m.
We have teamed up with Positive Grid, one of the world's leading developers of professional digital audio software and hardware, to bring you the Reason 10 + BIAS AMP 2 giveaway!
BIAS AMP 2 is packed with great features, including new dynamic tone engine, new Preamp Power Amp, New User interface, Improved Amp Match technology, Celestion IRs and much more.
Share your favorite BIAS AMP 2 feature and you can be the winner of:
1st Prize: 1 BIAS Amp 2 Pro License + Propellerhead Reason 10 License
2nd Prize: 1 BIAS Amp 2 STD License + Propellerhead Reason 10 License
3rd Prize: 1 BIAS Amp 2 STD License
Enter by February 19 for your chance to win!
- Contest starts on February 5th at 12:00 AM PST and ends on - February 19th 2018 at 11:59 PM PST. Winners will be randomly selected and announced on February 20th 2018 at 10:00 AM PST.
- Contest available for fans Worldwide. No country restrictions.
- Users can participate all the times they want.
- Users will be automatically subscribed to the Positive Grid and Propellerhead Newsletters.
- 3 winners will be randomly selected on February 20th, 2018
Posted Jan. 15, 2018, 12:46 p.m.
Over the last few years, a new retro music genre has emerged, bloomed and taken on a life of its own. Synthwave, or Retrowave is an electronic music genre heavily influenced by the sounds and aestethics of 1980s movies and its soundtracks (think John Carpenter, Vangelis etc) and video games. This nostalgia-induced style of electronic music pays tribute to the style, feel and sound of the 80s. Musically, Synthwave music often draws inspiration from bands that build their musical foundation on drum machines and (nowadays) classic synthesizers.
Emerging in the late 2000’s, Synthwave acts like Kavinsky, College and Com Truise were among the first to make the genre widely known and loved. Both Kavinsky and College were featured in the Synthwave-heavy soundtrack for the movie Drive, which definitely helped many discover the sounds of Synthwave and bring the genre into the mainstream. The Netflix hit show Stranger Things also features Synthwave music in its soundtrack and the whole series could of course also be considered an homage to 80s movies.
Synthwave music is often inspired by and based around 80s style components such as drum machines (such as the Linn Drum) and analogue synthesizers like the Roland Juno and Jupiter 8, mixed with more modern production techniques like creative use of sidechain compression.
With its rich plethora of drum machines and analogue inspired synthesizers, picking Reason to produce a Synthwave track is a perfect match. Here to show you how it’s done is producer and musician Paul Ortiz of Synthwave group ZETA.
Producer, musician and Reason producer Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner) is a member of Synthwave group ZETA, along with Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT) and Katie Jackson. Together they fuse the retro synth heavy decade of the 80s with futuristic and breath-taking imagery, bringing past and future together in a Cyberpunk-esque package that is ZETA.
Follow ZETA on YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp.
Make a Synthwave track yourself with Reason's free trial!
Posted Nov. 29, 2017, 3:49 p.m.
With VSTs in Reason, you can now tap into the amazing pedalboard designing capabilities of BIAS FX, while blending the tones you create inside that plugin with standard rack devices like Scream 4 for custom tones only possible in Reason.
Posted July 7, 2017, 8:38 a.m.
ZETA is a collaboration between Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner), Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT) and Katie Jackson. The UK artists seek to push their own creative boundaries by exploring epic soundscapes that intertwine with stunning visuals.
This unique project fuses the retro synth heavy decade of the 80s with futuristic and breathtaking imagery, bringing past and future together in a Cyberpunk-esque package. With a huge span of influences ranging from metal, future garage, retrowave, prog, classical and various game and film soundtracks, their music embraces the sounds of electronica, but with textures and layers inspired by the whole musical spectrum.
We had a chat with Paul about creating music for ZETA and how Reason plays a big role in the creative process.
Tell us a bit about how ZETA came about and what your intention was when launching the project!
I guess it kinda formed by accident! So I'd known our singer Dan for a while through the Progressive Metal scene - I was busy with my project Chimp Spanner and he sings for TesseracT. We'd always planned on working together but just never got around to it. It wasn't until I shared a song of my partner Katie's that he approached me, thinking it was a song of mine. After I explained the mixup we decided that it'd be awesome to all work together and, here we are! Originally we'd intended to make a futuristic/chill kind of album, and then for a while it was all-out Synthwave, and then it naturally settled somewhere in the middle. I think it works because we all have a shared love of influences old and new, ranging from Tears for Fears, George Michael and Vangelis to Ghost in the Shell, Future Garage, sci-fi games and all of that.
Being an (almost all) electronic album, what was your approach on producing the album, as opposed to any guitar centered albums you've done previously?
Well the workflow was very different for me. I'm used to just writing on my own, instrumentally. With Zeta what'd usually happen is Katie would give me a MIDI file and a demo mixdown from Cubase. I'd listen a couple of times for reference and then dump the MIDI in Reason and basically start from scratch, then embellish with guitars or add new sections, chord changes, etc. So I guess it was more like re-mixing than anything. Then we'd send it off to Dan to do his thing, get the stems back and edit them in Reason, then figure out what needed to stay or go in the mix to make them fit. So yeah; for someone who's used to doing everything all at once it was a very different experience to bounce the songs around between three people. But it seems to have worked well. Of course some songs I wrote directly in Reason from start to finish but in either case the focus was on drums and bass. I found that once I nailed the rhythm section everything else fell into place, which really isn't too dissimilar to how I approach guitar music.
I've accumulated so many REs over the years that I had a device for just about every job, and where I didn't, I just made one myself in the Combinator.
How did Reason help you creatively when writing music for the album?
It's just fun! We tried Cubase at first; Silent Waves is actually the only track not made in Reason, and it would've been if I had been able to find the project. But I just wasn't happy with the sounds I was getting. Everything was kind of "cold", and I found the environment kinda taxing to work in, especially when it comes to automation. So we made the decision early on to switch. With Reason it felt like I was playing with a bunch of cool toys rather than working. I've accumulated so many REs over the years that I had a device for just about every job, and where I didn't, I just made one myself in the Combinator. But yeah more than anything it's just that fun factor. And then of course on a technical level the clip based automation is just such a time-saver. You can go really crazy with it and not have to worry about setting things back to the right position afterwards. In Cubase I'd normally just leave stuff as it is because I can't be dealing with my parameters being left at the wrong value after MIDI or host automation.
OK, synth nerd alert: what was the most used synth on the album?
Tough one! I'd say Antidote, just because it's so versatile. It's great for those dark unison Future Garage style basslines, as well as pads and leads. But beyond that, I used a lot of The Legend and Viking (wanted that authentic Moog kinda feel). And I'm pretty sure Quadelectra's Jackboxes are on every track (707, 808, Linn Drum). The Kings of Kong ReFill is also fantastic if you want even more retro drum machines. That features a lot also.
Any special, secret Reason production trick used in the process?
Well there's a tonne of side-chaining haha. Kinda comes with the synthwave/future territory. Typically what I'd do is take all my melodic elements (except for lead instruments and vocals) and put them in a group channel called "SC". Then I'd either key the compressor using audio from the kick, or more often than not I'd just use Pump RE and trigger it via MIDI. Having certain instruments outside of the side-chain group keeps the mix from sounding too ducked and keeps those elements more in focus. Also Audiomatic's Tape and Bottom presets got a lot of use on the album. I have no idea what they do, but they make the mixes sound kinda warm and fuzzy, and I like that. Scream's Tape setting is also great for warming up basses and kick drums. Distortion isn't necessarily a destructive tool. It can be really musical.
Scream's Tape setting is also great for warming up basses and kick drums. Distortion isn't necessarily a destructive tool. It can be really musical.
Any tips and tricks for mixing vocals in Reason?
Hmm, considering this was my first time mixing vocals, I think it might be me who needs a few tips and tricks! But I mean, it was a learning
experience. I'd say automate. Lots. I'm kind of a set-and-forget guy normally, but for vocals it just doesn't work. You have to really ride the faders and "play" the mix. Also try using ducking on your reverbs. So you could send a lead vocal to a nice long reverb with a compressor after it. Then use the Spider to take a copy of that dry vocal and send it to the sidechain input of the compressor. Kinda like lazy-man's automation. When there's singing there's less reverb. When there's no singing, there's more reverb. Works pretty well most of the time.
Could you share any synth patches used on the album?
Well a lot of the patches are really not that complicated; most of the basses and pads are really sort of "naked", in that they're not dressed up with a lot of effects or complex routing. It's mostly sawtooth oscillators (either dual detuned or something with a rich/wide unison section like Korg MonoPoly or Antidote) and then a suitable amp/filter envelope depending on whether it's a bass or a pad or whatever. I've included a few patches here, although they're not much to look at!
Download Zeta's Reason presets here!
(Please note that some of the patches requires Rack Extensions)
A few people have asked about the snare on The Distance. And I can tell you it's a layered 707 snare, 707 low tom, and the BBGunSnare_BSQ sample from the Reason FSB, all running into a gated reverb! Ohhh and guitars are almost entirely presets from Kuassa's excellent amp REs!
Follow ZETA on YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp.
LIsten to ZETA's new album here:
Try Reason 9.5 free for 30 days here!