Fresh off the release of his new, eponymous album, Mocean Worker has shared a stack of loops and pieces in his signature electro-swing style for you to use. He was also kind enough to talk a little bit about the role Reason plays in his productions. Dive in below and we strongly recommend that you hit play while reading!
In what way is Reason helping you in your music making?
I've been using Reason since version 1.0. I came from using only an MPC 3000 and upon discovering Reason coupled with Recycle my mind exploded. I think it says a lot about a piece of software and its development over the years that I'm still constantly finding inspiration from it. I cannot think of a company that does a better job of adding features and work flow enhancements than Propellerhead (take a bow humble Swedish people! do it! ). Reason is where everything starts for me. All groove ideas, melodic ideas, sound design ideas START with Reason. For my latest album "Mocean Worker" (It's nice to have a self titled album when its your 8th full length) I left Reason exactly one time for a synth in another program (breakdown section of "Soul Swing" @ 1:38 into the track is Cyclop from SugarBytes mangled with) and I mixed 2 songs of the 11 outside of Reason. In other words 95.6% of this album was created and stayed at all times within Reason. There really was not a reason (coughs) to leave the Reason environment. It's just constantly turning into a better and better tool.
When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
I've created a very simple template. It consists of 4 REX players and a Kong Drum Machine and One Audio track. I've been recording audio into Reason since the Record days. It's just so straight forward. I find that this template works best for me. Also by default I have the Bus Compressor turned on. It's probably not the best idea on the planet but I love writing into a slight compression setting as it makes everything feel glued together from the get go. Ever since the console came into the Reason/Record workspace I've been really excited. The console is probably my favorite feature. While it existed in a way since the beginning of Reason's existence this current console is ridiculously cool. Everyone I show the console to kind of freaks out especially engineers because everything you could need is there and now with groups and parallel processing......wow, the sky is the limit.
What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?
For me it's mixing. I have the ideas and I can do arrangements and play instruments. I struggle the most with getting a sound that's my own, like the actual sound, not the notes and the groove. I've gone a bit crazy with Rack Extensions and creating suites of effects to write into. What I mean by that is I use a combination of effects sometimes on the Master Section just to see what happens. We all have the same tools now. We all have access to so many of the same sounds and presets. My goal is to find ways to make those same sounds have their own sound. It's very difficult. It's tempting to just write something funky and by happy enough with the results. I just can't bring my self to settle for presets though. It's a bit of a drag sometimes as it makes the process of making records take so much longer. I know I can't wait 3-4 years between full length albums anymore. I think I'm gonna definitely head into a cycle of digital only EP releases and be happy with groupings of 4-5 songs and release material more often. We've definitely headed into strange days within the recording industry. I struggle the most with staying ahead of the curve. For example, this latest release is digital only. I found no need to release a physical CD this time. Streaming is here. It's not going away. Folks still purchase MP3's ( yes , people still buy music! It's a good thing too ).
Do you have any production trick that you always use?
I think I mentioned it earlier. The Bus Compressor in the mixer is no joke. It's an incredible tool. I should clarify that I use it as a way to keep things musical and glued together and in a subtle way, until of course I don't want something to be subtle. I think it's really important especially for any kind of sample based electronic music to be mixing and writing sort of at the same time. Constantly be aware of how things sound and work together. Watch levels!! It's important to leave headroom. I know now everything is loud and squared off and super super loud. Don't fall into the temptation of making everything screamingly loud. Leave headroom and if you have the budget for a real mastering engineer you'll be happy you left the headroom in your mixes because the mastering engineer will really be able to do some tricks if you haven't over compressed your mix and made it 300 db's in level. One of the most sort of thrown away things now is mastering. Don't sleep on mastering. Also, I know it's tempting to pre-master or try to master on your own. If you do this, just understand the more you take a mix and compress it, eq it, limit it, maximize the volume, the less mastering can do for you.
The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
Dr. OctoRex (I almost called it Dr. Rex, I'm kind of old school ) , Kong Drum Designer, and a surprise non Props Rack Extension the fxpansion Etch Red Dual Filter. I've fallen in love with this filter (and as a 3B answer, the D-Filter by LabortorialT) both of these filters are all over my album and automated and just amazing sounding.
Can I add that I also almost always use some sort of thing from the Props Radical Keys ( sorry, I mentioned five).
As a bass player, are there any particular devices or tricks that you use in Reason to get the bass sounds you want?
I compress the bass as it's going in. I love the compressor on the mixer. It's really musical. I tend to play one of two styles when I play (especially for this new album ). Either slap technique in the style of Larry Graham or Marcus Miller or a back pick up sort of Victor Bailey / Jaco Pastorious type of sound. Either way I do compress the bass. I just evens things out. As an aside though I will say for bass players that the sound ultimately is all up to you. It's in your hands. If you are a bass player: practice, practice and really get to know your instrument. The more you play an instrument the better it will sound. I know that sounds weird but it's true. Speaking about devices I don't really use any specific Rack Extensions in recording my bass parts. I like to keep it simple. Like I said earlier I trust that the sound I want is already happening as a result of years of practice and knowing the instruments I have very well.
On your new album “Mocean Worker”, could you tell us a bit about how Reason played a part in the production of it?
Reason is at the funky, swinging, grooving center of everything. The goal for this album for me personally was two-fold: 1. Re-discover my roots as a bass player. This is my eigth album and to date even though I tell folks I'm a bass player, I had never played bass on my own albums! Kind of weird, no? I'm incredibly proud of the bass playing on this album. I think that my not playing on my other recordings was more to do with the fact that as a player I felt like I had reached a certain level but as an artist I really didn't feel like I had a real voice yet. Now I feel like I've settled in and found my voice. The second goal was to write and mix everything myself. The last three Mowo! albums were made with so many amazing guests joining forces with me. It was an incredible experience but this time out I wanted to see what would happen with very little input from anyone else. Sort of the same way I started out in my room wearing headphones with a bunch of ideas and the limitation of me being the sole voice to get them out. This is where Reason comes in. ALL of the songs were written in and with the exception of 2 out of 11 ("Soul Swing" and "PunkDisco(Jaco)" were mixed by my main man James Saez in another DAW) were mixed in Reason. I'm extremely happy to say I mixed 9 of the 11 songs myself. That was a gigantic hurdle for me as I have never really been confident in my mixing. The goal for this album was to not only write the music but also make the music sound the way I really heard it in my head. Reason is the lead starring "actor" in this process. It's the tool that enables me get my ideas out and finished. I know that sounds kinda hokey maybe but it's really the truth. The same way I mentioned really knowing an instrument that you own applies to really knowing the software you use. I've been using Reason since version 1.0 and there are a ton of tricks and tips I still don't know. I still watch tutorial videos just like someone who maybe is just getting started with the software. Knowing the tools you use as well as possible and getting the most out of the least amount of bells and whistles is really the secret here! Less is more folks.
You did a widely appreciated video for our Pulsar Rack Extension, care to talk about that experience?
No I cannot. Ever since the court case and those documents I signed as a result I've been sworn to a vow of silence.........
What do you do when inspiration just isn't there?
Keep trying. I don't like to walk away but honestly sometimes just getting a cup of coffee and walking away is the best medicine. I did that a LOT in the last 3.5 years. It's a really tough process to make an album. It's really worth it in the end though. Just fight through it. Writers' block is what it is. Things always come back around. Take a deep breath. You'll get through!
What’s your all-time favorite album?
Wow......thanks. This isn't hard enough to answer at all...........sheesh. For me it's always a couple of albums: Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue", Peter Gabriel "Passion"-Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ". I like other artists to note that what inspires you and what your own music actually sounds like very often are not one in the same. I draw inspiration from a wide range of music based on what it makes me feel. The outcome of that inspiration rarely sounds like the music that inspired it. Some folks find that to be odd. I just like what I like it doesn't mean my music has to sound like it. I actually DON'T want my music to sound like it because at that point I'm just copying something else. Right?
Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians?
Yes, find your voice. I know it's easy to follow trends and try to keep up with the cool kids. Don't fall into that temptation. Follow what you're hearing in your head. Get the music out. Everything else will sort itself out when it's all said and done. If you're in this to have fun and not make it your life's work, then really enjoy the process and have a great time. If you want to make this your career? Learn the business. It's not just about the music at all. Trust me on this one. The music is the one place you'll always have fun regarding "the music business". Learn what managers do. Learn what booking agents do. Learn about publishing and registering your music to protect yourself in whatever country you live in. Entering into a career in the music business now is akin to walking into a saloon in the 1860's in the American West. Make sure your weapon is loaded and ready for use. It's not a fun environment out there "pardner".
You can find all the loops and pieces that Mocean Worker wants you to collaborate with on his profile page.