Future Music – In Studio With | Dennis Ferrer

Greetings crew…
Hope all is well with you. Over the weekendI picked up the April 2011 edition of Future Music , my favorite magazine on music production technology. In this edition, there’s an article on Dennis Ferrer, a long time top DJ and house music producer based out of NYC. What interested me in this article is that some of his quotes (and tech knowledge), again, speaks to my past and current musings on how music is produced today, in light of music production technology evolution. Many sample construction kit companies, professional and non-professional, along with folk who just have the knowledge, are making samples available of prominent producers many musical genres, specifically hip-hop: Scott Storch and Lex Luger drums, Dr. Dre samples, Pete Rock MPC drum kits, and the like. In the dance music genres, companies like Loopmasters are creating sample kits from top producers and remixers like AtJazz, Felix Da Housecat, etc. While these are, and will continue to be major sellers, I continue to get the feeling that they cater to composers (especially in hip-hop) that think if I can sound like (fill in the blank), I’m surely on my way to stardom. Of course, while being my humble opinion, I think this (direct) form of emulation, per se, equates to sort of a “get rich quick” formula. While I have my own set of influences (musicians, producers, artists), I’ve always tended to use them to effect my composing and producing differently than it appears how it’s done today…but…times are different (read: technology), etc.

In any event, I’ve said that because I took personal agreement with a good portion of what Dennis had to say in this interview. So much so, that I decided to put some of his quotes in this post. While the essence of them is nothing new, they pretty much jive with my feelings (which I’ve shared with you in previous posts to different extents). With that being said…here we go: FM – Future Music, DF – Dennis Ferrer

FM (on hardware synths owned): Do you still own those synths?
DF: “I got rid of them, Everybody says “hardware is hardware”, but if you can tell me what kind of synth I’m using on any one of my tracks, God bless you.

DF (on software plugin design and emulation of hardware synths): I prefer to spend my time making music that sitting there being a scientist. I know how to make sounds, so I do it quickly, get the sound I want, then move on.”

DF (on using software solely to make songs): “Big studios were having a hard time in New York because you had guys who were doing records in Ableton. Does the general public really care what it sounds like? (expletive) no, then don’t give a (expletive). Do I really care what it sounds like? Yes, Because I come from that background. Because I use classic hardware, does that mean I’m going to make a better record than a kid on Ableton in his bedroom? No dude. What counts is what’s inside your head.”

DF (on the consistency of making hit records): “Anybody can make one hit record, but can you make ten? There are some people that say ‘oh well, this is an art’. (expletive). It’s half art, half business. The reason you make a record is to have it heard. If you want it to be art, keep it to yourself.

FM: Would you ever do your own sample DVD?
DF: “Nope, and I’ve been asked many times. Why? Get your own! Go hunting! Stop being (expletive) lazy. Go to a record shop, or a flea market, buy old records, sample them, run them through an EQ, process them, that’s all part of sound creation and being creative. When you come across a sound you’ve made, you run it through a flanger, some outboard, back in through a Rat [effects peda], then through some SoundToys [effects plugins] and suddenly you hear that new sound and you think, ‘oh [expletive]’ and you’ve got a riff you never would have had otherwise. And that’s your sound. If your production is worth any salt, you go ahead and make your own sounds. I come from Techno not House and we had to be able to make our own sounds – if you didn’t know how to tweak an envelope, you were screwed. I’m not judging people who use them, but I just don’t believe in them. Sample your own (expletive).”


There you have it. I think he makes very valid points. Do I agree 100% with all of them? No, not to that great extent, however, they are more in line with my beliefs then not. As for sampling, I collect samples on the regular, especially since so many vendors and artists are making them available free. I tend to use drum loops as a foundational start for a song, and have even used them flat out in the final mix of a song. In doing that, I’ve come back to seeing the importance of programming drums instead (after all, it’s how I use to do it long before I had a computer or loops were available) because I don’t want to lose the knowledge and knack of being forced to think like drummer would for a song. I program my drums on my MPC 1000 and either use the samples and sequences in Logic, or easier, use the MPC to trigger the EXS 24 or Ultrabeat in Logic. I believe there are places for drum loops, especially in the various genres of dance music (which is, for all intents and purposes, electronic, anyway). As for other samples, sound effects, synth pads, foley, and vocal samples are some of my favorites types to use. I edit samples farrrrrr more than sample actual sounds (as Dennis does), and admit that it is easier and less time consuming to do. In the end, creativity is relative, but to make something that is your own, I believe, is far more creative than any editing (meaning sample chopping). Then again, that can be interpreted as creating as well…You see where this can go (and I’m not gonna take it there).

Dennis Ferrer links:

  • Discogs
  • Facebook
  • His label, Objektivity
  • Twitter
  • Last.fm
  • Feel free to post any thoughts and comments, I’d be interested to read what you have to say. Thanks for the read.

    ::: oceans of rhythm :::


    Hardware vs Software: Tools of musical composition

    Hey crew…

    Hope all is well. It’s been a minute since I posted a blog, but I’m back. Been pretty busy between various music projects, work, fam, life, etc. This post is sorta related to the last few as its on the subject of how we, as musicians, compose music and the tools we use. Two days ago I happened to be reading an article on world renowned electronica musician, Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher in Future Music Magazine #235. He has a new release entitled “Squarepusher presents: Shobaleader One”. I’ve featured a track or two of his on my podcast The Sunday Soundtrack.

    Being a solo artist until this new release, he’s greatly relied on hardware to produce his tracks. He’s relied on the Yamaha QY700 up to now to handle all his sequencing. Even with the employment of actual musicians for this release, he’s still using it for that task.

    The interview is actually pretty good. In it he talks about his use of samples (or lack thereof) in his compositions. He said the following:

    “With a modern sequencing package, I get four pages of snares, a hundred kick drums and a giant screen. That’s my idea of hell”

    That, ironically, reminded me of a thought I had just a day prior… about a hip-hop producer I connected with on Twitter that graciously shared with me a slew of drum kits and samples. One file alone contain 1600 snares….1600! I thought to myself…”How would I ever be able to audition all of those snares in a somewhat timely fashion to find “the right one” for a tune?”. Ever since getting Logic Studio and an MPC shortly after that, I’ve been collecting samples and loops on the net (from the vast majority of free ones offered) for quite a bit of time how. So far to the tune of about 5GB alone. This doesn’t include the sample CDs that come with my monthly purchase of Future Music Magazine, and occassionally Computer Music and Music Tech.

    I’m in a moment of time where I am seriously enjoying using Logic Studio as my DAW of choice, but at the same time, there’s something about pressing buttons, turning knobs, and seeing the glow of LED and LCD screens in the studio, that makes it all part of composing music (not to mention picking up one of my guitars or my bass guitar as starting points).

    The hottest composition tool that, in my mind, is a mix hybrid of hardware and software is NI’s Maschine. I won’t even begin to get into this right now, but it is what’s on point right now. Tons of videps all over the net, big time artists using it. Many have made the jump from the MPC to this unit.

    That being said, I think Squarepusher shares the following mindset with many artists who have been composing music in the digital age. He sums it up quite nicely:

    “My advice to anyone who’s reading this would be: Don’t worry about what I’ve got. Don’t worry about what anyone else has got. Take whatever’s in your studio and make music. The most important thing is that you keep the free flow of ideas. Keep pushing your imagination. If you can only afford two bits of gear…fine! Use them, push them as far as they’ll go”.

    Am I an advocate of the above quote? Yes, definitely… but at the same time, I am hardly against buying new gear at all. While I had enough hardware in my studio to make music without a Mac, I found that using a computer easily made the process and workflow MUCH easier and quicker.

    I often key my eyes on everything coming out that’s new, but with Logic Studio and a rack full of synths, a MPC, and an MC-808, I find myself hard pressed to purchase anything new. What I am beginning to find exciting (again) is to breath life into some of my older modules (even the stock sounds) and combining them with Logic to come up with tracks that are….”Fresh”! 😉

    Thanks for the read… now go make music. Peace.

    ::: oceans of rhythm :::


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