Talking Shop: Ian Chang

Since moving to NYC in 2007, Hong Kong-born drummer Ian Chang has performed and recorded with artists including Matthew Dear, Joan As Policewoman and Moses Sumney, alongside his role behind the kit with Son Lux. 

His debut solo EP Spiritual Leader – which sees him using his kit to trigger and tweak samples – is out now.

When did you start making music, and how did you first get started? 

“I started playing piano at six, drums at nine and guitar at eleven. My first instrument was a Tama rockstar five-piece kit that I still play when I'm back in Hong Kong at my childhood home. The first recordings I ever made were straight to minidisc via the mic that came with the minidisc player I had. I even ‘multi-tracked’ by playing back one minidisc on the stereo while I played along to it tracking to another minidisc! I had no idea that I was re-amping.”

Tell us about your studio/set-up 

“Currently, my set up is in it's nascent stages. It is just my laptop, a four-piece mesh head drum kit with Sunhouse's Sensory Percussion attached, a MOTU 4Pre (this allows Sensory Percussion to communicate with my laptop) and a pair of DT770 pro headphones. There's so much I'd like to change but it's a slow growing situation. The next step is to find a space (I currently just set up in my bedroom) that I can acoustically treat and put up monitors. I would also love to get a live drum tracking situation figured out, but that's several steps down the line.”

What DAW (or DAWs) do you use, and why did you choose it?

“I use Ableton because it works really well with Sensory Percussion.”

What one piece of gear in your studio could you not do without, and why? 

“Sensory Percussion. Not because I wouldn't be able to make music without it, but because drumming is a central part of my creative voice.”

What's the latest addition to your studio? 

“I just got a bunch of FabFilter plugins that have been helping me up my game. I've mainly been getting into using the Q-2, Pro-L, Pro-C2 and Pro MB and I've been loving it.”

What dream bit of gear would you love to have in you studio?

“There is so much gear that I would love to have, but more importantly, what I would like to be able to do is to have a situation where I can record drum tracks on my own.”

When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?

“I always start by either finding or recording a sample that I find inspiring and then mapping that on to the kit.” 

What are you currently working on?

“I'm currently working on a couple remixes. Other than that, my EP came out September 22nd and I'm on the road supporting that in the fall.”

Ian Chang's essential music making tips...

Step back and listen 

“Make it a habit to step back and listen to music, including your own works in progress, from a non-analytical standpoint. It's easy to focus too much on the details and to lose site of the general emotional impact of music.”

Challenge yourself

“Challenge yourself and put limits on yourself. It can often lead to great creative solutions.”

Do everything with intention.

“There's no right or wrong, so the best you can do is to make decisions that you can really get behind. When making creative decisions, don't forget to ask yourself why.”

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