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15 questions for... Haider: "Chasing trends is a fool’s game"

Haider
(Image credit: Press)

Haider originally emerged out of the Sheffield bassline scene to DJ and eventually start producing his own music in 2008. Since then he’s traversed genres, including grime and UK funky, eventually setting on creating a label, Breaker Breaker, to release quality music in any genre, from jazz to shoegaze. 

His own music has received support from Radio 1 and Radio 6 Music and with so many genres under his belt, has been described as ‘acid electro, future breakbeats and raw, jacking house’. And why not?

1. Tell us about your background?

“I was born and grew up in Sheffield. As I got into my teens I got into the whole Niche [nightclub] thing which was big in the city. I got a pair of decks and would go and buy vinyl from the now defunct Studiobeatz store. I started to help out around the shop and eventually started DJing on the internet radio show, which led to my first ever gig, so it all began there I guess.”

2. What is your production philosophy?

“I like to go in with a blank mind and just let it all flow naturally. I don’t like to over-think things. If I do, I get stuck in a locked groove going round and round in my head being unsure of my creative decisions. I just throw things at the canvas and think about mixdowns and arrangements after.”

3. How did you get into production?

“Back when I was hanging out around Studiobeatz, I met a guy called Zeeks (aka DJ Veteran) and we became good friends. He was a really dope producer and made loads of big Niche records.

"I didn’t know what a DAW was and saw him using the old Emagic Logic and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’. I would just watch him make music and absorb what was going on. He would bounce between Reason and Logic and I eventually picked up a copy of Reason 3.

"Nowadays I use a few bits of analogue gear but most of what I do happens in Ableton. I wouldn’t go completely out the box because I like having the best of both worlds, plus I find using Ableton a lot more convenient.” 

4. Tell us about your studio gear?

“The star is my Korg Poly 61; I use this for everything. It’s not the easiest synth to edit and play with but sounds gorgeous. I’ve got a Moog Minitaur which I often use for leads and arps other than its usual function as a bass synth. I’ve also got a little crappy delay box I bought super cheap a few years back which I use on everything. It’s got a super nice sound and I love just playing around with it; it adds more movement and life.

"I’ve had a few other bits on rotation over the years including an original Roland TB-303, a Sequential Circuits Drumtraks and a Korg Triton Rack, all of which can be heard on my latest music. But I like to switch things up to keep my sound fresh.”

5. What are your top five plugins?

Native Instruments Guitar Rig. “I love guitar pedals and this plugin is basically a suite full of them. I often set this up on a return track in Ableton and send pretty much everything into it and run it parallel for more character.”

Valhalla Vintage Verb. “I don’t think there’s a plugin reverb better than this. I did use a Lexicon Vintage Plate, but when Nathanael from The Colours That Rise showed me this, it quickly became my new reverb of choice.”

Soundtoys Decapitator. “My friend Vlad from Plastic Fruit Studios showed me Soundtoys during my first year of university. He couldn’t speak highly enough but the one that really stood out to me was this. It’s just pure crunch. I pretty much put this on every single drum track in every track I make.”

XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color. “My good friend Tom (aka Toddla T) put me on to this. As someone that loves tape distortion and warp I can’t get enough of it. You can dial it in and get some Boards Of Canada-esque tape warp that sounds lovely on synths.”

FabFilter Timeless. “I used Logic for many years before I made the switch over to Ableton and one of my most used plugins was the factory Stereo Delay. Timeless reminds me a lot of that in the way that it functions and also in the way it’s laid out. It also sounds absolutely fantastic.”

6. How does a track come together?

“I usually either start with working out some chords or making a drum loop. From there I just go wherever the track takes me. I’ll do loads of synth takes, play loads of melodies, sample chops etc, and then work out what works. I prefer to work reductively so I know I’m getting the very best of my ideas down on the final track.”

7. How do you complete a track?

“Well, this is an interesting one. The saying ‘art is never finished, only abandoned’ is ever so true, especially in the age of computer music where you can constantly revise and re-edit things.

"In the past its been really difficult for me to know when a track is finished as I can get stuck in the mindset of ‘just one more element’ forever. It’s for this reason I tend to bounce my tracks off people whose opinions I really trust to listen to a track and tell me if they feel it sounds finished or not.”

8. Do you have any production processes that define your sound?

“I do a lot of parallel processing using random effects or plugins you wouldn’t expect. You never know what a drum track might sound like if you run it parallel through a tape delay and mess around with the delay parameters throughout the whole track. It could sound awful; then again it could add some really cool character to the track. You never know unless you try.”

9. What is on your wishlist gear wise?

“This could go on forever. At the minute, the top of the list is a Deckard’s Dream, which is literally the dream. Vermona PERfourMER is a cool, quirky synth I’m quite feeling too. I want to get more outboard FX and would love one of the OG Eventide rack bits, maybe a classic Roland Space Echo as well.”

10. What would you like to see in terms of gear development?

“You see how you can turn audio to MIDI in Ableton? Well it would be cool if there was an app where you could hum or sing melodies into your phone and then it’s converted into MIDI files that you can then access from a cloud in Ableton. It would be amazing as it makes me cringe when I listen back to myself singing melodies.”

11. What advice have you picked up from working in the industry?

“Never give up and stay true to yourself. Chasing trends is a fool’s game. Stay true to your sound and keep grinding. Just because the sound you make isn’t popular, doesn’t mean you should give it up. Keep on going no matter what and eventually you’ll win.” 

12. What about production advice?

“Don’t overthink things and be overly precious about music. This is a common issue with a lot of producers as we just keep ending up in a constant loop and never being happy with the music and never putting it out. Just keep it moving!”

13. Any gear advice?

“Learn your equipment and learn it well. You see those instruction manuals? Read them! So many people I know purchase bits of equipment and then give up because it didn’t do what they thought it would when in reality they just didn’t explore it. If you’re going to spend large sums of money on pieces of equipment you should do your best to master it before you purchase the next one.”

14. Tell us about your latest releases?

“My first EP of the year came out in July entitled Endless Clouds on Breaker Breaker. The second one is out now - The Muses Come Out At Night on Warehouse Music. The third and final EP of 2020 is out on AUS music and is called Dance Now, Cry Later. Every play and purchase supports me and my lifetime of work so I hope that’s a good enough reason for people to listen!”

15. What else do you have planned?

“An album. I’ve had plenty of time to work on it and hope it will be out in spring. It’s my debut so I’m really excited.”

The Muses Come Out At Night and Dance Now, Cry Later are out now.

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