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Producer Masterclass - Freemasons: “Many producers develop the beginning of an idea, but won’t take it further”

MTS 2020: A true British dance music institution, Freemasons (aka James Wiltshire and Russell Small) took house music production to glossy new heights in the noughties with chart hits such as Love On My Mind, Watchin’, Rain Down Love and many, many more.

As remixers, they tackled big names like Fatboy Slim, Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland, with their Work remix being featured in Grand Theft Auto IV.

More recently, James has founded F9 Audio, a premium soundware label that also provides free video production tutorials and resources for producers.

Naturally, when James offered to make a track exclusively for Computer Music back in 2016, we jumped at the chance, and raced to his Brighton-based studio as fast as the United Kingdom’s speed limits would allow.

“One of the main things I wanted to do in this video was show some tricks that will help you get out of the ‘eight-bar block’. Many producers develop the beginning of an idea, but won’t take it further because it’s just sitting on a page looking like an uninspiring eight-bar loop.” James begins.

“I’ve always been lucky with stuff like that, I don’t why, but I think it’s because at one of the first places I worked I had to! In the early days, I was engineering for an awful lot of people for DMC, who are known for the mixing championships.

“This was just after the time that Sasha and Digweed were there, almost at the first formation of house music and remix culture. They had Brothers in Rhythm and Dave Seaman working out of there, and this whole collection of guys. Certain things I just had to get finished; it forced me into that habit.

Freemasons

(Image credit: Future)

“The other thing I witness quite a lot of is producers diving straight in, then getting stuck at a certain point during the creative process. I’ve got a couple of techniques that I’ve been working on - for example, creating a whole series of sounds in a given key, in a given atmosphere, that you build separately from the creative process.

“There’s so much pressure on producers coming into this now, you have to do everything. Yeah, you do have to do a little bit of everything, but if you try to do it all in the same ten minutes you’ll go absolutely insane, because the brain just can’t switch between sound design, composition, arrangement and mixing that quickly!

“In my experience, it’s much easier to be in ‘sound design’ mode, do something else, finish for the day, then come back having made a load of sounds, then put them into a production and actually start the nuts and bolts of piecing it all together.”

James’s exclusive video session more than lives up to his promises, as you’ll see in the included videos. So, without further ado, let’s see James make a club banger in Ableton Live!

This Producer Masterclass originally appeared in Computer Music 235 (Autumn 2016)

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