Producer Masterclass - Icicle: “Some people ask me ‘what’s the secret?’... but I do it exactly the same way you do it!”

MTS 2020: One of the Netherlands’ finest musical exports, Shogun Audio hitmaker Icicle (aka Jeroen Snik) has had a prodigious DnB career that’s seen him release everything from liquid rollers to neuro tear-outs and ice-cold bangers.

More recently, he’s dabbled in dubstep and techno, but for this Producer Masterclass, filmed in 2016, he was firmly concentrating on upfront, bass-heavy DnB sounds. We tracked Icicle down to his South London studio to find out his cutting-edge techniques for creating banging beats and sub-smashing bass.

Sound design is clearly an incredibly important part of the music creation process for you. How do you avoid the trap of just making tons of sounds and never actually composing anything?

“It’s hard. You can definitely lose yourself in it! The best thing, if you have the discipline for it, is to just sit at your station and build up lots of sounds and then re-use them. Come back to them when you’re in ‘writing mode’ and you’re trying to hit a certain vibe, and use all those sounds right away. If you have your sound design separate from your actual writing, though, they’ll always overlap!

“The main trick is to have separate sessions. What I’ll do is create something simple, without a lot of plugins on it, and save it as a clip. Then when I’m working on something, I’ll remember a break I was working on the other day, and just be able to drag it straight in.”

You’re not just designing sounds for your own tunes. Does the workflow change when creating sample packs?

“I’m doing so much stuff with [soundware publisher] Loopmasters - you have to really sit down and do it all like that; you end up in a ‘flow state’, which helps because sometimes it can be a little boring to make lots of it. You can sit there and explore, and it’s great, but then you have to make a big bunch of sounds, and it becomes a little like work... like a mass of bulky work!

“When you’re in that mindstate of just producing the sounds, that forces me into it more, and I get over the resistance of doing the initial proper work. I’m doing a lot of FM8 patches, and again, it’s good to have hundreds of my own patches to use. Even if they’re being sold, I just use them as starting points, because that’s how they are - you can just tweak them. That means that the proper noodly sound design is already done, essentially.

“Basically, you just have to get over yourself: I don’t have that much time to work on tunes anymore because I’m playing a lot and doing other shit... so when I’m sitting there, I have to finish stuff!”

So is there a particular secret to top-notch DnB sound design?

JS: “Some people ask me ‘how do you do this? How do you do that? What’s the secret?’ but I do it exactly the same way you do it! Exactly. I’ve just been doing it longer! Every time I set something up, it’s just the tiny touch that makes it slightly better. There are almost no tricks... there are some, obviously, but as soon as you’re there and you’ve mastered the basic plugins and processing, there are almost no shortcuts left, just fucking grafting until you’ve it! Don’t let it intimidate you – just keep working at it and you’ll get anywhere you want to go.”

In this Producer Masterclass, Jeroen makes a crushing DnB beat and filthy bass noise from scratch in Ableton Live. 

This Producer Masterclass originally appeared in Computer Music 238 (January 2017)

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