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Talking Shop - Scalping: "Just enjoy making noise, worry about the details later"

(Image credit: Scalping)

Combining distorted guitars, mangled synths and driving beats, the band have caught the attention of UK tastemakers with their raw sound and engaging A/V live shows. We caught up with them to talk studios and the creative process behind Flood, their recent EP for Houndstooth.

When did you start making music?

“Three of us have known each other since secondary school where we were in different rock/punk bands that would play together locally, ripping off various combinations of Deftones, Foals, And So I Watch You From Afar and Metz. 

"We bonded over an obsession with guitar pedals and making weird noises. Pedals were definitely our first bits of proper ‘gear’, that’s how we got into any kind of production or sound design stuff and they’re still a big part of our setup.”

Tell us about your studio set-up.

“We were lucky enough to get our own studio space in Bristol last summer which was such a blessing when everywhere else was closed. We’ve basically locked ourselves away in there working on music since we got the keys and it’s been incredible.

“We have a few bits of hardware that we use a lot; a couple of synths (Roland SH-01a, Behringer TD-3), Octatrack and a load of guitar pedals. The Line6 M9 ends up getting a lot of use just because it’s so simple and so immediate, we’ll often just send some samples through that and jam with it until we’ve got a hook. Other than that it’s all very plugin heavy; a fun Max/MSP euclidean sequencer and Devil-Loc get a lot of action.”

What DAW do you use?

“We write, produce and record in Ableton Live as we’ve found it the best tool for being able to cross over the worlds of live instrumentation with electronic and programmed elements.

“Once we’ve got a finished track we move over to Pro Tools for mixdown, to separate this stage of the process and commit to stems."

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

“Boring answer is a laptop. Other than that, the Roland SH101A has been integral for us.”

Trust your instincts and record everything. Often the first time you do something or the first idea you have is the best

What was your last purchase?

"We've just picked up an ASMHydrasynth and a Behringer MonoPoly. We wanted to have a whole new world of digital and analogue to explore and get fully lost in for this next chunk of writing.

"Loving the X-MOD on the MonoPoly and the interface on the Hydrasynth is like nothing I’ve ever used before, the controls are laid out so uniquely.

“The latest plugin we bought is Michael Bauer Motion which is a circular auto panner, great for making sounds swim around your head.”

What dream bit of gear would you love?

“We’d love a Waterphone – an instrument used for horror movie soundtracks, it’s made of a shallow resonating bowl with thin metal rods of different lengths sticking up all around the rim, when you strike or bow the rods they resonate and create these horrible but beautiful screeches.

“For now we’ve had to make do with smacking the skip outside our studio for similar sounds.”

I once heard someone describe this as the sound of cramming a cathedral into a shoebox

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

“One technique that’s been quite fruitful is setting up a chain of pedals with no real thought of what it’s going to sound like, then sending something through it (synth, samples, microphone, mixer etc) and just recording a 30-40 minute jam.”

What are you currently working on?

“The combination of getting a studio space and having no distractions (pub or touring) has meant we’ve been writing more than ever. We’re also working on a project re-imagining our new EP Flood that we’re very excited about.”

Trust your instincts

“Trust your instincts and record everything. Often the first time you do something or the first idea you have is the best. That could be the first idea you come up with for a riff, the first take you do, the first time you use a new synth. For that reason we always record everything, you never know what you’ll end up capturing. 

"We’ll often use stems from demos in final tracks just because we already got what we needed the first time round and there’s no reason to go back and try and copy or recreate what you’ve already done. We also find it much more fun working like this, you can be more carefree and just enjoy making noise, worry about the details later.”

Distortion or compression after reverb

“I once heard someone describe this as the sound of cramming a cathedral into a shoebox and while I’m not too sure how that works it does kind of make sense. Essentially use a reverb so add some space and scale to a sound and then absolutely smash it with a distortion or compressor and it really brings up the tail.

“Coming from the background of playing guitar and building pedalboards, you come across hundreds of articles and videos from guys playing the same blues riff a thousand times telling you to put distortion before reverb, so it’s quite liberating working with plugins where there’s a much greater ‘anything goes’ attitude.”

Use your phone

“People don’t make the most of how powerful and handy their phone is. We use them for field recordings, free tacky music making apps and, our favourite, skipping through random YouTube videos; car crashes, fights, arguing, birds... whatever, jam with the pedals as you go, cut out the good bits and you’ve got your own samples!”

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