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Talking Shop – Andres Campo: “I always needed time when touring; now we have it, I’m struggling”

(Image credit: Andres Campo)

Spanish techno producer Andres Campo has made a name for himself with releases for labels including Odd Recordings, Eats Everything’s Edible Records and Nicole Moudaber’s Mood, as well as a long-held residency at Spain’s Florida 135. We caught up with him to talk studio, synths and surviving lockdown.

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

“I started very young. I started DJing first when I was about 14, and then producing with Impulse tracker, and then developed into using FL Studio. At 16, after my first summer job I saved all my money and spent it on an Akai Z4 Sampler, a Virus Access B rack, a unit of effects from Zoom and a Behringer mixer. Back then I was really into trance and rave music, which was inspired by some of the big clubs and the scene in my hometown of Huesca which was a mecca for music at the time in Spain. My first vinyl was released back in 2004 and from there I never stopped. Producing is a constant learning curve, there is always more to teach yourself.”

Tell us about your studio/set-up 

“My current studio setup is at my home in Barcelona. I did at first try to use some of the bigger studios which were available, but I came from a design background and I need sunlight, so to be locked away in a dark studio with no windows isn’t conducive for me to make music. I like having my studio at home, as it means I am always in my comfort zone. It’s small and not perfect, but it has everything I need. 

“I use Ableton Live as my main DAW, and I have some machines, but as it’s a small space I need to be careful how much I buy! It’s also a blessing in a way, as I learn to use the tools I have to their fullest potential, rather than having too much and equipment being forgotten. I have a Roland SH-01, a TR-8S, Maschine, Elektron Digitakt and Analog Heat, Roland SE-02 and some MIDI controllers. Everything goes through my Apollo from UA, I really love their plugins. 

“For software, I use a lot of plugins. The Sylenth1 is my favourite synth, maybe it’s not the ‘biggest one’ out there, but I know it well and the sound and possibilities are incredible.”

What DAW do you use, and why?

“Ableton Live. It’s solid, easy and I find that ideas always come quickly. There is always a war between which DAW has better sound, but that’s not something that I’m into. It’s not really important as the best things are already in your mind and your ears can hear them. The DAW is just another tool. They all sound good when they are used right. I did also use FL Studio before, Cubase too for many years. And I also installed LUNA recently from UAD – it looks quite promising!”

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

“The Elektron Digitakt – I think it’s the most inspiring machine in my studio. Also, the TR-8S – it’s so easy to create grooves with it.”

What was the latest addition to your studio collection? 

“The Roland SH-01a. I love it! Sounds perfect for techno tracks, it’s a little monster. I am really happy with it and that LFO and filter can create some weird and wicked sounds.”

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

“A modular system! But until I have more space, then that won’t happen. But I am happy without it for now!”

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

“Sometimes I start with an idea I already have in my mind, which may have come from a vocal I have heard, a synth line – can be anything. If I do not have that idea already to go, then I start with an eight-bar loop and construct my track from the base, the groove, kick and then the rest of the elements. Finally, I look for a good hook. I do not follow a pattern, I let ideas flow and see what happens. This means that all tracks are different, which I think is important.”

What are you currently working on?

“During this time, inspiration is hard for me. All of this COVID-19 news –and having to be locked down at home – is not the best way to draw positive inspiration. Some producers may find it to be the opposite case, but for me, at the present moment, I do find it hard to get creative. It’s such a shame, as I was always looking for time to be able to stay at home and produce when I was constantly touring on the road; and now that we have it, I’m struggling. 

“I am doing more ambient tracks for sure at the moment, and trying out some different and more experimental things. Because if we can’t do this now, when can we? I am trying to avoid getting stuck when I’m creating.”

Andres' essential production tips

Always use a limiter

“I always work with a limiter on my master channel with a threshold of -10db; yes, I know, that’s not right. Haha. However, I need that club feeling and also, I can take care of my entire mix volume. This way, I can save some headroom for the master. When my track is finished, I remove the limiter.” 

Working with Ableton clips

“This is a tip which has been followed by many of my friends too. In Ableton, I always fill the entire track with the clip parts in arrangement view. Up to seven minutes, for example. I then use the 0 key to deactivate all the clips, then I start to activate them (also with the 0 key). This way, I can try all my clips in every part of the track. I prefer to be subtractive! Try it! I know it’s difficult to explain here, but it works and it makes creating really fast and easy.”

Less is more

“If it works, it works. Do not waste your time in trying to fit a sound or synth idea into your mix. Less is more, so try to mute some channels on your final mix. Sounds the same? Then remove it. I imagine the track a bit like a Jenga tower, I am sure you can remove some elements, and the entire track will still be standing there, just do it bit by bit. But the most important thing is to have some fun!”

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