2010 has been quite a year for Starsmith. He’s written and produced for Ellie Goulding, Cheryl Cole and Kylie Minogue, remixed Timbaland, N.E.R.D. and Robyn, and started to release his own material. With a full solo album in the works, 2011 may well see Starsmith (real name Finlay Dow-Smith) become a star name; Future Music recently spent some studio time with the man and his gear.
Dave Smith Instruments Prophet '08
Dave Smith’s flagship synth is popular with many a big-name producer, and Starsmith is a big fan of its flexibility. “Sometimes I do some effects through this but it’s mainly for the poly stuff. It replaces the need for about four different soft synths all in one piece of kit.”
Moog Little Phatty
It transpires that Moog’s monophonic beauty is a key part of the Starsmith sound. “All bass and lead sounds come from the Little Phatty because it’s so easy to use. Everything makes sense.”
Many artists these days buy soft synths to replace hardware ones, but for Starsmith, in the case of the SH-101 it’s the other way round. “I got this for £500 from eBay - I won it at the last second. I bought it to replace the TAL Bassline software plug-in I’d been using to emulate the SH-101.”
Fender Rhodes Mark II
Here’s a keyboard of the vintage variety: the classic Rhodes electric piano. There are plenty of emulations about, but Starsmith agrees that you can’t beat the original. “I found this on Gumtree and it’s one of my favourite things in the studio,” he says. “It’s so nice to just have a real Rhodes.”
Sitting on top of the Rhodes is this lesser-known Korg synth: a digital FM model from the ‘80s. “This does cheesy sounding horns and bells really well and was actually used quite a lot on the Ellie Goulding stuff. It doesn’t have much in the way of control, but I still use it a lot.”
An Edirol controller keyboard. Practical and useful, certainly, but there’s not too much to say about it beyond that. Or so you might think, but this particular model has a story behind it: “Frankmusik gave me this MIDI controller keyboard because for some reason he couldn’t get it to work, but I don’t use any of the onboard controls,” reveals Starsmith. Note the DAWs on the two monitors, too: Apple Logic and Propellerhead Reason.
The Focusrite Platinum Twin Trak Pro you can see here has had some heavy use: “All the Ellie Goulding stuff was done through this including guitars and vocals and even some of the compression,” reveals Starsmith. The purchase of the Alesis 3630 compressor, meanwhile, was inspired by a famous French duo: “I read loads of stuff on Daft Punk and discovered they had one of these so I had to get it. It’s so cheap it’s stupid not to own one, and it looks good in the rack.”
Starsmith has a long-standing relationship with his Adam A7s, but it seems that this might not continue indefinitely. “These Adams have really served me well, but I don’t know if they’re right for me in the long run,” he admits. “I still need to find the perfect monitors.”
Here’s the sE2200A mic that was used for many of the vocal recordings for Ellie Goulding’s Lights album. “We used the sE2200A mic for half the album and any vocals we needed to re-record we used my new Neumann TLM,” he confirms.
The Starsmith studio is already pretty well-equipped, then, but what’s going to be the next addition to it? “It wouldn’t be a single piece, it would be the SSL X-Desk and the APIs [560 EQs]. But the APIs are about £600 each I think and I need eight of them! So we’ll have to see how well the album does, but that’s the gear plan. For the time being when I get the new Mac I’ll be set up well with my Waves bundle because I won’t have any CPU problems, fingers-crossed.”
Liked this? Now read: In pictures: Morgan Page’s LA Studio
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter