We've got a huge interview coming up with The Midnight's Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle about their story, songwriting and new album Heroes. But before that, we asked producer (and live drummer) Tim to choose his favourite plugins behind the album.
Denmark-born Tim's background before forming the synthwave / pop-rock project with Tyler was in pop production and it shows in The Midnight's consistently influential work that showcases a perfectionist approach to soundscaping as well as engaging songcraft. And we were keen to discover the plugins and go-to synths behind Tim's work.
"Let's start with EQ. This is my workhorse – I think it's most people's workhorse, it's incredible. It's maybe 150 or 200 bucks and it's absolutely worth it. It has a sort of dynamic EQ built in that you can activate, it's just amazing."
"I have different compressors. For a lot of vocals and guitar stuff and, and things that just needs a gentle controlling, I'll use the Native Instruments' VC76 and VC2A too.
"The UA Teletronix is an emulation too – Tyler just got an original LA-2A. Then there's the Boz Digital Plus 10db compressor, and they also have an EQ as well.
"I use the Boz if I want a quick reaction – a quick attack. Bz tends to be great for it and I used it to control some of the drums but really whippy guitars, bass and even synths and vocals too. It can be pretty aggressive, which is great."
Togu Audio Line TAL-Chorus-LX
"I'm a chorus guy – I put chorus on everything and I don't use it sparingly. I love the UAD Studio D Chorus. It's very simple and you open it up and there's about three or four settings. It just sounds amazing.
"If I want to go for an alternative chorus I'll go for the TAL Juno chorus emulation. I don't know if it's still free [it is and can be downloaded here]. It's the emulation of the chorus that's built into the Juno-106.
"The ÜberMod is killer – it has little delays but when you initially open it there's a chorus sound and it's so clean. It's great on guitars and synth. I love Valhalla's plugins."
"I love tape saturation. Softube has a plugin called Tape – it's very subtle, so it's really to just add harmonic distortion. Gentle saturation that adds colours and adds a depth to the sound to make it more interesting.
"U-he has a tape saturation called Satin which is beautiful as well. You can be a bit more aggressive with it and it's very versatile. I use it on drums, to bass, synths and guitars. Sometimes even vocals to bring some presence."
UAD AMS Model RMX16 Digital Reverb
"I'm a big fan of UAD's plugins and for reverbs the only thing that comes close is Valhallas plugins in terms of the quality, in my opinion.
"I have the RMX16 and then I have the 224 and the [480L]. The 224 is from the '70s and then 480L is the classic '80s reverb and I used that mostly on this album on the vocals. It's rich in presence and it's digital without feeling brittle so I love that one.
"The reverbs take quite a bit of DSP power from the card but it's worth it. And back a few years ago when I was making Nocturnal and albums like that I just had the little UAD Apollo Twin and I had to bounce the reverb in order to use my DSP."
"There's a lot of analogue synths on this album. It's mostly analogue synths and it's weird because in the last two years I've really got into them after never being remotely interested in them. Really because I had this impression they all sounded like the '70s, and of course I know they all weren't all made in the '70s but I got the OB-6 and the Prophet 6 at the behest of Tyler in the fall of 2020 and it opened my eyes.
"I love the OB-6. I tried to dial in an emulation of that sort of Tom Sawyer-style bass and that's the sound you hear in the opening of Change Your Heart Or Die. That bass is present in a lot of songs where I tweaked it a little bit.
"The Juno-106 is all over it and I have an Oberheim Matrix 6 which is a rack module without the keyboard but it sounds amazing. That is probably the most synthwavey synth I've ever heard. You can crank the resonance and it's so aggressive and rips but it never sounds hard on the ear.
"Then I have the UDO Super 6, of course [that can be heard of Heartbeat] so really there were a lot less soft synths, a lot less synth plugins. Usually I go for [U-He] Diva and things like that. Now I have the real thing it's hard to go back. But I think they serve different purposes."