Office Space

Spending all day at the office responding to emails without any time to make music can feel like emptying the sink and watching your soul disappear down the plughole. Fortunately I find it’s always possible to carve out a slice of creative time somewhere….

My latest tactic involves taking advantage of the lobby of the local Hilton during lunch.

The great things about this are:

  • I get an hour of undisrupted creative time to produce music.
  • Comfy sofas and all year round tropical style climate.
  • Prohibitively expensive Wi-Fi keeps me offline and focussed on making tracks.
  • Much quieter than a Cafe so I always get a seat.
  • I can take in sandwiches from anywhere of my choosing and nobody bats an eyelid.

Producing ad-hoc like this means having a lean portable setup and a good pair of headphones to combat any random hotel muzak. I make better music and have more fun when I have a controller to play on so I also keep a Maschine Mikro in my bag.

Who are you meant to be?

I love this drawing from one of my favourite cartoonists @GapingVoid. It sums up exactly why I left the banking industry many years ago and ended up making tea in a recording studio. As John Hegarty says:

Creativity isn’t an occupation; it’s a preoccupation. 

Don’t give up the fight

After many years of plugging away at making music I’ve finally had a remix released on a major label. This is really exciting news for me, however what’s been a real insight is that it took about a year from when I submitted it to when it actually got signed.

The remix opportunity came about through a chance meeting with someone from DECCA. We were geeking out about music production and they suggested I could have a go at a remix of a new artist. There was no guarantee that it would be released but I didn’t have to think too hard about giving this a shot!

I completed the remix and like numerous other tracks I’ve submitted to labels, I didn’t hear a peep of feedback. I got a little disheartened, assumed that nothing was going to happen and went back about my business.

Then out of the blue, a year later, I heard back from the label. The remixes were finally being listened to and sent over to the artists management. A few days later they said it had been approved and was going to be put out – I couldn’t believe it!

This experience and my day-to-day working in the music industry has revealed how busy label people are. They are sent gazillions of tracks and release schedules can be planned months ahead. If you’re sending your tracks out then you definitely shouldn’t give up hope or stop sending just because you don’t hear anything. There are so many reasons why you might not have heard back and it’s certainly no guarantee that they don’t like your music.

Everywhere’s a studio

Technology has always had a big impact on music. From how it sounds, the processes through which it’s made and performed, and also how its distributed. Once thing I really like about having a laptop is that it’s now possible to take your studio anywhere. This is really useful when fitting production in around a full-time job.

Austin Kleon has a great post on working on your art everyday.

Building a body of work is all about the slow accumulation of a day’s worth of effort over time. Writing a page each day doesn’t seem like much, but do it for 365 days and you have enough to fill a novel.

Having a portable DAW and some headphones means I can fit in 15-20 minutes of production on my commute as well as on my lunch breaks. With technology like Solid State Drives it’s even easier.  If Im sitting on a platform with 10 minutes to spare then I can pop my laptop open straight away and kill a bit of time with some productivity.

Personally I still find I write the best melodies when Im jumping around behind my MIDI keyboard at home, but train time is great for things like arranging, editing and sound design. If you don’t already take advantage of these snippets of time then I’d really recommend it.

Unfortunately producing music isn’t quite as location friendly as writing a novel because there is background noise all around us.

This isn’t the end of the world, especially for tasks like arranging but because Im at it everyday I do like to use some Etymotic earphones which have earplug style tips. They can be a bit of a pain to put in but they do block everything out for sure. Alternatively there’s a wealth of noise-cancelling headphones around which Im sure would do as good a job if this was something which bothers you.

 

Etymotic Earphones

 

Sample some inspiration

I’ve always been inspired by the use of sampling in music especially folk like The Avalanches and DJ Shadow. It’s not always obvious that plenty of dance music is heavily built around samples, but a quick shufty on WhoSampled is amazingly enlightening.

I love the notion of digging around dusty crates however, because I spend a lot of time producing on trains and in hotel lobbies I’ve started to use Spotify instead. It’s like having a whole word of record shops at your fingertips! I have a playlist setup especially for sampling, and I keep it available offline so I can dig through and record samples wherever I’m working.

Spotify

I started a new track today and flicked through my library of samples for some inspiration. Im loving lots of 80’s influences at the moment and a vocal loop from Force M.D.’s Tender Love proved perfect to get the party started….