Mistabishi In The Studio

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Mistabishi started out in 2007 releasing drum & bass on Hospital Records but in the last few years has forged his own path. He now makes all types of dance music genres and is renowned for his live sets on his trusty Korg EMX-1 Electribe Groovebox. He’s known for being outspoken and his unconventional approach to making music so seemed an ideal candidate to reveal how he works in the studio.

At what age did you get into producing?
14-ish? I wanted to make the music I’d heard and bought locally as a youngling, because it sounded both do-able and more interesting than anything else. I bought vinyl for a year then sold a turntable and some other stuff and bought an MC303. It became my PlayStation whilst everyone else became amazing at Mario Kart.

What producer or artist were you trying to sound like when you first started producing?
Hardfloor at first. Acperience was the first record I bought – even before I had a record player to play it on – I heard it, loved it, and wanted to re-create it, because you could hear every single exquisite layer of it.

What was your ‘eureka moment’ as a producer?
Haven’t had one. It’s just an on-going compulsion to have some sort of control over something where what comes-out wasn’t there before. That probably sounds clichéd now, I’m sure other people have said that but that’s what it is, control over a something’s output. It’s addictive as fuck.

How did you get your music noticed in the beginning?
I’d made some stuff for parties in Leeds when I worked there and they circulated further than I realised. Then people started asking me to make tracks for them so various audiences were reached through those people and beyond. You never know who’s listening!

Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception…
Paint-pallet ‘n’ canvas way of making music for me – I’ll have a Groovebox as the pallet and Cubase’s blank canvas. I’ll mix some tones together on a Groovebox thingy usually whilst on the sofa. Other people will often be there spoiling the broth and it’s fun.

Once something sounds like it’s worth recording it gets expanded into some sort of song-like-thing in Cubase. It gets layered and polished up and re-structured and the edges bevelled off it there… sometimes wish I’d never bothered with Cubase and just kept it 100% sofa.

What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
It’s just a fun thing to do, it’s not a challenge. I haven’t stopped doing it yet ‘cause I always *feel* like I’m learning something new, so in a way it’s some sort of constant challenge but with no sense of trepidation.

Does your approach differ depending on which genre you are making?
I’ll only bother with making genre if it’s for a party. When it’s just me making something for no reason I just don’t care or it’s led by whoever else is in the studio. I’ve basically stopped making genres in the studio now.

I just do it on a Groovebox and take it out… so if someone wants their party to sound UKG I’ll program that, if they want dnb, that gets done, etc. The EMX can version-up the meat-n-potatoes of any dancefloor genre you throw it at.

How do you come up with melodies or chord progressions?
Just have to write them, if it sounds good it probably is good. It’s mostly a question of taste. Other people have taste in harmony and melody progression that I’m very jealous of. I think that’s where there’s no real boundary to anything and where your level of musical literacy gets shown.

What are the best tools for beginners?
Who’s to say?! Any child’s keyboard can have something amazing rinsed out of it with enough work. Generally the more limited the thing you start with the better… a young mind will find ways of pushing it to its limits. Then, when given less limitations, will feel liberated instead of overwhelmed.

What are your favourite plugins?
My Convolution Reverb by Waves is my fave plugin. It has the impulse response from the church where I grew up, and from Bow Church. They don’t sound like those spaces though unless you use them minimally. I always crank them into deep-space.

I don’t really touch other plugins much apart from TC Powercore’s MD3 as something to get digital-audio up-to-scratch.

Which DAW do you use?
Cubase. Just because it seems to take less mouse clicks to do what I want than the others. Nuendo is the same. I just usually click the Cubase icon instead of the Nuendo one.

Protools is what everyone commercial seems to use so I end up using that too, although I heard Avid, who makes it, is in trouble, so maybe more people will take good old reliable Cubase on when they next upgrade.

What audio interface do you use?
A MOTU Ultralite Firewire. I have a LAVRY and I convince myself it sounds clearer but it crashes my setup and I have no idea why.

What’s your monitoring situation like?
I tend to monitor in mono. Two L/R speakers stacked together. I just write like that. If I want to know what the music is actually doing physically I’ll either rent something posh or just take it to friends who have actual proper studios!

Which bit of kit would you love to have for your studio?
Faux-fur on the walls, ceiling and floor.  Apart from being acoustically-dead, it’d be the loveliest place on Earth to make music.

Is there a piece of equipment you regret getting rid of?
My Yamaha SU10 portable sampler, which had a sample of someone on it I’d love to have back.

How do you go about compression?
If I want the obvious audible-effect of compression I’ll either use the Korg EMX’s internal compressor which is horrible, therefore obvious-sounding, or rent something posh and drive it into oblivion.

Other than that I just stop stuff from digitally clipping with Powercore’s MD3 or use it subtly to max certain channels out a bit so I can turn them down. I’m sure there’s better out there I just haven’t bothered to check.

Any advice you can give us regarding mixdowns and mastering?
Do whatever you want, but just be aware of where it’s gonna end up. If you want to it work on radio or TV don’t put silly amounts of sub in because it’ll trigger the broadcast limiter or have to be turned down.

Similarly, if you’re making something for a sound system, DO put loads of sub in because that’s the one thing a sound system can give you that nothing else can.

The middle-ground between broadcast world and sound-system world is hi-fi world, and you can get away with anything there as long there’s some sort of beauty in it.

Headphone world again, anything goes, although detail and polish goes a lot further, so mix with fine-details if you know it’s gonna be for the people with posh headphones.

Different worlds need different approaches: lots of nice edits, EQing, FX, saturation and reverbs/spacials are a joy in headphones but usually only translate as clutter on a soundsystem.

What production technique do you think is really overused / annoying?
Oh it’s all been done to death haha!! But If I hear another *baybeh* in a 4/4 tune I’ll have to be prescribed anti-psychotics.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
That you should never release music on a label run by a person who makes or DJs music… or that you should… I forget now.

What piece of advice would you give to producers still honing their craft?
Stop if you feel like you’re not learning anything or getting anywhere. There will only be anguish. Return to it when you have a very specific idea for something to do, or if someone asks you specifically to make something for them.

What is key to creating your own sound?
Use approaches, ideas and prominent sounds that other people either haven’t used for ages or that no-one else uses to any decent degree at all.

What track would you love to have the stems of for a remix?
The vocal stems for 10CC – Not In Love.

Tell us about Write:Read Part 1 recording you recently released…

That’s my live set from earlier this summer. I just play from that one machine. I decided to give the performance data to other people who used that machine so they could play through it themselves in real-time, and I uploaded a recording of it to iTunes and Beatport, etc.

What is it about the Korg EMX Electribe that you like so much?
It’s the method I started out with, and it feels like a real musical instrument, but one that just happens to be an electronic one. I don’t care that it doesn’t sound as layered and polished as a studio export but it’s what I know to be real from having been exposed to the likes of Eat Static, Hardfloor, Orbital and Aphex etc when I first got into this stuff.

When I look around me at other people who do electronic music now, the ones that really make me smile are the people who do it like that. The guys that make music and play it for real. The DJs that make me smile are the ones who can play anywhere to anyone – the ultimate socio-musical chameleons; Andy Weatherall types.

Korg recently announced a complete overhaul of its Electribe range, what do you make of the new features?
They’re running with something quite new that I’m not familiar with exactly but I’m up for it. Hopefully the new range will result in some real big-brother type workstations that really can do absolutely anything anyone could imagine within a single performer-unit. It’s still a Holy Grail quest for a lot of people… the ultimate electronic music groovebox.

Got any releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Of my own stuff? Who knows? I’ve got so much EMX stuff I could upload. Countless parties, whole sets for all kinds of rave room, from chill-out rooms to jump-up sets. So many sets now haha!

I’ll spend a Sunday putting an hour’s worth together and the odd evening in the week tweaking and by Friday or Saturday night I’ll have a fresh set. I’ll release them all slowly.

Maybe turn bits of them into full tracks. I keep getting random ideas for stuff to do as well. The last random idea I released was based on trains.

Read all the interviews in our In The Studio series

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1 Comment

  1. A fascinating read. Live sets made from scratch just for the party is massively different to what I’ve seen other people do.

    I’m inspired to use a groovebox now as well.