In The Studio: Alexis Raphael | MN2S

London tech/house stalwart Alexis Raphael says of his production career: “[I’m] always a DJ first, but I also make tunes!” That might be giving short shrift to his work in the studio, however, which has come on in leaps and bounds since his already-impressive 2011 debut ‘Spaceship’, released by none other than Jamie Jones and Lee Foss’ Hot Waves.

Since then, originals and remixes for Jackathon Jams, Culprit, Leftroom, Get Physical, Nervous and Hot Creations have proved immensely popular and successful, with his single ‘I Know’ on Jones and Foss’ main imprint racking up over 1.4 million plays on YouTube.

With upcoming releases on Hot Creations once again (the ravey ‘Helter Skelter’) and Madtech (the blissful ‘Chicken’), we thought it was time to pick his brains about all things production.

What was the first piece of kit you bought?

Back in 2000 when I finished sound engineering and music production college I bought an Akai 2000 sampler. It was the same hardware as the Akai 3000 except the screen was a two-line display which made it a lot more annoying to use! It was my first purchase.

Did you have anyone to learn from when you started getting into production?

As above, and I went and studied at the Islington Music Workshop just down near Old Street, back when their was nothing really down there. It’s amazing how that area has developed since the late-‘90s. After that I went to SAE in North Road, also in Islington, and did a year there doing a diploma. More recently I’ve worked with various people who I’ve learnt heaps from.

Do you feel you are still learning with regards to producing?

Yes, it’s a constantly evolving and learning process. Just recently I feel i’ve learnt a lot about drum programming and how to get the beats sounding a lot better and working with the bassline better.

What does your current setup look like?

I share a studio with Geddes who runs Nofitstate. We’ve got Ableton and Logic, a Juno-106, a Jupiter 8, a Moog Minitaur, a Nord Lead and various other synths. I also work at my friend Michael Jansons studio. He’s got everything from a Moog Voyager to a Prophet 8, Juno SH-101 and more. We also use loads of of soft synths too.

What was your most recent purchase?

I guess the most recent purchase was the MASCHINE 2. Great bit of kit. I’m just about ready to get some new bits.

How do you normally get started on a track?

In the early days I used to see a track as a linear piece of music and so I would start laying things out really early and coming up with the whole concept of the track. Now, I work on the groove first. Bassline and drums working well is key, then I go from there adding leads, vocals, melodies or whatever else is needed. I usually then go back to adding movement, intricacies and working more on the drums. Then everything gets processed to get it sounding as good as possible.  

What part of the process do you find the most difficult or taxing?

I’m more of a producer than an engineer. I’m the creative mind and the person that comes up with concepts and is able to brings together the right sounds, layout and can pick out what is not right in a track. Finding the right plug-ins to do a certain type of compression is not my forte.

What do you do if you are at a creative loss?

Scream, shout at the equipment, get very frustrated and swear usually. I think everyone gets creative block. It’s part of making music.

What do you think the most important first purchase for an aspiring producer should be, after they’ve got their DAW and monitors sorted?

A machine for drums. And some hardware for low end. Low end is just more there and ready when you use hardware.

How much attention do you pay to what else is going on in house/tech music?

Well I obviously listen to all the music coming out, and I go out partying too. It’s important to know what’s out there, what people are feeling, but it’s also important just to do what you feel. So I think I combine what I want to do with sounds that are inspiring me.  

Tell us about how you made ‘Chicken’, your latest bomb…

Well that would be telling! It was made in about four hours though, I can tell you that!

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