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TAN Compressor – FREE VCA Compressor From Acustica Audio



You all know how much we love Acustica Audio plugins here at HWB towers. So when we heard they were giving away a VCA compressor for FREE, we were super excited.


TAN Compressor based on their CORE8 system and its basically a classic model of analog VCA compression. One great little feature we like is what they have called “ShMod”. “ShMod” is a shape control for the attack behavior of the compressor. It enables the user to really fine tune the compression to get it just right for the source audio running through it.


TAN is probably one of the best FREE compressors out there, get it now…All you have to do is register an account on the Acustica Audio site and a download link is available in your Dashboard. Windows users can get it right now, MAC OSX to follow very soon.


Download TAN here

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Got 5 Minutes For A Chat? – Spectrem

Spectrem 2



With a new release, Culture/Shaolin, out on Technique Recordings, we caught up with Australia’s Spectrem for a geek chat!


What’s your current studio set up?

My studio consists of two Rokit 6 inch powered monitors, an Akai 49 midi keyboard, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 and a very expensive ASUS laptop.


Whats your first D&B memories? How did you get into the scene?

I first started listening to Pendulum, High Contrast and Netsky, at the time I didn’t even know it was drum & bass, I just liked the fast pace energetic vibe. I gradually found myself emerged in the scene after following some friends to a dnb event, I absolutely loved it, next minute I was hooked!


How did you move into production production? You’re signed to Technique Recordings…How did that relationship come about? 

I started fiddling around with Ableton at the age of about 17, starting with Dubstep and really honing in on those dirty synths, though I never lost sight of the more chilled out music. When 2013 rolled around I had a selection of tunes which I thought were of a nice standard and really showcased my love for all types of drum & bass. I was at university one day and sent the tracks off to Technique with my fingers crossed, not long later I was skyping with Simon Bassline Smith and had just been offered to sign exclusively to Technique Recordings!


So where do to get you influences these days? What music inspires you and gets the creative ideas flowing?

To be honest a lot of my inspiration comes from non drum & bass music, I listen to a lot of instrumental music such as jazz, classical, movie scores, world music and hip hop instrumentals. I am influenced so easily sometimes it can be a problem, I will want to write something chilled out 1 second and the next I have the urge to write the next big club banger so it ends up being a combination of the two.


What’s a typical day in the studio for Spectrem? 

I always have several songs on the go so I’ll open up Ableton and pick one which i’m feeling at the time, if within an hour I haven’t progressed then I move onto the next track. If I’m really into a song then I’m not afraid to lock myself in my room with cereal and tea and reject my friends calls (sorry Elliot).


You’re an Ableton user. Name one feature that stands out in Live?

I have tried a couple of different DAW’s and the reason I picked Ableton was due to logic, the layout just made sense to me, as I’m a bit of a fruity loop. Seriously tho, aside from the layout I still use 90% of the default effects in Ableton because I honestly cant fault them, who needs expensive plug ins when Ableton provides such gold!



How integral is your system/software to your workflow?

It’s so important to me as I like to work fast without any hold ups, the last thing I want to be dealing with when I have ideas flowing is lagging or crashing, a great idea can fall from my mind sooo fast. Writing music should be enjoyable, not complicated and stressful.


What’s your approach to writing? Do you go in with an idea already in your head or is it a more spontaneous approach?

It’s both, 90% of the time I will start writing with an idea in my head and as the track progresses I make countless spontaneous decisions, I feel this keeps the track unique, as opposed to writing a track along strict guidelines, we are humans not robots. The track might start out where I want it to but it never ends up where I imagined it would.

Sound Design – How important is it to the Spectrem sound? How much time do you spend on pre-production/collection samples/sound design before you start a track? Or do find stuff as you work? 

I love some good sound design, it a whole new world when it comes to synthesis and re sampling, anyone can chop up a pre-recorded bass patch but knowing your synths really separated the men from the boys. As for samples, that’s something I have collected over time like most producers, countless hours searching for unique sounds. I may purchase a $30 sample pack because I know it has one single sample which I really really like the sound of. The best advice I ever received is that if you want to produce a Trap song, don’t search for Trap sample packs because then you will sound the exact same as everybody else, think outside the box.


Let’s talk drum processing. What’s your favorite technique to process drums? Which plugins do you use? Do you process your drums together on a buss or work on them individually?

I have always been told to process them together on a buss but I always work individually. I don’t complicate things, I almost never use compressors because the samples are already compressed to harshly already. I like to EQ, bit of reverb, touch of saturation and stereo spread when needed, THAT’S IT, if I want them loud I don’t compress them more I just do a thing called “turning the volume up”. I’m sure many people will argue for hours over how to get your drums sounding perfect but if you don’t use the right samples in the first place then none of that matters.


On the sound design front what’s your favourite soft synth/synths? 

I don’t have any secret weapons unfortunately, I use Massive, Sylenth, Serum, Zebra etc. I’m trying to head towards more simplified basslines with unique sounds/samples over the top, “Shaolin” is a great example of that. To get some real wacky basslines tho I usually go through my massive patches, throw down some midi then run it through my Harmor routine, after that it’s all just post processing. The bassline to “Culture” is literally just a single saw wave on Massive, nothing else!


Let’s talk BASS! You get such a clean, tight, balanced and phat bottom end. . How do you make your bass lines? Favourite synth? Do you process them in a particular way? 

I’m happy to admit I have created every bass line you hear in my tracks, most of them are created in Massive. As for processing I use Abletons saturator, multiband compressor, reverb, DMG Audio Equick, PSP Vintage Warmer. It’s all in the Eqing and knowing your limits of saturation. A common mistake is to throw a whole lot of plug ins on, thinking it sounds better but all they have done is just made the bass louder! So match the volume with another channel which has no plug ins to do a true comparison test. Always leave room for your kick, it’s just as important as a thick bassline.


Do you still stick anything on you master channel or do you keep that free?

As I’m writing the track I will just chuck Lives limiter on (taboo I know) and always take it off occasionally to check. An effect to have handy is Abletons utility so I can test the tracks mono compatibility.


Care to share a tip?

Don’t write music to please other people. Your friends and parents are your best critiques.


You can only have one reverb plugin, one EQ plugin and one Compressor – what would they be?

Ableton stock, all day every day.


What’s your vision for the future of Spectrem – what’s YOUR sound moving forward and where it’s going?

I want to keep the sound unique, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out in the music industry so expect more obscure tracks, chilled and heavy.


Spectrum’s new single is available now

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Got 5 Minutes For A Chat – iLL.Gates

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Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into music?

When I was a kid I was always fascinated by my parents’ record collection. I taught myself to put the records onto the turntable and loved playing them at the wrong speeds and either running around like a maniac or pretending that i was stuck in a slow motion sludge. I also loved touching the records while they were playing. Both of these habits were not a big hit with my parents and I probably destroyed many of their records like this. The first song I ever wrote was called ‘Loco Bananas’ and basically involved me screaming those two words over and over again and throwing things. I think I was around 4 years old at the time.

In retrospect my parents probably should have kicked my ass, but they didn’t believe in that so they just had to deal with my horrible behavior.

What’s the inspiration behind your new single ‘more tea’?

I have a friend named Nathan Davis who is a tea traveler, meaning he goes to tea farms in Asia and then mails the tea back to his online supporters. He was a fan of my music and mailed me some tea back when I lived in Canada, one thing led to another and he offered to set up a Taiwanese tour. While I was in Taiwan he told me about this really cool idea he had for an ‘Urban Teahouse Remix Project’ that would bring tea culture to the west through music and art. I’ve always been a big fan of all things Asian (I grew up with an Asian/Black father figure) and thought it was a great idea.

Last year Nathan told me he had secured access to this crazy archive of DAT tapes recorded by a Taiwanese producer named Alex Peng 20-30 years ago while traveling through rural China and Taiwan. The samples were all of tea farmers and villagers performing traditional songs and the recording quality was really excellent. Alex Peng had said that Nathan could use the recordings for his Urban Teahouse Remix Project provided that we actively promoted Chinese and Taiwanese tea culture.

How long did it take to make? Was it a track that sort of just came together or was there a bit of back and forth involved?

Nathan flew my girl and I to Austin to make the song, fed me cup after cup of fancy tea, and the track came together pretty easily. I wrote all of the grooves using the Maschine hardware controller, and made heavy use of foley samples we recorded. Tea cups, pouring tea, spoons, leaves, discussing tea in Chinese, etc.

Once I had the main grooves created I rendered them out as audio files and brought them into Ableton to finish the song. I love putting the laptop aside and working on the Maschine hardware, but there really is no substitute for Ableton IMHO. The audio editing capabilities and the way you can build purpose specific device groups (called racks) is really amazing. I’ve used a lot of different software to make music and I have to say Ableton is my favourite.

The entire song writing process happened in one long session and the whole thing was quite painless. Most of the time there is some sort of frustrating roadblock during a studio session but More Tea was smooth sailing the whole way. I think it was all of the tea we were drinking. My palms were sweating.

I noticed there’s a sample from philosopher Alan Watts, can you tell us how this and the rest of the samples used, came to be a part of this track?

I really wanted it to be clear that the track was all about tea and didn’t really feel that the tea cup and tea pouring samples were going to get the point across as clearly as if I used some vocal samples. I remembered there was a really cool Alan Watts piece about tea so I went to the website and bought the HQ audio. They were really nice about it and seemed super chill about me using the samples. The ‘have some tea’ and ‘more tea?’ samples are from some old shitty overdub of a Jackie Chan movie where he is demonstrating teapot style kung-fu… very silly. …and then of course there is the famous Bruce Lee ‘be like water’ sample… I have always been a big Bruce Lee fan and had that sample in the back of my mind the entire time. It took a bit of processing with iZotope RX to clean up, but the final result really works I feel.

Whats your current studio set up? DAW, monitoring etc

I use Ableton on a Mac with Mackie monitors and a KRK sub. I also use Maschine pretty extensively both as a plugin and as a standalone DAW. I’m a big fan of the Abelton Push and APC40 controllers and I often use my Denon MC4000 controller to add scratches and sample chops from Serato.

What other instruments/plugins/hardware were used in the production process?

I love using the iPad as a sound source because all of the synths and stuff are super cheap, and the act of recording in from a synth as audio forces me to commit to the sounds and just move forwards. It is really easy to fuss around with a synth sound for ages and ages unless you record it to audio. In my experience it is very important to write quickly and get your emotions out in one piece, so anything that makes the process faster is a big plus. I will spend ages on a mixdown to get the song perfect, but I generally like the writing part to happen at warp speed so that I don’t allow myself time to overthink things.
You always achieve great separation between all the elements in a track, as well as making good use of the stereo field. Care to share some of your tips on how you do this, in particular on this track?

The main this is to make the sounds as different from each other as possible. If you use one synth for all of your sounds, or you use the same compressor on everything they all start sounding the same and fighting in the mix. If you use a different set of techniques and plugins for each sound then they maintain separation naturally as the song comes together.

You always achieve great separation between all the elements in a track, as well as making good use of the stereo field. Care to share some of your tips on how you do this, in particular on this track?
The main this is to make the sounds as different from each other as possible. If you use one synth for all of your sounds, or you use the same compressor on everything they all start sounding the same and fighting in the mix. If you use a different set of techniques and plugins for each sound then they maintain separation naturally as the song comes together.

You can only have 1 plugin compressor, Eq and reverb what would they be?

Compressor: iZotope Ozone
EQ: FabFilter ProQ
Reverb: Max For Live Convolution Reverb Pro

Care to share a tip?

Sidechaining can be a real pain in the ass… latency, clicks/pops, and other misbehavior can really be frustrating when you are writing.
The reason for this is that each plugin adds a tiny bit of latency, which means that if you have a long plugin chain on your kick drum, which side chains a nice simple sub bass with few plugins on it then Ableton will have to add latency to the project in order to slow the sub down to match the kick drum.
You can get around this and other limitations of side chaining by doing all of your side chaining on global send/return tracks instead.
Route all of the sounds and groups you want to side chain to go to a send channel with your side chain on it. Then set their audio outputs to ‘sends only’ so that it forces them through that side chain channel on their way to the master output.
Bonus points for using a tiny click to trigger the side chain instead of a kick drum. Kick drums are ofter over 50ms long, which means that the compressor has to wait 50ms before the release happens. I get around this by having a muted channel with clicks that match every kick and snare in the track. You never hear it, but it triggers the compressor much better than using a kick or snare.

What’s next for ill gates?

More Tea is one of several singles from my new album “Terminally ILL”. I am still finalizing the track listing, but it is likely to be similar to The ill.Methodology in that it has a large number of tracks on it, and that there will be several re-releases of the originals from the singles and such. Lots of collabs of course, but also some new solo tracks like More Tea. I think it is the best ill.GATES album to date and am really excited about it. No firm release date yet though.


The new single, More Tea, and it’s remixes are out now –


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