Each month Live Producers Online features one of our members in the music producer community. This month we sat down with ujuu, an electronic/ dance producer based in Indianapolis, IN. We got an inside look at his creative process and production workflows using Ableton Live. If you like lo-fi beats, downtempo, chillhop, and tasteful bass-wobbles, check this guy out!
Be sure to check out his music and social links below. You can also visit his Live Producers profile here.
When did you first get into producing music and why?
“In high school I found Reason, FL Studio, and Garageband, but could never get into any of these programs. All my friends were learning guitar, and I could play it, but I wasn’t as good as them. So I got a MIDI keyboard to learn something different and new. I later tried to learn these programs to record my friends in a metal band, and I really wanted to incorporate some synths and have some effects coming through a backing track.”
What inspires the best music you create?
“Honestly, I can’t really sit down and produce a track when I’m mad, so I usually try and play some video games, read a book, or partake in some herbal meditation beforehand…lol. I feel like my best music comes out when I’m happy and able to free my mind of any negative thoughts. I try to take myself outside the track and listen to the song based on energy instead of technicalities. Your body will tell you if the energy isn’t there and that is when you know you gotta keep working.”
Who are some of your biggest artist/ band influences?
“Some big influences during my high school years were We Came As Romans, Attack Attack, Memphis Mayfire, Like Moths to Flames, and even my good homies Gamma Pulse. At the time it was when metal was fusing with pop-electronic, so I felt inspired off the fact it was a newer thing mixing two different genres. My senior year my drum line instructor gave me a CD that had Dillon Francis, Flux Pavillion, Skrillex and some others. That is when my taste in music took a serious turn as well as the music scene in general. Right now I’d say my biggest influences in the game are Sam Gellaitry, Quickly Quickly, Harris Cole, Bonobo, Flying Lotus, Mr Carmack, Tsuruda, Ross From Friends, and others.”
Do you have a process producing a new track from scratch? Describe it.
“No one way does it for me. A few months ago I always laid down melodic content first and then drums and then worked my way into adding effects and foley. Last week I started a house track, made the drum loop first and came up with a whole structure with melodies and ideas, and then completely scrapped them for new content a few days later. Lately as I have been collaborating with more people I try and see what they’re into and focus in on what they are trying to achieve. While kicking it with Baron Fields, Fioritura, and Ejion, the first thing we did was sample off a field recorder, my Shure sm5b, or even an iphone when we got desperate. We made a kick out of me hitting a skateboard, a riser out of me scraping metal, and atmosphere out of slowly ruffling a Doritos bag and adding reverb. A lot of times it’s not about how high quality the sample is, it’s about the raw idea getting into Ableton Live and you working on it while in the state of flow. At the end, I’m constantly referencing my favorite artists and they make my tracks sound really bad but it shows me what I need to fix and touch up”
How long have you been using Ableton Live, and what are some of your favorite features?
“I’ve been in Ableton for about 2 years now, and been serious about it since the beginning of the summer. Dan Giffin’s course really helped me stay motivated and focused and learn the right fundamental production techniques. Producing is like drumming. Where there isn’t always a right answer, but there are 100’s of ways to do things with efficiency, and there’s a lot of mixing standards that just have to be done.
The top 3 Ableton features for me are simple, yet effective. I love the frequency shifter because I can morph almost anything into a riser or give a sound a little extra motion when it feels stale. The EQ Eight for simple cuts that need to be done like taking out sub frequencies in sounds, or cutting out stuff above 110hz so it doesn’t clash with the bass. The Saturator is nice to beef up any sound that’s not hitting (medium curve and either push more or pull back a little on the drive).
Ableton Live is versatile for studio recording, mixing, and live performance. Do you use it for any one-specific purpose?
I do everything in Ableton except for live performance. For live I’ve started to route Ableton through my pioneer XDJ RX2 (soon to be CDj’s) so I can switch back and forth from DJing to Ableton.
Do you have any favorite 3rd party plugins?
“Native Instruments is a go-to for me. I’m part Korean, so I naturally seem to enjoy hearing ethnic instruments in songs. Kontakt has a lot of 3rd party software companies that make libraries of sounds that you can search for based on your liking and its the best raw sounding VST instruments in my opinion. Lately, along with everybody else, I’ve been really liking Serum. It is a wavetable synthesis and extremely visual. As you make minor adjustments, it’s nice to see exactly how you’re affecting the wave within the plug in before it hits Ableton Live. Omnisphere is a must-have as well because it has an endless amount of sounds that are all gold, and you can search very specifically throughout them. If you’re feeling a dreamy poly synth, or an ethnic aggressive mono bass, you can literally search those parameters within Omnisphere.”
A few others that deserve a shout out are Fabfilter, Saturn, ValhallaRoom, RX950 (MPC drum compression emulator), Fabfilter Pro Q2, iZotope Trash, and anything Waves Digital.
Any favorite MIDI controllers that you use in the studio or on-stage?
“I use the Ableton Push, Native Instrument’s keys, Micro Korg, and Rhodes in the studio to come up with most of my ideas. Live performance I use the APC 40, Native Instruments keys, and the XDJ. I would love to add more like a Machine mk2, Roli Seabord, Nord, drum triggers, and more. But that will come over time.