Mr. Bill, or Bill Day to his folks, has been building, pulling apart, destroying, and re-constructing sounds for years, and instructing the world on his methods along the way. He is as prolific with his musical output as he is with his near infamous YouTube tutorial videos, and has toured Australia and the world showcasing his musical, and instructional talents. His music is edit-heavy, cinematic, organised chaos – rest assured, this man is a sound design don. Liveschool were lucky enough to pull him out of his studio to co-instruct our upcoming Sound Design course alongside our own Ableton Certified Trainer Adam Maggs. We had a chat with Mr. Bill about his gear, techniques, and some tunes he’s been digging lately.
What are 3 great or interesting tracks you’ve added to your collection in the past month?
What was your first vinyl record, cassette, CD and MP3 / WAV?
First vinyl record – I’ve actually never owned a vinyl record.
First cassette – It was some weird techno cassette my mum gave me when I was about 10, I can’t remember the artists name, it was something lame like DJ Sub Zero or something, and I liked the amount of energy it had in it, but it was really cheesy, and I didn’t like that, so I ended up getting into metal, which was kind of high energy music, but less cheesy.
First CD – It was *cringes* Aqua – Aquarium actually. My mum bought it for me for Christmas once and I listened to the SHIT out of that CD. However, I don’t understand why anymore, it really sucks, like.. really, really sucks!
First MP3/WAV – I never owned one until I started writing music. So I guess my first MP3 or WAV would have been of my own music.
What is your usual setup for making music?
Computer – Hackintosh.
– OSX 10.7.4
– Processor: 3.49 GHz Intel Core i7
– Ram: 16GB 1333 MHz DDR3
Soundcard – Metric Halo ULN-2.
Monitors – Event Opals.
DAW – Ableton Live 9
Plug-Ins (in order of how they appear):
– Flux – Bittersweet
– GRM Tools
– Plugin Alliance – DSM 2.0
– U-he – Zebra 2
– Native Instruments – Absynth 5
– Native Instruments – Battery 3
– Tone 2 – Bi-Filter
– Native Instruments – FM8
– Native Instruments – Guitar Rig 5
– Mellowmuse – IR1A Convolution Reverb
– Izotope – Alloy 2
– Izotope – IRIS
– Izotope – Ozone 5
– Native Instruments – Kontakt 5
– Applied Acoustic Systems – Lounge Lizard Session
– Native Instruments – Massive
– Celemony – Melodyne
– Arturia – Minimoog V Original
– East West – Play
– Native Instruments – Reaktor 5
– U-he – Uh-bik
– Dada Life – Sausage Fattner
– Lennar Digital – Sylenth 1
– Access – Virus TI
– Toontrack – Superior Drummer
– Schwa – Spectro
– Inear Display – Fragment
– Bram @ Smartelectronix – s(M)exoscope
– All the apple AU’s (Bandpass, Delay, Distortion, Pitch etc)
– Virus TI
– A headphone amplifier.
– Line 6 – Bogner Head
– Mesa – Single Rectifier – Rect-o-verb
– Orange Cabinet
– JCM 900 Cabinet
– Schecter – Diamond Series
– Guild Acoustic
– Epiphone – Special 2
– Shure SM57
– Electro Voice – RE20
– Zoom – S4
– Olympus – LS10
– Some weird acoustic testing microphone that I use sometimes because, it sounds really strange.
– A dB meter microphone that I use sometimes because, it sounds weird.
Cups of tea.
From your live setup, what is your most used piece of gear and why?
My Livid – Ohm 64.
Mainly because I like the way it’s laid out. It’s all really straight forward. I use to use the APC40, which is also really straight forward, but I feel like the Ohm can be trashed a little bit more and thrown around a bit more. I just feel a little bit more comfortable using it.
What’s your favourite new feature in Live 9?
Consolidate time to new scene, because, it allows you to really quickly chop things you’ve written up into a format you can easily use to formulate new ideas. It literally takes what you’ve written and puts it sideways, instantly!
Say you’re stuck on a desert island, what’s the one plug-in you bring?
Zebra 2. You didn’t ask why, but I’ll tell you anyway. Because, it’s so versatile, it does a bit of everything: Subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis, wave-table synthesis, things that could be confused as granular synthesis, etc. It has an arpeggiator, amazing filters, a great ring modulator, more modules than you could possibly need, and you only ever have to view the ones you’re using rather than being overwhelmed with dials to choose from. You can draw in your own waveforms and shape them in really particular ways, creating your own wave-tables really quickly and easily. And of course the bottom line is, it sounds amazing!
There’s a lot that goes into making music, what part of the process do you enjoy the most?
I like the creative aspect the most. It’s the point in time where there’s no limits, and the track has no boundaries. The point where you’re purely in the stage of creating noises and it’s in this time that I learn the most and have the most fun. After this point the track seems to take shapes and you (well I, not sure if this applies to everyone) put up boundaries in your head of where this track needs to go, and how certain ideas become obsolete in this stage because they “just won’t work”, where as in the initial creative phase, anything could possibly work, so it doesn’t matter what you create.
How much of your music is derived from sampling vs sound design and/or found sound? Or do you use both, if so where do you source your sounds?
I use both, I’d say about 20% of my sounds are designed with synthesisers, and the other 80% is sampled from pieces of audio I find or create. However, within that 80% of sampled audio, at least 50% of those samples initially came from a recording or synthesised sound that I made. The other 50% come from samples that I find and then manipulate to the point where the source really doesn’t matter anymore.
What’s your stance on presets – love em, hate em or secretly use them?
I think they’re fine to use providing you use them creatively, and I think it’s important to understand how they work, rather than just using them blatantly, because you don’t know any better. In this tutorial I use all presets to create something new. I think something like this is fine, it’s using the presets in a creative, new way to create something completely different & unique than the original author probably intended these patches to be used for. I also don’t think it’s wrong to start a patch from a preset (even though I very rarely do that) if the preset is kind of close to how you want it anyway, and then tweaking and processing it a bit to tailor it to your needs. In essence – There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel because, at the end of the day the goal is to have fun and jot down the music that you have in your head into a form of media that is shareable with others. Having said that, I rarely use them because, none of them are really ever anything close to what I want, and I generally use pretty simple sounds, but lots of them edited into concession in interesting ways. I don’t even save my patches 90% of the time. I guess if you want your music to sound like presets, then you should use presets 🙂
What’s your main source of inspiration and how do you stay inspired?
My main source of inspiration would probably be when I hear new music, and I think “Oh, I think they’ve done this to create that kind of feel or sound, and I think that’s really interesting”, and then I try to work out how they did it, and end up taking 100 different paths and getting myself into new territories that seem to inspire me. Playing instruments and recording new sounds inspires me a lot as well.
What are the key factors for you when getting a song to completion?
Well, from start to finish, the way it usually happens for me, is:
Step 1: Design a bunch of interesting sounds.
Step 2: Arrange those sounds into some sort of idea that makes sense to me musically (ie. rhythmically and melodically).
Step 3: Mix & edit that idea to a point where it sounds great to me. I think this is really important, I seem to write my best stuff when it sounds great from the beginning, because this will shape how every other sound is designed around these ones from here on in.
Step 4: Simplify the idea into an intro, and express the idea further into a new section.
Step 5 (and onwards): From here, it gets a little bit free-form and I don’t really have a specific set of instructions on how I’d go about finishing a tune from here, but it usually ends up being that I just write a bunch of new sections using sounds & musical (melodic/rhythmic) ideas that evolve from the initial sounds I created.
If you want to see how I write a song from start to finish, and you have 10 hours spare, feel free.
Even though there is no “right or wrong” method to mixing a tune, do you have a workflow when it comes to mixing, if so could you walk us through it?
Yeah, there really is no “correct” way to mix a tune. Some of my favourite music IS my favorite music because of how strange the mixes are. The Mollusk is a perfect example, all of his mixes sound so insanely bloated (for example this tune), however if it didn’t sound that way, it just wouldn’t be what it is and it wouldn’t make me feel the same way. In that example he’s just absolutely slammed everything with limiters, but if that was turned into a big crispy spacious mix it wouldn’t have the raw, strange feel that it has now and I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy it as much. Listen to it at 2 minutes, you just can’t make speakers behave that way if you don’t slam everything like he has. So yeah, I guess my method is just to figure out how you want it to sound, then try and achieve what you have in your head (experience certainly helps with this).
9/10 times I’ll start with my drum mix, and get that sounding solid, then I’ll mix my bass into that and work on the drum & bass relationship (this usually takes the longest). There’s always a compromise, and it’s usually between:
1. How much bass you want; versus
2. How punchy you want everything to be; versus
3. How loud you want your mix to be at the end.
So, if you want it to have as much bass as Aphex Twin, you can’t have it as loud Skrillex, and if you want it to be as punchy as Koan Sound, then you can’t have as much bass as Circuit Bent & The Mollusk etc. So, I think once you work out what it is you want, then it’s easier to think about how you’ll mix it. After the drum & bass stuff is sorted, it’s all kind of easy from there, because all the high frequency stuff such as synths & high frequency percussion like cymbals just sits on top of everything else.
Also, you can have TONS of high frequency content that won’t eat up headroom in your mix, so you don’t really have to think too much about headroom & punch at that stage. Although at this point you need to start thinking about clarity in your mix, because all the high frequency stuff is what will make your stuff sound ‘crisp’ and ‘sharp’. Too much of this and it’ll sound ‘harsh’ and not enough and it’ll sound ‘dull’, or like someone’s put a low-pass filter on your master channel.
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