JoeFarr Asks... Rommek
Thanks for taking the time Rommek, although it seems everyone has at least some spare time at the moment. How is lockdown treating
No worries mate, just been trying to keep the mind busy. Its important to keep in contact with the outside world, as the days are all merging into one...So I'm more than happy to contribute.
Tell me about your production process, how do you start a track and where does it go from there?
The style of my music varies quite a bit, so it definitely depends on the frame of mind I am in. I usually have something inside that id like to express, it could be a mood or even some sort of vague melody or rhythm. I then usually fuck around on a synth looping strange sounds until something feels right, this might be based from a patch I previously have used or start from the ground up. I usually aim to create a sequence or synth hook that I will be able to manipulate over time. Once I can picture how the track will turn out in terms of structure and intensity, it it usually doesn't take me too long to get the rest of it nailed.
How has that changed over the years?
The tools have changed, but I guess the main concept of creating loops and layering new elements over the top is the same...
I used to overcrowd my productions with too many elements, but now I try and stick to one main concept behind each track and make sure its a strong one…Over time I grew to prefer to manipulate audio in real time, whilst recording, rather than automating it. Movement and modulation is key within electronic music, otherwise it feels too rigid and predicable and this applies to all elements of a track. In general I've become more in-tune with the relationship of frequencies, and this has definitely helped sculpt my creative approach.
Your modular setup looks pretty comprehensive. Tell me about how you built that up.
It's something I've enjoyed building up and customising over time. I think its important to gradually build a system up so you get to understand each function, experimenting with routing possibilities to exploit the full potential. I started by getting the Moog Mother 32 (Semi-Modular) in 2016 and then wanted to expand. My system is set up now mainly for sound design, and creating lead synth lines/drones. I really engage with the psychical side of the format and the experimentation involved. Patching cables and turning knobs, even when you are unsure of the outcome is all part of the learning curve and It really helps understanding the fundamentals behind synthesis. I use the Beatstep Pro to control It and sync it to my computer when jamming on Reason. I started off by making music on reason [Thor Synth and Redrum I still use often] which familiarised me with some of the functionalities of the modular format.
Sync can be a total fucker with hardware, with Ableton especially. Any advice or tips for people on that?
Hmm yeah its very frustrating and disruptive when the machines don't talk when you're in the mood for creating... I connect and control most of my hardware through CV, so I don't actually rely on Midi that much, which is the main cause. I don't have that great advice I'm afraid..
Slightly different however, If something does start to slip out of sync once you have already recorded it, or its played live, there's a very useful function on Logic called Flex. Its a handy tool to help quantise audio and smoothly move transients around without damaging the audio. It can be very discrete, or rhythmic depending how you tune the settings.
What monitors do you use? Adam F7. Had them for years now and I trust them in a variety of spaces.
What plugin could you not live without?
I often put Trash by iZotope on a effects bus to get some crazy abstract distorted results. However, the one I probably use the most is the PSP Vintage warmer 2. Its a colourful compressor, decent for beefing up sounds.
With a great deal of techno I can find the atmosphere and textures a bit dull and kind of there for the sake of it, but I find yours tracks very purposeful and direct but also atmospheric. How do you create that atmosphere?
Thanks, its a very important element to me and It can help bring a bit of soul and personality to a track. There several ways achieve this. More recently, I’ve been picking up the mic and using my voice to create different atmospheric tones. I usually process it though Clouds by Mutable Instruments then going into Lyra 8 FX module, which is a double delay and distortion. This can be heard on a new edit of a track called “False Idols” or “Honey Badger”. It creates an expansive, murky and warped atmosphere, The other main way is through processing field recordings. I try to bring my audio recorder out whenever possible and over the years I've got recordings from rainforests, to remote mountain villages to Iron forges and London Underground. These recordings are used for ambience as well as lead drum and percussion sounds. In “Twisted Conscience” the Hi-Hats and atmos is all field rec. All of these contain artefacts from a moment in time, then, when processing is applied, things emerge out of the background that you might not have noticed before.
How do you know when a track is finished?
No one will ever know... You could always add or remove more, but i think its important to stop once you expressed the main concept you wanted. I try to always have multiple projects on the go, so you can come back at a later point and decide if its ready to bounce. Its important to give your ears a break otherwise you might be going around in circles.
You collab as Torn Relics still sounds like you but a sort of stretched out, grungier and shoutier you. How did this collaboration come about and what’s next for Torn Relics?
Its was a very natural and easy collaboration as Aimee and I have been living together and in a relationship for over 5 years now. We both were interested in creating experimental music and had been working on other projects individually before the birth of Torn Relics. We became totally engrossed in merging our styles together (Aimee came from a background of classical violin, traditional Irish fiddle and drumming)
In 2017 i was making an EP for Blueprint Records in which Aimee recorded some violin for the tracks Arcane and Doldrums. We found it suited really well and then wanted to push things further to start our own thing. Torn Relics aims to fuse a variety of influences in order to create something that challenges the norm and that is not easy to categorise into one genre. We might make a track that is completely doom laden and haunting, and in a live set play it next to something that is emotional and up-lifting. We both enjoy this juxtaposition, and taking the listener for a ride...
We recently released an 8 track Cassette on Leyla Records, which incorporates Industrial, Post-Punk, Ambient and Experimental.
During the lockdown we have been working towards some new releases, lots of noise, lots of shouting, lots of ...
Is you production process differ between your Rommek tracks and the Torn Relics tracks?
Yeahh the process is really different, which is what i enjoy about it... With my solo stuff, I have more of a clear aim and and know how to achieve it though certain routines I have developed. This might be synth patch that I liked from a previous track or an effects chain that I know works well. I spend more time fixated on building loops, zooming into details of processing, and manipulation. Noodling around folding waves on my Modular system can be like a vortex, but once you hit that sweet spot, I can then usually envisage the arrangement of the track. With my own production Im more precise about layering different elements one by one, separating things across the frequency spectrum. Also, with tracks that are designed to be played in clubs, there is an underlying notion that they need to sound effective loud, and cut through system when mixed with other people music. So, therefore that’s always something on my mind during the creative and mixing process.
However, with Torn relics production we're more interested in capturing a moment from a jam, and we just see where it takes us. I always separate all the elements going into my mixing desk / sound card (Mackie Onyx 1640i), then record the modular system, with instruments or vocals all at the same time, manipulating and processing things on the fly. This helps to create a very organic sound that flows between both of us. We ride the tension at different moments, cruising between noise and texture, depending on our mood. As we don't usually have prior intentions, the results are liberating, as we create music that encompasses different genres, across wide tempos diving into mixed emotions. The relationship between acoustic and electronic, old and new equipment, really interests me. I enjoy using older equipment for Torn Relics due to the noisey character and rich tones, including Korg MS20 - Roland TR-66, BOSS Rod 10 Overdirve, Jomox Mbase 11.
Do I hear live elements in the Torn Relics tracks? Or is it clever programming?
For sure, playing instruments intrinsically helps creates a tribalistic and organic feel, which is a very important element of this project. A variety of instruments are used throughout different recordings. Notably, Aimee plays Violin, Bodhrán (Irish Drum) and and I play electric guitar, the Korg Wave drum and we both do vocals. The violin is a key element in tracks like “The Poisoned Chalice” and “Cry Of The Catacombs”, where as several live instruments were used in “Restrained Faith”, which the overall feels more like a Doom Metal track… Imperfections are welcomed. Irregular or un-quantised rhythms and loose arrangements help lead an interesting and unpredictable path.
One thing I hate is hearing my tracks behind a booth, it’s either all bass or no bass. Pretty much the worst place to hear your own tracks. I find that makes me second guess my productions. Do you get this problem? How do you deal with that?
I know what you mean...When Djing, sometimes I find myself doing more drastic EQing on my own tunes... There’s not too much you can do, other than listening to your music in a variety of spaces.
Do you find yourself referencing other tracks to see how your track is coming along in terms of loudness and production?
Not that much, but sometimes if theres a track that i've been playing out a lot and it has some complex sound design, I might compare the balance of the mix. However, if your referencing a mastered track you always got to consider that the high frequencies or background ambience will become more present after mastering due to compression / limiting. Something that Matt Colton (Mastering Engineer) once advised me, is whenever you think you're happy with your hi-hat level, then turn it down -2db more ahah.... This should be taken with a pinch of salt, but definitely applies to dense atmospheric and resonant bleepy sounds too, and something they fuck everything up after mastering and you might have to re-do a mix-down.
Is there any part of the writing and production process you dislike?
Finishing a track and then realising you wouldn't want to release it anyway... Im always making new material, but somethings you have to consider if its really worth putting out. I always try to make the next release better than the previous...
What’s coming up in your schedule and when can we hear your next release?
Due to Corona pandemic, my gig schedule is as busy as a Nuns sex life. However, release wise I have a 6 track EP coming up on Leyla in June. Also a experimental EP, with a remix from Lakker, marking the first vinyl release on Loose Lips. Also, just finished up a new Torn Relics album.
Anything else you’d like to add.. or feel free to ask me a question.
Don't imitate current hypes in order to gain success as things change like the wind and its also boring hearing it ...Your passion and career will last if you stay true to your heart.
Any advice for producers on lockdown?
Keep experimenting, try working with a different sound sources than you usually would. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day what you use to make music. However, you got to find your own techniques and ideas to make yourself unique.
Thank you Rommek ! Also thanks for taking the time to send over some studio pics (click on the right to flick through). Looks like a very creative space.