A-Cray: Media Player helped me to learn production

Mefjus recommends him as one of the talents to look out for. And it's no surprise. A-Cray's production is only getting ever more impressive and big labels are starting to notice. Releases on Neodigital, Citrus or stuff forthcoming on AMC's Titan Recordings speak for itself.

Successful people are good at inventing ways how to improve. What's your key to such a quick progress?

I learn a lot of new stuff with each tune. That makes the work easier in the future. But that's probably the same for everyone. Another thing is that I don't have a problem spending months on a tune. I used to do things as fast as possible. I wanted some feedback from DJS, producers and listeners alike. These days I don't get why I couldn't wait a little longer and do things properly.

Do you spend a lot of time analyzing tracks by other people? If you do, how do you try to benefit from that?

I do that a lot. Actually every time when something really interesting comes out. I focus mainly on stereo design and I tend to make things very wide - from sub to snare. Another form of analysis is to play the tunes at slower tempo in Media Player. It's easier to understand beat patterns and figure out how things should work. I don't do this much these days but it was essential when I was starting out. That's what helped me to do drums properly.

How do you keep production fresh? It's pretty important to avoid feeling like you're doing the same thing over and over again.

I am trying to make things sound a bit similar. I like it when you can recognize a producer by his bass sound or by stereo design. But it's also cool when it doesn't sound like the same thing each and every time.

And when it comes to production techniques... If it sounds fresh, it doesn't matter if you're doing this for the umpteenth time.

Are you in touch with some well established artists? What were the best production tips you've been given?

I am in touch with a lot of people but we mostly swap tunes and chat about parties. I'll say one thing though. It was Mefjus who told me: "Stop using the June Miller samplepack!" That was a push in the right direction and soon I started to create my own sounds. But the most helpful thing was a visit in Rido's studio. I learned a lot of stuff there.

Which three plugins changed your life?

NI Massive - because it's simply the best. But I used to prefer FM8. I thought that Massive sounds always the same and that it's too characteristic. These days I know how to make it sound different.

Izotope Ozone 4 - I probably use it on every channel. I love that mid/side equalizer.

Guitar Rig 5 - it's a nice little all in one thing. I also use it everywhere.

Do you prefer to work with samples or synths?

When it comes to most important things such as bass or midrange I tend to do that in synths. Various effects at the end of sixteenth bar are often samples. But I used to assemble tunes from sample packs which is not something I am proud of. On the other hand...it helped me to understand how things should work.

Is production a matter of discipline or do you compose only when you're in the mood?

I have to be in the mood and have to have ideas. I rarely run of things to try but I need to feel like producing when it comes down to execution. Weekly I spend at least ten hours producing. But that's the lowest limit under which I never go. Though I experienced many days (mainly saturdays) when I produce from morning till morning. I might take breaks just to eat and smoke.

Where do you look for production info and tricks to improve your sound engineering?

I watch tutorials by various producers but I do that mainly to see what plugins they use. Most of the tricks I discovered myself. You just need to try everything and something might work.

Is there a bit of tactic in approach to your career? Do you stay away from production of more leftfield tunes because you realize that they won't help your career as much?

It might look like this but it's not. I actually really look forward to the point where I am finished with currently signed rollers. I'll start doing something a little bit more experimental. It will be also great when we finally start with the project called The Mind Tricks. I am working on this with my friend Bios and it's going to be an outfit for slower 4/4 stuff.

Where did the idea for Untitled Hybrid Tune come from? Did you have to look for inspiration to know where to take it?

I wrote it all by myself. I just played around with some percussion and broken minimalistic beat. I had two ideas in the project which I accidentally played in succession and it ended up sounding great. This is how I came up with the idea of switching those two takes after four bars. Then I became immersed in it and finished the tune in two days.