Michel de Hey is one of the longest-standing artists out of The Netherlands and has performed alongside several major Dutch artists in his career like Joris Voorn and Benny Rodrigues; the latter he performs with on a regular basis. Fresh off the back of a very busy Thuishaven show that saw Michel perform for a staggering 10 hours – he now provides his top studio tips for emerging and current producers to follow.
Michel de Hey’s latest release alongside Boris Ross titled ‘If You Know’ is out now and available via Rejected.
1. Use your sampler
I have a huge record collection and I always check some old funk LPs for basslines or melodies. Along the way, you start to alter things and make your version of it. And yes this might sound a bit lazy but tell that to Dr. Dre! There is nothing wrong with being inspired as long as you credit people when you use too much of a song like I did when I sampled a huge bit of an old Kim Syms song. Also in Ableton, for instance, there are so many easy features for your samples, just drag your loop into your favorite drumkit. there is always a snare or clap or hi-hat which you can use in your track without using the original loop and it will give something extra in the swing of the beats.
2. Keep it basic
My first setup was a sampler, a sequencer, a cheap mixer, and a drum machine and I made record after record with it.
Then when I made some money I switched to a huge studio with loads of gear and I got lost in studio translation, way too many options. When I started to work on my album I just went back to what worked best for me, and that was back to basics. Being creative with a few things I started to use my own voice in a few tracks rather than having to go through a new pack of plugins. Now I have a super simple setup which is similar to the way I started out. I use Ableton with a minimum of plugins and I only use 1 piece of hardware while I am making a track. That’s a Roland 101, Yahama Dx 100 or my Syrinx. And that makes my workflow easy and simple 🙂
3. I learned the most from working in the studio with other producers
While their actions where sometimes an unsolvable mathematic riddle to me, I always picked something up from it..From all these sessions I could remember stuff when I was in the studio doing stuff on my own and in this way I learned a lot of stuff much quicker. I also learned basic things like not putting compression on each track, try not to put too many effects on each track but wait until you start mixing, and one which I still have to learn: less is more! Do not overload your tracks with stuff which does not need to be there or rumble which do not ad something worthwhile to your track.
4. Test your tracks
Every record I released has been road-tested by me or befriended DJs I know it is easy for as I play out every week but even when you do not play out try to find a DJ who is into your sound and who wants to play your music. It helps so much when I hear a track in a club or on a big Soundsystem. Mostly it helps me to get the sequence right and if the mix is working on the dancefloor. Sometimes it helps me by seeing that a track definitely is not working which is very painful but also a big motivation to make a new one which is better than this one.
5. Fresh ears
I have a discussion with other producers who can tweak for hours on a track without having a break. for me it helps by simply getting a coffee or working on a different track. when I get back to the track I am actually working on I can listen to it with fresh ears and I can filter out the things which does not feel right or which can be improved. But the key to all this is to find your best method to make the best track possible and maybe that is working on a bassline for 72 hours straight without any food or drinks, if that is working for you ……it is fine for me
6. Kill your darlings
It’s a tip which hurt the most. when you have been working on a song for quite a few days and it still does not feel right. Taking out the melody or the bassline you worked so hard on and throw it away, it hurts! But then again, in the end, it might give a better result and makes the track finally worthwhile. Or it was a shitty setup anyway and start something new and fresh, yep sometimes it works!
Michel is performing at Loveland Festival on Sunday 11th August, tickets here.