HOKI is a Montreal-based collaboration, which brings together the talents of Canadian-Armenian producer Varti Deuchoghlian and Australian vocalist Brent McCormick. The pair have fast garnered an international reputation for exhilarating indie electronic ballads, showcasing the best of the melting pot that is Montreal, its people and its music.
Following the release of their brand new album ‘Today’, Varti Deuchoghlian joins us to launch the very first instalment of our new producer-focused Studio Series. He breaks down a scintillating single from the record titled ‘The Walls Can Talk’. What’s more, he also joined us for a little production chat in Q&A. It’s all below!
WWD: How did you first get started in music production?
Varti: I was back from South Korea over 10 years ago and we were getting our old rock band back together. The idea was to record a couple of our tracks we had written back then. Rafi, the singer of the band, and I decided to set up Ableton and start working on dance music on the side. It quickly became the main thing we did and it eventually became all we did. That was pretty much my introduction in DAW production. I’ve written and composed music before that for many years.
WWD: What was your role at Recording Arts Canada?
I was teaching at RAC for about a year. I mainly focused on Music & Computer which covered basic production concepts on Logic even though I’m a die-hard Ableton fan. I was teaching Pro Tools and a bit of Reason as well. It was a great experience helping students from such a different musical background.
WWD: You also teach music production privately. What is it about teaching that you enjoy the most?
For years, I struggled with production and mixing. I’ve always had a lot of questions and finding the info online was like a confusing maze. You’re always left with more questions and no one’s really there to answer them. I mentor many students now and I love it simply because I get to help them out with all the issues I had through my journey. I love seeing them grow and apply everything I teach them on their tracks. The one-on-one experience is key to me because every producer is at a different stage in their career and the experience I provide is catered to them specifically.
WWD: Your new album ‘Today’ was released last week. Can you share with us some of the key production tools you’ve used in there?
My production style is a bit more minimal. I try to communicate an emotion with the least amount of instruments. I want to make sure the music fully supports Brent’s vocals as well. With this mindset, I focus a lot on layering and ambience to create a unique mood. We don’t use a lot of percussive instruments which is an important factor in keeping the deep attitude on the album.
I use a lot of multi-band sidechaining to remove frequencies in regions of the spectrum that might be fighting with a lead instrument. All tracks naturally have this, it’s definitely a go to tool in my approach at later stages of the mix.
WWD: What key tips can you share for working with a vocalist?
It took me a while to find a proper way of working with vocalists. What I tend to focus on is making them feel comfortable. I don’t comment much on their performance and I let them lay down all the ideas they have for the song. It’s so important to make them feel comfortable. What they project is what you have to work with. I definitely don’t edit anything in between takes. It’s not something you want the singer to see. I also focus on capturing vocals parts without needing to comp them ideally.
WWD: What is the piece of advice you give most often to new producers?
Keep on writing music no matter what and be patient with yourself. The more you produce the closer you get to being able to properly express your art and that’s key. I also usually tell them not to be too obsessed about writing music to please labels. You do ‘you’ first and when it’s good enough labels will want to represent your art.
WWD: What public resources have you found most useful in your own learning and development process?
Like most producers Youtube has been a big part of it. Recently I’ve been spending a good amount of time on Groove 3. They have a lot of material covering pretty much everything. There’s a small monthly fee but it’s nothing compared to what you learn from it.
WWD: What new skills have you learned recently?
I’ve been spending much more time trying to understand Jazz theory better. It has been helping me a lot with a better understanding of advanced harmonies which I apply in my productions. It gets quite complex so I’m taking my time with it really. I’ve also been diving deep into taking my classical guitar skills to a new level. I find it important for producers to play an instrument, it gets them out of the DAW world a bit and connects them to music in a different way.
‘Today‘ is the second full length album from HOKI. Stream/Download the album here: typ.lnk.to/hokitodaylp