In The Studio with Opolopo
We caught up with Swedish artist Opolopo to talk about his studio & production techniques, in the next instalment of ‘In The Studio’
What equipment do you have in your studio? (full studio kit list).
- 8 core PC, 16 GB ram, 250 GB SSD for programs and 500 GB + 1 TB HD for data.
- KRK Rp8 G2 monitors
- Genelec 6010 BPM monitors
- RME Mutliface sound card
- Canton subwoofer
- AKG K240 headphones
- Sennhiser HD 25 headphones
- Cubase 6
- Ableton Live 9
- Various plug-ins
- Art Tube MP Project Series pre amp
- JJ Labs Condenser mic
- Ibanez PL5050 Bass guitar
- Larrivée guitar
- Cheap copy of a Musicman bass
- Rhodes 73 Mk II
- Yamaha RX5 drum machine
- Sound Master drum machine
- Studio Electronics SE-1
- Nord Modular
- Korg Kaoss Pad
- Axiom 49 midi keyboard
- APC40 controller
NOTE: Click the images for large versions
2. What is your favorite piece of equipment to use in the studio & why?
That’s a tough one. I would say Cubase as that’s where most projects come together. If I had nothing else but a computer and Cubase I could still get by. But I love the hands on feel of caressing the Rhodes or slapping the crap out of the bass.
3. Give us some insight into your production process. How do you typically begin constructing a track?
It depends on the project but I have a very basic template in Cubase that I start out with. It has some vanilla sounds and basic reverbs and delays set up as well as a few groups and buses. It also has a simple 4/4 beat with crappy drum sounds. This way I can get started real fast and get ideas going.
If it’s a vocal remix I’m doing I’ll start out with laying down chords around the vocals. I love to re-harmonize and want to get that part right before I get too deep into grooves and sounds. Then it’s usually bass line and drums. After that it’s all very non-linear. I jump around and work on whatever excites me at that moment.
If it’s an original track it’s a bit different. With a remix you have some constrains and boundaries and you just have to get on and work with what you’ve got. An original track can start out in so many ways. It can be a bass line, a chord progression, a groove, inspiration from messing around with a new synth patch… When I have an idea going I’ll strive to have the song structure done first before going too crazy with the production side of things. If I have a framework I’m more likely to actually finish the song.
4. What piece of studio equipment or production process defines the Opolopo sound?
I don’t think there’s any specific equipment that defines my sound. It’s more of an aesthetic and a vibe that I’m going for. But there are of course tools I repeatedly use to get there. Soft-synths like the DCAM Synth Squad, OP-X and KORG Mono/Poly have been a big part of my productions for a few years now.
5. What piece of hardware/software elevated your production to a higher level & how?
My brain, ha! The most important hardware and software combo is your brain and mind. I think I’m constantly learning and developing through curiosity and experience. They day I don’t is the day I’ll stop. If I dug out my old Atari ST from the basement and fired up Emagic Notator and hooked it up to my old hardware, my productions would sound way better than what they did in the nineties. It’s all just tools and it’s up to you and your brain how to use them. Then there are tools that will make it easier to realize the concepts and ideas lurking in your brain. For me, it was an extremely liberating moment when I could run everything in software. When computers became powerful enough and the plug-ins started to come real close to hardware. I can work on multiple projects in parallel, do crazy things with automation, work on the road – all while checking cat videos on youtube…
6. What fresh equipment have you recently added to the lab?
I bought something to lift my bottom end and tighten up my mids – an electronic, adjustable stand-up desk from Ikea! Sitting down all day can seriously mess up your back and a few years ago I started to get lower back pains. I finally went and bought an adjustable stand-up desk – best studio investment in years! I highly recommend it. Back pains are gone and I can do “the running man” while producing and mixing.
Magic AB – great for reference listening when mixing and producing. Pick the tracks you sonically like, and know work in the club for example, and AB them with what you’re working on easily within your DAW.
Sonic Academy Kick Drum Synthesizer – definitely one of my favorite plug-ins. It only does kick drums and gives you great control over a bunch of parameters.
7. What are your essential studio supplies (food, drink, cigs etc)?
I’d prefer chocolates but I’m a recovering chocaholic so I go for pistachios or mixed nuts instead.
8. What list of artists have influenced your sound?
I developed my taste, sonically and musically, growing up listening to people like George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Chic Corea, Jeff Lorber, Chuckii Booker, Earth, Wind & Fire, George Clinton, Zapp & Roger, General Caine, Bootsy, Tomita, Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Jarre, Logic System, the list goes on and on. It all gets applied one way or another whether I’m doing House, Soul, Funk or Speed Metal…
9. What are your 3 favourite productions?
For House I’ll pick these:
- Treat You – Opolopo Remix
- More Than a Crush – Opolopo Remix
- The Grit – Original Disco Mix
10. What handy Opolopo studio tip would you pass onto producers out there?
Reference listening! Especially if you have a shitty room. AB your material with stuff you know sounds good on other systems and in the club. It can be a huge time saver and will help you sort your mix before taking it for a test spin elsewhere. I’m quite sensitive to highs and have a tendency to make dull mixes. With a quick reference check I’ll spot it right away. Simple but so useful. Just make sure the reference track and your material is level matched. The Magic AB plug-in I mentioned earlier is great for this.
11. What new production should your fans be on the lookout for at Traxsource soon?
I have two releases coming up that I’m really excited about:
An EP, “Be Enough”, featuring the fabulous Shea Soul, coming out on Tone Control Music. And a second remix album, “Mutants #2”, on Tokyo Dawn Records.