In The Studio with Sharooz
We decided to have a nose around the studio of Sample Magic’s very own super producer Sharooz.
With support from the likes of Moby, James Zabiela, 2 Many DJs, Erol Alkan, and Mark Knight, Sharooz is a one man machine when it comes to firing out super slick dance music on labels like Modular, Fools Gold, Lektroluv, GND and La Bombe. As one of the creators of Bloq, which a whole host of classic, iconic synths and drum machines, we thought it would be interesting to see what kind of set up our man had, as we went Inside The Studio with Sharooz.
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1) Congratulations on your first virtual instrument, BLOQ. How is it being received so far?
Thank you. It’s been incredibly well received. Computer Music magazine just gave it a glowing review and we’ve got a few other reviewers saying they’re really enjoying it. I’ve been responding in person to all the user feedback we’ve had and so far it’s been overwhelmingly good.
2) Tell us more about BLOQ. What was the main inspiration behind it and what prompted the move into virtual instruments?
I’ve enjoyed using and collecting vintage gear for years. It sounds so warm and none of the remakes come close. I rely on the sounds so heavily that I started to sample each machine, gradually building my own personal library for all the travelling and touring I was doing. With Sample Magic, we’d never done a Kontakt instrument before so it was a natural progression to release it commercially. I got in touch with Matt Fudge who did an amazing job on the scripting and making the most of bringing all the unique Kontakt features into the mix.
3) What is it about BLOQ that make it unique?
Bloq is unique firstly in the sheer quality of sampled sounds. Our signal chain was unparalleled – we used the Prism Orpheus as the AD conversion front end, the Neve 1073 and Focusrite ISA 430 channel strips and the highest quality cables. Every sound from every drum machine was sampled in every possible pitch, tone and attack/decay iteration at 24-bit resolution. Every key in every synth patch was sampled uniquely and some of the patches even have three separate velocity layers for each note. We also spent ages putting together an innovative sequencer design. Matt, Luis Burdallo (the GUI designer) and myself spent weeks getting it just right so it would fit exactly in the limited screen estate we had available, but still excel functionally. The drum patterns took me ages too. I programmed four patterns for each drum machine and really went into detail with the variations, velocity levels and accents. Oh, and some of the kits are pretty unique – I’m almost sure ours is the only instrument to include rare drum machines such as the MXR 185.
4) Give us some insight into your production process. How do you typically begin constructing a sample pack?
Firstly I’d have to check the sampled source synth was exactly in tune with no dropouts and crackles in the sound. Then I’d create or recall a unique patch and sample each note at exactly the same length across 61 keys. We’d check the pitch again and make sure each sample was normalised and had matching transients and decays (with many of the older analogues this can’t always be guaranteed). Next I’d build the patch and loop samples if the preset was a continuous tone like a pad. Then I’d add unique effects, ADSR, filter settings and a sequence pattern if needed.
5) What equipment do you have in your studio?
• Roland Jupiter 6
• Roland Jupiter 8
• Dave Smith Prophet ’08
• Clavia Nord Lead 3
• Teenage Engineering OP-1
• Roland MC-202
• Roland SH-101
• Elektron Analog Four
• Roland TB-303
• Yamaha DX7
• Korg DW8000
• Korg Poly 800
• Korg Poly 61
• Korg Volcas
• Korg Electribe 2
• Korg MS20M
• Arp Odyssey
• Sequential Circuits Pro One
• Roland Juno 106
• Access Virus TI Snow
• Prism Orpheus soundcard
• SSL G-Series Buss Compressor
• Empirical Labs Distressor
• DBX 165
• Focusrite ISA 430Mk2
• TL Audio EQ2
• Roland TR 808
• Roland TR 909
• Roland TR 707
• Roland TR 606
• Roland TR 626
• Roland CR 68
• Sound Master SR 55
• Nord Drum
• Sequential Circuits Drumtraks
• MXR 185
• Emu Drumulator
• Akai MPC 60
• Yamaha RX5
• Korg Super Drums
• Sakata DPM 48
• Roland SBX-1 and Kenton synchronisers.
• Focal Twin 6 BEs
• Yamaha NS10m
• Fender Rhodes 73
• Fender Jazz Bass
• Fender Stratocaster
NOTE: Click the images for large versions
6) What is your favorite piece of equipment to use in the studio and why?
Right now probably the Roland TR-808 because it’s actually a relatively new acquisition. It’s used on everything and just sounds like history every time you switch it on. The punch, the timing, the warmth, the bass, the dirt. My friend Dean Coleman gave me the Roland SB-X 1 to clock it with all the other Roland gear via DIN sync and it has an amazing, swingy, tight feel to it.
7) What piece of studio equipment or production process defines your sound?
Probably the Empirical Labs Distressor. I’ve had it for years and unlike most people I use it in mono. Usually I’ll treat drum hits on the way in, crunching up the transients on kick drums and snares. It also works great on vocals, guitars and live bass on the rare occasion I get to do live tracking. It can be a very smooth, warm compression or an all-out assault. It’s got distortion and tape-warmth emulation which always work a treat.
8) What piece of hardware/software elevated your production to a higher level & how?
A few years ago we made the Magic AB plugin and it’s an essential part of my mix buss chain. It sits on your channel master and allows instant mix AB’ing with up to 8 tracks. My mixing and in-house mastering have gone up several notches and I can’t imagine working without it now.
9) What fresh equipment have you recently added to the lab?
Korg recently sent me the MS20M with the SQ-1 sequencer. It’s the kit version. It’s lush. It sounds just like the original to my ears and the sequencer has some awesome little features. I’ve taken it out live and done a few sets with it.
10) What are your essential studio supplies?
I’m so boring, ha! It’s crucial to get things right in there so anything that increases focus and concentration with all those long hours. Team green juices. Ginkgo Biloba (I’ve heard it increases blood flow to the ears), biscuits, fish oil (seriously haha!), fresh fruit, etc.
11) What list of artists have influenced your sound?
It’s always changing. My all time favourite is Juan Atkins – such a huge innovator and still timeless in my opinion. Right now I’m really loving Danny Daze, Clark, Oliver, Daniel Avery, Django Django, Waze and Odyssey, Jimmy Edgar, Maelstrom, Canblaster. Classic influences would be Jeff Mills, Todd Edwards, Dave Clarke, Ian Pooley, Masters at Work, King Unique, Derrick Carter, DMX Krew, Orbital etc
12) Give us 3 of your favourite personal productions.
I built this using solely analogue machines clocked with the SBX-1 and I’m giving it away free
I imagined this as a dystopian vintage horror soundtrack or something and used a lot of the old Korg boards like the DW8000 and Poly 800 to give the lo-fi feel.
This is the first time I ever did anything that wasn’t straight four-to-the-floor. I was aiming for something a little more atmospheric with a nod to the classic sound of Drexciya or Juan Atkins.
13) Any handy studio tips you would like to pass onto producers out there?
Always check your mixes on as many different systems as possible and reference as much as possible against your favorite tracks. It’s the only way you’ll get things right. And play your own stuff out – so important for correcting arrangement tweaks.
14) Whats next for you and Sample Magic?
I’m actually taking a break from doing ‘Sharooz’ for a while. I’m working under a new alias which I’ll reveal soon and am hugely excited about the direction it’s taking. I want to get out live too and bring some of these old boxes up on stage with me. Sample Magic have some great new plug-ins coming out by the end of the year and I can’t wait for the world to see them.