Top 5: DEFSET
London-based deep-house producer and EMK affiliate, DEFSET, is a musician who explores modular synthesis, field-recordings, outboard effects, live instrumentation, and creative sampling to create deeply immersive and evocative music. Here’s his top five studio staples.
19 July 2023
APPLE MACBOOK PRO M1
Despite spending thousands of pounds and many years trying to become DAW free, I just can’t deny the power and versatility my M1 Mac brings to my productions. The most obvious thing I guess, is that I can take my studio anywhere, which has meant I can start sketching something out when the idea comes, whether it’s on a train or a plane or in bed — not that I sleep with my laptop.
It really has transformed the way I make music, and has become something I love rather than something I begrudgingly use — as was the case with my old desktop machine. Also, the M1 chip is amazing for music. I produced a track that had 107 stems for someone a while back, and each track needed processing — some quite heavily. At no point did the machine grumble, let alone crash, which is what I was used to the old machine doing every hour or so. I still use my hardware synths but it’s difficult to deny how powerful this computer is for music making.
ARTURIA BEATSTEP PRO
This is my main sequencer for my modular gear. It just works really well, and not only as a sequencer but as an interface between my computer and my modular synths. The randomness and probability knobs allow for some real-time tweaking of sequences and the roller/looper ribbon can sound great for some glitchy ratchets and beat chopping. You can have eight triggered sounds and two melodic sequences going all at once, which for a small, relatively cheap bit of kit is spot on for me.
I don’t really use it to its full potential as you can link sequences and move through patterns to create whole songs. This is great for live performance, but I generally tend to build up a 32- or 64-bar loop of chaos, then record each element, weed out the unusable nonsense, and keep the nice stuff.
I was underwhelmed with this unit when I first got it. I just wasn’t getting what I wanted from it, so it gathered dust for a while. I think I was trying to use it as a drum machine. I know people do use it as such, but that’s not really its intended purpose. It’s just a filthy techno machine — at least that’s how I use it.
If I need a noisy, hypnotic, percussive line then this is my go-to. As you’d expect from Moog the filter is lovely and you can create some self-oscillating tones that sound very similar to Underworld’s ‘Rez’. Obviously you’d never use it in a track now because Underworld have monopolised that sound forever!
Amazing granular effects plugin. It’s amazing. Put literally anything through it and it’ll sound more interesting. I’ll often copy a vocal track and put a tiny bit of granular delay on it. This throws up all these lovely little random vocal grains which add a real depth and interest to the track. The GUI is also great, and relatively easy to use too.
SLATE + ASH CYCLES
When I first got this it was my first Kompact Player instrument and I was completely confused. I gave up after a while as I just couldn’t get any sound from it! I know a lot of people swear by Native Instruments stuff, but I find it really fiddly and frustrating.
Because I couldn’t use it how I’d hoped, I ended up getting in touch with the guys at Slate + Ash. I was wanting to throw my own samples and audio snippets into it and then use their granular and sequencing engines to manipulate the source audio, but it turned out that I had an earlier version which didn’t have this capability.
They were helpful and walked me through the process, and I’d say I use this features on half of everything I do now. I can play a 16-bar loop on the drums, drag it into Cycles and play endlessly with the sequencer, filters, and effects to create something completely different. I also like to create a synth line, then use the granular engine to create these amazing, evolving pads that you have complete control over. Very cool.