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DSF Q&A Sessions 8 : Rob Sparx (open for questions)

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Postby pdomino » Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:48 pm

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Rob Sparx Bio

BIOGRAPHY
An excellent Double Bass, Piano and Guitar player, Rob Sparx has been writing and DJing dance music since the late 90s. Robs first release in Jan 2004 "Rob the Builder - Can you fix it", was the start of a wave of drum n bass releases on Twisted Individual's label's Grid, Zombie and Up Yours. Rob has also released DNB on Formation records (DJ SS), Propaganda (Generation Dub), Vibez (Subject13) and label/distributor Z-Audio. Never one to be pigeonholed Rob soon experimented with other genres producing breaks, house/electro, trance and dubstep most of which was released by labels associated with Z-Audio. 2007 Rob decided he was going to concentrate mainly writing dubstep as he knew a few of the scene's key players from growing up near Croydon and loved the creative freedom of dubstep that other genres lack.

Owing to the diverse range of music he produces Robs tunes have been played by a wide selection of DJ's including: Zane Lowe, Joe Ransom, Skream, Distance, Benga, Darkside, TRG, N-Type, Scientist, Walsh, Rusko, Tes La Rok, Sukh Knight, Grooverider, Bryan G, Bailey, Dieselboy, LDouble, Marky, Nicky Blackmarket, Flyte, Ash Attack, James Zabelia, Nick Warren, Anthony Pappa, Laurent Garnier, Colin Dale, Gabriel Ananda, Quivver and 10Sui! Robs tunes have featured on stations including Radio 1, 1XTRA (Mary Anne Hobbs show), KissFM, RinseFM and Ministry Radio. Artists Rob has worked with include Distance, Cyrus (Random Trio), Reso, TRG, El-B, Tunnidge (Deep Medi), Synkro, Radikal Guru, Bar9, Nero, Subject13, Phantasy & Shodan, Twisted Individual, Zen, Sharooz, Tom Pooks, Pablo Bolivar and Mike Foyle (Armada).

Having finished his debut album "Trooper" the last few months have seen Rob get on the DJing big time with plenty of gigs and radio shows in the pipeline. Expect big things this year!!

Releases:
Bin Laden's Mum / Jackie Stallone
Disintegration
Furry Dice / Shockwave
Road Kill / Plasma
Road Kill / Plasma
Stink Bomb / Redneck Zombies
Atomic Supermen / Tree Hugger
Attack Of The Wolfman / Zombie Funk
King Kong / Southern Comfort
Nightshade / Medusa
Medusa (Remixes)
2 Faced Rasta
2 Faced Rasta
Independent Life
Attack Of The Wobble / Exile
Fixed Up
Independent Life
The Prayer
Thug Step / Circus Freak
Trooper

Robs Myspace
CLICK HERE

Myspace Blog
CLICK HERE



This Session is OPEN FOR QUESTIONS. It will officialy begin when the previous one ends.
It's up to the producer if he'll continue answering questions. So don't make silly faces if your question is left unanswered.
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Postby miscreant » Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:14 pm

Firstly, tasty tunes - war pigs a right antisocial motherfucker :twisted: !!!

What you using softwarewise?

Any advice for where people should start/what they should be doing if they're looking to get their tunes signed?

That was some fucking giveaway of your dnb tunes on your myspace! Were they signed and if so did you get your bollocks booted off the label?
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Postby DZA » Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:21 pm

Out of the tunes you start, how many of them get finish? :x:

and out the ones you get finished how many of them do you give out/get release/do notthing with?

:)
jackmaster wrote:you went in with this mix.
.onelove. wrote:There needs to be a DZA app on iPhone just for id'ing old Grime tracks.

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Postby pdomino » Thu Apr 16, 2009 5:23 pm

Bumpy Bumpy
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Postby connection » Thu Apr 16, 2009 5:41 pm

Out of all the genres you've produced in, which do/did you find the easiest writing within?

I've produced D&B, Breaks, Techno and now Dubstep, but I find Dubstep the most difficult to get tracks up and running in...

From that, how do you approach writing your tracks?

Thanks.

C

*Edit. Sludge = Filth!
Keep on keeping on...

http://www.myspace.com/timetoconnect

http://www.soundcloud.com/connection

*New Track 'Solitude' uploaded*
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Postby rob sparx » Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:16 am

MiscreanT wrote:Firstly, tasty tunes - war pigs a right antisocial motherfucker :twisted: !!!

What you using softwarewise?

Any advice for where people should start/what they should be doing if they're looking to get their tunes signed?

That was some fucking giveaway of your dnb tunes on your myspace! Were they signed and if so did you get your bollocks booted off the label?


For software I use SX3 with a fair few plugins - I did start off on Logic but I switched when emagic stopped their PC support, should be getting SX5 soon it looks pretty tasty!

For new artists its always hard to get labels to give you the time of day - I'd say get to know someone whos involved in a label thats a good starting point, no other approach has ever worked for me I've always found posting cds etc to be a waste of time.

Yea all the tunes on that DNB giveaway are signed but they're all old so had no MP3 release - I'd fallen out with Twisted in 2004 and hadn't spoken to GDub or SS for years so I just though sod it they're my tunes I'll give them away to help promote my album. Me and Twisted have buried the hatchet now anyway so I've got some fresh DNB in the pipeline and the mixdowns are sounding way better than on those old releases.
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Postby rob sparx » Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:22 am

The_Dza88 wrote:Out of the tunes you start, how many of them get finish? :x:

and out the ones you get finished how many of them do you give out/get release/do notthing with?

:)


I do better than I used to but mabeye only 35-50% of the tunes I start get finished. I've got probably years worth of unfinished tunes on my computer - I tend to build my tunes around samples or presets so sometimes I end up going off on a tangent and writing some crazy experimental tune that sounds wicked but either desperately needs a vocal or is some genre that I have no links with whatsoever so the tune could sit on my HD for years before/if anything happens with it. I do tend to do get on better with dubstep than other genres for finishing tunes though.
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Postby spencertron » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:07 am

Hi rob this might be a bit of a subjective thing really but In a debate regarding mastering (on DSF), and finalizing your mix for the Masteriing Engineer...i remember you said that on a tune you have released you may have ran things hot in the DAW but sent it straight for pressing anyway, without mastering...but it seemed that you got a good result.

Was there a notable difference in the final outcome or quality of that tune when commited to vinyl than when you have done things as recommended by ME's i.e. -6db below 0 and then sent to an ME? where you more pleased with the sound of tunes when you stick to an ME's recommendations?
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Postby rob sparx » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:10 am

Connection wrote:Out of all the genres you've produced in, which do/did you find the easiest writing within?

I've produced D&B, Breaks, Techno and now Dubstep, but I find Dubstep the most difficult to get tracks up and running in...

From that, how do you approach writing your tracks?

Thanks.

C

*Edit. Sludge = Filth!


I definately think dubstep is easier to write than DNB as the music is more minimal and you can get away with using lots more sounds/genre crossovers than in DNB. I tend to use hiphop, house/electro and garage breaks as well as DNB breaks in dubstep whereas for DNB its less experimental. I'd 4-4 music is the easiest to write as there's so many decent sample cds and preset collections out there whereas dubstep and DNB don't have much going for them on this front but dubstep is still easier to write than DNB probably because 135-140 is much closer to tempos of other genres so the crossover styles work better than in DNB.

Usually when I start a tune I base it around a few samples or a synth preset/recording and the rest of the tune just grows from there. I tend to drop mixdowns from old projects into new ones all the time so I can write tunes quickly (they usually get chopped up loads) and I almost always lay the whole tune structure out once I've got a decent 16-32 bar loop even if theres no b-line.
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Postby thecatinside » Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:46 pm

Where is the vocal sample in "The prayer" taken from? It's absolutely haunting. Distance's remix of it really got me into dubstep. Your original version is even better tho.

Haven't checked out too much of your music otherwise. What would you recommend for a beginner sparx-afficiando? :lol:
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Postby rob sparx » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:14 pm

spencerTron wrote:Hi rob this might be a bit of a subjective thing really but In a debate regarding mastering (on DSF), and finalizing your mix for the Masteriing Engineer...i remember you said that on a tune you have released you may have ran things hot in the DAW but sent it straight for pressing anyway, without mastering...but it seemed that you got a good result.

Was there a notable difference in the final outcome or quality of that tune when commited to vinyl than when you have done things as recommended by ME's i.e. -6db below 0 and then sent to an ME? where you more pleased with the sound of tunes when you stick to an ME's recommendations?


spencerTron wrote:Hi rob this might be a bit of a subjective thing really but In a debate regarding mastering (on DSF), and finalizing your mix for the Masteriing Engineer...i remember you said that on a tune you have released you may have ran things hot in the DAW but sent it straight for pressing anyway, without mastering...but it seemed that you got a good result.

Was there a notable difference in the final outcome or quality of that tune when commited to vinyl than when you have done things as recommended by ME's i.e. -6db below 0 and then sent to an ME? where you more pleased with the sound of tunes when you stick to an ME's recommendations?


I was perfectly happy with the vinyls that I did this approach on (Attack of the Wobble/Thugstep/The Prayer mixes) - the reason I tried this in the first place was because I had some bad experiences with mastering that I'd accidentally let slip through the net and decided I'd rather boost the tune myself than pay someone else to make it sound possibly worse at the final stage. However I've been happy with getting all my tunes mastered since I started using Shane the Cutter @ Finyl Tweek and Stuart Hawkes @ Metropolis but I always check the digital masters and TPs carefully these days. If your thinking of getting tunes put straight to vinyl its still worth checking the results as engineers still may have to process your tune to get it on vinyl - using a plugin like otiumFX basslane to reduce stereo width on your bassy sounds can help with this problem.

Now I work loud when writing a tune (clipping or with a limiter on the master volume) but make sure the final premaster recording is quiet so the engineer has lots of headroom to work with. To be honest theres not usually much difference between a good mixdown boosted with no mastering and a good mastering job but driving the sound analogue instead of digital definately sounds nicer.
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Postby Jah Billah » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:30 pm

Rob Sparx wrote:To be honest theres not usually much difference between a good mixdown boosted with no mastering and a good mastering job but driving the sound analogue instead of digital definately sounds nicer.


So nice to see this being written down. Again no q's atm but bigup mr Rob S!
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Postby rob sparx » Fri Apr 17, 2009 2:04 pm

thecatinside wrote:Where is the vocal sample in "The prayer" taken from? It's absolutely haunting. Distance's remix of it really got me into dubstep. Your original version is even better tho.

Haven't checked out too much of your music otherwise. What would you recommend for a beginner sparx-afficiando? :lol:


Thats a vocal this girl Elly did for me, don't know her full name I lost touch with her ages ago unfortunately. That was one of the 1st tunes I ever wrote all the other sounds are off a Roland XP-10, an ancient PC with logic 3.5 and a dodgy soundcard, the tune was recorded on tape it sat gathered dust for about 9 years before it got released!

Not sure exactly what to recommend you listen to of mine as everyones got different tastes but check these tunes out:

Sludge (Audio Freaks 011 out very soon!)
Vagabundo (DUBOUT006)
Bar9 - Shaolin Style Rmx
Dirty Thieving Mongrels - Bitch Int (BITCH001)
Black Sheep EP (DUBTING011)
Prodigy - Their Law (Rob Sparx Rmx)
Rob Sparx vs Tunnidge - Big Top/Lee Perry (SPARX002)
Thugstep (ON THE EDGE003)
Trooper/Bar9 Rmx (DUBTING010)
After Midnight/Look 2 the Future (SPARX001)
Attack of the Wobble/Exile (ZAUDIO007)
Two Faced Rasta/Reso Remix (DUBTING002)
Independent Life and the remixes (DUBTING001 & 009)

Most of my dubstep tunes are going on my album which should be out in July all unmixed so DJ friendly. Also check out the Dirty Thieving Mongrels tunes if your into electro/house etc and all my old DNB tunes are free so download the lot from my myspace if you haven't already!
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Postby spencertron » Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:51 pm

Rob Sparx wrote:
spencerTron wrote:Hi rob this might be a bit of a subjective thing really but In a debate regarding mastering (on DSF), and finalizing your mix for the Masteriing Engineer...i remember you said that on a tune you have released you may have ran things hot in the DAW but sent it straight for pressing anyway, without mastering...but it seemed that you got a good result.

Was there a notable difference in the final outcome or quality of that tune when commited to vinyl than when you have done things as recommended by ME's i.e. -6db below 0 and then sent to an ME? where you more pleased with the sound of tunes when you stick to an ME's recommendations?


I was perfectly happy with the vinyls that I did this approach on (Attack of the Wobble/Thugstep/The Prayer mixes) - the reason I tried this in the first place was because I had some bad experiences with mastering that I'd accidentally let slip through the net and decided I'd rather boost the tune myself than pay someone else to make it sound possibly worse at the final stage. However I've been happy with getting all my tunes mastered since I started using Shane the Cutter @ Finyl Tweek and Stuart Hawkes @ Metropolis but I always check the digital masters and TPs carefully these days. If your thinking of getting tunes put straight to vinyl its still worth checking the results as engineers still may have to process your tune to get it on vinyl - using a plugin like otiumFX basslane to reduce stereo width on your bassy sounds can help with this problem.

Now I work loud when writing a tune (clipping or with a limiter on the master volume) but make sure the final premaster recording is quiet so the engineer has lots of headroom to work with. To be honest theres not usually much difference between a good mixdown boosted with no mastering and a good mastering job but driving the sound analogue instead of digital definately sounds nicer.


that is useful info, wether or not we take the approach of bypassing mastering on a tune or 2 which we intend to put to vinyl ourselves, we will see...but will deffo listen again to those recordings you've mentioned.

as for your second point...i tend to do things similar, hot meters during the writing stage...and as i have done in the past, if a tune is due for treatment by an ME i'd then tame and reduced the individual channels down, lose the limiters etc (probably not the desirable way to do things but it works for now)

cheers for the reply
Last edited by spencertron on Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby boyd » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:37 pm

Do you have any tips for good sub bass?
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Postby tercerojista » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:53 pm

What's better: the Commodore Amiga or the Atari ST?
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Postby nova.k » Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:05 am

I know I've told you this before, but I have to say it again... Sludge is an absolute killer man, not in your face heavy, great movement and space with still what Teebee would call "street attitude" rather than agression. Love it!

Now for the Q's:

1.
I'm quite into many genres of music, one of those is darkside dnb. How do you find playing dubstep at the therapy nights? How are the DNB djs with you? everything cool? What do you think about the current darkside (pots and pans) movement? (Donny, Current Value, Eye-D etc)?

2.
What was the big break through for you that helped you get your first track signed? Was is a technique specific to your genre (like layering breaks in dnb or something) or was it a neutral thing like figuring out how to master tracks decently? Was it just a matter of smashing tracks out until you found the winning formula?

3.
Do you tend to select+build hits for each track, or you have a prebuilt library of nice layered snares etc that you just change the ASDR on?

Oddly I've only heard about you recently (electronic explorations), but I've been truly impressed with your work. :)

Cheers
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Postby rob sparx » Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:46 pm

boyd wrote:Do you have any tips for good sub bass?


In SX3 I almost always boost my subs @ 60HZ 0.1Q using the standard SX EQ (good for sub) - I put the kjaerus MPL-1 limiter (no other limiter will do!) on insert channel 7/8 - this means it limits after the cubase EQ and the channel volume fader so volume changes now have to be made from the limiter output not the channel fader. Then I adjust the gain of the EQ, channel fader and tweak the limiter until the sub sounds right, depending on the type of sub you have the kjaerhus limiter can get away with anything from 3-20+db of limiting without noticably distorting the sound. I normally have my subs 2db quieter than the kicks but I make sure the sub is boosted enough that it can be heard clearly.

Making sure the sub is clear in the mix is essential - I always solo the kicks and sub together to make sure nothing overlaps using sidechain or volume fades to get everything sounding right. Using lots of different subs is good too I often use throbs/wobbles as subs as well lowpassing them. Sometimes I compress subs and basses so they punch through the mix better as well but I always do this offline so I can see what the results look like.
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Postby rob sparx » Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:17 pm

nova.k wrote:I know I've told you this before, but I have to say it again... Sludge is an absolute killer man, not in your face heavy, great movement and space with still what Teebee would call "street attitude" rather than agression. Love it!

Now for the Q's:

1.
I'm quite into many genres of music, one of those is darkside dnb. How do you find playing dubstep at the therapy nights? How are the DNB djs with you? everything cool? What do you think about the current darkside (pots and pans) movement? (Donny, Current Value, Eye-D etc)?

2.
What was the big break through for you that helped you get your first track signed? Was is a technique specific to your genre (like layering breaks in dnb or something) or was it a neutral thing like figuring out how to master tracks decently? Was it just a matter of smashing tracks out until you found the winning formula?

3.
Do you tend to select+build hits for each track, or you have a prebuilt library of nice layered snares etc that you just change the ASDR on?

Oddly I've only heard about you recently (electronic explorations), but I've been truly impressed with your work. :)

Cheers


This might take a while lol!

1.) Had a wicked time @ therapy sessions crowd was well up for it! I'm not really into the dark DNB stuff I like some tunes by Noisia, Spor and Calyx etc but im not into any of the real evil stuf your talking about - Current Values tunes do make me laugh though for their sheer craziness!

2.) Getting my mixdowns right was the key to getting my tunes on vinyl - learn what every different type of plugin does and how to use it that will make a big difference. Also finding the right label for your sound - I was writing DNB for a long time before I was on Grid but it was darker tekkier stuff, in the end I compromised my sound a bit just so I could get some tunes on wax as I was starting to think I was never going to get a release!

3.) I do tend to use the same elements quite a bit but I still layer up snares etc quite a lot as you can't use the same snare all the time otherwise your tunes won't mix into each other without the snare sounding odd! My sample collections a bit disorganised at the moment but im too busy writing new tunes to sort it out
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Postby rob sparx » Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:19 pm

tercerojista wrote:What's better: the Commodore Amiga or the Atari ST?


:lol:
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