Lamb's Andy Barlow talks Spectrasonics, studio set-ups and top tips...
Friday, December 17, 2010
One half of trip hop duo Lamb as well as a solo artist in his own right, Andy Barlow has had a busy 2010 months with his solo album ´Leap and the Net will Appear´ due for release in February and Lamb´s album ´Five´ due for release in May.
As fans of Lamb´s music, we were excited to hear that Andy is a big fan of Spectrasonics plug-ins so we got in touch with him to bring you the latest of our online features.
For those of our web visitors who aren´t familiar with Lamb, please could you describe your music?
Lamb are a duo comprising of Lou Rhodes on vocals and Andy Barlow on beats and music. Musically we’re hard to pin down, but we’ve been variously described in the press as “dreamy introspective electronica” or “free-ranging, shape shifting and swells with an ecstatic buzz of frenetic broken beats and drum & bass rhythms” or “bewitching and brilliantly pioneering” or “the beautific sumptuousness of their sound is overwhelming”.
We released our first album in 95 and our last one in 2003. But, after an 8 year break - during which time we pursued solo projects – we’re now back in the studio recording our fifth studio album called ‘5’. We mix electronic sounds with live played ones.
How has your music changed or evolved over the years?
Thru technology, life experience and a different preference of sounds (depending on what’s available and the mood I’m in) it evolves and deepens every year.
In 2004, you and Lou went your separate ways to work on solo projects, then in 2009 you reformed – what made you take the decision to reunite?
We never wanted to repeat ourselves or become complacent as artists. We made a decision early-on that we would only write music together when we had something new to say - that time is definitely here again.
Lamb tracks have featured in many well-known films, adverts and dramas – in fact Nicole Kidman sings ´Gorecki´ to Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge which must have been a career highlight for you! What other highlights of your career spring to mind?
Well in 15 years there have been a few. Having a number one album and single in Portugal was pretty mental and crowd surfing at Glastonbury was a massive high. But generally, seeing the world via a touring band and sharing these experiences with an amazing team of musicians and crew is hard to beat.
Could you run us through your studio hardware set-up?
I have a Manley vari-mu compressor which gets used a lot, a couple of 1176 limiters which are great on guitars and bass. A Tla m4 valve console, which is good for warming things up in to the computer. I monitor between Genelec´s and krk v6 monitors both with subs. I mix between pro tools and live and create on Ableton live which for me blows the other daws out of the water. Mics I love the Neumann M149 which I use on Lou´s voice and a couple of 414,s also a pair of lovely Coles ribbons which are great on Drum over heads, piano, brass and strings. We got sent a line 6 pod the all singing dancing one which is really good , I also have an endorsement with Tla audio and have a pa1 pre amp and a vp1 channel strip which I use a lot and really rate. A few allen and Heath bits and pieces. I still love my Nord lead 2 and have a fender Rhodes and a korg ms 20. I used to have loads more hardware but finding the plugins so convincing now, I have let a lot of it (apart from my favourite bits) go.
Which software/plug-ins do you find yourself using most frequently and why?
I love the UAD stuff for processing, just sounds like the hardware, Melodyne is great if used sensibly. Native instruments battery, kontakt , and massive, but my first port of call for sounds is the spectrasonics stuff.
You´re a big fan of Spectrasonics Stylus RMX and Omnisphere, what is it about these products that you love?
They all sound really creative, a lot of the grit that is cleaned up in sample libraries is still pulsing away within their sounds. Especially Trilian, having a performance page to change sounds quickly to make them your own and sounds really easy to change. Being able to change presets my assigning a midi controller to it and doing it from the keyboard , rather than having to sit at the computer opening folders, I believe when an idea comes and inspiration strikes it´s important to get the ideas to come out quickly and not get bogged down in technical details.
On which well known tracks you´ve produced would we hear Spectrasonics sounds?
We just finished one last week and just posted it on our web site if you go to the sign up page on lambofficial.com you can download our new track ´Strong the Root´. A lot of the bass sounds are coming off Trilian and some other sounds of Omnisphere. The album will be out in the Spring and there are loads of examples all over it
You´ve accumulated your own large library of loops and sounds that you´ve recorded over the years – do you ever envision releasing your own sample pack?
I think I’m a bit too precious to give up exclusivity of my favourite sounds. I like to make and sample sounds from unusual objects wherever I am (bottles, coffee machines, wine glasses etc) On my solo album I sampled the sounds of pebbles being thrown onto Brighton beach and used it as percussion throughout one song. My unplugged Rhodes mic´d on the tines is a favourite of mine.
Your new album is about to be unveiled – can you tell us anymore about that at this stage?
The lamb album is being released on the 5th of the 5th and is called five ( its our fifth album ). Five is my lucky number so am pretty excited by it.
What else have you got coming up?
My new solo album comes out in February. It´s mostly instrumental , but features some vocal tracks and lots of guest musicians. www.lowb.co.uk is where you can check out some tracks. It´s the first release on my new label ´ ear parcel recordings ´
Finally, for all those aspiring electronic/trip hop producers out there, what are your Top 3 Studio Tips?
Work quickly especially when writing , it means you still like the track when it comes to mixing it. Also in hindsight it´s usually the first idea that is best.
Use a control surface, even if it´s a cheapie like the korg nano mixer , it´s so much easier to get into a vibe when not being tied to a mouse. qwerty keyboards are the least sexy way of interacting with your computer
If your starting out, try to limit the amount of hardware / software that you acquire . Really get to know each toy and understand how you can make it your own , rather than skimming the surface on lots of products. It will give you a more unique sound, and be less confusing on your learning curve. Also remember it takes time , think of it like learning a language.
Click here to find out more about Andy and to hear clips from his new album