Interview Date: 20 March 17
Rawtek's Music: Listen Genres: Electronic
Making deep Progressive House basses, driving synth drops, and melancholic melodies is all in a days work for Notaker. This Monstercat and Armada releasing producer is quickly getting the attention of the dance music scene with his unique style and is set to for a breakout 2017. We had a chance to talk to Notaker and find out how what goes into his uniques style and how you can improve your own productions!
SoundShock: Well, let’s start from the beginning before we get into an technical questions. Who is Notaker and how did the musical journey begin for you?
Notaker is my creative musical outlet where I experiment, tell stories, and take my listener on adventurous sonic journeys. It all started one afternoon when I was sitting at my Toyota dealership getting an oil change and this guy told me about an electronic show in St. Louis and suggested I attend. I did and met a few friends in the process. The same night after the show a friend of mine showed me some of the music he produced himself and encouraged me to write music as well. Soon after, I downloaded Logic Pro 9 and wrote music form then on.
Your mixes are very clean and powerful. At times, few elements are playing in your tracks, but everything still sounds very full. Are there any specific mixing techniques or tools that you use to achieve this clarity and impact?
I typically follow the rules of giving everything their own space in the frequency spectrum and giving every sound it's proper place in the stereo spectrum. This seems to work well as a good universal mixing philosophy for all parts of a song. I don't think there's any specific tools you need to achieve a good mix. I believe that it's not about what you use, it's about how you use it.
Producers of all genres love the super saw filled drops, but many struggle to get the full bodied sound that you have in your track “Shimmer.” Are there any tips that you could give on how to write, layer, and mix these super saw type drops?
Layering and processing are what really make the super saw drops go off well. Layering helps you get that sound full, along with mixing, and processing makes your sound loud and refined. There's no real "one-size fits all" answer to this though, I always encourage experimenting and trying new things to see what works best.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you knew when you started out making music?
BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE EVERYDAY! My hard drive has crashed on me twice now and I almost never back up my stuff. Wish I was better at doing that.
Your deeper progressive house tracks have very interesting drops. There are many ear candy type elements that accompany the main baselines. How do you choose complementary sounds and how do you go about arranging them.
It all depends on what you want to be happening in your song. A song, essentially, is a grouping of sounds that you're introducing and removing, each sound with it's own purpose. If you're looking to add more feeling or bring out the moody elements of the song maybe it's time to add in a bit more melody. If you're feeling like the transitions need work, perhaps it's time to add in some more sweeps or fills. It's really all about analyzing how the song is making you feel compared to how you want it to make the listener feel and using this analysis to add in or remove more things.
"BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE EVERYDAY! My hard drive has crashed on me twice now and I almost never back up my stuff. Wish I was better at doing that."
A big sticking point for producers is not being able to finish tracks. Do you have any specific techniques that help you get past this?
I would say finishing absolutely every track you start is not a good idea. Sometimes things don't work out well in a certain production and you have to know when to just scrap it. I think that's a good thing. That being said, not being able to finish anything at all is a problem. The best way I’d say to deal with that is to force yourself to sit down and write something beginning to end without working on any other projects. Sometimes the best thing for finishing a song is having creative momentum.
Producers seem to struggle a lot with the stereo imaging of their tracks. Often times, their track will be too wide, not be wide enough, or have elements all over the place which make it hard for the listener to understand. How do you decide which elements go where and make sure your elements are giving enough interest to the listener without being distracting?
Once again this has a lot to do with analyzing your song. Something that works well for me is making the mixing process part of the process where you create the song. While you’re creating something you can, at the same time, be analyzing whether this element is working the way you want it to or not. I usually will add one or two elements into a song then listen to the whole thing again to see if they’re working like I want them to.
Is there a technique or two that you consistently use when producing tracks? If so, what are they?
I’m going to say the only thing that really stays consistent with each song I make is my philosophy on mixing (giving everything their own sonic space). Other than that each track is totally different and warrants new techniques to creating the song. It’s really hard to keep using the same techniques over and over because you end up creating a song that sounds too similar to your last. Just my take on that.
"Something that works well for me is making the mixing process part of the process where you create the song. While you're creating something you can at the same time be analyzing whether the element is working the way you want it to or not."
The mastering in your tracks is very clean, upfront, and powerful. Are there any tips for getting this type of modern dance music mastered sound, assuming that your mix down is already well balanced.
I actually don't master any of the songs I write, I send it all off to be mastered by someone else. I find it very difficult to step back, put the mastering engineer hat on, and try to master a track that I've been listening to over and over for some time now. At that point in my process I've got the song exactly as I want it and I'm ready to hear how someone else's take on the song goes.
When arranging your song it can be difficult to keep listeners interested from start to finish. We touched on this a bit earlier but, what are some ways you can keep the listener engaged in the arrangement and have it flow smoothly throughout the entire track?
I always look at it from my own listening stand point. If I think the track is sounding monotonous, I’ll change things around. Maybe add more transitioning elements, cut out some of the parts that aren’t needed (turning that 1 minute breakdown to a 30 second breakdown), making that second drop sound different from your first, etc. There’s a limitless amount of things you can do to a song, sometimes it’s not clear exactly what that is. During times like that I tend to remove myself from the song and wait awhile until I can listen to it with a fresh pair of ears. Usually when I do this it becomes easier for me to pick out what’s wrong.
What is the hardest part of producing and how do you work around it?
I can think of two.
I’d say the two toughest parts about writing music is being original, and overcoming writers block.
Writers Block: There’s no cure for writers block and it randomly comes and goes. It’s a very sad and demoralizing thing to have the inability to create. The thing that gets me through it is the thought that writers block isn’t permanent and that I’ll be back at it again just like I was before. This thought usually cheers me up and motivates me to get inspired.
Being Original: No music is original in my mind. Inspiration gets handed down from musical generation to musical generation defining that era of music. In a musical world full of trends it’s hard to make something that sounds completely different from everything else. How I get past this is I think about this advice I heard once, “Good producers copy. Great producers copy in a new way.” It’s Ok to copy but be creative and put your own cool twist on it.
With three killer releases on the world famous Monstercat label, you must have big plans for the near future. Any upcoming tour dates? EP or album Release?
Yes! I do have some upcoming shows happening but unfortunately I’m not allowed to talk about that yet. I also have an EP in the works at the moment too, hoping to release it later this year sometime. An album will have to wait way further down the line but I have some really amazing ideas for it and I’m hoping I’ll get to share them some day!