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Kill the Noise Gives Us Five Key Production and Performance Tips

Producer/DJ Jake Stanczak has made a habit of changing things up over the years. Whether jumping coasts from New York to Los Angeles, migrating from Reason to Ableton Live as his main production tool, or producing across the bass-music gamut—from making drum & bass as Ewun to crafting more electro- and trap-infused tunes for Skrillex’s OWSLA label as Kill the Noise—Stanczak has all manner of tips and tricks for keeping things fresh. We tapped him for some pointers on how to boost your creativity and what you should really focus on in the studio.

CHANGE YOUR SCENERY

One huge way to change things up is to try on a new piece of software, he says:

“I phased out of Reason over the course of a couple of years. I’ve been using Ableton Live exclusively for the last five years or so. I like Reason, and I used it for a very long time. I started ReWiring Reason into Ableton back in the day to take advantage of the audio-warping features in Ableton, and also there were a few third-party plug-ins I wanted to experiment with. Years later, Reason opened itself up to manipulating live audio, and third-party plugs. I haven’t really messed with the program recently, so I can’t comment on it, but I found changing sequencers to be really inspiring. A change of scenery is good for creativity.

I could see myself one day opening up Reason again and writing some music. I loved using it; it’s a good program. I’ve used many sequencers over the years. I think that learning how to use new software is an important skill for anyone that wants to have a career in electronic music. I’ll open up new plug-ins or sequencers all the time and try to figure them out for the challenge of it, even if I don’t intend on using them in the end. It strengthens your ability to learn, and you often find parallels you can apply to other devices.”

DON’T FIXATE TOO MUCH ON A SINGLE SOUND

There’s a whole lot of pontificating in forums about how Kill the Noise makes his enormous growling basslines, but he says that’s not the kind of thing that’s worth worrying about too much. “There are a lot of ways to arrive at the same destination with a particular sound,” Stanczak says.

“The bottom line is that it’s all about taste. Kids know how to make cool bass sounds; I don’t know anything that they don’t already know. There are plenty of tutorials online and a ton of artists that are skilled at making cool textured mid-range sounds. Here’s the problem: Their taste isn’t the greatest when it comes to songwriting, space, and, of course, mixing and engineering the track. That’s the biggest problem I hear in people’s tunes. You can go online and learn in an evening how to start making cool bass sounds, but it will take you years to make them work elegantly in context with the rest of the song.”

FOCUS ON ARRANGEMENT AND THE SONG

“The reason my sounds seem to be cool is because I give them their own space to shine,” says Stanczak. “It’s about contrast. In that type of music, the texture and movement of the sound is so important. Lots of producers think that jamming as many of those sounds together will make it better, but really the noises just overshadow each other, and with a shitty mix, it makes things bland. There’s no dynamics; your brain doesn’t pick things out in the mix and say, “Wow, listen to that noise! Wow, listen to that snare!”

The most important part of dance music is the groove, the feel, and movement of the track. You appreciate those noises much more when they are used in a musical kind of way. I find that people who are fixated on trying to create certain textures of sounds don’t spend enough time focusing on writing great songs. Taste is so important when it comes to executing the idea and mix on these types of tunes. It’s what separates some kid fucking with Massive from a real-deal artist, in my opinion.”

FOLLOW YOUR INSPIRATION WHEREVER IT TAKES YOU


Even a producer of Kill the Noise’s stature has challenges in the studio. “It doesn’t get any easier, because the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t actually know much at all,” he says. When it comes to taking the first step toward making a new track, “I just go with whatever is inspiring me at the time. It might be, ‘I wanna make some big-ass drums today,’ or maybe I find a cool sample, or maybe I am in a particular mood to write some melodies and chords; I go with wherever the idea is coming from.”

PLAN YOUR GIGS INTENTLY AND KEEP EXPERIMENTING

When it comes to prepping for his sets, “I spend a lot of time making new music, obviously: DJ edits, listening to promos,” he says. “On the road, I spend a good 3-5 hours in the hotel before every gig messing with stuff. I’m always trying new stuff and testing out ideas on the road.”

Follow Kill the Noise on Facebook and Twitter – or check out some of his recent Soundcloud tracks below:

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  • Infect

    Very true, you do need to invest a lot of time into music theory in order to understand and be able to piece together a good song. I strongly disagree with his outlook on sounds though. You can’t go online and make any kind of bass you want “in an evening.” After four years of studying and experimenting with sound engineering, I’m getting close to the Noisia style sound I want my music to have, but I still have a ways to go.

    tl;dr: EDM isn’t about either the songwriting or the science. Both are equally important and difficult to learn.

  • lucas laboucan

    i recently was that kid who just fucks with massive and crams a bunch of shitty mids into the mix . But now im starting to see how i can turn my “tunes” into actual music . And its a very good feeling when you do get it to that . Although im not the best at it , im still learning 🙂

  • JohnnieBräts

    Jake is the truth.

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    He’s right, too many people are concerned with making a piece contextually complex instead of making songs that mean something (which is the main reason people who dislike “Complextro.” Almost no one wants to hear ” learn the basics of Music Theory” before making music, but not learning the basics before doing something just means you’ll have to spend more time and be more frustrated until you do.

    There is no shortcut to success.

  • Ztronical

    All of his tips on giving sound space and especially contrasting sounds. That’s exactly my issues. I’ve learned how to make sounds but making it all fit is a pain. So now 10 or so years I am still trying. I now know the next step. Thanks.

    • Sohrab Zia

      pan your sounds. use reverb to give your sounds depth which in turn creates space. avoid boosting FQ’s on your channel eq as much as possible. you want to make it so you’ve taken as much as necessary out from your sound and leaving the peak point at 0.0 db that way it doesnt muddy up. just a few tips in case you don’t already know. much love

  • acidjazz

    Excellence; wish he’d release that “I’m Gone” track from back in the day. It’s super great!

  • chris

    nice.
    btw: this reminds me the different of work. there is always a next step to “creating”

  • did not everyone make the change to Ableton Live from Reason.

    BLeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Skrillex

  • killmedj

    Just an incredible producer!