Skrillex spills his sub-bass secrets

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Sonny’s picks: Benga & Skream

All eight tracks from Skrillex’s Scary Monsters have charted on Beatport’s Top 10, a career ascent not seen from a single producer on that site since deadmau5. In particular, the title track charted at No. 1, the first dubstep track ever to do so.

The success has put Skrillex on the road, constantly since last year, leaving him with little time to maintain even an apartment, let alone a home studio. So, not since Julian Assange has one homeless guy with a laptop managed to inspire and piss off as many people in such a short period of time. How does he do it?

So tell us how you get your bass sounds. Do you use Massive? I use [Native Instruments’] Massive. I use a lot of [NI’s] FM8, actually, and even Operator. I’ve actually been using the Ableton Operator FM synth just because Massive is great. Gear it towards a certain sound, whereas you can do so much with very simple sine waves. A lot of my signature monster bass sounds are actually FM8 and even Operator.

A lot of people feel you’re applying different LFOs on the modulators. How close is that to the truth? There are always different strategies for different sounds. But basically, the whole idea is you have some waveform and the whole sonic spectrum is, depending on what frequencies are spiked and what frequencies are there or not there, will cause different formants. I’ve taken very simple waveforms that aren’t wave-table waveforms, like a modern talking oscillator or whatever in that synth, and actually done similar things where I’m actually automating an EQ to actually create different vowels manually. So taking a simple sine wave in Operator, in FM8 and starting with that, you can kind of get some different effects that you might not get in just automating the wave table on the Massive thing, even though I like that as well.

What are you using for microedits? Is that in Ableton Live? Everything’s in Ableton, my production, mixdowns, everything. Some of the stuff that sounds more microediting, like, I’ll have sessions that are all live synths automating and moving and tracks turning on and off and set sidechain on other synths to make other things disappear and reappear. And some tracks are all audio where I’m just re-sampling bits.

What about compression? Have you ever worked with outboard gear? No, I don’t use any outboard gear. It’s just a mobile studio right now. It’s kind of a necessity for me more than anything, so I use a lot of the Waves stuff. I really like the Hybrid Comp in the Waves bundle. And vintage warmers, you can put that on anything and it will sound good, basically, and there’s a lot of multiband compression. We use iZotope Ozone for just multiband compression and a lot of things when I’m bussing or grouping things. Plus, it has the stereo imaging, and you can kind of do it all in one interface.