Since we are now taking applications for our Electronic Music Production course, starting March 2016, we decided to have a chat with Damion O’Brien, the course leader. Outside of work at SSR, Damion is an established producer, and we were keen to find out more about his music, how he got started, and to geek out over his favourite gear.
Hi Damo, how long have you been working in the music industry? Can you tell us a little bit about projects you’ve worked on?I’ve been working in various roles in the music trade for about 12 years. During that time I have dabbled in various roles as a session musician, live engineer, freelance electronic music producer, as well as teaching Electronic Music Production here at SSR throughout.My music projects include:Cassini Division [Happy Day Records, Adro Records] - Vocal House/ Nu DiscoThe Dark Matter [HDR Limit, Adro Records] - Techno & TechAfferent [Everything Bass Records] - Drum n Bass & JungleDesigner Thumbs [VICE Documentaries] - Downbeat ElectronicaI usually release 2-3 Track EPs for Cassini Division, The Dark Matter & Afferent on indie labels I’m happy with. I released a Designer Thumbs album at the start of the year with individual tracks being licensed for media projects. I often work on remix projects, most recently remixing DJ Dirty Freud tracks and often I remix label mates for EPs.
What was your first step to becoming an electronic music producer?I dabbled with basic electronic equipment as a kid; home computers and starter synths with on-board sequencers. This led me to begin recording to a 4 track with a Korg X5DR synth module and guitar pedals, live capturing samples from films to tape. Music software then came on a bit and I was fascinated by tracker software and samples (on floppy disk!). This eventually led to me releasing my first album on CD and on mp3.com in 2000. At that point I was mainly using Sonic Foundry Acid Pro for audio and Steinberg Cubase for MIDI.
Do you have a favourite piece of software or hardware to use in the studio?I don’t really have one favourite, I tend to change and have mini obsessions with specific things for a while. At the moment I’ve got back into Native Instruments' Massive for synths, and Kontakt for sampling. Both of which also I teach here at SSR. I’ve always liked the Arturia emulations of vintage synths, especially the Minimoog V. I also like the smaller companies such as Audio Damage for individual sounding plugins. My experience of Waves plugins are useful for production, and Izotope’s Ozone Suite is a great introduction for software mixing and mastering.I write and record all my material from my home based studio. I always rely on my PMC TB2SA reference monitors, RME Babyface audio interface, Novation Impulse 61 key controller and my iMac. I have recently added a Roland Boutique JU-06 VA Synth module to the studio. I sometimes record live with a Fender Precision bass guitar to house and downbeat material, and I record sounds from around the house via an AKG 214 microphone to put into a sampler.
Is there a crossover between being an electronic music producer and a DJ?There can be, but it's not everyone. I have met people who just DJ or just write music that don’t want to do the other and that’s their choice, but I do think it can help to do both. DJ sets that include your own tracks are a great way to get noticed.What advice would you give someone who is looking at studying electronic music production?You’re making the right decision in educating yourself. The broadening of your knowledge not only gives you the methods to create a higher level of personal creativity it will also give you the skillset needed for an active career. Whilst you can find online tutorials and guides for working with software and hardware there is nothing like a one to one with an experienced music tutor. Specific one to one listening sessions for students’ tracks gives them the relevant feedback needed. Years later I still use the core elements that I learnt on an Electronic Music Production course.
You can check out some of Damion's House music productions under his Cassini Division alias below: