House Music Icon Steve Mac talks about software mixing, how he works, applications, hardware & more
A man who needs no introduction, Steve Mac started DJing at the tender age of 11 as a Hip-Hop DJ.
Steve first started producing house music in 1990 and over the course of his career has remixed artists such as Jamiroquai, James Brown & Chic, as well as releasing a slew of solo work. Mac’s debut album ‘Roots’ was released in 2011.
Create Pro put 10 questions to the iconic remixer & producer, it went a little something like this…
I know that you are currently running a new label, Black Rock Music, can you tell us a little more about this? What the vision is behind it is, and how it’s different from previous projects?
Black Rock Records was set up with my good fried Mark Lawernce, Mark used to work at PRS (music copyright, royalties & licensing) and really understands the publishing world. We wanted to set up a label that would help artists with musical direction and as well as the business side. 90% of the music we release is mixed in my studio.
The list of artists you have remixed for in the past reads like a who’s who of music. Can you tell us a little more about what it was like to remix for people like James Brown, Michael Jackson and Chic? How did you approach these projects, does it differ depending on the artist?
Every remix is different but I always approach them the same way. The first thing I always do is load all the parts into the computer, time stretch them to where they need to be then start going through them, pick out the elements I want to use, then start creating parts or loops and programme some drums around them. Next I will work on an arrangement by just going with what i am feeling, then I’ll start playing keys and adding more sounds on top. I try to get as many sounds in as possible, then usually ill strip the track back and take out what is not needed. I find the way that works best for me is to do this quickly, while you are feeling the track. Thats how my best ones have come together in the past.
I noticed that you have recently been posting pictures on social media featuring some classic hardware samplers such as the SP1200 and S950. What made you decide to revisit those 12-bit machines? Are you still using software and digital recording in conjunction with them?
I love the hardware side of things. I don’t use a lot of soft synths, don’t get me wrong they are great in terms of capabilities, but its just personal taste. In terms of the SP and 950, I just went through a phase of wanting to use them again because they are so much fun. I maintain a good balance with the gear I use, I would say that one day I would just mess on the SP all day, create 10 beats. Then the next day I’ll pick one of those beats and pick up a 303 or a synth and start trying to create some vibes, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. The thing is, over the next couple of weeks you can load up any one of the 10 beats you did and come up with an absolute corker, you just never know.
Depending on the direction you go with each track, do you find that your software/Mac Pro has a different level of involvement? Or does it tend to do the same tasks on each track?
The Mac Pro is very important in my workflow, and of course anybody’s in this day and age. When I’m using my old hardware machines I use it as a tape recorder, capturing everything and of course keeping it all MIDI synced. When I do it all in the box, thats when I start to use the software and the power. I sold my mixing console a couple of years ago, now and I’m mixing in the box with a hybrid system. Basically I have all my EQ’s & compressors connected directly to my computer. I love working like this, as most of my machines are just set so I don’t have to move them much, working this way also gives me total recall. The computer needs to be powerful to do this.
What spec Mac Pro did you go for? Why did you choose this spec, and was it a big upgrade from your previous system?
My Mac Pro is a 12 core 3.06 processor with 24GB of RAM and SSD drives. I had an 8 core before, it served me well but when I started working without my console I found that I really needed the extra power.
What do you use your Mac Pro for? Which software do you run & how does the system handle it?
I run Logic X, Pro Tools 11 and Abelton 9. My Create Pro system is flawless, it handles my everyday tasks without any headaches. I switched because my work style was not working on my old system, it was definitely time to upgrade.
How integral is your system/software to your workflow? Do you see your reliance on your Mac/software increasing in the future?
I totally depend on my computer and software, its the most important thing in my workflow, it needs to be quick. When you have ideas in your head, the last thing you want to be doing is messing around with the technical stuff.
Do you use any additional hardware in your workflow? What impact does this have on how you use your Mac Pro/software?
I’m using lots of hardware and the computer needs to be powerful enough to handle the outside signals coming in. The computer needs to be stable.
Are you currently working on any projects using the Mac Pro? How does your workstation fit in with this project specifically?
Yes I’m working on a number of projects at the moment, we are only 2 months into the new year and I have not stopped working. There are around 3 different projects that I’m involved with right now. I will be taking a well earned break mid April.
How important is your systems performance to you? Does not having to worry about what you workstation can handle help you spend more time on being creative?
System performance is everything right now. The machine needs to run like a dream, Im very careful with the software I install and I keep my machine very clean. You want to keep it running like the first day you bought it. Im really happy with the system create pro have sold me and Richard has always been on the other end of the phone for advice etc, this is one of the reasons I’m doing this interview. I have recommended create pro to many of my friends now and are all happy with what they purchased.
We’d like to thank Steve Mac for taking the time to answer our questions, you can check out a mix Steve did below containing tracks from Black Rock Records artists, as well as find links to his various websites.