We recently had the opportunity to work with iconic Jazz trombonist Ashley slater on upgrading his Mac Pro workstation.
Ashley began as a bass trombonist for the Army and then later joined the jazz orchestral collective the Loose Tubes. His career continued to progress, and Ashley has worked with the likes of George Russel, Carla Bley, Andrew Poppy, Norman Cook and the Rolling Stones.
We caught up with Ashley to see what he currently has in the works and how his experience of producing music has changed over the years.
First things first, what are you currently working on?
So, at present I’m recording and mixing the NEW Freakpower EP, and believe me, your upgrades have really helped with this. One song has nearly 100 tracks of backing vocals alone, (it’s rather epic) and I’m now able to work on the thing without creating 3 different projects (one for rhythm section, one for BV record and mix down and one for LV recording) which is extremely nice!
At the end of last year (2017) I was working on a project for Sesame Street, which was an absolute honour for me, as these guys are the world leaders in kid’s TV. I’ve been watching Sesame Street since I was 4 years old, and have always thought that their music was second to none in this field.
What was the inspiration behind your electro swing Kitten & The Hip album, Hello Kitten?
I met my partner Scarlett Quinn (Kitten) on a songwriting gig, and she was really the inspiration for me to get that album together. She’s also a great writer, as well as being a superb singer, so we made that album together. It started out when we made a track called Don’t You Worry, and realised that it sort of fit into the electro swing genre. I have a deep background in jazz, as a a trombonist and singer, so it was a pretty comfortable area for me to work in.
You’ve recently announced you will be attending the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival in March with Freakpower. What has it been like working with Norman Cook over the years and did this have an impact on your musical style?
Well, we haven’t really worked together since about 1999, but it was an education, of course. He’s a good musician with an accountant’s brain, it was pretty amazing to watch him go to his 10,000 plus vinyl collection and pull out an album which had whatever sound he was looking for on it. We pretty much agree on songwriting and forms, lyrics, stuff like that, so we never had much trouble when it came to writing. I’d say that there was some sort of impact, especially on the production side. I tend to make complicated music, his is very simple, so I hope that I picked up some of that simpler approach along the way.
Have you always produced on Apple systems or did you make a switch?
I started out on the Atari ST, of course, that on an S900 sampler that I bought off an American friend. I was an Emagic guy from the outset, as I wanted the scoring capability that Emagic then offered. Eventually I think I bought a G3, although I may have gotten into Macs even earlier than that. Then, Macs were really the best tool for the job, although I feel that these days, Mac has pretty much abandoned their core user group and gone for the consumer products. From a capitalist point of view, that was the right thing for them to do, but I still think their attitude to the people who really helped them build that company into what is is now, really sucks.
What was your main reasoning behind upgrading the Mac Pro rather than changing to a newer Apple system?
Money. Money, money and money. If I’d bought one of the trashcan Macs, I’d have had to change practically everything else in my studio, connectivity, peripherals, drive arrays, the lot. It just isn’t financially viable for me, and a lot of other people, to do that.
Which DAW are you currently using? Have you used many others?
I’ve always been a Logic guy, as I mentioned earlier (Apple bought Emagic and that became the Logic Pro that we know and love today). I’ve always preferred Logic over say, ProTools as it’s much more geared toward people who create music, whereas Protools was really aimed at mix engineers and people who record large live projects. I’ve farted around with Ableton a bit, but apart from the ability to record what’s happening in your DAW as it happens, I can’t say that, for me and the way that I work, it’s the DAW I want to master.
During your music career what change in music production would you say affected your career the most?
Well, really the advent of digital and the associated workflow. I think that I can really create whatever I hear in my head with Logic, and that’s just a wonderful thing for me. I do a lot of film score and album work for Dave McKean (I’m basically his digital amanuensis) and I get amazing results for practically no money. Terry Gilliam, after hearing the score we created for one of Dave’s projects, was astounded to hear that we’d made it for less than a tenth of what he thought it had cost. Still waiting for the call, Terry!