DJ Heist talks music, Macs, engineering, Goldie, production, hardware & more.
In this weeks Q&A session, we fire 10 questions at the drum & bass DJ, producer & engineer, Heist. Heist has been DJing and producing original tracks for nearly 2 decades. With releases over his career on renowned labels such as Low Down Deep, Metalheadz & Playaz Records, Full Cycle, Propaganda & many, many more, Heist is a force to be reckoned with in the D&B world and has been going from strength to strength since day dot.
Without further ado, let’s get into music, engineering, Goldie, labels, Macs and much more…
You run a few different record labels, could you tell us the ethos behind each and explain how they differ?
I run three record labels. ‘Co-Lab Recordings’ is my first original imprint which I started back in 2002 as an outlet for some of my first productions. ‘Calypso Muzak’ was the second imprint I set up, this was in 2003 as an outlet for new producers to release on. Finally ‘Sumo Beatz’ was launched in 2009 and was created after all the years of experience I had had from running Co-Lab & Calypso. Sumo Beatz is all about big tracks and club bangers.
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Goldie/Metalheadz? You’re well known as a solo artist in your own right, did these relationships have an impact on your production style and work ethic, if so, how?
I have been Goldie’s sound engineer for the past eight years. It was shortly after I signed my first single to his record label, Metalheadz, he proposed that I should start engineering his music with him. Working with him has taken me on some crazy journeys and has often inspired me to take different views on how I would approach things in the studio that maybe I wouldn’t have tried before. Goldie has influenced me hugely, not just in music but in life in general. The guy is a wealth of knowledge, experience and a true friend.
It has been documented that you started out as an engineer rather than producer. Do you think your engineering background has had an effect on how you produce? Has engineering for other artists influenced your own productions?
Actually that’s not correct. I was always a producer in my own right before an engineer. The only reason I started engineering was because artists like Goldie & Peshay heard my original productions and were interested in what I could do for them in the studio.
Do you play any instruments or pay particular attention to music theory? Some producers do, some don’t, what is your opinion on the importance of music theory in modern day electronic music production?
I dont play any musical instruments (one day i hope to find the time to learn how to play the piano properly). I do pay attention to integral musical theory, like what key I’m writing in for example. For many years I didn’t even know what ‘in key’ actually meant. I just subconsciously knew that it sounded ‘right or wrong’ musically in my ears.
What spec Mac Pro did you go for? Why did you choose this spec, and was it a big upgrade from your previous system?
The spec of the Mac Pro I went for was a 3.06Ghz 12 Core, with 24 GB of RAM and I added a 1TB Apple Flash drive to the system just to make it ultra fast on start up. I choose this spec as I just wanted to get back up to date with the real world. I was finding that my old machine was struggling to perform with some of the new software I was trying to use (large Omnisphere multis/Kontakt Multis, some of the new synths like UHE Diva, etc). It was a huge upgrade from my previous system.
What do you use your Mac Pro for? Which software do you run & how does the system handle it?
Predominantly I use the Mac Pro for producing music and engineering for others, sometimes I’ll use it to run some games or browse the internet too. The main software I use DAW wise is Cubase Pro 8, although sometimes I’ll use Reason, Ableton live 9, Logic X and a few others. The system generally handles it all very well.
How integral is your system/software to your workflow? Do you see your reliance on your Mac/software increasing in the future?
It’s really important that I have a machine that reacts & responds to my demands studio wise so that my inspiration & workflow doesn’t suffer when Im trying to be creative. Having a machine thats sluggish & unresponsive can be an absolute killer to your creativity.
Do you use any additional hardware in your workflow? What impact does this have on how you use your Mac Pro/software?
Additional hardware that I use in the studio comes in the form of an Access Virus Ti synthesiser, a Novation Ultranova synthesiser, a Roland Integra-7 sound module, Native Instruments Maschine, a Roland JV 1080 synthesiser module (fully expanded with a variety of expansion cards) and a Roland Gaia synthesiser. Depending on whether I’m using these in a production, in replacement of some of the software synths/modules will effect how much of the hard work the Mac is having to do, often freeing up system power for other things like processing plug-ins, MIDI software etc. I also have a UAD-2 Quad DSP accelerator card with some amazing plugins on it that also help to relieve some of the load when it comes to processing.
Are you currently working on any projects using the Mac Pro? How does your workstation fit in with this project specifically?
Every project I work on utilises the Mac Pro. Im currently working on an EP for Metalheadz, an EP for Low Down Deep Records and several singles for Sumo Beatz, all to be released in 2015. I’ve also just finished a Remix for Dubstep Guru’s Modestep.
How important is your systems performance to you? Does not having to worry about what your workstation can handle help you spend more time on being creative?
I think I have already covered this in a previous question, but it’s so important for me to have a machine that runs well and reacts to my demands when I need it to. Anything that doesn’t just sanctions your creativity.