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A Conversation with Elvin “Wit” Shahbazian

Posted on June 08 2018

(Image by Kelly Shahbazian)

 

Tell us about your background as a musician, producer and engineer.


I came up, like many musicians, playing the drums for my local church, but I got started making beats in Fruity Loops developing a following on MySpace as a teenager. I also was the youngest member in a touring hip hop group and I found myself getting my feet wet with production and then engineering with the group. I would remember getting mixes back from other engineers that didn’t do my tracks justice so I just took it upon myself to learn everything I could about mixing and mastering. I made sure I  wouldn’t have to outsource again. I was fortunate to have mentors in the legendary Peter Humphreys and Josh Esso Wann (at the time DJ Essence of Lampmode). I would sit in the studio for hours shadowing them and learning real time. I used to send my mixes to Humphreys to have him pull them apart offering critique so I could make adjustments early on perfecting my craft. Eventually I was able to break into my own career as a producer and engineer who has become known for having my mixing be a true extension of my production.


How did you approach creating the Composed Rhythm Drum Pack?

 

Well I’ve always felt that I have a good handle on what I want drums to sound like in production, being a drummer for a good portion of my life. Sonically I wanted the drums to have character and color to really help enhance production in a musical way. I recently received a Roland TR-08 Rhythm Composer as a gift and this allowed me to really execute the hybrid product that I’ve had in mind. I usually run an acoustic drum kit through my gear chain of preamps and such but with this product I wanted to take this same analog approach in an electronic way having capability to make tweaks at my fingertips. The Rhythm Composer has parameters that let me do a deal of EQing and tone shaping first on the device. I would start with this and begin creating custom versions of the iconic drums that we all know and love. Then I did a great deal of processing and manipulation of these tones through my gear.

 

(Image by Daniel Shahbazian)

 

Yes, give us a run down of the gear and effects chain you used for this pack.


Yeah so I ran the TR-08 first into my Rupert Neve Portico Channel Strip with varying settings and harmonic distortion. The color that I spoke of earlier really began to form with this process. Then I processed the drums through an Empirical Labs Distressor for compression. This gave the drums a lot of bite and warmth ultimately forming new tones that are gritty yet tight and clean. Finally I sent the signal through an analog tape head before a final stage of EQing on the Rupert Neve Inductor EQ. The character of the drums really come out in this process adding that classic tape saturation sound while maintaining new experimental tones. The harmonic quality of the drums are something that I’m proud of because I really wanted these drums to be musical and inspiring for anyone using it for their production.


What’s your overall philosophy on production and what advice would you want to leave with up and coming producers?

 

Be committed to process. So don’t just work hard and put in many hours churning and turning an assembly line of music but be patient in workflow that allows for exploration and learning through success and failure. Find a distinct sound for any artist you work with and bring out the best in them but be aware that some of the best music made will come out of building strong relationships. The abstracts of texture and feel are things that are hard to quantify but they are overlooked pieces to creating art that stands out and is ground breaking. Pursue these aspects of production honestly forming your own voice from it all. Its okay to mimic your influences at first to learn, but assembling your own voice from the influences is crucial.

 

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