“Nothing gets done without it”: Voigtmann’s MPC1000 is the “heart of his workflow”

Voigtmann combines forces with Tom Demac to forge a mighty London-based studio – tons of hardware, a wall of records… one beloved MPC.

Voigtmann at the studio desk by @Ginnypa

Voigtmann at the studio desk. Image: @Ginnypa

Claus Voigtmann’s second full-length album, Life Miles, an eight-track release dripping in the Londoner’s irresistible hardware-made minimal tech house style, is due out on 20/20 Vision on 20 December.

Ahead of the release, MusicTech heads into the sufficiently-tooled space, shared with Tom Demac, to find out about how the studio’s offerings have informed the sounds on the album. We hear about why the “dusty” nature of hardware suits his sound and how the whole studio – running tightly in tandem – is funnelled through the swing of his beloved Akai MPC1000

Voigtmann – amazing album. Why did you choose to make this as opposed to a string of EPs?

When Ralph Lawson from 20/20 Vision Recordings asked me for music for the label he was the one who immediately said, ‘These tracks need to be an album’. I recently got the Akai MPC1000 and was totally blown away by the swing and sound so I revisited all the tracks and re-recorded all the drums through the MPC. This tied them together even more – the same sound with the MPC’s swing.

Voigtmann in the studio he shares with Tom Demac by @Ginnypa
Voigtmann in the studio he shares with Tom Demac. Image: @Ginnypa

Tell us a bit about the studio.

The studio is located in the Star Lane studio complex in London. It’s actually not mine – it’s owned by my good friend, Tom Demac. Tom has specialised in producing other musicians. He’s a hard-working man and that paid off with a recent Grammy nomination. We decided to throw our gear together a few years back and he uses the studio daytime and me after 6 pm. More than half of the gear, especially the expensive processing side belongs to Tom and I can’t take any credit for it but it’s a total blessing to have in the studio.

Gear in the studio shared by Voigtmann and Tom DeMac, photo by @Ginnypa
Gear in the studio shared by Voigtmann and Tom DeMac. Image: @Ginnypa

How do you use the studio?

I love the studio mainly for the accuracy – it’s so tight in here now that you can hear everything. Every machine is at hand and I love that you have to get up and play things. Everything starts from my MPC, which is the heart of the workflow, and then I sequence the main synths (e.g Oberheim OB-6 or Moog Subsequent 37) from the MPC.

Which DAW do you use and why?

Ableton Live – I always have. It’s quick and I love the workflow.

Voigtmann with his feet up at the studio desk, photo by @Ginnypa
Voigtmann with his feet up at the studio desk. Image: @Ginnypa

Why are you so into hardware?

Sound. Listen to a digital kick or bassline and compare it to a kick from the MPC or EMU (even more apparent) or the bass from the Moog SUB37. It’s pretty obvious. I make house and techno and, for me, that style comes with a specific dusty sound that these machines provide.

The swing of the MPC is another big reason, I cannot un-hear it now after I got so used to it. Older productions of mine without the MPC now make me cringe.

What is your favourite piece of gear and why?

My favourite piece of gear is the MPC1000. Nothing gets done without it anymore. I love the sound, simplicity and the feeling that you actually drum/play in the beats. As mentioned above, I am a big sucker for its swing.

The Eventide DSP 4000 alongside other gear in the studio Voigtmann uses, photo by @Ginnypa
The Eventide DSP 4000 alongside other gear in the studio Voigtmann uses. Image: @Ginnypa

Were there any other notable pieces of gear used on Life Miles?

The other main piece of gear on the album is the Eventide DSP 4000. I consider it an instrument, not an effect box because what it can do to your sound source is simply magic. I love the Eventide.

What can you tell us about your bass guitar?

I used to play in a skate punk band as a teen and guitars have always featured in my life. I got the bass guitar during lockdown, I was working on a downtempo live set which unfortunately was left behind half-finished as, thankfully, the real world came back. But, who knows, maybe one day it will resurface.

There are such clean drum breaks on Lowrider. How were these created?

That’s an interesting story. The kick is from an Elektron Analog RYTM and the hats are from my old Roland TR-606 that I regretfully don’t have anymore. They are really spread wide, almost too much – but it’s the driving element and it pushes the track forward. The snares are in fact digital. I tried to replay the snares with the MPC like I did with all the tracks but it changed the flow and vibe for the worse somehow and I could never get it to sound 100 per cent so I kept the snare samples in and it has such a nice flow now.

Gear in the studio shared by Voigtmann and Tom DeMac, photo by @Ginnypa
Gear in the studio shared by Voigtmann and Tom DeMac. Image: @Ginnypa

What’s an essential processing unit in your studio?

I tend to record everything through the Eventide DSP 4000, the Shadow Hills Mono GAMA preamp and then strap the Empirical Labs EL7 FATSO analogue compressor behind that for control. Kicks go through the Massive Passive for essential EQ.

Your massive vinyl record shelf – do they inspire your productions?

You’ve got to know what you want to make in order to achieve it. I think being a DJ for almost 20 years now has shaped my taste and has really helped to refine my production.

Voigtmann’s records on the studio’s vinyl shelf, photo by @Ginnypa
Voigtmann’s records on the studio’s vinyl shelf. Image: @Ginnypa

What is your top piece of production advice?

Don’t force it. There will be days when you will find yourself stuck and listening to one loop over and over. Pack up immediately and go home. It will only take one right move on the next day and you cracked it. The secret is your mood — sometimes it’s not right and that is okay.

What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?

Get your listening situation right. It’s so essential I can’t stress this enough. You can only make decisions that you can hear. Get a measurement and have peace of mind that you are listening to as close to the truth as possible.

Pre-order Voigtmann’s forthcoming album, Life Miles, via Juno Download.

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