For the eight edition of Studio Talk we introduce long standing Back to Basics resident and Constant Sound co owner James Burnham aka Burnski. Burnski has been releasing on solid labels for the last 13 years with his debut album released on his own imprint last April. Burnski is truly the definition of hard work, passion and creativity. He has definitely earned his stripes within the industry and known to many other artists as a legit genius. We caught up recently to chat about the music production side of his artistry, take a tour of his studio where he has kindly shared some of his top tips & tricks, go-to bits of kit and best ways to crack the industry.
1. Talk me around your studio set up; what are your go to pieces of Hardware & Software?
I have a lot of out board kit which I used to have all wired up, jumping from one synth to the next like a mad man. Ive got a lot of Juno, Moog, Nord, Dave Smith, Korg and Roland stuff. Now I just spend a week or two each year recording all the synths then tend to use the samples instead of having the synths all wired up. Them sounds last you the year if you record enough of them. You then are limited in what you have, thats the key I think, limiting yourself. To many options slows you down I find. Get your preparation ready so when the ideas are flowing, the music starts making itself.
2. You’re a big hardware fan… what advice would you give a producer looking the break away from the box and delve into some hardware?
Get one synth and learn it inside out. I got really obsessed with hardware and got alot years ago thinking I needed it to make tunes better. Its not the case. Just get one and master it, you will be more productive that way.
3. I remember coming to see you play for the first time in Sunderland 10 years ago this month. It’s great to see you have kept the momentum going ever since. What was your approach to music production back then and what was your set up like?
Time flies eh! I am less precious about things now, it doesn't matter if you make a few mistakes, you learn from them. I am just more ruthless now if anything.
4. You have been releasing music since 2005, starting off your career with some big tracks on Morris Audio and Trapez. How different do you think the scene is now compared to back then for a young producer looking to get signed to a label?
Its hard getting people to even listen to demos these days for some labels. Its all done online and it was CD back then through the post. Each case is different, and it depends what your trying to achieve but me personally, I would advise setting your own thing up, get the people you are into coming to you.
You could be chasing labels forever and a day but if you have a product you generally believe in and getting frustrated with no replies, get it out there. You will learn loads and it will get you better at making music sooner by making mistakes and going through that process. Having to spent your own money on things will make you up your game also.
5. You set up Constant Sound with fellow Northerner Jon Woodall back in 2015 in which you have released a lot of your own material on the label. One of my favourite tracks on the label is your track ‘Get Up’ from the latest C.S release. That track reminds me of Sunday afternoons spent in Hoppetosse. Talk me through the process you followed to create that track? What tips and tricks have you got to achieve that sound?
I wanted to make something on a Chicago tip for that track. I saw Zip at fabric and he had that Chicago skip going on, Ive always loved that sound and it was in my head for days after. Something I have been asked about a few times was the effects in Get Up, they were ran through Soundtoys, definitely check them out if your a producer and after some good effects.
6. When it comes to studio day, ready to start a new project, what would be your structure for making a track? How do you manage your workflow?
It varies really, sometimes its a blank project, sometimes I use a template I have made to get me going. It can start with anything that grabs my ear. I do really long hours in there, I use to think 12 hours was a long shift. Its just hard to leave it alone when ideas are there nocking on your head 24/7, I really struggle to pull myself away from it.
I monitor at a level you cant even hear if you are in the next room, any one who has been to the studio thinks I am mental. Works in your favour though when you are going at it for long hours. Good advise that if you can, monitor quiet. You need to learn to walk away and leave it alone though as well, thats just as important after hammering it for weeks on end. Another good tip would be to get your room analysed and acoustically treated.
7. What advice would you give up & coming DJs and producers wanting to break into the industry?
Good question. Just keep turning up in the studio, you can make all the plans in the world how your gonna do this and that, but you need to be in the room each day ploughing on, if you get in the trenches and keep at it, you will get there in the end no doubt about it.
8. Could you name some artists that are set to breakthrough in 2018?
Michael James has been churning out top draw grooves last year and has just dropped a double record on Constant Black. He is the only guy to send a 70 track demo...and they were all ace! He is a labels nightmare sending that many good tracks, head was busted haha!
BUY NOW --> https://www.juno.co.uk/products/michael-james-winds-of-change/680107-01/
Michael James - Dreams Inc [Constant Black]
9. Whats next on the release front for Burnski?
The Burnski folder has been neglected a bit. I will put something out soon but theres lots of new things being trickled out this year. Im on a mission. I really don't enjoy the planning bit at all and just like making tracks and not thinking whats what.
I'll be exploring more and see where each project goes, theres many things on the music to do list. Each project has a different vision and energy about it which keeps it all interesting for me rather than doing the same thing each day. I do a lot of production work alongside my own music as well so its just relentless in there ha.