For the thirteenth edition of Studiotalk we introduce Dutch Techno producer and Gem Records boss Secret Cinema. Jeroen aka Secret Cinema has been prolific on the Dutch scene since the early 90's which lead him to countless International gigs in the likes of Berghain in Berlin and Womb in Tokyo. With over 25 years worth of released music under his belt and 15 years worth club 'Live' performances, he is one of the most original and down to earth electronic pioneers on the planet. We caught up recently to chat about the music production side of his artistry and take a tour of his studio. Secret Cinema has as kindly shared some of his top tips & tricks and go-to bits of kit.
1. Talk me around your studio set up; what are your go to pieces of Hardware & Software?
My setup is hardware and software based with my Mac running Bitwig Studio at the centre. The software integrates perfectly with my Eurorack Modular. I usually start by recording a jam on the modular. Then I have my Maschine Jam, Maschine Studio, Elektron Rytm and the Roland SH101 to finish the job.
2. As a producer starting up in the early 90’s. What tools did you originally use and how has your studio developed over the years?
My studio was in my bedroom at my parent’s house. It was so small that I couldn’t fit a chair in between the bed and the desk. I made my first tracks in 1991 using music tracker software on an Amiga 500 computer with only 512Kb of memory. In 1993 I started moving towards hardware and Gert-Jan Bijl (Gerd) recommended the Kurzweil 2000 which I bought with the royalties of my first releases. The MPC3000 was my favourite sequencer and I used it to do my first live sets. I made most of my 90’s hits on those machines, sitting on the side of my bed. The next piece of gear that inspired me to make lots of music was the Yamaha SU700. It was a sequencer based on looping, with effects and filters on board. I used a pair of them for my live sets mixing from one to the other. After that FL Studio was at the heart of my setup until I moved back to hardware.
Akai MPC3000 (not original image)
Yamaha SU700 (not original image)
3. Known for your influential live performances which covered 15 years of your career. What advice would you give to someone wanting to break away from the decks and start performing in clubs?
Make sure you have lots of material so you can follow the crowd reaction. A set that is prepared in advance can be a miss if it doesn’t fit the vibe of the night. It will also allow you to play opening sets in the early stage of your career.
4. Your ‘Gem Records’ imprint will be turning 10 years old this year, releasing +200 originals and remixes since the start. With the more readily available technology these days creating more & more producers. What tips would you give a producer wanting to pitch their demo’s to a label?
Choose a record label that is close to your sound. Make a private Soundcloud player with about five downloadable tracks. Find the A&R contact on the label’s website or socials and send it there with a very short bio and explain why you think your music fits the label. If you have released on similar labels it helps to mention them in the subject to stand out. Send a reminder after a month or so and after two months let them know you will start looking for other labels for the tracks. It also helps to attend label events and introduce yourself.
5. One track I love is your original piece ‘Latino Acido’ which was part of your EP released on Gem in November 2018. Talk me through the process you followed to create that track? What tips and tricks have you got to achieve that sound?
I’m happy to hear you liked that one. It was close to my heart and a bit of an experiment to release it. It’s quite different from most of the music out there but I loved it and wanted to get it out into the world. The track started on my modular creating that main bassline / lead synth and the trippy melody in the break. After that I laid down a groove on the Elektron Rytm which is great for drums. Once everything was recorded, I dove into Bitwig studio to sequence it and used Bitwig’s modular features to get it all into the groove. It went through quite a few changes as I tested it in clubs, fine tuning the break down for a better impact.
Secret Cinema - Latino Acido (Gem Records)
6. ‘Sub Bass' is a topic that comes up a lot with the students I teach, especially when wanting to create that low end rumble that is common in techno. What tips & tricks have you got for techno producers wanting help in that area?
Know the limits of the studio. Sub-bass is tricky acoustically and most studio’s do not re-produce it well. Maybe get a pair of headphones that go deep. Reference your track in different environments and if you can in a club to make sure it’s balanced. Filter out all bass from the elements of the track that don’t need to be there, leaving space for clean bass.
In my Modular I use the TipTopZ3000 for nice and clean bass. But usually I will also take a loop which I low-pass all the way down to the deep sub to add groove. Volumeshaper is a good tool to side-chain the bass while keeping the freshness of the rest of the synth.
7. 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?
When I first got my Eurorack Modular I spent months recording jams and building up a huge library of sounds. When I start a new project I either pick one from there or record something new. Then I build up a drum loop over the synth and play around with it for hours. That’s when the structure of the track starts to form in my mind. From there, I use Maschine Jam with it’s excellent morphing feature to add elements to the track. It works very intuitively to build a track extremely fast and on the fly. By then the day is probably over and I sleep on it. The next morning I can start fine tuning in Bitwig and the track is ready for club testing.
8. What advice would you give up & coming DJs and producers wanting to break into the industry?
If this is really what you want, then go for it 100%. If you are focusing on your back-up career and not living the music you might never make it. Try and create a situation where you can spend your entire day in the studio. If you can’t do that financially, try and find a job as close to your music as possible. Most studio beasts don’t like to spend time promoting themselves but today it’s next to impossible to break into the industry without taking the first steps yourself. So build up a following online and in real life. When you play that opening spot, make sure 20 of your friends are in front of you. Hang out with fellow musicians and people in the industry so you get plenty of feedback. And of course, try to be original.
10. Whats next on the release front for Secret Cinema?
I am in a really good flow in the studio so I have a lot of material waiting for a release. An album?
A new sub-label for Gem Records? I will be sharing more soon. I have a remix coming up for Rob Hes on his Pursuit imprint which I’m very happy with. I’m also collaborating with young artists such as SAMA and VNTM. The first finished tracks with the lads are ready to be club tested.
Quest 808 x MOVE presents: Voightmann (Extended Set)
QUEST 808 and MOVE have joined forces to bring minimal maestro Voigtmann to Newcastle.
A vinyl enthusiast renowned for his craft in both DJing and producing, his seamless selections with melody at its core, range from peak time bangers to after party groovers that keep tired feet dancing till the morning comes and beyond.
Voigtmann has been on the rise year on year and his festival sets are fast becoming legendary, particularly at 24/7 specials such as Houghton Festival. Moreover, 2017 saw him gain a residency at the infamous Fabric club which has further cemented his solid legacy as an all time great. His debut album 'Sublunary' released earlier this year has received strong support from industry proven names such as: Zip, Ricardo Villalobos and Sonja Moonear.
2018 was a hugely successful inaugural year for MOVE with its raucous summer parties earning them their own radio show and a residency at World Headquarters. Quest 808 have continued to cut the grain and drive forward for a evergreen and flourishing music scene in the Newcastle area.