Artist Spotlight: Paul Russell & Calamity Studios

The Adventures of a “Displaced Englishman”, 1950s Bollywood samples and the Singapore-based studio with SONAR at its core.

By Oz Owen

Make no mistake – the unusually monikered Calamity Studio is far from living up to its name. Quite the opposite, in fact. Singapore-based Calamity bills itself as the A/V production arm of composer and producer Paul Russell’s Pi2 Creative Services, a successful ‘boutique’ marketing agency.

Paul’s passion for music and production translates into a full studio diary, keeping him busy on a wide range of projects – whether creating original music and soundtracks with the help of an impressive roster of songwriters and musicians from as far afield as the UK, Australia and the USA, or – as his latest project ably demonstrates – weaving vintage Bollywood samples into contemporary compositions.

At Calamity, Paul specialises in creating original compositions in a variety of genres – from ambient through dance to straight-ahead rock/pop. What’s more, he’s making a fine living doing exactly what he loves.

Paul first got hooked when he picked up a bass guitar back in 1976 – the time when musical anarchy was running riot across the UK thanks to the Punk explosion, but it was some years before Paul set about creating his first recording studio, trading in his trusty four-track Portastudio in favour of a more upmarket eight-track setup in what was fast turning into a life-changing quest.

Fast-forward to 1999 and we find Paul living in Singapore, running his own creative agency and building his first digital recording studio replete with Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 to capture every nuance of his compositional ideas. Within a year, SONAR arrived on the scene, and life would never be the same again… Calamity Studio was becoming unstoppable!

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Paul Russell & Calamity Studios

Artist Spotlight: Eddie King & Megatrax Productions

On Rapture, Dimension Pro & The Difference 64 Bits Make

Megatrax chief engineer, producer and composer Eddie King

By Randy Alberts

“I love the way SONAR sounds,” says producer, engineer and composer Eddie King. “Particularly in the bottom end which is tight, fat and well defined. It’s my subjective opinion that SONAR’s 64-bit processing makes a huge difference.”

Given his aural perspective comes from multiple vantage points, it can be said King’s subjective opinion distills closer to objectivity with every SONAR mix he finishes. A Mac-based Pro Tools engineer/producer by day at Megatrax-a premier production music library and recording studio for film, t.v., advertising and multimedia-and a talented home-based composer and arranger by night with SONAR on his screaming-fast PC server farm, Eddie’s bi-platform, dual DAW audio opinion carries just a bit more weight than most others’ do.

“Once I saw that SONAR runs solidly, has good functionality and then, the big one, that SONAR is the only DAW running at 64-bit,” says King, “that’s when I thought, ‘Well, hello!’ It makes sense that better resolution means things are going to sound better, too. Again, this is subjective, but I have to say that SONAR’s 64-bit resolution does, in fact, make a big difference. I know Cakewalk has done more objective, blind listening tests about this, but at least I know for sure that SONAR makes a big difference for my sound and my mixes.”

Both Sides of the Building: Mega Tracks & King’s Sound

Eddie King’s audio credentials began years before the founding of Megatrax. In 1980 he opened and for years seriously upgraded his old Neve 3 and vintage analog gear racks at Kingsound in North Hollywood, his own commercial studio wherein Megatrax-one of his clients there-first began building their respected, comprehensive music library. Fifteen years later, in 1995, he sold Kingsound to them, Megatrax made Eddie their chief engineer and the two have been a very busy team ever since.

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Eddie King & Megatrax Productions

Music Brings Light to Blind Youth


Watch CBS Videos Online

Last night on 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl caught up with 13 year-old musical savant, Rex Lewis-Clack. Born blind and mentally-impaired, Rex is unable to perform everyday tasks like tying a shoe or fastening a button, yet he has overcome the odds using music as a stepping stone.

Enrolled in voice and piano lessons, Rex spends his free-time perfecting the classics – Debussy and Schubert for example. Featured in this video is a professor from The Academy of Music for the Blind – a school that uses SONAR for it’s accessibility for the vision-impaired.

Artist Spotlight: Baron

For prolific D&B Producer Baron, It’s all about getting the right sound:

“Dimension Pro and Rapture are just essential tools for me…”

By Oz Owen

Even just a cursory glance at Baron’s discography reveals how he’s quickly established himself as a major player on the Drum & Bass scene. Producing jump-up tracks since 2001, Baron – aka Piers Bailey – has since gone on to work with some of the biggest names in D&B. Pendulum, Roni Size, DJ Fresh, DJ Craze, Stanton Warriors…

But it was 2003 that really saw Baron come into his own as a remixer, stamping his authority on Total Science’s Nosher, and in the process turned it into an instant classic.

But just how does one of the most respected and consistent producers in the genre keep on banging out a steady stream of dancefloor bombs? Having the ideas is one thing, but then you also need the right tools to turn those ideas into reality …

“For me, Dimension Pro and Rapture are essential tools in the studio – without them I would be missing a little something. Dimension is my absolute ‘go to’ synth for any string or percussion sound.”

“To explain how best I use them you just have to listen to some of my biggest releases of the last few years – Endless Summer, Turn Up The Sun, Drive In Drive By… most of the string, percussion and effect sounds on those tracks have come from Dimension Pro or Rapture.”

“Rapture has so many different modulation and effects options, and these set it apart from most of the other synths on the market. There are a lot of people obsessing about making stuff sound like older synths, whereas with Rapture, Cakewalk have made something that sounds pretty original. It has a low impact on the processor and the sound quality alone makes it one of the first synths I reach for when I’m in the studio.”

“Why did I get into Cakewalk’s synths? First off, it was because of their reputation. And then I tried them – ultimately it all came down to the sound quality and the ease of use. I wouldn’t say that the Cakewalk plugs have changed the way I work, but they’ve certainly bolstered my sound.”

“I’ve been pretty busy for the last 18 months, mostly working on a soundtrack for the next Flip Skateboards DVD, Extremely Sorry, which should be out around now [Nov ’08]. Keep you eyes peeled for that one as there are some interesting collaborations on there. And, of course, I’ve been busy making lots of Drum & Bass, and my debut album will be out on Breakbeat Kaos soon – check my myspace for more on that!”

www.myspace.com/baronproductions

Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

Sometimes A Road Sings In the Mind of the Darkly Inclined
Composer, producer, remixer & musician Justin Lassen

By Randy Alberts

“For me it all started with Cakewalk, a keyboard, and a lot of free time,” laughs the globetrotting Justin Lassen, a one-of-a-kind visionary 27-year-old film, game and music soundtrack composer based in Southern California.

A designer, multi-instrumentalist and self-described “heavy Sonar guy,” to boot, Lassen is also one of the most creative composers, remixers and producers in the film, game and music industries today. He’s a talented film soundtrack remixer who recently reworked the score of Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train, a dark film take on the producer’s 1984 short story of a photographer tracking a serial killer, into a full length companion album to the movie. Lassen has also produced music remixes for Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Garbage, Linkin Park, Lenny Kravitz and Blue Man Group and he’s consulted on numerous game and technology projects for companies like Interplay, Novus Delta, Intel and, of course, Cakewalk.

Interviewed by Playboy, Mix, EQ, GearWire, PC Gamer and other arts and trade mags and sites, Lassen’s a darling of the computer-generated graphics art world, as well. A rare musical subject for numerous CGI trade magazines such as Post, It’s Art, The Escapist and CG Society Magazine, he literally can translate the inspiring, hauntingly beautiful visual art he sees into his own musical performances, arrangements and remixes. It’s a phenomenon of the senses called ‘synaesthesia’ he’s personally well acquainted with: Seeing sound, hearing scents, touching words, smelling colors. If the set and setting are just right, what Justin views through his irises can literally become real-time music from his fingertips.

“I’m a visual artist, designer and programmer,” he adds, “who just finds music much more fulfilling.”

Smells Like A Symphony, Tastes Like Sonar 7

Lassen, who happened to be Cakewalk’s Featured Artist of The Week for August 25, 2008, released his own CD, And Now We See But Through A Glass Darkly, in 2003 to acclaim from leading international CG artists, film, game and music professionals. This disc of his own uniquely composed and produced dark chamber symphonic suites has already reached 5.5 million copies in circulation. His debut CG release in 2006 of Synaesthesia then melded Justin’s two worlds of “beautiful dark symphonic” music and CG artwork again to critical peer praise, and earlier this year while in Europe he wrapped up the final release: Synaesthesia Encore, a new collection of pieces that musically addresses Justin’s own personal experiences with the phenomenon.

“Synaesthesia is something that has taken quite a hold of me over pretty much my entire musical career and life,” explains Lassen. “I have had some of my best compositional and performance moments in these types of situations, where I can actually feel an image playing the song right before my ears, completely and naturally. When I see visual work like this that really inspires me in this way, my fingers begin to play music very magically.“

Remarkable. Much to his liking, Justin’s successful role in creating the remixed soundtrack CD for Barker’s wide-released Midnight Meat Train is now attracting interest from other film, music and game audio producers, as well. An always-on, busy musician, remixer and symphonic arranger who travels for his music extensively and just returned from an exhaustive trip across the EU and back to his home studio in California, nothing would please the affable Lassen more than to score more symphonies and movie soundtracks for a living.

“I use Sonar 7’s notation features to clean up my arrangement ideas for orchestra, choir or other performers I might bring into a given session,” says Lassen about his go-to laptop DAW.

“I recall this one time in Paris when I was asked by Intel to do the soundtrack for a new high-tech game for a new platform. There was a pretty tight schedule of just three weeks, and I didn’t have a lot of gear to experiment with. So, I just used FL Studio on a laptop to jot down some ideas that later I would evolve and finish up back in L.A. and Phoenix. I then took those sketches and beats and brought them into Sonar and added many of the orchestral and electronic elements, as well as tracking all the guitars and vocals and doing the final mixing and mastering. I then cleaned it all up and converted the files over to OGG format, for the Unreal Engine 3 the game uses, all quite easily and well before my deadline.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

Composer Vivek Maddala uses SONAR

International, award-winning composer Vivek Maddala gives a tour of his home studio- featuring Cakewalk’s SONAR as the main DAW. Maddala also introduces the synth rack feature and included VST instruments in SONAR 7 Producer. If you’re wondering, “Why should I use SONAR?” Maddala’s interview should help answer your question.

On the Road with Cakewalk

Earlier this fall, Cakewalk’s Director of Public Relations Steve Thomas and Cakewalk’s Products Evangelist Brandon Ryan took SONAR V-Studio 700 and SONAR 8 on tour – debuting the new products to producers, engineers, recording artists, and recording studios abroad.

Brandon Ryan, Paul White of Sound On Sound Magazine, and Steve Thomas

The pair began impressing industry colleagues in Southern California only to end their tour a few weeks later in Europe- wowing ‘them’ yet again. Photos from the trip can be seen on Cakewalk’s Flickr PhotoStream. Just click on our Flickr widget in the sidebar or visit Flickr.com.

Soft-Synths: Rapture & Dimension Pro

soft-

Eddie King, Chief Engineer at Megatrax Production Music, in North Hollywood, California reveals a few production secrets using Cakewalk’s Rapture and Dimension Pro synthesizers.

Jorge Corante — producer, composer and owner of Urban Authentic, a music publishing and licensing company — shares his production techniques for using Cakewalk’s Rapture synthesizer.

Studio Spotlight: Sun Studio

SONAR at Sun Studio: The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Chief Engineer James Lott and Assistant Engineer Matt Ross-Spang

By Randy Alberts

“Our clients love what we do for them here with SONAR,” says James Lott, chief engineer for over 20 years at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. “It sounds great and we’ve been using it for a long, long time. But most of all they trust us and how we’re using SONAR to record them. When we tell a band ‘OK, you can move on to the next song now,’ they trust us completely.”

Spoken on behalf of Sun Studio—the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the country’s only National Historic Landmark with a digital audio workstation in the tour—Lott’s professional trust in Cakewalk’s SONAR shouts volumes.

“Like a good horse,” he adds with a laugh, “when something in a studio runs as fast as SONAR and does everything you tell it to, then you’re gonna ride that horse a long, long way.”

Tracking History Then & Now

The sheer history of music behind Sun Studio, since Sam Phillips first built it in 1950, deserves far more space than this story allows- to give it proper justice.

Those who visit Memphis, especially musicians and engineers, would not want to miss taking one of the studio’s daily tours to learn more about the studio’s historic past.

Elvis recorded his first two songs at Sun Studio in 1953 for $3.25, when it was still called Memphis Recording Service. Before Elvis, there was Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats who recorded the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll single, Rocket 88, at Sun, originally composed by Ike Turner.

James Lott, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Matt Ross Spang. Clement worked at Sun as an engineer. Known for works with Johny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many other Nashville greats.

With all the history within the studio’s walls—the same cozy 25×20 live room, tight vocal booth, tiny control room, and tiled front office where the original studio manager, Marion Keisker, sat in for the absent Phillips’ to record Elvis’ first songs—Sun is one of the top, most vibrant studios in the world today.

Recently, Lott used SONAR to track, edit, and mix projects for Liz Phair, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5 and Bowling for Soup. Tom Petty, a tape devotee, also recorded some new tunes at Sun with the studio’s prized MCI 24-track machine. Another recent SONAR session at Sun involved Amy LaVere, an Americana music composer and vocalist who expertly plays an upright acoustic bass far taller than she. Billy Bob Thornton’s band too, was due in for another Sun session shortly after our interview with Lott.

“The vibe of this place, this sort of ‘welcome homey’ kind of feel, is really what brings people back here all the time,” says Lott.

“Billy Bob is a longtime friend of Sun, in here for the fourth or fifth time now, and it’s his birthday, too. He told us that he wanted to come celebrate and to make some music up in here. It’s very old school here: not much has changed from the old days. There’s the same floor tiles, control room, front office, and even old lamps from the ’50s hanging from the ceiling. Even Marion’s front desk is still here, the same one she was sitting at when Elvis first walked in the door. Besides our staff and the gear we use, it’s the original vintage vibe of this place that keeps ‘em comin’ back.”

Continue reading Studio Spotlight: Sun Studio

Artist Spotlight: Carmen Rizzo

The Virtual Ornaments of An Innovator

Producer, mixer, remixer, writer & artist Carmen Rizzo

By Randy Alberts

Carmen Rizzo

Typically there’s room for doubt when someone claims that a new product has changed their life. Yeah, right. But when that someone is one of today’s best, busiest producer-musician-remixers around who helped forge an entirely new Grammy category, and their product rave is about a musical instrument—their favorite synthesizer—who’s to doubt it?

“Oh yes, Rapture has absolutely changed my life in how I make records,” says Carmen Rizzo, who four years ago led the way in creating NARAS’ new Grammy Award category for Best Electronic Album. “My life is all about making records and, really, I just can’t work without Rapture anymore. Every time I use it to come up with a sound I think, ‘Wow, I would’ve never come up with that sound without Rapture!’ Rapture opens up your mind to new things you just would’ve never thought of without it.”

Carrying the torch for electronic music with the help of BT, Crystal Method’s Ken Jordan and others was but one gem in Rizzo’s prodigious creative vein of music, concert, radio, t.v. and film sound achievements. Himself a two-time Grammy nominee, the short version of Carmen’s credits list reads like a who’s who of diverse talents and idioms: Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Cirque du Soleil, Seal, Ryuichi Sakamoto, k.d. Lang, Pete Townshend and acclaimed British director Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas In The Mist). Rizzo scored his first film soundtrack, The Power of the Game, for Apted’s documentary about the German soccer team’s 2006 World Cup win; released two critically-adored solo albums of his own (The Lost Art of the Idle Moment and the new Ornament of An Impostor); co-founded, produces and frequently tours with the world beat/electronic fusion band Niyaz and, currently, is among many pursuits DJ-ing a radio set heard by 14 million listeners each month on the highly influential KEXP.org/Seattle.

“I’d like to think that people come to me for something different, for something unique,” says Carmen. “The Cakewalk synths definitely make that easier for me to accomplish.”

Within Sight of the Hollywood Sign

A husband and father who donates 10% of his new album’s sales to a different charity each month, Rizzo owns and produces, writes, mixes and remixes in his Studio 775. There’s a close-up view of the intersecting street signs of Hollywood & Vine right outside his workspace window.

Carmen Rizzo on the Streets

“Be it audio plug-ins for EQ, compression and effects or virtual instruments, every producer and musician has their favorite go-to tools they use on everything they do,” he says. “Rapture is one of those tools for me. It’s there no matter where I’m creating music. On the road with my portable laptop rig or at the audio workstation here at Studio 775, honestly, Rapture is in pretty much everything I do.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Carmen Rizzo