Every now and then, a promo will fall into my inbox from an unknown producer whose music can't be ignored. And, it's not down to any particular style, more so just high-quality music all around. Such is the case when, recently, I was sent music from a dude in Texas whose music combines many different elements to create a sound all his own. Meet Synthemesc, a producer based in Austin, Tx. I loved what I was hearing, and invited him to do a feature about the process behind its creation.
Words by Synthemesc
My name is Daniel Fernandez and I have an electronic project out of Austin, Tx called Synthemesc.
I started producing my latest album Tell No One (out now on all streaming platforms) about a year ago with the song “Theme Song For A Friend.” That song has a really nice buildup and I really like the overall vibe. At the time, I was still working on Logic X. While Logic is a great program and I had developed a good workflow on it, my friend finally convinced me to give Ableton a shot. After getting the hang of it, I was hooked. I went on to produce the rest of the album on Ableton.
The album is a mixture of minimal techno and deep house with psychedelic elements. It consists of 6 dance tracks with deep basslines and melodic synth parts. Instrumentally, Tell No One was produced using a combination of virtual synths and hardware synths. I used Massive, Element and Serum as well as the Ableton stock synths like Collision and Operator which I think are great. I also used hardware synths like the Korg Minilogue and the MicroKorg for basslines and some of the adornments. Finally, I included some acoustic instruments on the title track “Tell No One” (mandolin and tambura, an Indian drone instrument) as well as vocals. I had a lot of fun trying to produce a “pop” song with techno and house elements as well as more traditional elements and I think that’s my favorite track on the album. For the vocals, I used an Avantone CV-12 Condenser mic which has a very crisp sound.
The majority of my inspiration for electronic music comes from a desire to spin originals at my shows. The way I push myself to produce more is that I will book a party and aim to produce all-new original tracks for my set. All of these songs, with the exception of the title track, were produced with that goal, which helped with the cohesiveness of the album. The party in question was an all-night warehouse bash in Austin for SXSW in which Maceo Plex dropped in after his show and did a set. It was an amazing night and I had all these brand new songs so I decided to put them together and release them as an album!
Because I have a background in psychedelic and progressive rock, even my electronic songs tend to have a variety of different sections and seldom stay in the same place for very long. While some purists would argue against this style of production, I don’t really care. I aim for each of my productions to be a little journey for the listener and I embrace the stream of consciousness in my process. This often leads to fun results such as the opening song “All Leather,” a collaboration with my friend and bandmate David Rawlinson. I feel that song is a rollercoaster and takes the listener to many different places just how we like it.
One of my main inspirations in this scene is another amazing friend and producer in Austin under the name Reue (real name Ethan Berdofe) and though this album doesn’t feature any collaborations with him, his influence definitely shines on the tracks “Always Late” and “Where Do I Go?” which feature a more “techno” sound. Basically, I tried to put myself in his techno-laden mind and that’s what came out. I’m very pleased with the results and so was he, so look out for remixes!
The song “It’s Synthemesc” was written as a half joke half instructional track on how to pronounce my DJ name since so many people seem to have trouble with it. They’ll get it someday! It’s just three syllables: Syn-the-mesc! For more information please refer to track number 5 ;). The song features an interesting beat that strays away from four on the floor towards breakbeats and has some really interesting sounds on the synths.
When it finally came time to mix the album, I used the Ableton stock plugins as well as a variety of Waves plugins and the Izotope mastering tools. I’ve always been of the idea that if amazing albums can be produced using much less than what I currently have, there’s nothing that should stop me from making a quality product. Therefore, I try to set reasonable boundaries in terms of what plugins I use. It’s amazing what compression and EQ alone can do for a song! That’s not to say I don’t like to let loose with the FX from time to time. Some of my favorite plugins are the Ableton autofilter, the filter delay, the autopan, and the glue compressor. In Waves, I really like the 1176 compressor emulators. They do a great job of imitating the real thing. I also really enjoy the Scheps 73 Equalizers which can bring a track to life in a big way.
The Metafilter on Waves helped me create some of the dreamier parts on the album with its wide variety of filter settings. I also used the Kramer Tape emulator which can be used as a delay or as a plugin on the master to give the track a little bit of compression. Some of the other effects I used were the Convolution Reverb Pro, the Metaflanger, Ping Pong Delay, Saturator and the H-Delay.
Admittedly, I am not a huge gearhead and I instead focus primarily on the composition of the song. I’m of the idea that the mixing and sound design should be complementary to the song structure rather than being the main focus. I feel that by making the production itself the main focus, you risk ending up with a bunch of cool sounds but a boring structure. That’s just me, though. I probably adopted this mentality from years as a songwriter but I am a fan of many styles of production.
In the end, I learned a lot and had an incredible time making this album. I hope to keep exploring more styles of music and bringing new and interesting musical ideas to the table.