. I'm Jack, I make art under Lucid Sound Driver, バーチャルSound Terminal , and a few other hidden aliases I prefer to keep anonymous (at least until a further point in time). I’ve been involved in music most of my life…. not master musician in any art, but I’ve had some minor training in a few fields, I’ve played different instruments throughout my life (piano, bass, and percussion to name a few), and music has always been something largely supported in my family. My uncle is a bassist, my grandma a pianist, and bassist as well; my mother before she passed was an amazing vocalist. It’s been something I’ve been lucky enough to grow up around and have support with growing up because I know a lot of fellow producers, artists, and musicians have not or don’t receive support from their family.
I’ve been a heavy music advocate all my life, and I listen to just about everything from Noise to Rap to Thrash Metal to J-Pop….really I listen to just about everything (I know people say “that’s a copout excuse”, but in all honesty it would take too long to name genres I’ve found interest in because it’s something I dedicate lot of time to). I feel listening to different music is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Everything I have listened to, regardless of my preference to it, has opened my mind in some way. There are multiple titles I have come across that at first take didn’t ahhh me or I flat out didn’t like, but I try to go back to them and take in the work fully. I try to relate with the artist to some degree, and find what it was that they were going for. In some cases I am still not “fond” and I wouldn’t call it my type of music, but I try to always keep open to the subjectivity of art and regardless of intention respect artist for what they do (this could be applied to how I feel about all forms of art really, I respect anyone bold enough to do their thing whatever it may be).
I’ve been interested in electronic music heavily since about eighth grade. I was really fond of house, minimal tech, and dubstep when I was younger. Some artist I listened to once before I still admire to this day, but when I view some of the music I thought was siiiiiick I kind of laugh at myself….. Its fine and it holds its place in time, but you won’t find listening to a lot of music I once did (no offense unmentioned artists). It wasn’t until like 12th grade that I started getting into experimental electronic music. It was when I moved out to Northern California out around Placerville (those are the mountains if unfamiliar) Real interesting area to say the least. Met some friends that were into the arts more and supported passions I had like poetry and literature so it was a really life opening experience being in that atmosphere. I think the solidifying moment for me was listening to Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “Doppelganger” on DMT. Though ingested poorly (a decent sized amount crudely spread on some herb) the effects of the lo fidelity sound emitting from the speakers in waves took over my body in a way I can’t explain. Please do not take this as me trying to advocate drug use of any kind. This is simply what was a turning point for my view towards music … (I would be lying however if I said I haven’t found some inspiration in certain plants/chemicals).
From that point on I started really stepping away from what I was so fond of at the time. I owe a lot of my credit due to YouTube honestly….I would listen to artist I was finding that I enjoyed and if I saw a track title or alias name that caught my attention I’d open the link and see what lies ahead. If fond of the artist I would search their name, and again this process would continue on and on (upset because I have lost HDD with years of music on there I’ve collected I will likely never see again). Got really into Adult Swim beats, and started listening to Trip Hop’ish artists like Negrosaki, Ethereal Universe, and Flying Lotus. Loved the chill aspects of electronic type vibes which where amazing for skating. Somewhere in all that I found Casino Versus Japan who branched me off into ambient (what most would classify IDM) artists like B.O.C., AM-Boy, Freescha, and Milieu (these are still some of my most influential musicians to date without sounding rude to the countless numbers of other people who have inspired me, but if it weren’t for these artists I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I got into Synthwave quite heavily a short while after that and really got into Com Truise (loved the name and was drawn to it). Somehow through that I found “Floral Shoppe”, which I know is an “Oh of course” moment, but I’ve always been a big Asia nerd and I was so fascinated by how weird this album looked. I clicked it and was immediately blown away. It was almost in a sense the type of realm I had been searching for at that point in my life. It solidified with me and I can still remember that moment to this day. It’s funny because I didn’t realize Mac+ wasn’t Japanese for awhile. When I first found vaporwave it was still a lot more anonymous than it is now (which I miss to a degree. It is amazing talking to artists I admire and even more so when artists I admire contact me, but I do miss the type of feeling it once possessed). I was honestly baffled once I became a part of the vapor community more intensely and saw how big it was, how big it was continuing to get. Very proud to be a part of it, and I am honored to be able and speak to you now.
Now for what you have been waiting for……Production tips.
First off let me just say to anyone out there considering getting into music production of any sort just do it!!! Seriously just do it I’m not kidding you. I have wanted to produce music since I was 15 years old, but always hesitated and stopped myself. I saw prices of equipment and software and I got so nervous because I didn’t want to spend money on something that was “wrong”. I have purchased equipment I have later gotten rid of and though it may not have been what I wanted in the end it’s no big deal like I imagined it to be. I think my first real piece of gear that gave me a taste of production (and some of you may laugh at this) was the Kaossilator Pro…..I purchased it back in 2012 or 2013 I believe. If you don’t know it’s a little touch pad synthesizer with like 200 built in sounds and 4 loop banks (very limiting though. You can only record 16bar loops, but in order to do that tempo needs to stay above 110, if it drops even to 109 the loops switch to 8 bar though I did learn techniques to work around that). I spent a lot of time just making and deleting mixes……basically starting up a bass or drum line and then working 3 layers on top of that. It was a matter of delete and replace to keep music going…..when transitioning songs I would erase one loop and drop 3 volume channels as I brought in a transitioning sound effect then take out then erase those loops and fade in new pieces I would create. The simplicity of the device and its limitations really helped me get a genuine understanding of improv music production which is a key element of mine today.
I started working in Ableton back in December 2014. Had this younger cat invite me over to see his production setup and I was stoked because I had always wanted to see a setup (looking back it was nothing marvelous but it was still cool). He showed me a few things in ableton and let me play around with it a bit. When I realized its functions where the same as the kaossilator (the matter of hitting record playing a loop and hitting stop to loop it) I was hooked, and even more so because I could record any length I want. I was limited to 16 bars before and it was working but now the sky seemed endless (its funny I have a project somewhere with like a 356 bar loop or something like that). I downloaded a 30 day trial version of Ableton and produced my first little album in that 30 day period (its awful xD but it was more or less an art project for me) titled trial error because I made it on a trial version of ableton and it was incomplete. I laugh, I still get compliments on certain tracks in that album (some people pushing me to finish it, but it was a piece in time that’s over and I feel it’s appropriate to leave things as they were). It at least garnered enough attention from some local producers who took some interest in what I was doing and helped give me a type of support base with production (although they work in completely different DAWs they still supported and helped me out).
I released my first official album on Illuminated Paths in 2015 as my all original alias Lucid Sound Driver titled “Among the Thrift Shop Floor”. It was a concept album based around someone going about their day to day lives and in the most absurd and unexpected place having transcendental moment, the idea that life holds beauty around us at all points, but we are sometimes caught up in the world around us and miss that pure bliss of living. It was all done on a 5 dollar toy keyboard from the D.I. (Mormon thrift shop) and field recordings I got from all over. I had recently purchased a handheld Tascam DR-22WL and started recording everything I could (I still do, currently have close to 800 or so personal audio recordings ranging from kids laughing/crying, airplanes overhead since I luckily live by an airport, cars, skating, stores, bathroom trips you name it. I feel capturing sounds around you is important. You never know what inspiration might come). It was my first time ever recording anything and my very first time using audio files in ableton but I wanted to make a project of it. Again not endorsing it but for this project I ingested a reasonable amount of psychedelics went to work on this piece. I had prior to this experience set up audio files in appropriate columns (keyboard, human sound, nature sound) and prepared for the work. I made the entire album in one sitting with no idea what would come forth (aside from some light cleaning up after words for the finished album). I actually went into this state where I had these almost tremor like movements throughout my body, almost convulsive, but still coherent and semi functional, as if I induced a sensory overload and had to recover.
Second release was via Beer Wizard as Virtual Sound Terminal which was my first step at plunderphincs. (I want to let people know since I’m here that the separation from LSD, and VST, my two main aliases that are publicly known, is due to LSD being all original material from sound design to recordings mastering and composition, and VST dabbling or fully diving into pluderphonic works). That album I really just wanted to get weird with audio files. I started experimenting heavily with audio effects in that album and it came out weird AF . . . . I still don’t know how I feel on it, but it sold out and I’ve had some people genuinely interested in the art project, some of which have helped me out tons in the vapor scene.
For my third official and most current release I made my first full ambient project titled “Serenading The Indigo Child” which was made similar to my first album in means of toy keyboard recordings, field recordings, etc. I did dive into some virtual instruments with this album and spent a good deal of time on sound design for pads etc. Basically it was all a matter of improve trial and error to achieve what I got. This was an album where concept was devised first (a lot of the time a work is created and I develop a concept around it, however the work makes me feel…..it’s why I have hours of unreleased material) and I designed a musical backdrop to provoke the emotion I was trying to bring forth
I feel it’s very important diving out of your comfort zones in production…..don’t get stuck in one field of sound or one genre of music. Diversify and do things that are new to you. I strive to change things I am doing in my musical work constantly, some people aren’t fond because of this it seems, but it’s something essential in my eyes, once you create your formula you should change the pie. If you lump yourself in one category forever it just becomes nothing more than mere finger exercises with no real mental stimulation. I am real excited for some of my coming releases so you can see what I truly mean in regards, but realistically I try to make every piece I do different. I like to leave the listener a bit unsure of what to expect. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with working in fields you admire often but challenge yourself to do things that are new to you. Experimenting in different musical stylings has actually brought insight to my works with genres completely separate from one another, in ways I never imagined.
I feel conceptual purpose to your work is important to and realistically in some cases I find concept equally if not more superior to content. It is what solidifies your work and give it life, gives it meaning. It feels almost meaningless for me to throw tracks together and say “here’s my album”. I feel it is a disservice to my listener and my art itself as silly as that may sound…..it seems like it didn’t mean enough to me to put earnest emotions to. If I can’t create a fitting concept with working compositions I won’t release it. I have hours of material that may never see public release. Some are works that I have been unable to adapt a proper conceptual work around though sometimes I revisit them and ideas come forth. Others are works that were made simply for myself almost as a self healing process and are not really intended for public eye……maybe one day when the time is right, but it’s just not now. The pieces haven’t aligned to create an appropriate presentation. I find it’s important though to give meaning to your art though no matter what it is.
Don’t let other people influence what you do with your art either. You can find inspiration in others but don’t try and mold yourself to be someone or something else. You are you, and you should respect that. If everyone hated every musical and artistic piece I had put out it wouldn’t matter to me…… If I never made a dime and it was what people referred to as a “hopeless passion” and “lost cause” it wouldn’t matter to me. I do it because it’s what I do; it’s what I love to do. I don’t create music or art in hopes of praise from others, I do it for myself, and if people like what I have done that is honestly just a plus. It still really trips me out when people admire what I am doing and even more so when they like it enough to reach out or buy a copy. I could have never imagined the support I would receive and some of the people who have reached out and told me how I have helped them in some aspect of their life have honestly changed my life. I have and still receive some negative criticism for works of mine (“It’s too boring” “It should be faster” “Does it have a beat?” “Where’s the lyrics?” “What is this aquarium music?”), and sometimes the hate people give hurts I won’t lie, but who cares? At the end of the day you have to accept the criticism and stay true to yourself. Don’t get caught up trying to please others or you’ll forever be lost.
Now for actual track talk (my apologies)
I rarely go into a project with an idea at mind. The only time this usually happens is during moments of insomnia. I suffer from very severe musical insomnia in which I hear a musical composition being performed in my head and literally can’t shut it off. It’s impossible to sleep and usually carries on for a few hours. It was a big issue for me until I started making music. Now if I hit those states I hop on and record one or two lines that are playing in my head so I can remember it and shut my computer, and brain down for the night (sometimes it doesn’t work though and I stay up all night). I try not to force creative work. I have found its best to wait for it to come to you. Sometimes a small break to reflect really opens some doors when you come back to your keyboard and DAW. I don’t know if its common but for me I continually find myself getting inspiration at about 12:00-2:00AM at the time I refer to as “producers witching hour”.
Like I said I usually don’t go into a project with any general framework. I find it is best to experiment. If working on all original music I will generally write a generic kick snare pattern to use as a more natural tempo than the god awful beeping. I perform all my compositional work. I am unable to click and draw music well, it comes off almost synthetic. I usually will start with either a bass line or a light chord progression. From their it’s all a matter of improv experimentation. I play at random for awhile changing variations until I find something that catches me. From there it’s a matter of continual trial and error. Sometimes I will be working on a project for hours and create a new line I like so much that I save the current project erase all the aspects besides the characteristics that work with my new line and save it under a new name. (So making 2 projects from 1 project idea if that was confusing). I then always rework the other pieces I kept on the project that appear on both so they differentiate from one another on the final work, but it helps as base support for a short time while creating a new project out of the existing one. I can write a handful of songs in a short amount of time, but mixing and mastering is something that has been totally new since learning production. I have always played in music so composition is something that comes naturally for me but production and music making are totally different.
I am still not amazing at mastering but I do have some techniques I have learned over time that can really help you out if you’re up and coming or simply unaware of their usage (surprisingly have been able to advise some artists who have been producing far longer than myself). Panning is one that is very important. I know it sounds unimportant but don’t keep all your audio tracks centered (even individual drum sounds). If you pay close attention to almost any professional mixing of music (in any genre) the panning for different sounds and instruments varies. If you don’t already experiment a bit because the slightest tweaks make a huge difference and help greatly on your master mix down. Layering as well. Seriously layer everything I can’t stress that enough. It adds so much dynamic to your sound. I used to use single layers for like bass and lead, drums, etc. and it was just so piddly. It sounds very weak. It wasn’t until experimentation in ambient droning work that I truly learned this. Now I apply it to everything. I usually have about 3-4 layers at least on each track I am using (some projects waaaay more than that). What I do for instance (on leads) is I take my most clear sounding track that I want to be the main focus on and I usually keep that fairly clean (light reverb, little to no delay) and increase the track volume then I’ll duplicate that 2-3 times and drop the volumes fairly low. I usually take one of those tracks and increase the reverb fairly high and add an auto panning effect and an accompanying phaser (need to get the phaser JUST RIGHT). The other I bring reverb up about half way to the first duplicated track and again add an auto panning feature (different timing is essential) and add a small amount of delay, usually on an 8-4, 6-3, or 4-2 timing. For the third I usually bring the volume real low and start playing heavily with filters, flangers, and phasers, to create a good background distortion and sometimes I will accompany that some delay as well. The same rules mentioned prior for lead lines apply as well to certain pluderphonic works I do as well. It’s always a matter of experimentation and of course I don’t ALWAYS do that and it doesn’t ALWAYS work, but it is something I’ve noticed myself doing time to time and I feel it adds a cool dynamic to your sound. Layers are essential to your work but it’s all about subtlety. If you hear my layers by themselves some are almost impossible to decipher and some sound just awful but when you combine them all together at the proper volumes it sounds superb.
Big thing I want to point out if you’re layering drums onto a sample of some sort (relation to VST’s upcoming album) and they sound to separate from the audio and unnatural drop the frequency on your drum racks. I tend to keep it just a bit below 10k on my frequency (though it is different on my Kick, and a few accompanying drum sounds so I keep those in separate audio tracks). Also I almost always separate my Kick from Snare in audio tracks. Helps a lot when linking things like Side chaining your bassline to your kick drum (at least for Ableton). One of my best tips I can give you is test your music on anything you can (headphones, cars, good speakers, bad speakers). I have learned one technique as weird as it sounds and that’s if you can get your audio to sound good on a television (end mix down) it will usually transfer over well to other output sources. Basically being that television speakers are so generic it really lowers the bar for things. If it sounds good on some nice headphones as well as a television you’re hitting a wide array of sound output (also being television is a huge commercial product it is good to know your audio sounds good on it if you decided to use it commercially in any way).
One of the things that has intrigued me the most in production is audio manipulation (be it your own recordings or samples you have currated). There’s really no way to explain it. I find new techniques daily and I will let you know that the sky is truly the limit. I know people who have been producing since 93 (my birth year) who are still learning new techniques. It is truly an into the rabbit hole scenario and its ever expanding. I don’t want to go too far into my techniques or else it wouldn’t hold a personal unique trait, but I’ll share two fun techniques of mine you can play with.
One very fun thing to do is offsetting your samples. So basically you make two tracks that have the same sample as one another. Take your samples and offset them about ½ (line up one of the samples to start halfway through the other), sometimes this works well as is, but one addition I usually add is dropping the transposition of one of your samples, -12 always works, but I like experimenting around -6 to -8 to get more differentiating notes so it’s not just an octave difference. It will completely switch up the sample at hand. I have actually released one or two songs that are full of continuously changing variations but are in all reality just one loop.
Another fun technique of mine is making pulsing beats (I’m not quite sure how to explain this but it’s a low frequency pulse rhythm that is used heavily in astral projection work). Take a vocal sample (I usually prefer something with some sort of background sound accompanying the voice to add more fullness). Open a project at 160tempo in Ableton and drop your sample in an audio track. Now seriously I zoom in on my file and create the smallest loop I can. I would say it’s like 1/128th of a note or less if I had to make a guess. Seriously it’s shorter than a vocal chop. The sound produced is one of the most unpleasant sounds imaginable. It was so loud and shrill when I first made this it almost blew out my ear drum so keep aware of your track volume. The trick comes when you export that audio to a new audio track and create an audio file of that shrill high pitch. Drop your transition to about -36 and bring your tempo down anywhere from 50-20 on the tempo. 9 times out of 10 if done properly you get this amazing pulsating rhythm. I then export that audio entirely and use it in a new project (that way I’m not trying to make a song at 20 BPM on my tempo).
When it boils down to it production is all a matter of trial and error. No one can teach you how to produce music. Myself and others can lend techniques we use in our work, but you have to find your own path. Everyone has their own techniques they use. Even when we are achieving a similar effect in our sound we are almost always doing things differently than one another. That’s what’s amazing about production. It truly is art and open entirely to whatever you can imagine, and it’s almost an independent activity. On a side note to that don’t get wrapped up in what software you should get. For me I personally prefer Ableton to other DAW’s I’ve worked simply due its keen ability to allow improv performance which is my forte, but I am not against DAW’s like FL, Cubase, Logic, etc. , etc. In the end it’s not the software or tools you have, but how you use it. A lot of people blame their software or hardware but it’s a cop out. I’ve seen people push gold out of an iPhone so it just goes to show you can make truly amazing art from any medium. Personally I want to get more into hardware with production myself. Not because I feel it is better for production, but I appreciate the naturalistic feel of hardware and actually using a device dedicated as an instrument. The only thing holding me back in that aspect is the cost. It’s always ever changing and new ideas come forth every day.
I guess that’s about all I really have to say right now, and I’m sure I’ve bored you already, but if you remained here until the end key points are:
*Creativity is above all else, don’t tarnish that to “fit in” *Respect your art no matter what other say of it (this is why concept is important to me) *listen to and take in as much art as you can muster *Step outside of your comfort zones and try to work in areas you are unfamiliar with. Diversify and Grow *Just go out and do it, don’t second guess yourself any longer *Layer, layer, layer, *Keep eye of panning levels on your instruments (this helps in multiple genres) *Audio Manipulation is too amazing for words *Software and Hardware are not what make an artist great it’s all based on you <3
You all mean the world to me and I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me here or on FB, Gmail, wherever ‘s clever. I might add a few things on here as the month progresses, if you want me to talk about anything in particular let me know in the comments or something .
I will proofread this more tomorrow, and try to clean it up a bit because I'm sure it could use it anyways take it easy
** Just had my work from my latest album out on No Problema Tapes titled "Serenading The Indigo Child" just got reviewed in Music Connection Magazine and received some very nice review. The references they related my sound to were more than flattering. Thought you might enjoy it; Very short, but sweet http://www.musicconnection.com/new-music-critiques-lucid-sound-drive