The Producer Dojo Purple Belt is only given out once per month and is reserved for students that are demonstrating notable progress. ill.Gates and his team of Brown and Black Belts vote on the Purple Belts and I am proud to announce that this month, Mike Yu (Audiolysis) is the Class of 808 Ninja of the Month. I was psyched to share the great news with Mike and learn more about his journey at the Producer Dojo so far.
Mike, Congratulations on achieving your Purple Belt! Tell us about your musical journey and how did it lead you to ill.Gates, The Producer Dojo and the Class of 808?
I’ve played guitar and bass since I was a kid and played in various bands throughout the years. I’m giving away my age a bit here, but I’ve spent countless hours making demos on four track cassette decks. I once released an EP that I recorded and mixed entirely with Windows Sound Recorder.
It basically only had two operations. You could blindly increase or decrease the volume of a wav file by a percentage and then you could merge two files together. Both of these operations took about 20 minutes each for a 3 minute song. So I would record to a click track and then spend days doing trial and error leveling. Later I moved on to recordings in Cubase and Logic, and then to producing in Ableton.
I came upon the Producer Dojo though an ill.Methodology Workshop video on You Tube.The Class of 808 seemed like a great way to get ongoing feedback and mentorship from people with real knowledge and experience.
Where are you from originally? Can you describe your life using only song titles?
I’m originally from a small town in North Eastern Ohio.
My life in song titles would briefly be:
Ohio – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young
Pittsburgh – The Lemonheads
Welcome to New York – Taylor Swift
London Calling – The Clash
Around the World – Daft Punk
Still New York – Joey Bada$$
What made you want to become a music producer? What do you do when you are not producing music?
Writing and recording songs has always been my greatest passion since I was a teenager. I’ve drifted in and out of it at various times, but have begun embracing it more fully over the last few years. Outside of music, I work as a software developer professionally. I travel some and I can enjoy any scary movie no matter how stupid it is. In fact the stupider the better.
What is your Studio set up like and what are your top 5 favorite VST’s?
Until very recently this would have been just me hunched over a MacBook at my dining table. I moved into a new place a few months ago and finally have some space to set up, so I’ve been on a bit of shopping spree. Now I’m running Ableton on an ultra wide screen through a UAD Arrow and Adam A7X monitors. I also picked up a Novation LaunchKey 61 and have an unruly collection of guitars and effects pedals that I’ve acquired through the years.
With regard to Top 5 VSTs, I could probably get away with just Ableton and Serum. Lately I’ve started playing around with Arturia Pigments too.
If I had to pick another 3, I’d have to go with Fielding DSP Reviver (on drums), Soundtoys Decapitator (on everything), FabFilter Pro L 2 (on the master).
What are your plans for your music (both near term and long term goals)?
In the near term, I’m working on getting my music up to the level where I feel it competes with the production and composition level of the artists that I’m listening to and inspired by. I’m also trying to find a sound of my own that I’m happy with. In the long term I’d like to start making professional planned and marketed releases and perform production work for other artists.
What are the top 3 “game changing” lessons that you learned as a member of the Class of 808?
Figure and ground, checker boarding, punch-in/punch-out. All of the lessons on the general idea of letting elements in the mix take turns and not piling on layer upon layer. Phase 3 articulation and detailing. I alway used to stop at Phase 2! This is one that I need to keep putting more attention on. Working quickly so that you don’t overthink things. Having things prepared so that you can work quickly and not overthink things. That quantity produces quality.
If you could go back 10 years ago and advise your younger self of just 1 thing, what would that advice be?
Invest more in yourself. Don’t put off things until you’re ready. Take more chances.
Do you ever experience writer’s block in the studio? How do you overcome it? How often do you make music?
I for sure suffer from what Steven Pressfield calls “resistance” in his book the “The War of Art.” I can find just about any reason not to start. Once I do start though, I get obsessed and eventually wonder why I feel hungry before realizing that I’ve been at it for hours and haven’t eaten all day. One way to trick myself into starting is to do something tangential like flip through the latest Cymatics free download or try to harvest presets from synth sounds in my last project. This usually gives me some sort of spark of inspiration or at least gets me in the zone to keep exploring sounds.
I’m probably at it 4 to 5 days a week.
What are your favorite genres of music at the moment and who are your top 5 favorite artists right now?
Lately I’ve been into a lot of bass house. My top favorite artists in that space would have to be: Joyryde, Malaa, Matroda, Chris Lake, Eliminate.
Are you involved in any other music production communities?
Not actively. I’ve been to some of the events held by 343 Labs here in New York and I sometimes play with people I’ve been in bands with.
If you met with a music producer that was on the fence about joining Producer Dojo what would you tell them?
The feedback and mentoring is really unrivaled. I don’t know of any other program that provides this on an ongoing basis like the Dojo does. The hundreds of hours of weekly downloads probably already makes it as good or better than most other programs. However, it’s really the ongoing one-on-one attention that was what I needed to help me get beyond my plateau.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Thanks to all the Senseis in the Dojo for all your help and guidance and for sharing all the great knowledge.