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 Dave Owens Interview from Flashpoint

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Jay Hatchell

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PostSubject: Dave Owens Interview from Flashpoint   Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:35 pm

Interview with DAVE OWENS!!!

Dave Owens:
The mystery man behind the dirty dancefloor hits
demystifies the hardhouse studio

Dave Owens is the man behind TurtleDog Studios in Manchester , where he has been working behind the scenes with top DJ producers such as Karim, Nik Denton, Frank Farrell, Marc Johnson and Richard Toomz. Not only is he the engineer of choice to some of the biggest names in hardhouse, he is also a highly talented producer in his own right, under the guise of Munkjack (with Frank Farrell), DFO, Curve Pusher and er… Dave Owens. Through his studio work Dave has therefore been responsible for some of the most exciting, innovative and powerful hardhouse tunes in the last two years: ‘Hot tamale’, ‘Flux’, ‘600 minutes’, ‘Fishcake’, ‘It’s my beat’, ‘Dropped the ball’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘I feel love’, (Karim remixes), ‘Are you all ready?’ (Adam M remix), the list goes on and on…. As a studio engineer with such a fantastic CV, who better than Dave to ask what hardhouse studio engineering actually involves? I caught up with Dave and asked him to explain what he does in simple language that even I could understand…

Demystifying the mystery man

First some basic background biog info about you, the mystery man ‘behind the scenes’, yet one the most influential and in demand figures in hardhouse studio work right now. How long have you been involved in the music scene, and what got you into it?

Haha, ‘mystery man’... I've been involved professionally in the scene for about four years now, starting out at Toolbox HQ in the office, learning the ropes around there. The studio work came after that and pretty much by accident to be honest.

I have a huge background in computers and have always had a technical interest in things since I was little. Although I played piano when I was younger it was one thing I (now) wish I had kept up, as I had no patience for it back then and gave it up fairly early on. Two or three years ago I got my hands 'somehow' on a copy of Fruity Loops and pretty much started tinkering around from there. I'd been DJing for about four years before that so had a pretty good idea of the sound I was into, and a basic understanding of how it was all put together. I found samples on the internet of your basic percussion, kicks, snares, hats etc. and used to just sit putting them into various patterns in Fruity making the dullest drum loops you could imagine.

However, by then my interest was already peaked, so from then on it was just practice practice practice. Luckily, around that time I met Frank (Farrell) who was at pretty much the same stage as me, so we used to bounce ideas back and forth off each other’s work, which was a massive learning aid at the time!

Demystifying studio engineering

In a scene where so many clubbers are themselves DJs (even if only in the bedrooms) there are still some like me know very little about what goes on in the studio. What does it mean to be a studio engineer? What do you actually do as an engineer? Presumably it has very little to with maintenance of engines? ;o)

You're right there..! It has pretty much nothing to do with the maintenance of engines, which I would be useless at, by the way. I think to be honest; engineering means different things to different people. Each client is different so each experience is pretty much unique. Some people have all the ideas but just don't have the time to sit down and learn the ins and outs of the techniques used to get that sound. Other people have a really really rough idea of what they want to make, and need a lot of help in steering their ideas into something they are happy with.

I read a lot of highly fascinating interviews where producers are asked what studio equipment they use – Fruity Loops, Ableton, Logic are some of the names they refer to. In plain English what on earth are they talking about?

It's all just fancy terms for a load of flashing lights. Haha, really though most studios can be broken down into different sections:

The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): This is what you see on screen, this is where everything is all put together, put in order and 'laid out'. Everything in the modern day studio runs through this at one point or another. The main ones you hear of are the Pro apps like Logic, Cubase, and Ableton (which is more of a live performance app, but is pretty indispensable in studio terms.) There are others such as Reason and Fruity Loops which also seem to be popular…

Computer programs, then? I see…

Samplers: Although you can just drag and drop an audio file onto the arrange page of Logic (or any DAW), it’s normally a bit more versatile to have a sampler. These used to be old hardware rack units, like a lot of the things mentioned below. Their main purpose was a tool to play sounds you’ve recorded along with the rest of the track. So for instance you’d have your track playing along, and decide it needs a vocal, so you load the vocal you’ve recorded into a sampler which then gives you the ability to alter the sound by shifting pitch, filtering etc. Nowadays, most samplers are software based, things like EXS24 for Logic, HALion for Cubase, and Kontakt which is available for all platforms. These are pretty much software equivalents of their hardware predecessors with many of the same features.

Samplers - ok I think I understand that…

Hardware: Things like a Virus, Supernova, TB303 etc, these are all outboard synths or sound modules that generate a lot of the sounds you hear in the track. There are however nowadays, a lot of software equivalents or 'soft-synths' which make the hardware less necessary so it's normally just the die-hards and pro's that tend to stick to the outboard stuff.

Oh right, keyboards…

Soft-synths: As mentioned above, things like Massive, Pro-53, IMPoscar etc. These are software versions of synths or sound generators.

More software, then…

Controllers: Things like a Midi keyboard, or other midi controllers. It's completely possible to make an entire track on a laptop with absolutely nothing else connected, but these tools make it easier and a bit more streamlined. It's a bit more convenient to tap out a main riff or lead on a midi keyboard (which looks like a piano) then to click it on screen with a mouse. Other controllers mimic things like the mixing desk, making it easier to access channel faders to turn things up and down etc.

More keyboards, then?

Monitors: Can be a bit confusing as you first think of a computer screen, but they're actually referring to a set of studio monitors, which are in essence just speakers. Studio monitors normally have a tendency to better produce a flat (i.e., even) response across the frequency range. Basically because your typical hi fi speakers at home 'colour' the sound to make everything sound 'better'. Home stereos sound bassier, and generally ‘louder’, but that's not the actual sound of what you're playing, so if you play the same CD on a different sound-system it can sound completely different. The point of monitors is to make it sound good when it's flat, so when it does get played on other systems it has the potential to sound great!

Speakers, yes I know what they are… Surprised) Thanks; that’s helped a lot!

So why does a talented producer/writer need an engineer? Aren’t producers/writers just musicians who tell some technician-type-bod to press the buttons? Or do you engineers have a more influential, creative role in the production process?

It REALLY depends on the person you're working with. As I mentioned earlier, some people have all the ideas already. For instance, when I work with Karim, he basically knows roughly how he wants it to sound, and just keeps heckling me until it sounds like that! He knows how he wants it to 'feel'. People such as Rich (Toomz), know EXACTLY what they want, from every single little hat and crash. He has the whole track mapped out in his head and we just work through it until it's all down on the screen. It's just the technical elements that he lacks. So that's where I come in with the crazy delays or compression techniques to get everything tight and punchy.

Other people I've worked with are the complete opposite of that, they just have a rough idea, and will say ‘I want something with a big kick, big bass, and wicked lead’. Which is cool too. They'll come with just a vocal, and so with those people, I tend to just get a general idea of what they want, and start writing everything, sketching it all out on the screen, until it gets a feeling going, then just ask if they like it or if there is anything they'd like it to do differently.

What makes a good engineer and a good producer, Dave?

Producer - Ideas.
Engineer - The ability to turn those ideas into a track.

A good producer needs to know how they want it to sound. You need to focus on the specific track you are working on at the moment. Some people seem to have their entire discography of stuff that they want to make in their heads and try to cram it into one session.. ‘Well I want to make something funky, but tough, and groovy, but really really hard, yet euphoric.’ I've had people in that say they want uplifting, but just don't like any of the sounds we put down until it's dark as hell! Buzz words often kill creativity, people saying they want to make something in a certain style just because the phrase seems to be going around.

A good engineer mainly needs to know what he's doing. Really, they should know everything about their equipment and their genre down solid. Just because you can make a track on your own, doesn't necessarily mean you can engineer for someone. Other than that, they just need to be open to ideas. Depending on the client, you have to remember, although they need help, it's THEIR track, it needs to sound like them; if they have an idea, try it out, see if it works; if not, find out why. I've had loads and loads of times where someone has suggested something and I've just thought in my head ‘That's crap, that'll never work’ and low and behold, I put it in the track and it sounds amazing.

Which do you enjoy more: engineering or producing?

I can honestly say I like both, equally. Most of the people I work with, I get to put a lot of ideas into it, so even engineering is like producing to me. If it starts taking a direction that I'm really interested in, you'll normally hear me say ‘I have an idea’. So most people tend to just let me run with it and see how it turns out; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When I'm producing stuff on my own, I'm not on a deadline, I don't have to finish anything. I have an entire drive of unfinished projects; I could probably put out four albums of ‘three minute unfinished’ tracks. Haha. That's why it also helps to work with someone, bouncing ideas off someone who's into the same things you are makes a big difference when you get stuck.

Tell us what goodies you have in your studio. Why is it all the top producers are queuing up to come to Turtledog (apart from your own engineering skills, obviously!)?

Ooh.. I'm glad you asked…

The Core:

Apple G5 2.5 Quad / 6.5 GB RAM
(Macbook Pro 15” 2.4Ghz, 4GB Ram for the live shows and projects on the go)
Alesis M1 Active Studio Monitor Speakers
MOTU 24IO PCI-e Edition (Edirol FA101 for the Road)
Twin 15” Monitors powered by Nvidia 6600
Twin 19” Widescreen Monitors powered by ATI Raedon X1900
Customised Argosy Dual 15K Workstation

The Extras:

Behringer BCF2000
Behringer BCR2000
Korg padKontrol
Korg KaossPad 1st Gen


Access Virus|Classic
Roland Alpha Juno2
Nord Rack 2
Roland JV1080
MAM Freebass 383


Apple Logic 8
Ableton Live 7
Bias Peak 5

Studio stories

You have worked with so many major names – including Karim of course, your Munkjack partner Frank, Captain Tinrib (who recently cited you as one of the producers to watch for the future), Marc Johnson, Richard Toomz and Nik Denton. Any funny stories to tell us about working with them? The sillier the better, please.

I have a blast with all of them; it’s always a laugh. Karim always gets really into the stuff we’re making and is so passionate about it that it makes it a pleasure to do. I’ve almost got his accent down to a T. Nik always brings donuts. Marc is always quite serious when in the studio, we get on really well and I have a good idea of the sound he likes so it can be quite relaxed. I think Rich (Toomz) only comes up for my cooking.

Frank is obviously the one I’ve worked most with, and also there was a long time when we were both learning what to do, so we’d spend the time just messing about making random doof. It’s always 100% jokes all of the time, there is never anything serious about it, which shows through the work really. We made ‘Power/Fury’ and ‘Enigma’ both laid on the floor. I had just moved into my new place and all the studio equipment was in there but I didn’t have a desk or any furniture for it or anything, so we just set it all up on the floor and made the tracks laying about.

Talking about record labels

Are you still working with Toolbox? What was your role there?

I do still do work for Toolbox HQ. My main role in the office was the distribution side of things, and chasing up invoices, but after a while the non-stop requests for cups of tea meant that I had to find something to do that was a little less intensive. Now I don’t work in the office but I do help out with queries and odds and ends.

What’s your involvement with Hammerheads records?

Hammerheads is a project Nik Denton came up with years ago as a way to output the harder styles of music which were then becoming more and more popular. He asked me to look after it and basically decide what should go on it. Which is what I still do today! Nik deals with all the accounting and artwork, distribution etc, and I keep an eye out for stuff that I would think is suitable for the label.

Let’s talk about FlashPoint stuff. ‘Heavy bass’ by Phil Cogan was a big hit in its own right, but I particularly like your driving remix with its super sexy funky break; it’s one of my favourite tracks by you and has just been released on FlashPoint Digital (as FPD43) in the FlashPoint MP3 store. What are your own FlashPoint favourites?

Wow, I just took a look at the discography and there have been so many releases and so many of them fantastic it’s hard to narrow them down…

’Release the freak’ was probably the one that got me interested in the label. The Justin Bourne remix of ‘Great responsibility’ is nothing short of amazing and probably will be for some time. The Defective Audio remix of ‘Negotiation’ was wicked, and finally ‘Etherwave’ was an absolutely outstanding release, easily one of Frank’s best.

Yeah awesome track Surprised)

Dave’s multiple musical identities

You write and produce as not only Dave Owens (or is that an alias too?), you are also Curve Pusher (responsible for the exquisite ‘Flux’), DFO, and one half (with Frank Farrell) of Munkjack. Do you have any other aliases we should know about?

Yes, my real name is an unpronounceable symbol, quite like when Prince changed his name. Haha, nah that’s not an alias. I think that’s the main ones are covered though. The Curve Pusher stuff is made to be generally chunky and a little camp. DFO is generally dark and hard. baseware is for the slower funkier stuff. And of course there is the dead horsedeerpony Munkjack, which is the collective name for me and Frank.

Who and what are your major musical influences?

Influences come from everywhere… I have an extremely eclectic taste in music. I love absolutely everything so listen to a huge range of stuff. My parents used to listen to everything from The Cure to Earth Wind & Fire (hence the snippets in ‘Heavy bass’!) as well as old school hip hop. So I think that’s had a big influence on me. Dance music wise I used to listen to a lot of trance and that was how I got into it all anyway. Paul Oakenfold’s Goa Mix, Clubber’s Guide to 99, the Gatecrasher albums. Hardhouse wise it was definitely the likes of RR Fierce, Karim, and Tinrib that I’ve always admired and strived to capture the sound of. I also listen to a lot of drum and bass, so the heavy dark side from that shows through in a lot of my projects, I think.

Interesting… Favourite track of all time and favourite track of the moment?

Favourite track of all time is and always has been RR Fierce – ‘Narcan’. Track of the moment, probably Andy Farley & Base Graffiti – ‘Backs against the wall’, such a superb track.

Outside the studio

Do you ever play out?

Not as much as I'd like if I'm honest. Everyone that knows me will tell you why: I'm just lazy. I never bother to let promoters know that I'm interested in playing. There was a time when I was playing about once a month in different areas around the country which was quite an exciting time. I've also done trips to and at different times to play there, which were pretty immense…

I'm focusing more now on the live show, I did my first one in Ireland in December last year and absolutely loved it, the freedom I get to create stuff on the fly and re-arrange some of my old works with new sounds is just amazing. An example of that sort of style is on the TurtleDog|Live Mix CD ‘Shake & Bake Vol.1’ available free at www.turtledogonline.com.

Kate Hammond and Nik Denton have a new night in Manchester "Coalition" which I should hopefully be making an appearance at some time in the future. I also have a DJing gig back-to-back with Adam M at his night Hi Oktane in Leeds in July. This is for the FlashPoint 5th birthday so I imagine that will be a good laugh all round. Hopefully I'll get around to looking for more bookings after that as that is something I'm extremely interested in doing more.

Your studio, Turtledog, seems to be the main focus of your activities. Top DJs travel from all over the country to work with you there. But do you still have to have another day job, like most people in the hardhouse scene?

Of course! I work for an advertising agency in the daytime. A lot of people ask me why I don't engineer full time. To be honest I think if I did I'd just be burnt out with it all. I went through a stage in the last couple of months when every weekend was booked solid as well as some mid-week bookings; the creative juices definitely get zapped! As soon as it becomes a 'job' I know I won’t enjoy it, so I'm trying to keep that day at bay!

Talking about food

‘Fishcake’, ‘Beef dip’, ‘Sour cream and chive’, ‘Carbonara’, ‘Lasagne’… Do we detect in your track titles a preoccupation with food (which chimes well with the preoccupations here at FlashPoint towers)?

Haha, the names like that basically came around as a sort of joke. I always liked how the old Tinribs never took themselves seriously; there was always some sort of tongue in cheek joke in the names, or some etching on the vinyl. I always preferred the lighter side like that to the darker ‘I’m gonna have sex with your dead mom after I’ve knifed your sister and ate your dog’ titles...

One day after I had finished (what is now) FlashPoint 21, I didn’t know what to call it. A ‘Pizza Hut’ pizza was for dinner the night before, and I still had the ‘Sour cream & chive’ dip on my desk; it just seemed like a good name that no one else had used, and from there it just sort of carried on to keep that fun element around. ‘Beef dip’ was a sandwich from an American Diner, ‘ El paso ’ is part of the ‘Old El Paso’ brand that makes Fajita mixes and wraps etc.. ‘Eat my Lasagne’ was an in-joke about a horrible looking dish, but I’ll let Frank explain that one in his next interview. Haha.

Following on from this, we really need to know your favourite food. Or are you such a glutton that you just scoff anything remotely edible? Surprised)

I'm quite fussy, but I do like a lot of things if they are done in certain ways. I LOVE bacon, ultimately, and I make excellent Chicken Fajitas.

Future plans

Lastly, what are your future plans and ambitions - a big chip butty or something more interesting?

Ah there are all kinds of plans for 2008! I have just finished a complete studio rebuild as you'll see from the pics, everything has been re-thought out, and re-built. In line with that I'm just about to finish the final touches on a new website to replace the current holding page on TurtleDog|Online, that was supposed to change in November, but see earlier point… Haha. There will be news, links to the tracks and other bits on there as well as a studio enquiry/booking form etc. I'm looking to do some more live gigs if I can get enough interest in the clubs, and in line with that I've already started thinking about Vol.2 of ‘Shake & Bake’, as there have been loads of wicked projects coming out of the studio lately.

At the time of writing, you have just had yet another new track out, Dave Owens & Defamation, ‘Disorganised’, on FlashPoint digital (FPR 022). Any other gems up your sleeve you’d like to tell us about?

There’s the next Hammerheads which is an EP with me and Kauz, with ‘You like that’ on one side and ‘Epic’ on the other; they are both wicked tracks which I’m really proud of. I’ve just done a remix of Ben Steve ns Vs Trauma – ‘Heat it up’ which is pretty cool. There’s a remix coming out on Spinball in the next couple of weeks of a track by Dr Tre & Disturbed, and I have a couple of ideas for the next DFO and Curve Pusher tracks which will be TurtleDog 016 and 017 respectively.

We look forward to it! Thanks for your time, Dave, and see you at the take-away!



Turtledog home page: http://www.turtledogonline.com/

My space: http://www.myspace.com/turtledogstudios

Forum: http://www.tinribdigital.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=70


Last edited by Jay Hatchell on Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Dave Owens Interview from Flashpoint   Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:03 pm

Good read..

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Jay Hatchell

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PostSubject: Re: Dave Owens Interview from Flashpoint   Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:48 pm

Ya great read some set up he has

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Dave Owens Interview from Flashpoint

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