As a member of the Vancouver music scene I've had the honour of meeting a lot of creative people. This city is overflowing with amazing producers, beat-makers, DJ's, photographers, designers etc. You name it, I've met them. And there is something similar that I feel they all have in common: a creative space.
I've always been intrigued by the processes, and in this instance I like to be able to tear away the pieces and try to understand the music more. This series of profiles will give you a glimpse into how these artists do what they do.
No matter how large or small their space is, it is what they immerse themselves into to create incredible art and music. Studiowerk is a showcase of creative spaces and studios found in our city, and the diverse array of musicians that work in them.
For the first Studiowerk feature, I sit down with Iain Howie in his Vancouver studio space:
Do you remember what made you want to start writing music at the very beginning?
It started in high school and I remember doing stuff in GarageBand when I was a kid. It was basic, gave me the idea of the piano roll and stuff. I also played a little piano, so I had some theory, but it was really just a way to experiment with music. Knowing that a program like Ableton Live is so available to us was very inspiring and I just started making music because I love music so much and I wanted to start creating it. The more and more I did it the more I began to realize, “Oh! Hey, I could do this for a living” and my stuff is sounding better and better.
What is a technique that you discovered that was a eureka moment for you, and what are some works in which that technique is present?
Well, there have been many, but one that has been recent and has propelled me into writing music that I’m getting released is using a sampler. Ableton’s stock sampler. Just loading fucking everything into it. So let's say you get hung up on looking for that perfect piano VST, and you want that raw vintage sound. So what I’ll do is go hunting for that single note piano sample that sounds like shit and its recorded on tape or something, and I’ll load that into a sampler. And it’s just the way that it pitches it down, and distorts it, it's awesome. You can take a shitty digital synth, record one note from it, bounce it down to audio and put it into a sampler and it’ll distort it in a way that’s very interesting to me. It just sounds better. And you can hear it on my entire EP. Especially the piano sound on “Awake”, the title track has a single note sampled from a piano on cassette tape deep in my library and to me it sounds awesome.
What is something you’d like to accomplish in the next calendar year with the music you’re writing and performing?
In one year? I want to build an original sound around myself. I have a few specific things, you know, get a few more releases out but I want to progress my sound so that its definable as ‘Iain Howie’.
Does Iain Howie have any final words?
To all aspiring producers out there: Even though it seems daunting, you can write music in your parents' basement for 5 years and crank out good tunes eventually. But don’t stop. People will tell you to and you’ll hit a big wall, but you have to push through it. As long as you believe in yourself and your sound, and as long as you’re smart and don’t get caught up in the nightlife. Do it. And wear earplugs; don’t get tinnitus <laughs>.
Listen to Iain Howie's Groundwerk DJ Mix