Jack Dunning aka Untold is a unique talent. His sound is more than a trademark snare or a catchy vocal snippet, it’s a sonic DNA that mutates beyond genre, transcends time barriers and will continue to defy categorization. Over the years, his tracks have integrated grime, classic house, ravey synths of later day hardcore, jungle, dark garage and more but it is his work within the Dubstep arena, and the release of his sample pack ‘Dubstep Producer’ for Loopmasters’ Artist Series, that drew our attention so we got in touch with the man himself to bring you this latest producer blog post…
You used to work as a graphic designer – how did the transition occur from this to becoming a top Dubstep producer?
After my first couple of dubstep releases I started getting Dj bookings, and as they increased it got harder to hold down the day job. The design world is deadline driven with long hours, I was taking longer breaks between design contracts just to be able to find time to write music and recover from the weekends. I love making music and travelling so this is a dream job for me – I don’t think I could go back to design now.
What initially got you into making music?
I played guitar in bands during school, and got my first sampler (an Akai 900) when I was around 15. I was captivated by the innovation going on in music at the time – the transition between rave music into Jungle / Drum and bass. I just wanted to be part of it even though it was a few years before I got my first release.
How has your music changed over the years?
My first releases “Kingdom” “Yukon” and “Discipline” were very dense and layered, I used lots of masked sounds really low in the mix, like a sample of a rainforest or a an empty street scene from a film to build up the atmosphere. I then went through a phase of stripping things right back, creating the majority of sounds in the track from synthesis and trying to get the maximum possible effect from maybe two or three parts working together. My current sound has got much more textured and saturated, I’m listening to a lot of 60’s and 70’s music so I’m enjoying bringing some dirt and warmth back into my sound.
Which software plug-ins do you use most frequently and why?
I try to keep it simple and work with a small set of tools that I’ve learnt how to use effectively. All EQ and dynamics are done using SSL Duende plugins. XEQ is the most versatile EQ plugin I’ve heard, and I love the sound of the bus compressor and use on every group to pull sounds together. All bass, synths and FX are made on NI Massive or Tone 2 Gladiator. It took a while to learn get a unique sound out of Massive as its a popular synth in Dubstep, but you can generate some amazing noises that are near impossible on anything else, especially cold FM type stabs and bass tones.
You were responsible for producing Loopmasters 34th Artist series sample pack, how did that come about?
Loopmasters approached me to produce the pack, I’m guessing one of the reasons I was on the shortlist is my sound has moved on in quite a short space of time.
We all agreed the pack should cover all the current strands, as well as have appeal outside of Dubstep, as the spirit of the genre is about experimentation and re-working a wide range of influences.
Did you have complete free rein over the sounds you included? how did you go about it?
The Artist Series follows a rigid format to allow maximum compatibility between the packs. Sections were split into full two or four bar loops with each layer separated, then
collections of basslines and synths, fx, drum loops (again broken into separate layers) and single drum hits. I built the pack up gradually collecting some of my favourite drum and synth sounds, then went through some previous projects to see if anything lent itself to being adapted for the pack. I also studied lots of different dubstep tunes and created new loops with a similar feel. I think it’s got a good balance of stock loops that are more suited to beginners who just want to get something rolling.. to individual hits and layers that can be adapted to create new styles and textures by more experienced producers.
The festive season is rapidly aproaching, what’s at the top of your Christmas wishlist gear wise?
I’m working a lot more with vocals these days so the next plugin on the list is the Trax Transformer from Flux / Ircam. The pitch and formant vocal manipulation possibilities look really interesting and I was a big fan of the GRM tools that IRCAM released a few years ago.
What are your top five tips for creating a Dubstep track from scratch?
1. Have a vision, even if you want a similar sound to an existing tune or producer, focus on what elements of the track are going to make people want to play it and how it will effect the audience.
2. Don’t be scared to pull really varied influences into the sound. It’s open season as far as I’m concerned, Reggae, Funk, Techno, Punk. Use the basic building blocks of dubstep to create a platform for new ideas. These days those building blocks seem to be just lots of bass, and a tempo of around 130 – 140 bpm.
3. Learn one synth really well. It doesnt matter which one as they can all create the classic dubstep wobble bass – That’s just manipulating the filters and oscillators with an LFO.
4. Decide which element is going to drive the tune. If the bassline is very busy and has lots of mid range modulation, ease back on the drums. If the track is more minimal and sub bass driven then concentrate on the details that can come through in the percussion and fx.
5. The popular “Half step” drum pattern is a style but not a rule – don’t be scared to use different drum patterns. Listen to artists like Ramadanman, 2562, Mala, Pinch who all have really amazing grooves and textures in their drums.