Production Talk: Spettro

Cutting his teeth in the heart of Texas for years, Spettro somewhat recently moved to the mountains of Taxco, Mexico. A friend and family of our Science Cult imprint, he’s been one of the top exports of the lone star state releasing on labels like Get Physical, Elevate, and Crosstown Rebels. 

We caught up recently to discuss some production with him and wanted to share some helpful production tips that he has shared to help you step up your game! 

What is your thought process when going into tracks to make sure everything has its own space when building up an arrangement? 

I just keep thinking about the groove. When the groove is hot, the arrangement typically takes care of itself. I start many arrangements before I even have all the elements in place. This was the case with ¨Piezo Effect¨ – I didn’t have the chords written in the breakdown when I started the arrangement. I wasn’t even thinking about a breakdown. In fact, I really try to avoid them in general (20 years later I’m still telling myself, ¨Just let it groove man.¨) – but I heard those chords come in my head, so I made it happen, and it worked great. 

Something that really is the sound of Spettro is the slammin’ grooves. Can you tell us a little bit about how this is done?

Getting the drums just right is the key for me. Tuning the drums, and even micro-tuning helps (try the old -32 / +32 cents trick taken from the 440 vs. 432 Hz playbook).  Dialing in my template and getting it really tight is also crucial. A great tennis coach once taught me the 7 P´s: Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.  I really geek out on having my effects chains just right for each instrument in my template.  When it’s time to write sketches, ideas flow quickly and I can instantly tweak efx and compressors, etc…This way, I minimize the chance of losing the creative flow. 

When sketching out ideas for releasing tracks, what is your process? Do you end up not releasing a lot of material? How do you get past the dreaded “loop” stage?

My writing process transformed when I started writing sample packs. I’ll spend a week just making patches in Serum, then another week putting together new drum kits, and changing or revamping my efx chains in my template. This means searching for new plug-ins, trying new reverbs, etc…all of this just getting prepped for a week of artist madness. The artist madness week is typically a 5-7 day marathon of pure creativity from the gut, with no thinking involved. I write all day, every day of the week. I have my tools organized and ready at my fingertips. No second-guessing if a delay is just right, or if I should try a better saturator.  No arrangements, or edits either.  I just focus on feeling, and not thinking.  I put a 90 minute timer on for each sketch so I avoid getting stuck.  No matter what state a sketch is in after 90 minutes, I keep moving.  All this is done in clip mode (Ableton).  

If I record from a hardware synth, I do long takes and record them to audio, then I name the audio with the patch name and I keep moving. 

After the artist madness week, I’m left with 40-50 sketches, many of which are very basic ideas. This could easily turn into a big mess, but there’s a method to the madness.  Each day I’ll write each sketch in the same key.  Then the next day, a different key – usually a key that works with the first one. 

Once I finish the marathon artist week, I go back with my producer hat on. The editing process includes discarding the ok stuff and keeping the really good stuff. I’ll mix and match different ideas from different sketches…it’s one big process of elimination. I’ll label and save good ideas that just didn’t fit a groove for whatever reason. I also discard a lot of ideas.  Basically, I build my own custom sample packs in artist mode, and then I come back as the producer to further develop ideas.

This is my current workflow – using mostly software. I imagine things will change quite a bit once I get more hardware.