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Sharooz Raoofi is the ultimate gear assistant. Also known as Principleasure, his entire career revolves around a relentless appetite for music technology. He is a founder of Sample Magic, Sounds to Sample, Attack Magazine and Audiaire, and currently works alongside music technology mega-platform Splice.
Among it all, he still finds time to write songs for films, remix music for Moby, Robyn and Craig David, and work on his own material. On October 18, it will be released II, the genre sequel to the 2019 album I, which is full of rich synth work, melancholic tones and timbres with cosmic sounds. He invites us to his Principle Pleasure Studios in Los Angeles to present his enviable collection of synthesizers, drum machines and effects, to talk about his fascination with the E-Mu SP-1200 and to explain to us why a pair of Eventide effects surpasses that of today. cutting-edge plug-ins.
Hey Principeasure! Congratulations for II. As with your first album, you dive into various genres and styles. Is it intentional or are you just allowing yourself to let your ideas flow?
It’s a bit of both, to be honest. Partly intentional because I find albums of one genre inherently boring, especially if each track is dancefloor oriented – there has to be a dynamic flow, in my opinion. I just let the ideas flow as they came out. Putting a restriction on your release in terms of style, genre or tempo is a sure-fire way to never finish anything.
A constant in both I and II it is the intensive use of synths. What attracts you to synthesis compared to acoustic and “traditional” instruments?
My obsession with synths goes beyond their usefulness in music production [laughs]. While I prefer to make music using hardware, especially vintage synths, for the average listener, there isn’t much these days that sets plug-ins and their analog counterparts apart in terms of sound quality.
For me, I love the finite nature of working with older technology. It’s a way of just committing to printing something without going back and endlessly tweaking a sound or preset. Plugins can give too much choice. I know that with the old sequencers and drum machines there isn’t much to do – especially if there is no MIDI. It commits me to sticking to an idea and bringing it to fruition.
We heard that you worked at Miloco Studios Red Room for the mix of the record. What enabled you to finish the album in this studio?
The history, the staff and the equipment, of course, especially the instructors. Miloco Studios has these massive Augspurger speakers that are truly in a league of their own. During the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to devote a lot of time and really get to know the room and the processors, including the Eventides and Lexicons, of which I became a late follower but a longtime fan. They have some of the best outboard gear I have ever seen and using them has really made a difference in the overall quality of the mix.
Suppose you recorded a lot of your ideas in your Principleasure studio? Can you tell us a bit about the location?
Principle Pleasure Studios is a room that I have had in Los Angeles for a few years. I’ve collected synths and drum machines since I was a boy – for over 20 years – and hooked everything up with a MIDI clock, so I just hit play and the whole piece rolls right in. synchronization with my DAW. It’s the only place in the world where I really feel at home. I even put a bed there at one point as it was a space big enough to live and work comfortably [laughs]. With current world events it was very difficult to get to the US from the UK so I made over half of the new material entirely in the box – which was a very interesting start from the first album.
What atmosphere are you trying to create in the studio?
Nostalgic, dark, electric, club-like and cut off from the outside world. It is also important that everything is laid out so that it is easy to know how something is routed or where the connections are. When you have as much gear as Principle Pleasure Studios, it is essential to know where everything is in a chain or how it is synchronized. Of course, everything goes to shit when I buy new equipment and have to unplug a dozen old devices to adapt it.
What DAW are you using?
Cubase, mainly. It’s so reliable for audio processing, and the included Steinberg plug-in suite is one of the best around. I still use the same filters and reverbs that they have had since about 2010. I’ve beta tested them for years, so if there’s a feature request or anything I’m not sure, they’re just an email away. It also has very extensive synchronization and routing options, which in an environment like mine are heavenly.
It could be difficult: what is your favorite piece of equipment?
At the moment probably the E-Mu SP-1200. It’s impossible to resist the crunch and crunchiness of these drums. Anything you put in there turns into a mean, plump, almost unrecognizable version of himself. No one has ever improved it in terms of software or hardware. And the sequencer has such a human feel and groove. Lack of memory means you have a ridiculously small palette to work with and forces you to choose only a handful of sounds that work well together.
Is there a particular synth or effect that can be heard the most on II?
Probably the Eventide H3000 or DSP4000. I got into these effects very late and at first struggled to believe that an aging hardware processor could sound richer and richer than convolution reverbs. These things have their own magical fairy dust that they throw into the mix. The presets are programmed so well and adapt so well to every sound – I can literally print one on every channel without cluttering things up. I don’t even bother to sync the delays to the presets. I fully understand why every big studio has one.
Of all the sound designs on the LP, do you have a favorite moment or sound that you are most proud to create?
Probably some of the sounds I specifically created in the Astra plug-in, which comes with a Splice subscription. I actually developed it, so it’s tailor-made to meet my own needs as a sound designer. I used it a lot on the track Lexicon both for leads and sub-bass. It has a parameter sequencer and a huge range of oscillator options, allowing it to adapt to most genres and styles flexibly.
What was the biggest investment in your studio? Was it worth it?
Recently, the monitors. And yes, it’s 100% worth it. I use the Focal Trio and these little wooden BBC Stirling Audio speakers. It all starts and ends with the precision of the monitoring environment, so it always dismays me when I walk into a huge songwriter’s room and he uses that $ 200 KRK. Fair play if you can mix them up precisely, but I don’t see how that is possible.
What is your dream piece of equipment?
A Yamaha CS-80, of course. It’s a dream machine and nothing will ever come close. It is the most expressive electronic instrument I have ever played and creates a unique sound of its kind. It’s beautiful, scary, intense, sweet and aggressive at the same time. It is absolutely breathtaking. With just a little reverb, he could sit on just about any track or style imaginable.
If we left you on a desert island, what object would you take with you to make music forever?
A spoon – for eating coconuts, gutting fish, and slapping my knees and temples to create tuned percussion.
What’s your best production tip?
Work with your ears, not your eyes. There are too many distractions – curves, automated processes, buttons, wires, patch cables and modular dickery around these days. Of course, it’s ironic for me to say this, because there is so much material in my room. However, some days an idea just leaked onto my 10 year old 13 inch laptop in Cubase using a bunch of Kontakt instruments. On those days, when my ears are exclusively directing the process, I work ten times faster and more productively.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting to build a studio?
Invest in monitors, a sound card, sound absorption equipment, acoustics and soundproofing above all. Without proper consideration of these, you have already lost the battle.
Principleasure’s II will be available from October 18, 2021.