Talking Tech with Orlando Voorn

Making music is embedded in Orlando Voorn‘s daily routine. For over three decades the Dutch techno veteran has carved out time to produce every day that the process has become almost second nature. Part of the reason behind his innate fluidity is thanks to a decision he made 14 years ago: to favour doing a lot of stuff over having a lot of stuff.

Now, you might think a producer of Voorn’s stature and experience would have accumulated a wealth of gear and spends his days in a souped up studio, but you’d be wrong. Although that’s been the case in the past, more specifically at the turn of the millennium when equipment was all analogue, he’s been making music in the box for well over a decade, relying on simply his MacBook Pro, a keyboard controller, turntables and mixer.

He’s proof that you don’t need bells and whistles to create innovative music. Over the last 30 years he’s released a lengthy list of records on labels like E-Beamz, Triangle.Records, Rush Hour and countless others, that effortlessly flits between a wide breadth of electronic sounds from techno house and DnB to electro and hip hop. Unsurprisingly he still has plenty more music in the pipeline, starting with a release on Wanderist’s Transient Nature which will be seeing the light of day very soon.

In anticipation of the EP we chatted to him about a life spent producing and his fluid process, with a visual walk around his old gear-heavy studio, his friend Sean Ober’s frequented space and the simple set up he uses today.

Whatʼs your musical education?

I was drumming from a young age, first on pots and pans, or anything I could put my hands on that produced some kind of sound. My father was not very happy with it at first but then his friend told him “Look your son has got a skill and you should get him a drum set.”

I got myself a practice drum set, the one that is not extremely loud, and I started getting drum lessons. The guy who was the teacher was aware I couldnʼt read any notes. The whole note thing was not for me, yet I played everything he showed me. I could pick it up immediately and so he felt it was a more natural thing in me and I didnʼt have to read it off paper.

I studied Neil Peart (RIP) the drummer of Rush early, even before I got lessons. I joined a jazz combo and we did some gigs with that, so drumming was an important start and continued after I started the DJ thing and collecting records. I also met a musician, Steve Clisby, and he taught me the chord process in music and how you’re supposed to blend stuff together. However, in the end I did that in my own way because I didn’ʼt get the whole entire spectrum of it.

All I knew was it had to be fitting in my way and in ways I already admired from other records and productions. I was born with the right intonation and am pretty anal about it in my productions.

What was your first ever set-up, when you started making music?

My first set-up was a Roland W30 Sequencer & Sampler Workstation, Yamaha DX 100 and Oberheim Matrix 100 module.

I did everything in the W30 and would bring the thing to Studio LeRoy and we would mix the record there. Later on, I figured I could do it myself if I bought a mixing desk which I did.

What was the first serious piece of kit you bought? 

The Roland W30.

Thanks for taking some photos around your studio. Could you give us a little walk through the main components?

My set-up as of today is very simple. It containʼs a MacBook Pro, a keyboard controller and 2 Yamaha powered monitors, a couple of turntables and a mixer – thatʼs it.

However, I owned a couple of studios before, also a high-end one.

Where is it located and do you share with anyone else? 

I am located in Georgia USA. I do not share it.

Was there any method to the way you’ve laid it out and have you made any special non-musical touches to make it feel like a productive workspace?

I have my workspace in the living room. I am happy with my monitors and along the way, you start knowing how to balance stuff. I am in a space where I can make noise without bothering neighbours.

What’s been your method for creating this studio?

The method was trying to see through the facade of having a lot of stuff vs doing a lot of stuff. When I had a lot of stuff I also was a lot slower with production.

With programs like Ableton, all the necessary tools to bring warmth to your production are available in one box. All you gotta do is back up everything you do, and if you have a production that sucks you just throw it in the garbage.

Has it been a gradual accumulation or a bulk purchase? Any key inspirations in pulling it together?

For my current set-up, it is obvious that there was not a lot needed, but I still get out the maximum sound I like to hear. Over time the plugins became much better so for me it’s no problem to work this way. Experience is also key in these types of things.

Showing off gear is cool, but if the end result is so-so then the point is lost. When I started out there was no choice to spend a lot of money on gear because everything was analogue.

The technology now is great, and real talent with little means can now also make music and release it etc.

Are you always seeking to experiment and develop your studio, by changing or adding equipment? If so, what warrants a change?

I work on the same set-up for 14 years now – people don’t believe it. But that is the truth. I also have worked in studios elsewhere like my friend Sean Ober’s studio in Seattle.

I had a professional studio in Holland around 1999-2004 but that became defunct after a heated matter with the label at that time. I did not wanna work with a company that was pushing me to do things I did not want to.

If money were no object what would you add?

Mastering gear. I find this part of the production very interesting.

You must have a most treasured bit of equipment. If you had to keep just one piece, what would it be?

In my case, it would be the Mac cause if that is gone there is nothing.

Before you head to the studio, is there anything you do to prepare or get in the right headspace?

Cup of coffee in the morning and I smoke my ganja.

What’s your creative approach when youʼre in the studio? Do you go in with a concept in mind or is it usually an impulsive exercise?

Putting a track together for me is like routine because I have been doing it daily for over 30 years. For me it’s no problem to finish a song. I also do not care what anybody else thinks of it just as long I understand that I think it’s dope. 

This is a thing I have done since the beginning of my production. Learning from people who you admire till you come to a point that you put yourself in anything you make, so you create your own interpretation.

Are you someone to labour over a track until every crease is ironed out, or do you prefer a raw, instinctive approach without dwelling too much on something?

It totally depends on the track, but from experience, the tracks that roll out naturally and with speed are the ones that come out the best.

But mostly I will go over them and re-listen and perfect lil’ things. And of course, we have the all-out raw stuff where it just needs to knock.

Where do you go or what do you do when you have writer’s block?

It doesn’ʼt happen often but when it does it’s time to let it sit for a couple days.

Anything to reset the mental hardware?

Listen to good other music when you’re not inspired: Inspiration is motivation. Or a vacation to exotic islands.

What inspires you outside the world of music?

Everything in life that happens is translated into music in my world. Mood plays an important role in that, have more aggressive music that can come out of irritation of some aspect of your life. Love, happiness, sadness, war, discrimination, injustice, the social aspect, things you achieve, wonderful people, horrible people and so on. So every action from the outside gets a reaction and what is more beautiful than displaying that in music.

I recently went to Jamaica for a few days and that was a big inspiration mentally and physically. Everyone needs some relaxation in their life to fill up the tank.

What would you say was the most important piece of kit in the making of your new release, and why?

As you understand from my prior answers that I do everything now from the box so that is my important piece. However, I will include some pictures from a prior studio in Holland.

It contained a DDA Profile 56 channel automated Studio console, Otari 24 analogue tape recorder, 2 Akai MPC3000, Sp1200, Oberheim OBMX module, Oberheim Matrix 100 plus editor, Standard computer, DX 100 YAMAHA, Roland Jupiter 8, Outboard gear, Alesis Keyboard, Akai sampler, Neuman u87 a1 microphone.

The studio got derailed when I refused to play the companyʼs policy, they wanted me to make the style pushed forward, namely trance music. After being stuck in a company that did not understand my vision and my refusal to be forced into a direction I decided to take a lawyer and we somewhat settled in the end.

After this whole thing was over, this same company started boycotting me to DJ anywhere as many were linked to them in the club life, and they ran and still run most of the festival industry.

Standing up for my beliefs cost me greatly in the end but shaped me as a much, much better producer in the end. I immediately knew it was my time to pack my bags and leave to Detroit and resurface everything from there surrounded with people that understood where I was coming from.

I sold everything when going to Detroit and rebuilt myself mentally and physically.

What else is on the horizon this year thatʼs getting you excited?

Lots of things still coming out. To name a few:

Planet Odnalro Album vinyl on Nighttripper Records next month.

I have a release coming out on Heist. Club bangers.

Watch out for: Handjes in de Lucht (hands in the air) on DJ World. I had one of those moods to put this together, itʼs a rave thing.

A second release on Kompakt Records, So Deep EP. Label boss gave me a huge compliment and told me that was the fastest signing in Kompakt history, they’ve released over 400 releases.

Star Travel LP on Axis /Deeptrax vinyl release.

Back to Basic with Amp Fiddler on vocals _Burek Various singles on the infamous Clone Labels.

A full-length Album “ Swing the Jazz” on Contrafact.

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