Gear Talks: an interview with TikTok sensation Candy Moore

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Gear Talks: an interview with TikTok sensation Candy Moore

Candy Moore TikTok
Words by Madeline Lo Booth

Calum Newton, aka Candy Moore, gives Mixdown a comprehensive rundown of the recording rig behind his remixing magic.

When he’s not creating content for TikTok, musician and social media star Calum Newton, aka Candy Moore, is recording, mixing and producing local bands in the Melbourne music scene. Having begun recording at the ripe age of 14, he’s a seasoned producer with a DIY ethos – unafraid to experiment with genres and willing to push all boundaries under the umbrella of music.

Read up on all the latest interviews here.

We were lucky enough to visit Calum’s home studio to chat all things audio gear, get some some hot tips on how to start producing at home and find out all the essential items you’ll need to get into it. 

You started making music in your teens in Ballina. What was your first home studio set up like and how did you get the gear?

I had this – I don’t know if my dad bought it for me, or I stumbled across it. A TASCAM DP-008EX. So I did all of Lunatics on Pogosticks and prior to that a band with my teenage friends when we were like 14 or 15 called Automatic Androids. I wanted to learn how to record so we started doing demos. So I bought that digital 8-track with two Shure SM57 mics and that was all I used for this EP “Medicine for the Illin’” and the first Lunatics on Pogosticks EP. 

So did you choose it, or your dad?

I think he gave it to me, but we kind of mutually figured it out. I was kind of like “I wanna record something” and he was like “use this” and I was like “alright”.

Is your Dad a musician?

No, well actually yeah I think he was. He had a band in the late 90s or 80s or whatever called Steep Descent, which I think is such a shocking band name [laughs] but like … My Mum thinks he could have gone places but I don’t know. He very rarely shows me anything. Well, he showed me his demos once, or maybe a couple of them and I completely forgot this but I made a comment that they all sounded the same. I said “oh yeah you should show me your band again”, and he was like “no, last time you listened to it you said all the songs where the same”, and I would have been 14 so he definitely has held a grudge on my comments!

Ok, so you’ve gone from only using this singular 8-track. What do you do now?

So now, gear-wise or what I do do? Both!

So I guess from that, I did a bunch of music stuff, which really inspired me to continue recording. I really love the process of recording and experimenting. From there I went to a performing arts school in Sydney – so I also play guitar and there was a time when I was like “Oh I’ll be a guitarist” and then after a while realised I’m not that good, like I can play some chords, I can do a bit of solo-ing and shit but I’m not like a great guitarist. Anyway, so I went to this performing arts school and just continued to write music and record and such. And then went to VCA for the contemporary writing music thing… you know what it is, and then in that process continued recording and now I somehow get paid to do it by bands and artists. Amongst that, I do TikTok stuff and content creation and a whole world of other kinds of things.

So, basically you’ve gone from songwriting, engineering and producing your own stuff to doing those things for other people?

Yes! So I was always doing that for myself and I think through doing that for myself I learnt a lot. Like, I’ve got no formal education in recording itself. I’ve never done an audio engineering degree. Like, the idea of doing live sound terrifies me. I like how when you’re recording in a space like this [my studio] or with mics that aren’t live, you have the option to spend an hour to make sure things are going right whilst live sound, that’s not so much my cup of tea. If I’d gone and done a degree and learnt a bit more about that stuff, maybe I’d be less afraid.

So transitioning from working on your own stuff to working with other bands, how do you decide what gear to use?

Well it’s not that I try and use everything, but I’ve always been a bit of a like “use what you have.” I went from recording drums with two 57s and occasionally I’d put one in sort of in between the snare and kick and then one as an overhead or both as like ‘left’ and ‘right’. You use what you have, I’ve always been someone who’s like whatever I have I’ll find a means to use it. Fortunately nowadays I have enough stuff that not everything gets used, so I kind of pick something just out of preference. But I guess, how do I decide what to use? I’m in this position, and I feel like most people are like this as well, I just try and upgrade everything so that you’re consistently getting better stuff and it’s going to help. But I pretty much always use this Sebatron thing, which is a VMPQuadPlus and is Melbourne made. I feel like every bloody producer in Australia has one because they’re a lot cheaper here than they are if you buy them in America and cos they’re made by a Melbourne guy. They’re good, they’re pretty colourful. I run everything through this Soundcraft 16-track desk. I bought that cos I watched some video of Stu Mackenzie [of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard] when he was doing one of those videos showing off their shit and I thought if it works for him, it’ll work for me! And then I go out from a little multicore that wraps around and goes into this Apollo universal audio, which is a really good interface with all the universal audio plugins. They get a bit of a run when I’m mixing.

That’s full! [pointing at the rack]

Yeah the rack. So I also have these: Warm Audio 76 and a 2a, which to be honest I barely use. But I think people when they come in they go “Oh cool! There’s something there!” you know. I occasionally use them. I mean I have previously.

I do love this Sansamp thing because I use Logic and you don’t get the plugin version, whereas if you used Protools they have the PSA version which Tchad Blake and shit use heaps. Initially I saw it at Swop Shop and didn’t buy it. I looked at it for three months thinking “I have to buy that” and just never did. Then one day I went in there and it had gone but then Found Sound had one so I was like “you know what, that’s my sign I should just get one” and that used on bass and even on vocals occasionally is just really cool.

I also have this SBX90 which is just that classic, average 90s multi effects unit that supposedly My Bloody Valentine use, like their reverse reverbs and shit. It’s kind of awful but it has this symphonic effect that is just dynamite when thrown on bass to get that stereo spread and a bit of interesting colour.

Have you used that Yamaha SBX90 on any particular songs or with any particular bands? It sounds like it’s pretty specific what you’d use it for?

Yeah I used it on one of my songs Buried in the Ground, I used it in that for the lead guitar solo. I also used it recently when working with this band called Adored, there’s a solo at the end. They don’t even know… I kind of did it during mixing which I guess is a bit of a production choice but I ended up throwing it through, just similar kind of thing, just a guitar solo that’s all bendy and such so I was like you know what I’ll throw it through that just so it gets a bit of that weird warping effect. That was actually a flanger though, not the symphonic thing. There’s also been the occasional vocal that I’ve thrown it on. I kind of just throw it on occasionally and you’re like cool, if no one mentions it or notices it I’m like sweet, I sound okay then!

So when you’re producing stuff for TikTok, do you find yourself being less experimental or more experimental in terms of what gear you’re using? I ask since the quality of the sound is very high production value 

You reckon? I always think it sounds like shit!


Can you believe @Meghan Trainor is LITERALLY mother right now? @Chris Olsen @bruhthaniel #MeghanTrainor #Remix #Mother

♬ original sound – Candy Moore

I feel like it is! I feel like it’s like high quality pop and electronic music. It’s at a level where you would hear it on TV. Like it’s Hifi! 

Wow that’s really nice, thanks!

Not that your other work is necessarily “lofi” but I suppose you work with a lot of garage bands so the sound is different, so the question is, is your experimentation different when you’re working on stuff for TikTok? Like, do you have a formula?

Yeah I have a bit of a formula now. I didn’t at first… kinda the reason I wanted to do Tiktok was to understand the medium itself. I thought “this is a really good way to, I don’t know, get yourself out there”. And you know, content is fun, it’s fun to make silly things and do whatever. But from there I sort of had one mashup go well that was like “get on the beers” with that Candace Owens rant about “we should invade Australia”, so I did that and that went well and was like I might as well continue going down this avenue. So it’s been a really good exploration of dance music and understanding that sort of stuff. Like I never really listened to that much EDM or dance music even, so it was kind of like “ok cool, what am I trying to make?” and then being like kind of house, but then going off and trying to understand that genre or understand how people are blending those things. So it’s been cool to do that but I do feel like I’m in a bit of a slump in doing the same things over and over again. Like I find some silly sound byte and then “dun dun dun dun drrrrdrrrdrrrrdrrrr dun!” so it gets a bit like ? But occasionally, if I’m feeling a little more adventurous I will continue to find different sounds. Like, now I’m using Splice – I’d never used Splice before, so it’s cool to be like wow here’s some samples! I never used samples in my airquotes real music but it’s interesting to now be like, there’s nothing wrong with them. You know what I mean? It’s all part of the process, it’s all music. So in that sense it’s been quite eye-opening.

So do you differentiate between ‘TikTok’ content as a type of music that you’ve done in comparison to the other music that you make? The way you’re talking about it right now kind of sounds like,” well I have my real music which is Candy Moore stuff on Spotify or like specifically music streaming outlets and then CandyMoore.mp3 on TikTok?

I guess I would consider the CandyMoore.mp3 more like content. Which I don’t really understand why I make that correlation but I’m like one is content creation, because you’re like highlighting a brand’s vision or you’re highlighting a comedic aspect – it doesn’t necessarily feel like I am shining through it’s more that I’m like I’m part of the process and I join in and help and be a producer, but …

That makes sense since the Candy Moore stuff is more introspective, as in the songwriting relates to your emotions or what’s happening in your life, whereas the CandyMoore.mp3 stuff will be talking about something that’s on the news…

Or ketamine! And usually the only time I’ll put a song up is if it’s gone well and I’ve hit like a million streams, then I hit up the creator and I’m like “can we put this song out?” and most of the time they won’t respond and I’ll just put it out anyway or someone will get in contact with them and they’ll say it was ok, so… on the one hand, I mean I hope I don’t sound bitter about it, cos I really enjoy it but I would consider them slightly different. Like if I work with a band, I definitely feel more like a producer and I feel like there’s more merit in it. But that’s just cos you’re taking someone’s legitimate want for music and helping them get to the point of it being real.

Also, you’re in the room with them, working directly whereas if you work with sound grabs of people you haven’t met…

Yeah it’s a bit slimey. Cos it’s also that thing where you’re like I’m picking shit – you don’t necessarily know if that person would appreciate it. You think most people are going to take it in a lighthearted sense but it’s hard to find the point of is it just funny or is this poking fun at the person? So that stuff does come into play. But I also do love that brands hit me up and I get to do things, like I’m doing something for a show soon, so I watched an episode last night and was like “wow, there’s a lot of silly sound bytes in here!” so it’s cool to have that. Really, it’s music, it’s overarching and that’s the umbrella I’m working under at the moment, which is wonderful but yeah it’s very interesting to have that dichotomy, maybe that’s not the right word – maybe it’s a spread?

Sounds fun! I have to say, something I’ve always admired about you is how prolific you are, releasing music left, right and centre! How do you transition from a demo to a completed track? Since you record at home, are you often just jumping straight into the studio punching out songs in one go? How does this process happen for you?

Oh it really changes! A lot of the time I’ll just open up Logic and just start on a song and that’ll be the end song, that’ll be the same session. This isn’t something I used to do but over the last couple years I’ve become one of those people that considers being a mixer and a producer different things. I do both but say, when I produce I try to stop myself from worrying too much about the mix of things and just make the song and when I’m happy with the prod bounce, I’ll then bounce those stems out into my mixing session and I’ll mix. Which has helped my writing process since I don’t get bogged down on making the kick and bass blend perfect when you’ve only written a verse – you don’t really need to waste your time doing that stuff. I also quite enjoy using the acoustic guitar and just using that as your demo. Then you’ve written the verse and the chorus, everything’s just there and you’re building up around it.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into at-home producing? What gear would you recommend for beginners?

I would say record as many people’s stuff as you can! That’s one thing I did, I’d just hit up bands. I mean I always recorded my own bands. But just hit up friends’ bands. I think I did like Razor, which is Bryce’s band and like Tony Dork. There was a lot that I did but it all kind of blends in to me. I’ll look it up, cos I definitely did a bunch of shit for free. And I think that kind of gets forgotten a bit in this age of “oh you need to get paid, exposure’s not good” but I’m also like sometimes you’ve gotta do it because the product you’re gonna make is not that good. Like you’ve done it and you’ve learnt so much from the process.

I can see that because watching you use Logic, it’s all so seamless. Like you’re a total pro! You have definitely mastered that program as a tool. You can see that you’ve put in the time, doing it to the extent that it’s just natural. 

Yeah, it’s like hours and hours. I guess I would recommend just trying to record as many people’s things as you can, like whoever is willing to let you record their band. Doesn’t matter if they put it out or not, just extend them the invite to be like “let’s do something”. The connections you make from doing that is always great. But yeah, so I recorded so many songs for free, I’d see a band pay once and just be like “let’s record it”. Sometimes you’ve gotta just like – if you like the art in and of itself – well then you might as well. Some stuff I did back in 2019, I probably got paid $20 a mix. I’d just do stuff cos we’re mates. So that’s what I’d recommend. Just get as many credits as you can. And gear wise, whatever you have, use! Or that might involve borrowing. We are an industry where there’s so much community involved. Like the other day, a drummer was looking for an RE20, and I was like yeah I’ve got one if you wanna borrow it. Like that sort of stuff, you can do a call out, you can also connect with live music people, like venues if you need microphones but yeah if you can invest, getting 57s is always good. I’ve used those 57 mics since I was 15. I put them on my toms, obviously I’d use MD421s if I had them, but I don’t. So like I still use them and they’re like 12 years old. So that’s what I’d recommend, just do the thing and people will eventually pay you.

And what about an interface?

If you’re looking to record bands, I’d highly recommend getting the Focusrite 18i20, it took me years before I made that investment because you can do a lot of your own stuff on a two track interface. And it’s a bit of a meme owning a Focusrite thing but if you have the money, I think they’re usually like $700-800, it’s a very worthwhile investment. And then if you need 16 tracks you can get an OctoPre but you can also record a band with two inputs, you can just do it – you know Billiam? He still uses the digital 8-track that I had. You can just use those things to record bands and all that kind of stuff.

What’s coming next for you? What are you working on at the moment?

So I’m mixing Hunter, which is trap/pop kind of stuff which is not really my wheelhouse, but his team hit me up to mix it and record. I’m also working with Adored, which is a band I play guitar in. Hopefully they’re gonna put this stuff out soon, which is very lovely. I’m mixing Local Derby at the moment. Me and Bryce have a band together, Dividends, we’re recording an album together. And I’m mixing something for Rian. Also, some stuff with Winnie (McQuinn) and Acacia (Coates), they’re working on songs as a duo. And an art project with Cormac Kirby, which is also very much out of my wheelhouse but I’m very excited to do – an exploration of Abbotsford Convent, all found sound stuff that he’s collected.

Keep up to date with all things Candy Moore here.