A personal account of a journey through making music, featuring studio tips, a gear rundown, and more!
I’m Mark from A Different Kind Of Busy, I play guitar and sing – I also play a bit of drums, bass, keys, percussion, and make weird sounds and things that end up on our recordings.
I got into music around about 11-12 years old when my dad brought home a guitar from a rubbish clearout with three strings on it – thinking it might keep me occupied for a month. I started working songs out by listening to the radio and trying to play along. This was seemingly the beginning of a life-long obsession with guitars, drums, production, live sound, and tech.
There was no magic moment where I decided it was what I wanted to do. It feels like the decision was made for me. My first ever performance was an acoustic rendition of ‘Sunburn’ by the band Fuel when I was about 15 in front of my high school. It was mortifying, but for whatever reason I wanted to do it again. My first song ever written was called ‘Cold’. I was 13. It wasn’t great… but you have to start somewhere.
Read up on all the latest interviews here.
I have no idea what to call our sound. Someone once suggested we have a ‘post-indie’ sound – I like that, maybe because it’s extremely vague.
In the band we use synths, guitars, drums, bass, and samplers live. In the studio, there is no set instrumentation. Whatever works. If we had access to an orchestra, we’d use it. If I owned an oboe, It would probably find its way onto a recording.
I would like to move somewhere unique with songwriting more than anything, production-wise we tend to experiment the entire way, and I don’t think that will change as it’s an ever evolving beast of its own. However, one thing I’d love to embellish is our arrangements. There’s something amazing about songs without a traditional structure that still feel like they ‘make sense’.
Are there any influences? Yes, but none in particular. I try really hard not to dig that deep into production stuff on records I love. I just want to love the record for what it is, I dont think it’s always good to pull back the curtain on everything. I just naturally gravitate toward artists, genres, era, and I dive deep into just absorbing and listening. I think a lot about the artistic statement of any given moment of a song, and how well it’s been served by the production and arrangement around it.
This normally means songs of mine have arrangements inspired by this song, melody inspired by that producer, bassline inspired by that artist… it’s quite the mish mash in the end.
But in short, my heroes are Holland-Dozier-Holland, Nigel Godrich, George Martin/McCartney/Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Ross Robinson, Andy Wallace… I could go on.
I run a home studio, and it is fairly modest. I run an RME Fireface UC, entirely outboard preamps, an SSL-SiX for the pres and monitoring, a Focusrite ADAT thing for more outboard, a couple of comps and an EQ, Cubase is my go-to DAW, and a range of plugins.
I have an equally modest mic kit with some standard Shure and Sennheiser things, along with a Neumann TLM-103, an AKG 414, and some other bits and bobs.
View this post on Instagram
I think it’s unique in that it’s got a fair outboard component to it despite being small and at home.
In terms of the equipment having influence sonically, I think this is true of all signal chains, and rooms themselves. You can get all sorts of unique flavours wherever you go, but it comes down to the artist’s performance and the feelings in the room as much as your combination of equipment.
Maybe I’m unique in that I don’t tend to treat rooms at all when I work in them. I just work with the characteristics of the room and try to record all acoustic elements of a track in a similar space. Of course… some rooms are just unusable – but I actually can’t stand working in a completely dead room personally. I really like the room to breathe a little bit. For those horrified purists, I do treat rooms I mix in. That’s where the line gets drawn!
My monitoring setup is nothing special… Interface into my SSL-SiX into my Adam T7Vs and a KRK sub. I use beyer cans for headphone mixing.
With the front end, I’d love some Lavry Gold D/As, that’d be nice! However at my level, RME D/A-A/D is really deep and clear to me.
I love outboard preamps, I don’t have a favourite but I just like to have a bit of variety. Neve, SSL, Focusrite, Great River… it’s all nice to me, just different flavours.
My EV635 that’s probably a ‘70s or ‘80s one, it’s bashed up completely, it’s all mids, no highs, no lows… it’s all character too. It just has its own voice, it doesn’t work for most things but cuts right through the mix when it does.
With my workflow it’s an even mix of session lengths. Writing and recording, marathons. Mixing, short bursts.
I start with writing or producing… gosh, it’s way too different every time. Sometimes there’s an idea good enough to get me into the studio I guess. A single lyric, a riff, a groove, a concept even, with no actual musical idea yet. From there it’s pretty random and I like keeping it that way.
Mixing, I do an acapella mix to start with. That’s my only real steadfast rule for the start of a mix. I know when something’s finished when it tells you.
I really hate the ‘get the drums and bass first’ rule so many people work to. I’m sure it works great for some, particularly those who have done great work in pre production. But I’m a big fan of doing things in a different order every time, it keeps things creative and changing and moving. I’m also a fan of not thinking very much. If you have an idea, try it before you talk yourself out of it.
View this post on Instagram
Valhalla verbs definitely get a run on most of my stuff. But also The Glue by Cytomic. Nice comp that can be very transparent, or very aggressive. Works well on busses, and I do a lot of bussing.
I use the Valhalla stuff a lot – super impressive for a cheap set of plugins. Would love an AKG BX20 in my studio one day.
LA2A is my go-to compressor – I do not own one, but if it’s at my disposal it’s my immediate choice. For EQs, there’s a Black Rooster Pultec EQ clone I use on a lot of things, I think now that I have it I couldn’t live without it.
My dream piece of equipment would be a big old Harrison Console, or an original U47.
For what’s next, I helped record and provide the upcoming Lady Lyon LP – in a very analogue studio. It’s a wonderful set of songs and I can’t wait for it to be out.
My advice? Have fun, be careful, don’t let social media dictate your feelings and career.
Keep up to date with A.D.K.O.B.