Dan Curtin – Top 5 Production Tips

Dan Curtin's musical quest began in early 1990s Cleveland, Ohio, and continues today in Berlin, Germany, defying conventions with Mobilee records and Holic Trax. 
Taking original inspiration from the early eras of techno and electro, Curtin has experimented with a vast number of styles, producing innovative stateside sounds of every variety  Curtins impressive discography dates back to 1992, with his first releases for Detroits 33RPM Records  and Belgiums Buzz Records.  Of Life and Art & Science on Peacefrog Records, and work for further influential imprints such as Strictly Rhythm. Over 70 singles, 9 albums and 20 years later, Curtin is as innovative and vital as 
he has ever been. 

Below he talks us through his Top 5 Production tips.


1.  Find what you can bring to the table that is uniquely yours.  Then own it.  Do. Not. Follow.

This has to be the most important production aspect and will frame everything else you do.   I see so many people trying to be sure to get this piece of gear, or get this sound, or do what that other producer who is mega famous does.  Forget all of that.    What we want from you is you, that is your number one strongest asset.    This should be the first thing you think about when starting out.   If all you want to do is to be like others then you will always be a follower and never stand out, and never have anything that anybody really wants.   Don't be one of the thousandsbe the one.  When you break out and  really bring a new sound and  an original style, people will truly love this and you will have loyal fans who appreciate what you have to offer and that strength will always carry you through.


2.  Make Music with anything and learn to play  an instrument or a few.

All the best producers can and do make music with anything.  Don't make the gear be what defines you.  Be open to all kinds of gear, digital, analog, sticks,  a nasty old Roland TB 303 like mine, whatever.   First of all this is a lot of fun, but secondly it doesn't limit your creativity to any one source.  When you can work with all kinds of material you won't find yourself  getting stuck so often, it just helps your creativity flow more freely.  The other single most important point is to learn to play and write music.  It's like having the biggest arsenal at your fingertips.  If you can play, and if you are open to using anything, then  you'll be able to express whatever ideas you have in your head, no problem.  You will literally be able to sit down at your workstation/instrument and just do the first things that comes to your mind and it will be right.  I can't tell you how many times I have literally just put my hands on the keys, played something in a few seconds, and be like , "yep, done."


3.  Learn to recognize the mediocre things you do.  Then eliminate them.

When I'm working in the studio and I do something that sucks, or something that sounds like something else I've heard I instantly delete.  I don't wast another second on it.  I started working like this basically from day one, because I set out with a specific goal of having my own sound, and I figured this was the best way to go about it.  And it works, and now it's second nature.  But the mediocre is a plague that we can all work to eliminate  by striving to not be like that.  Be awesome, be right, and don't be ashamed to be this way.


4.  Sort out your studio environment and use the best monitors you can afford.

This has to be my most important "tech" tip.  The absolute technical base of your work environment is the environment itself.  So many nice bits of gear can be utterly useless if you can't accurately hear what is going on.    Spend money here before you spend it anywhere else.  Acoustic treatment, flooring,  the position of your monitors in the room, windows, all of that stuff.  Then put in the best monitors you can.  It takes time and unless you've hired an acoustic engineer to do it for you a fair amount of trial and error are required to get it dialed in.  But  when you have this  base taken care of then you can start to really make the most out of your hard earned gear and software.  


5.  Learn your gear or software in detail, then master it.

This is the whole less is more thing.  But it is so true and even though it seems like having less might be restrictive, it's actually liberating.  I started doing this as a result of initially building my first studio with all second hand gear and secondly, from only having a few pieces.  None of it came with manuals so I just had to get in there and make it work.  This really paid off because if I needed to do something my mindset was OK, so let's find the way to do it.  And usually I did.  And that included getting old gear modified to work it into shape, like my Boss DR55 , or using crazy old drum machines like the Conrad drummer.   And  having only a few pieces forced me to work the hell out of each one.  I'm so glad for that now.  There is no need to have a billion things, and a billion plug ins.  Just have a few really great ones and learn the shit out of them.  It's going to enable you to express your ideas quickly  and with a higher quality.  If you have a bunch of hacked plug ins in your workstation and you find yourself constantly trying out different  f/x, synths, whatever to get the sound you want but you are never getting it then just delete all of that stuff and stick with your top few favorites and learn those better.  It will free your mind and take away that nightmare of  expecting the gear to be your solution.  You will be able to make that gear do what you want it to do instead of depending on it to do it for you.  That's what they mean when they say 'Bang the box!" 


Dan Curtin plays Holic NYE alongside Oliver Deutschmann and many more. Full details and tickets here