The affable in-demand Dutch DJ, musician, and producer has delivered a steady stream of hits beginning with his big first song, ‘Victory’, on the Canadian independent electronic music label, Monstercat in 2014. In 2017, he was nominated at the Electronic Music Awards for New Artist of the Year and his remix of Dr. Dre’s ‘The Next Episode’ has been viewed over 250 million times (via Trap Nation). The monster-chart topper ‘Light’ continues to shine having recently eclipsed 30 million views and his second studio album (bb u OK?) released in June of last year to strong reviews.
We caught up with San and talked about how he’s making music with Auto-Tune plug-ins.
You started on guitar and with bands. What music influenced you at that stage?
What made you start producing electronic music?
San Holo: The ability to create a full song with all its production and instruments all by yourself. No need to wait on any other band members or artistic opinions. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s great! But I needed a musical outlet that was just 100% me.
Do your tracks usually start from guitar and vocals, or an electronic source like synths or drum beats?
San Holo: It’s always different! It rarely starts with just a vocal, though. Always starts with sounds.
How do you develop your great vocal chops?
San Holo: I focus on the emotion rather than the technical side of music production. I like the vocal chops to feel human still.
Do you use samplers?
San Holo: I see my DAW, Ableton, as one big sampler!
What are the biggest challenges when creating vocal chops?
San Holo: Creating vocal chops can be time consuming, especially if you want to make them sound like your own. It’s easy to create chops that kind of sound generic, the challenge is to make them sound unique to your own brand, emotionally and sonically!
How do you like to use pitch and formant effects?
San Holo: I use a lot of formant effects. Sometimes I even change the formant in my unpitched voice to make it sound a little deeper.
Formants are also great with pitched up vocals, which oftentimes get a little squeaky and harsh sounding. Playing with the formants allows you to blend it with other sounds better.
Has your approach to vocals changed from “Light” to “bb u ok”? If so, how?
San Holo: Yes, I used to record Auto-Tune WET. Now with the Antares software I don’t have to print anything yet. I can even pitch up audio in Ableton to make it lean towards a higher or lower note! (I do this a lot.)
What types of things do you do with vocals to help them stand-out among such dense synth tracks?
San Holo: It’s all about the mix. EQ, compression, and automation is half of the work! For me it’s really important if all the words are audible. You need to be able to hear the vocals on the lowest volume of your audio player. I always check that in my car.
Do you automate a lot of effects like delays and reverb?
San Holo: I even automate all the S-es in my vocal tracks.
How long have you been using Antares software?
San Holo: For about 4 years!
How did you learn about our software?
San Holo: I’ve been using the Antares Auto-Tune hardware units a lot in the past! So when I switched software to Auto-Tune it was an easy choice.
Which Antares plug-ins do you use?