Bob Humid interview

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I spoke to Cologne-based artist Bob Humid about his various work, and in particular his mastering: techno producers beware! There’s a mix at end featuring dubstep and D&B too.

DB: Hello Bob, how has 2013 been for you?

BH: Cheers Damian, nice to be able to chat with you. Yes, absolutely ridiculous. But that is mainly because I tend to shift and switch between working and activity areas, so sometimes it can suck energy when you switch topics.

I have been doing remixes, mixes and lots of masterings for a bunch of artists and labels including Great Mountain Fire, Superlux, Bisk, Dan Curtin, Rhythmetic, Shhhh Records and more. I am also DJ as resident on our monthly ‘Ehrenfeld Calling’ – Live Music Hall, Underground – along with local heroes like Dr. Ogni Jacquard, Dan_K, Claire Lampion and Natascha van Dongen. It’s over 2 floors, one with UK Bass, Electrofunk, D&B and all eras of Dubstep and one floor with Techno, Detroit and Minimal. There, I had the possibility to evaluate my mixes on a 14000 Watts NEXO PA with very good amps for 1 and a half years now on a regular basis and that was huge fun. You don’t get that oomph in your studio normally.

DB: Do you work every day on music?

BH: No, I am also doing graphic-design on a regular basis for a famous German Sci-Fi-Audiobook series called ‘Perry Rhodan’, it’s definitely the German ‘Star Trek’. I once discovered that it’s all the same to me: being able to put together elements in a way that they make sense is the essence of composition. Graphic, Music, Sounds, Text. You must combine different elements and form something meaningful out of those. It actually feels like pottery. Ha ha. Does that make sense to you?

DB: Tell me about your work as a musician, what compels you to work?

BH: As an electronic musician it’s always the element of random that’s precious. That and production skills. Many people have discovered that embracing accidents will help renovate music and serve as catalysts. David Lynch called those random events ‘happy accidents’. Those are very important in modern EDM production. On the other side I started to rediscover more and more the melodic side of things. I am much more into hooks and danceablity compared to my first solo-ablum, Twisted Repairs… but as I am slowly building up momentum for my new album, I want to go further back AND farther away from the present, at the same time. I like contrasts a lot.

For my personal taste a good track has to have elements that contradict. That is very sexy. Like a beautiful, perfect face isn’t really beautiful until it doesn’t have a small imperfection or exaggeration. I find some actors look more attractive then super-models, don’t they?

DB: You worked with Kitbuilders, tell us more about your remix work.

BH: Recently, I highly enjoyed the remix I did for Si Begg. He put out a fantastic score for a UK-feature-film called UFO and he invited a huge phalanx of talented artists to do remixes. Here it is:

DB: You’re known for your music mastering too, could you give us your perspective about what sort of things you encounter in terms of how people produce in an age of self-production?

BH: I do get a lot of different stuff, which is very interesting. But this one goes out to the Techno Producers, it almost always applies: “Your Hi Hat is about 8dB too loud!”. Seriously, how am I supposed to do some decent high-sheen-sweetening when the hi hat is already screaming? I usally try to get my clients to go back in the mix and fix the obvious crimes.

Communication with the producer is absolutely key in mastering-business. Don’t trust the beard-mumblers (German expression) with their ‘production secrets’.

Here’s another truth: people nowadays think that they can override 0dB fullscale in their DAWs and Sequencers. They couldn’t be more wrong. Think of 0dB digital fullscale as of +18dB analog fullscale and you get the point of “wrong”. There is nothing beyond 0dB digital fullscale. Try moving down your faders -8dB of all tracks in your mix BEFORE you start mixing. You’ll be surprised how fat your mixes will get.

DB: What’s some advice to someone swamped by internet advice and knowledge?

BH: Read, evaluate, try for yourself and read again. Mix (a lot), but get a decent pair of speakers first. If you are obsessed with a plan you will learn from any source.

Just be philosophically moderate and come back to senses from time to time. I mean: never believe dogmatic preachers who want to tell you that you can only mix ‘Analogue’ or ‘Digital’ or with this or that fancy and heavy feathered hat on. Once you have the skills you’ll be surprised how good you can mix on any decent device. Now, what exactly’s a “decent device”; that is a special problem that we have to discuss elsewhere.

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DB: Name a tune in your head right now.

BH: Here’s a quirky one from my favourite producer Rupert Hine. His solo-career is highly underrated

Totally exceptional producer, you will hear tons of Fairlight-Sounds and a very perfectionist approach that I just started to understand in terms of ‘How it was done’:

DB: What album session in history would you have loved to have attended?

BH: Oh, that’ll be definitely something with Rupert Hine at his Immunity or Waving Not Drowning production phase.

Also I’d love to have been there when George Martin and The Beatles did ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or the Magical Mystery album. And being there with The White Noise An Electric Storm and their crazy tape-experiments or with Captain Beefheart at the making of Trout Mask Replica witnessing a nervous breakdown from Frank Zappa when he couldn’t cope with the visions of Don Van Vliet. Ha ha.

DB: Where is an awesome spot to play in Europe or anywhere you’d care to mention?

BH: Golden Pudel for quirky open-mindness, Moritz-Bastei for his amazing cellar, Ilses Erika for unbeatable atmosphere during summer. Übel & Gefährlich for the elevator, Gewölbe for the wardrobe-guy, Baustelle Kalk for being different, King Georg for bringing some great bands to Cologne that usually don’t go as ‘commercially meaningful’. Too many to mention.

DB: Where’s the best PA you’ve ever played through? A big PA and big crowd? Or maybe a small tight club and defined & tuned PA, you tell me.

BH: I am not easily pleased on that front since I started to be good as a mastering-engineer. I can hear faulty EQ-settings or annoying room-modes everywhere. Room acoustics can define 40% of the sound-experience. But 25% of the listening-experience is heavily influenced by the light-situation: red and warm light raises your threshold for “annoying” mid and high frequencies. Or to put it in another way: Place any decent PA in a basic-sounding room, make this room very bright and the sound will suffer.

I LOVE huge PAs on outside areas with no reflecting walls in the surrounding area that could destroy the information that a loving engineer put in the mix at one time.

DB: What’s the future hold right now for you?

BH: I am currently tightening the screws for a little relaunch of my pro audio workshop-activities. It’s all a bit of secrecy right now, because I want to blast out the news in one big bang. You must know that I have been involved in managing a little but very sophisticated workshop-school in Cologne. Keep an eye on my site

Photos by Miroslaw Majewski