A Chat With Maniac – Music Producer Based Research
In music, Maniac is a highly rated producer who has worked with artists such as Wiley, Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk. He has been praised for his original, distinctive sound and the variety of sounds he explores in his music. Maniac is considered to be among the most talented producers to have produced Grime music. Maniac first came to prominence at the age of 16 when his track ‘Bow E3’ was used by Wiley for his album ‘Playtime Is Over’. 2008 Maniac released a collaborative album with Tinchy Stryder entitled ‘Tinchy Stryder vs. Maniac’. This was followed by his first solo CD, ‘New Age Grime’ in 2009. Maniac contributed a number of tracks to the 2008 film ‘AdULTHOOD‘ recorded a single for a Nike advertising campaign and had his music featured on British soap EastEnders.
Maniac had recorded prolifically and had a large unreleased back catalogue. Tracks from this back catalogue have continued to be released, including the track ‘Man Dem’ which featured on Chipmunk‘s 2010 platinum selling album ‘I Am Chipmunk’ and ‘Liquid Organ’ which was used by Wiley on his 2014 album ‘Snakes & Ladders’.
He released a single with Wiley entitled ‘Outchea’.In October 2015, Maniac produced four tracks for the ‘BrOTHERHOOD‘ film soundtrack which has just recently been released in cinemas, collaborating with Chip, AJ Tracey, P Money and Curtis Clacey.
Tinchy Stryder vs. Maniac (Eskibeat Recordings, 2008) (with Tinchy Stryder)
New Age Grime (Ghetto Platinum Productions, 2009)
Devil EP (Adamantium Music, 2008)
Salt Fish EP (Earth 616, 2009)
Thug / Wreckage (Terrorhythm, 2010)
Devil Vs Saltfish (Pitch Controllers, 2011)
100 Problems (Rinse Recordings, 2015) (with Maxsta and Boothroyd)
Whilst researching Maniac using Google, there was not a lot of information around his techniques and mixing styles. Maniac is very involved with social media so I approached him via Twitter @thisismaniac and asked him some questions around this to be able to compare my style and highlight the differences. Below is a copy of the conversation we had.
SG: “Can you tell me a bit about your style and mixing technique and how it contributes to your personal style?”
Maniac: “How I record artists – I get them to do a lead vocal, then a stab of certain words, sometimes, and then ad libs. Sometimes it’s just a lead vocal and adlibs. I don’t use my own studio – there are a few studios I use and they’re all of a similar standard – they’ve been acoustically treated to provide the cleanest sound and have decent equipment. In the studio there are padded walls to prevent the bounce of the air off the wall, it sounds nuts if it ain’t padded. The sound needs to be able to be manipulated to the maximum, if it’s been recorded and ALREADY has reverb, you’re straight away at a loss.”
SG: “Ok so what is reverb, is that the noise you’d get if you didn’t have padded walls? Do you process sound before it is recorded or do you just do it ‘in the mix’?”
Maniac: “Reverb is the effect that’s made when a sound bounces off something Imagine shouting ‘Hello’ in a bedroom. Now imagine shouting ‘Hello’ in an empty church. Big differences in reverb. For recording (If I did record regularly) – I would use Logic, but that isn’t what I produce on. Logic is cool, a bit complicated for a beginner, it ain’t really “pick up and use” like FL Studio is. I use FL Studio when producing music. I draw in my drums using the mouse rather than play them in, and if I want to move them slightly to give them a more natural feel I can do. My mixing techniques, I just make the beat and gradually adjust the levels to where I feel they should be, and at the end of the beat do an overall mix. I rarely use samples from other songs unless they’re vocal samples from acapellas. I’ve always mixed like that, feels most comfortable for me. Some people pull all the levels of each instrument down and then bring them up individually to the level they feel, I don’t though. I’m self taught, bare trial and error. I found what worked and then stuck with the formula.”
SG: “Who did you look up to, what were you listening to closely and what inspired you?”
Maniac: “I’ve just always wanted to be as good as the people I looked up to, better even. I started off dead, then got better as I practiced more and listened to music closer. I looked up to Davinche, Skepta, Wiley, Rapid, Dirty Danger, Mr V. People who did stuff that made me ask “how did they do that?” As for listening… I would listen to someone who has abilities out of my league, like Joker’s synth manipulation or Swindle’s drum programming, JME’s simplicity/minimalism. I use compression on vocals and I use compression on drums/claps/whatever I feel needs it, I equalise out frequencies from my sounds that I don’t want in my mix or would take up space in my mix/make it sound muddy. I use reverbs and time delays when appropriate, sometimes I use those effects on a song that’s airy and ambient other times I use it solely on a clap to make it sound more loose and less abrupt, however if you listen to ‘Chipmunk – Mandem‘ you will hear that it’s quite dry sounding. I’d say I prefer to use software. I prefer manipulating sound on screen than with my hand physically.”
From speaking with Maniac I’ve realised that you do have to play around and practice to find your own personal mixing style and techniques to make your own sound and be distinctive. It is apparent that using electronic sounds to produce Grime music/compositions should be done so in an acoustically treated studio to get the clearest sound and lowest reverb, then be able to add white noise into the composition if I feel it is needed. Similar to maniac I do prefer to use the hardware/software programmes rather than use instruments physically.
Maniac stated that he does not like to use samples, this is what I believe draws him apart from other Grime music producers as heavy sampling is one of the aesthetics of Grime and is highly recognised. I cannot say whether I prefer to sample or to only use live acapella recordings as I have made two compositions, my first composition is called Track SR and was made from samples and sound library effects which is a common structure when producing Grime instrumentals, although my second composition has been mixed from a live recording with instruments and does not contain samples. The outcomes are very different and I am still developing my own style of producing. I have found that the way I have practiced using time delays on claps contributes to making a gritty loose sound which is comparable to the way Maniac produces.
All links and references are correct as of 22nd September 2016.