Jerome Isma-ae Shares a Wealth of Production Tips
We were fortunate enough to get 15 minutes to sit down and talk with Jerome Isma-ae after his set at Foundation Nightclub in Seattle to talk a bit about his music. I was still riding a bit of a euphoria from the amazing 90 minute set he dropped on Seattle and that had me in the mood to talk shop because I love his sound so this conversation was loaded with production tips from one of the most talented producers in the game. Level up your own craft and check the interview out below and you’ll see what I mean.
OTB: What kind of collaborations do you have coming up this year?
Jerome: iLan and I are just finishing up our new track that’s a follow-up to “Under My Skin” and I’m working a bit on my own new things as well but it takes a while I was touring so much in the last few months so I had no time to produce. If I find time to produce outside the studio it’s hard to know which direction I want to go because it takes time.
OTB: Do you do a lot of producing on the road or do you save it for when you’re at home in the studio?
Jerome: The problem is my distance travelled is really far. A few days ago I was touring in India, before that I was in London, before that I was in Canada, in the morning I’m flying to Miami so I’m flying 14-16 hours at a time and when you arrive you just want to sleep.
OTB: How’s your record label coming along?
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Jerome: It’s great. It’s waiting for my new release! I was trying to do something a bit different so it’s taking a while. There are something like 40 versions of my new track.
OTB: 40 versions? How do you pick??
Jerome: Good question! Really, I just play them in my sets and listen for when I feel it. There are a lot of good ideas among them but they are not connected yet. Maybe it will take another month or so. Above & Beyond just featured the new track in their Ultra Set, I’ve made a few changes though since that to adjust things. I played it tonight, actually.
OTB: Do you like to work on your new tracks in that way?
Jerome: Oh yes, I do it all the time. The first test-drive of “Under My Skin” was last year in January in Ministry of Sound. Then I went back to the studio and changed the kick and the bassline. From the first demo version iLan and I did in the studio to the release it was about 5 months so I was playing it all over the world then I’d go back to the studio: change the kick, change the bassline, change the hi-hat.
OTB: Do you like to have your kick ride a bit higher in the mix and let your bass rule the low-end?
Jerome: It really depends on the bassline. When you have a very sub-y bass then you cannot have a sub-y kick drum because they eat each other. That takes the longest time, to find the perfect kick to the bass line or find the perfect bass for the kick.
OTB: Do you spend a lot of time trying to “wrap” the EQ to make it fit?
Jerome: I think it’s better to find another sound than trying to EQ it. EQ-ing is always the last resort.
OTB: Do you like to master your own tracks?
Jerome: Yes I like to do everything myself. I have the privilege to play them loud on very good sound systems so I can hear exactly what is missing. Then I take them back to the studio and change the EQ or change the compression. I think that’s the perfect way to do it because you mix it with tracks that are very well mastered and sound great everywhere and you mix your track with them and then you hear perfectly what is missing.
OTB: Do you find that tracks in a certain key jump out of the sound system better?
Jerome: I was talking to Jono [Grant] about this actually and he was saying that to write the perfect bass you shouldn’t go below E but I think that it rests on the sound that you choose. I have one bass sound that sounds amazing on D or on C but if you play in F it sounds bad. I think what matters much more is the sound itself.
OTB: What would you say is your ideal set length, how long do you like to play for a crowd?
Jerome: There is no perfect set time I think, it depends on the crowd. For example when I played in Argentina, I played a 5-hour set. When I play in a festival I play a 1-hour set but I think tonight it was a little short. I had no expectations when I arrived, I’ve never been here [Seattle] so I didn’t really know, I just did my thing and it worked!
OTB: What’s your favorite place to play?
Jerome: Hmmm… Argentina. Buenos Aires. Every artist says it, not just DJs. They just love music there. You can play very long sets, take them on a journey, and they love it.
OTB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! Loved the set!
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