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Interview: Iglesias talks about production advice, software secrets and more

His releases on Sola, Toolroom, Moon Harbour, Elrow and Repopulate Mars have turned into charting success with several Beatport number 1’s.

Interview: Iglesias talks about production advice, software secrets and more

Iglesias has wonderfully constructed a name for himself over the past few years within the house music scene, achieved through his percussion fueled production that creates a musical heartbeat packed full of groove. 

The UK born DJ/producer has an audacious ear for rhythm. His productions flow seamlessly with thoughtful patterns of questions and answers, consisting of drum loops that create a rolling frequency packed full of infectious nuance. 

Numerous high-profile releases on the likes of Sola, Toolroom, Moon Harbour, Elrow and Repopulate Mars have turned into charting success with several Beatport number 1’s. These, in turn, have launched Iglesias into the Top 90 best selling tech-house artists on Beatport of all time. Quite the feat. 

We thought it was about time we sat down with the man himself and spoke about all things production, plans for the future and his latest Woodlands Records project. 

Hi Joe. Welcome to Mr. Afterparty. This interview has been a long time coming. 

How have you been? What did you do during the lockdown period around music? Was it a time of reflection or a time to go to work in the studio? 

Hey, mate, yeah been really good thanks! Lockdown was a strange one at the beginning. As for everyone, pretty much everything stopped. I had prepped a year’s worth of music in 2019 with releases coming out on Kaluki, Toolroom, Moon Harbour and many more for 2020. It was all going so well with a lot of shows booked in as well as a debut in South America and an Australian tour. COVID then hit and everything stopped. It was a rough period for sure. 

Fortunately, I have another business that I have been running for a few years prior which provides Mixing and mastering services as well as tutoring. This has dramatically picked up. We also ran around 16 masterclasses during the lockdown period which was incredibly rewarding and we taught around 1500 people from around the work. I also had time to do something that I had always wanted to do and that was to create my own plugin. Took months of development but was totally worth it. Plug haha – (https://woodlands.studio/plugins-ws-lowend)

So to be honest, it was a bit of both. I remembered how I had got to where I was through friends giving me tips and tricks as well as learning from other producers, so that inspired me to give back to the community and help others in a time that I was able to. Of course, being in the studio for 15 hours a day also meant I then had an abundance of time to work on my music which is all starting to come out now.

Woodlands Studio

The Iglesias ‘groove’ is undeniable. What is the ethos behind your production? Do you formulate each track with an underlying theme? What influences your initial track idea? 

I have an obsession with percussion. I try not to put in as much at the moment, but wherever I hear space in the mix, I will try to fill it with something. Sometimes it works and sometimes it sounds cramped. I love to make sure that every element in my tracks, whether it be vocal one-shots, percussion hits or bass tones all have a call and response. If everything answers a question, it enables the groove to continue and not get boring. I don’t formulate each track with any theme in mind, but I will know the direction I want to take the track in around 30 minutes. 

What is the most important factor for you when creating a new track? 

Basically, it is all about the groove. If I can loop a 4 bar groove for half an hour and not get bored then it means I have nailed it. So it is all about the groove for me. Sometimes I will write a baseline, find a sample or have a vocal in mind to start with – but they all mean nothing without the groove.

Without giving too much away, do you use any special plugin’s, software or production equipment to create your unique sound? 

I am actually really open about the gear I use as I don’t mind if people copy what I have. I have a link on my studio website (https://woodlands.studio/in-the-studio) that shows every piece of gear I have and the links that you can get them from. For me it isn’t what you have, it is definitely how you use it. I have a huge sample library however that I do not share as well as some secret plugins that I use, but even so – if I did share them it is how you use them all together anyway. 

I have spoken about this before in a few interviews and on my studio socials; it is all about room correction for me. If I can’t hear what I am doing, it doesn’t matter what plugins I have, what speakers I have or what hardware I have. So the biggest gem in my studio is the Trinnov ST2 Pro. I won’t bore you with what it does, so those reading can just look into it. But that paired with a PSI A25M Sub and my Focal Trio 11s, the set-up helps me shape and create the sound that I want. 

Interview: Iglesias talks about production advice, software secrets and more
Trinnov ST2 Pro

What advice can you give to any upcoming producer around the formulation of a track? Is there a set structure you would recommend? 

The biggest advice I can give is just to take your time. There is no race to make it to the top. In fact, I find that when I think I need to make some music, it is always pretty crap. The more relaxed I am when I come to making music and not caring about the outcome – the better it is. Some people can sit down and say I am going to make a banger and yes it can happen – but more often than not, the good ones are fueled by a combination of mistakes and trial and error.

We are excited to hear about your new imprint – Woodlands Records. Is there anything you can tell us exclusively around the plans to come, what we can expect and how it is going thus far? 

So yeah, it has been a long time coming and, I think I launched it at the right time for me and my career. I never wanted the label to be about me and my growth though, but as a platform that I can showcase other producers that have the same interest in (terms of styles) electronic music as I do. 

I created Woodlands Records with my good friend Danny Sparkes after an incredibly successful year running Woodlands Studios together. Danny and I both have a very similar taste in music and so there is never really a debate whether a track is right for the label or not. The label also is therefore not just about ’Rolling Tech House’, but about good electronic music that we enjoy. 

So far we have had numerous Top Ten Releases in Tech House, Breaks and Minimal, including 2 Number 1s, so it is going better than we ever expected. Again, for us, it isn’t about hitting number ones and selling millions of records – but it is nice that people enjoy what the label is putting out. Up next we have Sorley with an incredible EP and then Gruuvelements to round off the year! We do eventually plan on moving this into some label showcases, but we are gonna take things slow and enjoy running the label for now. 

We are fully aware of your highly respected mastering and engineering services. What makes them so in demand? Is there anything you do ‘differently’ that enhances the service? Is there any advice you can share around this area? Specifically the mixdown and mastering? 

I appreciate that a lot. I am honestly obsessed with the final stages of a record and it’s such an honour to take someone’s production and give it that extra boost before distribution. 

I think what makes me stand out at the moment is that I don’t give a s*!t about an artist’s ego – so whether they are a big artist or someone just starting up, if there are problems in the stems they deliver or the pre-master, or something that I feel would make the record ultimately better (in terms of mix), I will be brutally honest and give them detailed feedback. 

I want to make sure that if I stamp their record with ‘WS PREMASTER or WS MASTER’, it needs to be the best it can be. If that means sending a track back and forth, then so be it. Of course, people can choose to ignore me if they want, as music is ultimately subjective; but when I am mixing and mastering, all I care about is the music. 

Another big factor is my room. Because I have spent an extortionate amount of time and money on getting this room as flat as possible, artists understand that my room has no influence on the decisions that I make and therefore what I hear in here is just the purest form of their music. I can make decisions with extreme precision and confidence which is especially important when it comes to mastering. 

So in terms of giving advice, I would say:

1. Don’t worry if your mix sucks at the moment. Everyone’s mix sucked at one point. Practice as much as you can and reference other similar style tracks. 

2. Hardware isn’t going to make your music better. Learn the tools you have inside out first before upgrading or purchasing new plugins. 

3. Learn your room and environment and how it translates to car stereo systems, clubs, earbuds, laptop speakers etc… 

4. In the beginning, practice mastering your own music – but have a professional do the final version before release. 

5. You don’t have to learn how to mix and master – not all producers do it all (trust me!) 

Thank you for the detail and advice in the answer there Joe, your hunger and passion is something to admire. I will conclude this interview on a question that always sparks a little controversy. I think that these things should look to be discussed in an open forum. 

We have been talking recently about genres and sub derivatives of house music and just how jumbled up they have become when digging for music. What are your thoughts on this? 

Ahh, it’s a complete mess hahaha. There doesn’t need to be this many sub-genres of music. I don’t really want to comment too much on this as for some it’s a touchy subject. However, the one thing I would say is that if you are making a tech-house track – class it as tech-house when you release it. If you are making an EDM track – class it as EDM when you release it. If you are making a minimal track – class it as minimal when you release it. I used to spend hours on Beatport looking for music – now I miss loads of music I would have definitely played because it has been put into a sub-genre that is the current trend. Hope that makes sense! 

This was a truly insightful, open and thorough Q&A. 

Iglesias will be performing at Egg London on the 12th of November for the famous Fridays at Egg series. 

Iglesias: Fridays at Egg – Art E Fect

Iglesias: Fridays at EGG - Art E Fect
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