Originally published in issue #2 of Headliner Magazine
When Dave Audé got his first synth at 13-years-old, he was already on the right audio path. Five years on, he had gained more knowledge on MIDI than most people in the industry; when he attended music college, it was as a teacher, not a student! The early-‘90s club scene in downtown LA laid the foundations to a lifelong love affair with house music. HEADLINER catches up with him, 93 Billboard Dance Chart number ones later...
“In those days, there were two kinds of music: house and techno; I fell in love with underground house and decided I wanted to do that for the rest of my life,” reflects Audé from his LA studio. “I helped found a label in the mid ‘90s, Moonshine Music, which is now the largest indie label in the US; it helped facilitate the careers of guys like Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold, who have gone on to great things, and from there, I went into production for the label, then onto remixing.”
By the time he was out of high school, Audé had gained a serious knowledge of MIDI, which took him straight into teaching. He taught MIDI, tape editing, and Sound Tools (now Pro Tools) at the LA Recording School, one of the largest of its kind in the country.
“This is when there were actually tape machines, which a lot of kids don’t know about today,” he says with a smile. “I was going to go to music college, but really they weren’t where I was at; they were teaching basic theory and instrumentation, whereas I wanted to do engineering and more electronic stuff. I was a keyboard player, and I always thought I’d play in a rock band, but when I saw the DJ culture in the underground warehouses and hotels in downtown LA, I was sold; they’d play anything from pop to super-underground techno.”
One thing Audé has really got involved in is helping the new generation of people jump on the scene – kids that perhaps haven’t gone to engineering school or learned the correct ways to make music. “They might not know the notes in a C chord, or the difference between major and minor keys, but they have computers, so they are able to make music, because technology allows them to, and that’s a great thing,” he insists. “Waves [Audio] has been smart and realised that there’s this big, giant generation of people out there doing this, who aren’t necessarily miking drum kits or guitar amps, or using big consoles to do stuff.
“It’s not about catering to the likes of Tony Maserati or Manny Marroquin, who are of course the top of the top; Waves has made great, easy-to-use plugins, which use simple terms like bass, treble, and compression – OK, a lot of kids don’t know what compression is, but that can change – and I am helping get the word out there, basically.
“A lot of people that go out and buy things like Logic or Ableton, for instance, don’t realise that they can go and buy plugins that will come with these DAWs. It takes a while for them to figure that out – it’s a scary thing to try something if you don’t know what it does!”
Although Audé admits it’s not crucial to be adept at a musical instrument to make great records, he still cites it as a real bonus:
“Sometimes it’s cool for people not to have a knowledge on an instrument, as they still make some crazy stuff; there are no boundaries for them, and sometimes that works, especially in electronic music. But I do recommend to everybody that they definitely try and get a little theory knowledge, so they can at least have that advantage in making music. It’s a big reason I’m still working and people hire me; I am able to hear things that maybe uneducated people aren’t.”
Isn’t Music Magnificent?
“I don’t know how other people think, but when I sit down to mix, I think about what I am trying to achieve; and I’m certainly not trying to achieve stardom,” Audé says frankly. “A lot of kids want their careers catapulted doing a remix or bootleg or mash-up of a big hit, but you know, you have to do hundreds of remixes to get to that point; when I get hired, I just try to make something great for the dancefloor.”
When Audé remixed “Magnificent” by U2, his standpoint was to respect the song, and not rip it apart:
“When I got the Pro Tools stems, I took the original song and just made it dance; it wasn’t about taking one verbal phrase and moving it; I kept a lot of The Edge’s guitars in there and transposed it for the dance floor. Sometimes I rip things up a little more, but with a band like U2, everyone knows who they are, so it’s best not to mess with it too much!”
“It’s the same remixing an artist like Katy Perry; she just has great songs, and the best people in the world producing and writing for her. They hire me as they know I’ll keep the song intact and not completely lose the essence of the artist. That’s what a lot of guys forget when they’re remixing.”
Audé never copies and pastes material from his Pro Tools sessions; every project is done from scratch. “It would be boring if I just changed the key and a few notes – which a lot of guys do, I should add! I have to love it, and I wouldn’t love it if I did it like that,” he laughs. “I think: ‘What’s hot right now?’ and whether I want to do a house mix, a progressive mix, or an EDM, whatever the hell that means! I’ll get my vocals, put everything at 128 [bpm] - sometimes it’s 130, sometimes it’s 125, and sometimes the vocal is really slow, so you can’t go higher than 125.
“Then I get the kick drum going, and figure out where the original arrangement is: do I want to add four bars here or there, or add a key section after the chorus, maybe? Then I’m into music mode: do I want it to be lush, or is it going to be bass-line driven? That kind of thing.”
Audé has a big rack of gear’; however, it’s pretty redundant these days, as everything is done in the box. Over the years, he has developed a kit of sounds using pretty much every drum machine known to man.
“I’ve got an 808, a 909, a 727, a 707, an OB drum, a Linn Drum; I sample all those to death. My go-to synth is the reFX Nexus, which is a super, easy-to-use synth with a million sounds, all of which are pretty great; I do my writing with that,” he explains. “If I need deeper bass, maybe I’ll pull up the Ace synth, or the Massive, to replace the bass; and then I check my pads. These days, the go-to pad is the Spectrasonics Omnisphere pad, which has basically replaced all my Roland synths.
“In terms of plugins, I love to use the Waves stuff. I genuinely can’t say enough about Waves, period. My favourite plugins today would be the Jack Joseph Puig and Tony Maserati Signature Series, and the Chris Lord-Alge stuff, all of which are great for guitars and vocals.
“The Waves H-Delay is my go-to delay for any vocal, or even a slap, as it’s so simple to use; it’s also a plugin that’s in my own EDM Waves toolkit. Also, the Waves Vocal Rider is perfect for riding the vocal level; when I get vocals, I am getting the stem, so it’s usually pretty good, but it’s always going to need a bit of riding in my mix”
According to Audé, if you don’t have to leave the box, you can work quicker and faster; and what’s great about modern technology is the ability to get your ideas down right away.
“Forty years ago, before computer recording, you had to go into a studio and put your ideas down on tape; it’s crazy, if you think about it. If you didn’t, you’d lose the idea,” he says. “The greatest thing about technology today is being able to record ideas immediately. Forget about Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton; you can just sing stuff into your phone!”
To be a success in this game, you have to commit, Audé insists – and more important still, you have to love what you do.
“When I first started producing and remixing, I didn’t even think of the money, I just adored doing it; if you love doing something enough, the world will figure a way out to let you do that,” he says, profoundly. “To be a great DJ, you can’t just listen to great records, you need to listen to thousands of records and get some kind of knowledge; to be a great remixer, you need to go out and do 100 different remixes: different styles, tempos, and gain as much experience as you can.
“A lot of kids expect things to happen overnight – and that doesn’t happen. I am still in the studio 12 hours a day at least, honing my skills. My music life has come full circle – I grew up loving Erasure, and I got a mail from [the band’s lead singer] Andy Bell 18 months ago, asking if I wanted to do some music. We are now great friends, we have written 15 songs together, and our first collaboration comes out in a few weeks. It’s crazy how the world works – I have a single coming out with my favourite singer of all time... For me, it doesn’t get much better!”
WHAT’S ON THE MASTER FADER?
Audé has some interesting stuff going on in his master fader chain, which begins with an Izotope Ozone 5, which he uses primarily for colouring. From there, he goes into a de-esser – “to get rid of a little sibilance around 13k, which no one does” – in order to get a little more level. Then, it’s into a Waves MV2 plugin for more level.
Then it gets a little crazy... He comes analogue out of Pro Tools, into a couple of Distressors (EL4s) at a ratio of 3-1 with medium attack and release, “to smash up the mix”; and finally, he’s back into Pro Tools, into an L3 for more level, pumping the Pro Tools master channel about 6dB, using internal Pro Tools channel distortion for even more level... Simple, eh?