Meet the Ninjas behind the Cypher 022: Kung Fu EP
Congratulations on the release of the Cypher 022 Kung Fu EP! How much time did it take for you to complete your song on the EP and what did you learn along the way?
Cryptochronica: I think it took me about a month to complete the full track through composition to mix and master
Stan Stanev: I think it was about 3 weeks to get a rough cut of the full song. But I probably spent a month mixing it and adding additional elements. This was the first time I’ve ever done a DnB song and I needed to listen to some recent popular songs in that genre to get an idea of what I needed to do to improve the sound. Big thanks to Ill.Gates for guiding me in the right direction. The main thing I learned along the way was really about the genre and how important the breaks are to getting that crisp sound.
Leo Light Work: Initially I completed the song in a single 12 hour session and didn’t touch it until about 5 months later when Dylan contacted me to tell me it was being considered for the EP.
A week or so later he announced that Dojo visits were opening up and a few weeks later I drove cross country to LA.
I stayed for about two months and during that time, Dylan and I primarily worked on Immortal Contact. I am incredibly grateful for that time we were together in and out of the studio.
Seth Drake also gave it an early stage mix while I was out there which landed as a class on The Approach. Much love good brother I appreciate your energy and your teachings.
Once I got back East I continued to work on the song pretty much night and day from September 2020 through May 2021. I was totally absorbed and obsessed. Like it’s literally all I thought about and had priority over everything else in my life. During that time I had mentor sessions with sensei’s Spiderhound, 6th Street, Hexis and Cryptochronica.
Looking back I can hardly believe the journey this song and I have had from start to completion. It was full of ups and downs but in the end the ups superceded all and I am eternally grateful for the entire process.
I learned so much during that I could probably write a book and maybe I will haha but really I learned that less is more, use your spectrum analyzers, have a good reference track, fill out your frame height, depth and width, frequency response and dynamics are key and keep working, even on the days that are hard, any day making music is a good day.
Much love and deep gratitude to the whole fam for being a part of this song and helping me get to this point.
Sharrol Kelby: Thank you! We are really stoked that this tune has finally been released. Munchii and I “finished” this in about 4 weeks or so but went back to put some finishing edits on it several months later. Neither of us often write chill music, so one of the biggest learning experiences of creating this track was getting the snare right. For example, the unique method of the layered delay sound while getting it to snap but not take over the mix was a challenge. I use those techniques in almost all of my songs now.
Munchii: Thanks, Sean. The song took about a month to “finish” (as in get it to a point where we couldn’t think of anything else to do), and a few months after we got some great feedback. It took us about another month’s work total to finish the job completely. I learned a lot about mixing through busses, aka the Skirllex bussing method. This was the first track I really tried it out and it allowed me to mix in a much more controlled manner. It’s amazing what you’ll find when you boil your song down to four sections.
What were the most groundbreaking concepts that you learned while making your song for the EP?
Cryptochronica: follow an arrangement exercise, always and forevermore
Stan Stanev: Nothing really groundbreaking but definitely learned that if you listen to your song too much you start to lose all objectivity and it becomes very difficult to change things down the road. That’s when you need to rely on external input from others to tell you what needs to improve. Thankfully I had lots of input from Ill.Gates and Seth Drake.
Leo Light Work: Filling out the space and framing a mix height, depth and width. Getting more familiar with frequency response and distributing the work load by making small moves in multiple stages. Making things more dynamic and less smashed and less harsh sounding. How important it is to start with really good sounds. How to listen better and create mixes that translate across a wide array of sound systems.
Sharrol Kelby: The layered delay sound while getting it to snap but not take over the mix for non-heavy music. The 3D mixing concept also helped the song pop more/sound less flat.
Munchii: That Skrillex bussing method I mentioned before was a big one. I also learned that collabs can be really streamlined, as long as you can play off of the person you’re collabing with. For the longest time, collabs for me were a grind where I thought everything was a compromise with the person I was working with. This collab literally had no issues. It was like magic.
What are some of your favorite approaches for quickly getting a great idea down in the DAW?
Cryptochronica: Beat boxing it out into an audio track. Especially for rhythmic ideas, like a bass line or a fill/turnaround
Stan Stanev: Usually I would start a beat with XO by XLN and quickly scan through a bunch of samples that fit the beat. I also sometimes hop on scaler to get a nice piano progression since most of the music I make is pretty melodic. So it’s usually a combination of those two things that get me to come up with a great loop and then I will evolve it by adding more instruments and make variations of the main loop.
Leo Light Work: Singing, humming, drumming, playing guitar, and playing piano are all ways that help me get ideas out as fast as possible. Oftentimes I will record something right onto my phone because that’s the fastest and it’s good to have as a quick reference. Once I get my initial idea out of myself, then, I can refine it from there in the DAW. When inspiration strikes for me I like to get it down as soon as possible and then build on it from there.
Sharrol Kelby: Wake up early in the morning when your brain is fresh and you don’t have any distractions. Prep/organize your project template and make some drum racks/128s so you can get going right away.
Munchii: Have your favorite samples, presets and audio effects ready. It takes so much less brain processing power to click the favorites group and drag it onto a channel than it does to search for something. That headspace is really important.
How do you approach Collabs? Do you have any best practices to share?
Cryptochronica: It depends on the context of the collab: what’s the hierarchy and end goal? If I’m the subordinate in the dynamic I find its more productive for me to be a production assistant: doing sample management, making loops and fine tuning instruments and libraries so the more experienced producer has an easier time getting their ideas out. If I’m the more experienced producer and I’m the one driving, best practice is to be accommodating and patient with the person you’re collabing with, listen to their ideas, but also be don’t be afraid to explain why something is or isn’t working. Be a good leader, offer guidance, but ultimately, as director, make the best call that will serve the track. Now if youre collabing with a musician or a vocalist, best practice is to come proper, send them an instrumental track that sounds mixed, is coherent and have your ideas formulated so they’re not just shooting in the dark. Have a theme or an inspirational idea they can find prosody with.
Stan Stanev: I haven’t really had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone yet but would love to. I think collaborations are great for finishing songs faster and also I think more creative ideas come out of collaborations.
Leo Light Work: I don’t know if I have had enough experience doing collabs to answer this but I will say my ideal of a positive collaboration would look something like.
Talking about an objective before going into a session like influences, style, genre, BPM etc…
Maybe talk about each other’s strengths and weaknesses to see how we can find a balance…
Create some basic ground rules to keep the process moving in a positive direction… I’ve been in way too many sessions where one person is doing most of the work and it just isn’t fun that way so driver time limits would be probably be a good idea.
If working remotely, pretty much all of the same for in person and just set some expectations and deadlines to keep the project moving forward. Communication is key.
Sharrol Kelby: Work with your collaborator on integrating your sounds and coming up with ideas for the whole piece, together. In my experience, when one artist does a drop and the other does another it’s not as fun or interesting.
Munchii: Lay out a solid foundation first so your partner can remix it. It’s so much easier to write a song when the elements already sound great. Also, be considerate of your partner’s work. If you make a change that cuts straight into something they took care in writing, it’s gonna turn sour. If you can work with their idea, then you truly have yourself a collab.
Tell us about your new Product available in the Producer DJ marketplace.
Cryptochronica: It’s a collection of Macro Mapped Serum Bass racks. They’re all a great starting template for making a few tweaks and coming out with a completely new bass patch any time. I’m also going to be selling my Ableton Template in the near future, with it’s hotkeys, grouping and group processing, bussing and bus chains and mastering chain all set up, exactly as i use it, so you cn pretty much drop stems in the template, make the necessary tweaks, and the music will come out mastered and ready. It does use 3rd party plugins, but it has list of what they are and do, and an explainer video breaking it all down. I use this template literally 100% of the time.
Sharrol Kelby: New merch!! The “Driving School” line is a reflection of my upcoming Dojo EP and includes men’s/unisex & women’s tees as well as crewnecks in several colors.
Munchii: I made Munchii’s Forbidden Snacks: A pack of 5 spicy Serum presets and post-processing chains to fix up delicious tunes in mere minutes. That’s what I want the tagline to be, anyway. They’re heavy bass, noise driven sounds that give you a lot of space for experimentation. They’re so gritty and intense they surprise me every time I use them. I made the macros really funny too – one preset’s macros are Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger. Another preset is called Deep Fryer and there’s macros to add bubbles and remove oil. You have to pair the presets with their appropriate FX chains though. I want to put them in the store for a low price because I think everyone deserves to have good samples.
Who are you listening to for inspiration these days?
Cryptochronica: Anything KOAN Sound’s dones since 2019 is so good it hurts. Like why do I even bother making music when those cats exist? Love the new Spoonbill EP. il:lo is excellent and chill. Opiou keeps me coming back. Been listening to Joy Orbinson for some weirder experimental dance. I listen to a lot of House music when I exercise, Bombays, Kaskade, Carl Cox, Malaa for G house, Parov Stellar and Bart and Baker for electro swing, that kinda thing. Twice the human heart rate for working out!
Stan Stanev: It’s weird I go through phases where I’ll just listen to my music for a whole year (usually songs that are work in progress) and then spend a month browsing through Spotify to create a playlist and I’ll listen to that for a month and then go back to listening to my music only. The songs I find on Spotify are usually commercial house, edm or dance pop. Right now it’s probably been over half a year that I have just been listening to my own creations.
Leo Light Work: LSDream, Shades, Rezz, Reaper, Zeke Beats, Flosstradamaus, Andy C, Apashe, Rusko, Clozee, Excision, Fox Stevenson, Joyrde, Habstrakt, Jaenga, Griz, G Jones, Teddy Killerz, Eptic, Moody Good, Mr. Bill and of course ill. Gates.
Sharrol Kelby: Kursa, Deadcrow, Camo & Krooked, and Zeke Beats are some of my current go-to artists for inspiration in electronic music.
Munchii: Oh snap, don’t even get me started. 90’s drum n bass deep cuts during work. My dayjob is a web developer, so I need to listen to slowly changing music as I form new ideas. This soft progressive house guy, Shingo Nakamura, is also amazing for heads down work. The comments section under his mixes on YouTube are all full of programmers who are astounded by how many other programmers also listen to him while working. Outside of work, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lil Uzi, Playboi Carti and Internet Money. Ace Aura, Kayzo, Gammer, Wuki, RayRay, Crankdat and Deadlyft for those big mainstage dubstep vibes. Saint Punk, Ricky West and ALRT are killing it in the bass/speed house genre. I’ve found this insane international Jersey Club movement where these guys from Asia are combining hard trap sounds with Jersey Club. They remix songs from Ariana Grande to Flosstradamus to Tiesto and even fucking Crazy Frog. It sounds good too. Look up 808Gong or Kaku. Ridiculous stuff. I fucking love music man.
What are your top 5 favorite VST’s at the moment?
Cryptochronica: Some things I use in 100% of my tracks are: Gatekeeper by Infected Mushroom, Ozone Imager 9, Waves SSL bus comp, Izotope Trash and the Fab Filter Suite.
Stan Stanev: VPS Avenger, Omnisphere, XO, Scaler. And recently have have been playing around with Alter Boy by Soundtoys.
Leo Light Work: MWaveshaper, Ozone Imager 8, Soothe 2, Trash 2, Pro L2.
Sharrol Kelby: Thermal (Output), Portal (Output), UAD Moog Filter, Fabfilter Pro L2, and Soothe 2.
Munchii: Serum, Pro L2, Soothe 2, Voxengo SPAN, and Voxengo MSED.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
Cryptochronica: Hopefully a track every 6 weeks. That’s my release goal thru at least 2022.
Stan Stanev: It’s been a difficult year for me because my full time career has taken priority and I’ve had limited time to work on music. But I have a few songs that I arranged last year that need to be mixed and mastered and would like to self release as singles before the year is over.
Leo Light Work: A lot of music releases, singles, my Dojo EP, mixes, shows, videos, photos, content and creations of all kinds and me rollin in my Skoolie!
Sharrol Kelby: My new EP titled “Driving School” will be out on the Producer Dojo label November 29th! Also planning on releasing much more music in 2022 along with piling on bookings.
Munchii: My goal is to do two shows a month next year. I’m going to finish my Dojo EP before the end of this year. I want to be churning out bangers every day like Mr. Bill, so I gotta get organized. I want to play at an established festival next year too!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Cryptochronica: save the money, learn to master your own work.
Stan Stanev: Pursue your passion no matter the obstacles. Do what makes you happy in life. The older I get I realize that time is the most valuable asset and money becomes less and less important to me. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy.
Leo Light Work: Yes! I bought a School bus and am converting it into my home, a tiny home, AKA a Skoolie!
My mission is to get on the road, to make music, travel, teach, play shows, see things, meet people, share my offerings, allow my creative self to love and to shine, continue my Spiritual work, continue to create the best version of myself and continue to co-create with others to make a more loving, peaceful and creative World.
I am launching a GO FUND ME Campaign to help with the build & I need your support! Please contribute to this initiative and help to turn my dreams into a reality! Sign up for my mailing list to stay up to date with everything that I have going on, including music, art, shows, Spirituality and of course the Skoolie! That info and more can be found at LeoLightWork.com
Please connect with me on all social media platforms, reach out anytime and if you find value in what I do then please share it with others so we can continue to expand and grow together! You can find all of the links here: https://linktr.ee/LeoLightWork
To bring this to a close I would like to express my deepest form of gratitude, love and appreciation for the Producer Dojo. Thank you brothers Dylan, Dave, Sean, Chris, Richard, Dustin, sister Kaitie and the entire Dojo fam, far too many to name! It’s such an honor to be on this sacred journey with you all! I’m excited to continue moving forward, onward and upwards towards our individual and collective highest good and possible manifestation during this incarnation! We are all so truly blessed!
Sending infinite love and infinite light, Namaste -Leo
Sharrol Kelby: Be on the lookout for my new EP dropping on the PDJ label next month and be sure to catch the master iLL.Gates dropping some of those tunes on his tour!
Munchii: I wanna share music with people! If you’re a promoter on the east coast, hit me up for a show! I want to remind people that they can live a fulfilling life through music, even if they only get a glimpse of it on the weekends. If you can’t do that, then follow me on my socials. I’ll be releasing that Dojo EP sometime next year and I’m always posting good memes.
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