Exclusive Interview with Tokyo’s Herbalistek on their new Nature Grooves EP and Sample Packpdj
Herbalistek is a Producer/ DJ duo based in Tokyo, Japan. Their main sound in their productions is best categorized as experimental trap & bass music. Herbalistek is well known for their dark yet exciting dj sets, filled with original tracks, edits and transitions. They have also released a variety of originals and remixes & edits, and have received support from big names such as Adventure Club, Must Die!, MYRNE, ATLiens, Oski, Tynan, Whipped Cream, Hekler, Perses, and more. Combining elements of techno, house, dubstep and hip hop in their original tracks, their tracks are a hybrid of multiple genres and sound design experimentations. In May 2019, Herbalistek was selected as the winners of the discovery project for EDC Japan, and played kineticFIELD. Herbalistek has also released through various labels, including Bassrush, Spicybois, Wubaholics, and Japan’s Dance Music Label TREKKIE TRAX. They have also featured collaborations with some of the biggest names in Trap music such as Australian producer Oski on UZ’s label Quality Goods Records. The duo regularly dj in various venues including Womb, Vision, Ageha & more. Herbalistek’s goal is to push the boundaries of bass music and create a unique world with their music. I was honored to spend some time with Noa and Yota and learn more about the making of their Producer Dojo “Nature Grooves” EP and Sample Pack.
Noa and Yota, congratulations on the release of the Nature Grooves EP! How much time did it take for you to complete the EP in full and what is the story behind “Nature Grooves?”
Thank you so much! We started the first track (Ant Waltz) on this EP about a year ago. Since we were always making tracks in the 100-140 BPM area we tried to branch out and do something different and 90 BPM seemed like a solid choice.
There is a lot you can do with the groove at 90 BPM, it’s a bit faster than halftime but we tried to focus on danceability and groove; which is something that we’d been attempting to implement into our tracks. Sometimes we’d feel we relied on crazy sound design too much, so this EP was our turning point into focusing more on groove.
After Ant Waltz we started the two other tracks and sent them over to Dylan, whom we’d just gotten introduced to at the time. It was a wild moment, Dylan seemed to like the 90 BPM tracks we’d made and now we’re here.
Do you have a favorite song on the EP and why?
Jellyfish Jam is probably our favorite. We found a lot of new sound design techniques during the process; some have become vital to what we consider our signature sound now too. Overall, it was just a fun track to write.
What were the most groundbreaking concepts that you learned while making your EP?
Hmm that’s a hard one. This is not really a “groundbreaking” concept, but we learned that the concept of groove like we mentioned earlier is crucial, especially at the 80-90 bpm area. Like for example, a kick could be placed anywhere in a 80-90 BPM track. Literally anywhere, and it would still be danceable and headboppy as long as the snare’s are hitting at the 2nd and the 4th beat.
What are some of your favorite approaches for quickly getting a great idea down in the DAW?
Noa: We think it’s important to have a template ready to go as soon as you open the DAW. For example, I have a group for the drums with a channel dedicated to kick, snare etc. Below I’ll have another group for top grooves or percussion. Then the last group will be just called “Ideas.” That way I can get right to work without having to start with an empty project. I’ve heard someone say, “Nothing is more daunting than an empty project,” and I could not agree more.
The most important thing to get the creative process going is definitely the idea, in my opinion. So as soon as the idea starts then the creativity just starts to flow. It could be anything from a drum pattern to a percussion loop, to a bass; sometimes it could even be a single sound/ sample that you found. For our music we always start with the drums. The drums drive the track. As long as the drums are popping and have groove, then literally whatever you put on top should work.
Yota: For me the biggest tip in getting ideas quick, is to make shortcuts for literally anything. Like Noa says, the most important part in tracks are ideas, but these ideas can easily get lost when you don’t write it down quickly.
Even when I do have ideas that I think are good, I can easily lose them if I spend too much time tweaking serum presets, or getting a specific melody/ pattern right. And then I end up getting in the rabbithole and forget what my first intentions were.
If you want to recreate the ideas you have, you have to do it fast, and I think the best way to do that is by making your own shortcut key commands, and making your own racks and presets.
For example, I have a bunch of kicks and hat patterns made in MIDI at another session, so that when I’m trying to make beats and getting ideas out I wouldn’t spend an eternity coming up with the ‘right’ kick pattern. All I’d have to do is choose a kick and drag one of the kick pattern into the same channel. This way I could get straight to the point without forgetting my ideas.
How do you approach Collabs? Do you have any best practices to share?
It depends on if we start the project or if we receive it! If the project is sent to us, we enjoy manipulating the sounds they provided to us to see how far and crazy we can go with it. It’s the best when both producers sounds mesh together perfectly.
What was it like managing all of the Dojo Remixes that were submitted for your consideration?
It was so much fun, but so tough to pick the winners. It’s the first time so many people have remixed our tracks, so it was an awesome experience. It was fresh hearing so many different takes on tracks we made, every single producer did a fantastic job; each one had a unique sound, and we were beyond impressed by the versatility of the producer dojo. Thank you guys for taking the time to remix our tracks!
Tell us about your new Product available in the Producer DJ marketplace.
We made a sample pack with our signature sounds and loops, including a lot from this new EP! Hope everyone finds good use in them!
Who are you listening to for inspiration these days?
There are so many I don’t know where to start. Off the top of my head some of our greatest inspirations in bass music right now are:
Shanghai Doom, Eprom, Tsuruda, Allen Mock, Kursa, Guilt Chip, SUAHN, Fellsius, Ternion Sound, FLY, Charlesthefirst, VCTRE, Slang Dogs, Seppa, Chee, thook.
We also enjoy listening to house, techno, breakbeats and DnB for groove, drums, synth inspiration. Listing all the artists would take forever, haha.
What are your top 5 favorite VST’s at the moment?
The Uhbik Phaser is our go to phaser and it’s amazing. Soothe2 is great for cleaning up resonant frequencies. Thermal is great for beefing anything up. We’ve also been abusing Rift from Minimal Audio for crazy sound designs lately. And last but not least, this one isn’t a plugin but Ableton’s Max For Live ‘LFO’ is hands down our most favorite. It’s like having 20 more hands. Our sound design game has really changed after utilizing LFO to almost everything.
What can we expect from Herbalistek in the rest of 2021 and beyond?
We have a bunch of unreleased tunes we cannot wait to share with everyone, including some wild collabs. We’ll be releasing more tunes every month of 2021 so keep an eye out for that too.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Thank you for having us and shout out to ill.Gates and the Producer Dojo for having us on board with this new EP! Big shout out to all the producers who remixed these tracks. Hope everyone enjoys the EP!
Purchase the Sounds of Nature Grooves Sample Pack here.