Q&A with 3Lation
Dec. 29, 2021
Do you make music by yourself, or collaborate with other musicians? Who have you collaborated with?
I feel a deep sense of gratitude because I have had the opportunity both to make music with many talented musicians, as well as to write and produce songs and create productions all on my own over the past decade and a half. Recently, I've done some amazing collaborations with the likes of the talented Andy Rehfeldt, Bryan Beller, and Marco Minnemann. The experience was transformational; they are all true professionals and I have been learning a ton from working with them. As it turns out, working with seasoned industry professionals is one of the most effective ways to get incredible results, fast. Editing, mixing and mastering audio is one of my absolute passions in life. I have realized that there are levels to this game, and that when you really listen to a performance by someone who's been doing this for a long time, it's all the small details that add up to create that stirring final result. I have also been working with many other musicians, and I have actually been having the guitarists record their audio as a direct input with no effects, so that I could splice their performances with minimal artifacting. The earlier you apply your splicing and time correction/fades in the effects chain, the cleaner the final result.
In what genre would you categorize your music?
I have made music in many genres and always tend to gravitate towards a more electronic sound, although I have recently been attempting to turn back the perfection dial whilst editing—if that exists—to create performances that sound more like an actual musician than a computer, but it is a delicate balance that is always a back and forth tug of war. As much as I enjoy the perfectly timed sound of computer generated music, I have come to appreciate the more organic sound of a real human playing an instrument. I feel like production style-wise I am attempting to find this balance and produce an end result that's just perfect enough but still captures a live feel, that almost indescribable sensation when notes are milliseconds off and yet it somehow feels more right than when you splice and correctly time them to the grid. Sometimes, when you perfect a performance with time alignment, never having heard the original and without a point of reference to the actual original source audio, the time aligned performance can sound like the version that it was meant to be. In this sense, it becomes very important to make sure that you're splicing the audio in such a way that it hides the artifacts, so that your average listener would not be able to tell that it's been spliced together. Fades are your best friend here, and I've found manually setting your fades between your slices requires much time and care. After many songs, I am able to enter the flow state and knock out audio time splicing, alignment and corrective smoothing fades faster than ever. I feel like I am at the top of my game and can edit with the best of them, in addition to figuring out how to get a commercially viable and killer mix, master and production in many styles.
What can you tell us about your latest release?
I have recently released almost 40 mixes, including an album called 3lation Instrumentals. I've also released many singles as part of this batch, and there are multiple versions of many of the songs. This has been an absolutely massive undertaking with over a dozen very talented musicians who I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to produce and collaborate with. I can confidently say that this is the most work I've ever put into music in my entire life. They say that you need 10,000 hours to reach mastery; well, I have probably put about 2,000 hours into creating these songs, if you add up all the time spent agonizing over the mixes, trying to make sure that they are absolutely perfect and doing dozens of revisions for each song over the course of months and years. When I was younger, I tended to just make a song in a few hours and then immediately post it on to Newgrounds. I had the realization years ago that if I want to move ahead, I need to take my time and make sure that the content I am releasing is of the utmost quality I can achieve. I even invented my own mixing strategy involving filtering the mastering chain to fine-tune frequency ranges, which I call Bandpass Mixing. By spending the past several years taking it very slow and doing many, many revisions on each song, I have learned new techniques and skills in my production process to where, at this point, I feel I am making the best productions I have ever made and I'm extremely excited for the future.
What does your name mean?
3lation is a spin off of a name I was using for a brief period. It still relates to “elation”, but I also wanted a name that would set me apart and be unique.
What first got you into music?
What mainly got me into music was finding the audio portal on Newgrounds almost 15 years ago and becoming a huge fan of artists such as ParagonX9, among others. When I realized that I could upload MP3s to the portal, I discovered that writing and releasing music was something that I could do. Early in my career I released hundreds of tracks on the Newgrounds audio portal, and most of them didn't go anywhere, but it was during this period that I wrote the song “Military Storm,” which has subsequently gone viral and achieved millions of streams over the past decade. All this from a song that, from conception to production to release, took a grand total of just a few hours. I produced it as a teenager after the melody randomly popped into my brain one evening and I started humming it. Imagine that!
What are some of your favorite albums of all time?
By far, some of my favorite albums are by Knife Party, and that production style is the goal I myself tend to shoot for. I would describe it as loud, but clean. They really got my mind turning on how to produce a song that is as loud as possible, without being harsh on the ears, which is always a delicate balance and a satisfying challenge. Also, did I mention the low end bass?
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Well, when I was young I tended to think that every song that I wrote was a trance song, but eventually I realized that the best way to describe my music is under the umbrella of electronic music. My productions are generally very digital sounding as opposed to a more old school approach, but I have more recently gained a deep appreciation for the old school sound and try to tow the line between the modern and classic styles, striking a nice balance that will appeal to my ears and satisfy and delight others. I always tend to gravitate towards the same types of chord progressions, those that might be classified within the realm of epic music or that have the epic feeling which has always been my favorite style, but still, I love all forms of music. There is no way you can be involved in music for a long time and not gain an appreciation for all manifestations of art. I love capturing the creative ideas of talented musicians and look forward to many collaborations in the future. Every song I produce is the best song, and the opportunity to highlight the talents of my favorite artists is a humbling experience.
What is your creative process like?
Currently, my creative process involves coming up with the idea for a song and then spending months or years fine-tuning and doing a ton of revisions to get to the final product, which is a huge turnaround from the early days when I was releasing music that I had only spent a few hours working on. The difference is night and day between the response I get from people regarding music I put that kind of work into versus music that was generated more quickly.
How do you feel the internet has impacted the music business?
Watching the music business change over the past decade has been quite the experience, especially as someone who's had several songs go viral in an unexpected way. Who would have thought that uploading an MP3 to a website as a teenager would result in tens of millions of people hearing the song a decade later? The internet has lowered the cost of distribution to almost nothing and you can go worldwide in the snap of a finger. Because, with the internet, that's the reality we live in, the name of the game is therefore to try to write and produce the best songs possible, which isn't something that I always realized when I was younger. Back then, I would attribute the success I achieved to uploading hundreds of ideas and having one or two stick and enjoy huge success, and now I would describe my process as slowly adding more and more songs to the vault of songs that I'm working on, and then slowly again developing and making many revisions before distributing. I have found that this is a much more effective way of releasing quality content than simply releasing whatever I come up with in the moment. I want every song I release to be the best possible version of that song from a creative and production standpoint.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
I recently had a YouTube channel with 900 subscribers, and the associated business Gmail account closed without warning and my appeal was immediately denied. I had spent hundreds of hours creating the videos on that channel and going through the process of uploading and curating that account, as well as having used the associated Gmail account for some important business logins. While initially this was a great loss and I experienced some sadness over it, I now realize that this was one of the greatest learning experiences I've ever had, and I feel like I'm approaching my 3lation brand from a whole new perspective than if it had not happened. I'm proud to say, after doing a complete 180, rebranding all of my music to 3lation and building up my new profiles, along with metadata changes through my distributor, I'm getting the best streaming numbers of my entire career. I am extremely grateful for all of the support I have received as well as all the kind messages. I’d like to encourage anyone, if you've ever liked or enjoyed any of my music, to please check out all of my new songs, which are available on all outlets.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
A couple of tips I’ve learned over the years are to take your time when producing and only release music when it's done, and to continuously grow your definition of what “done” means, ensuring that the content you're releasing to the world is of a quality that's going to support your brand and support your business.
What’s next for you?
I am currently in the process of finalizing my 800% Quieter EP, featuring Bryan Beller and Marco Minnemann, as well as two major singles featuring Andy Rehfeldt that will be coming out soon and are sure to satisfy and delight. I look forward to continuing to grow my brand and reach new audiences with my music. Please consider supporting me by streaming on Spotify or subscribing to my Patreon to access stems, high quality audio downloads and much, much more!