Artist Interview with Marlow Digs
- Gabriel Maceu Faria
- Magnetismus 2
And we are at it again! This time we have Marco Alexandre, a.k.a. Marlow Digs, beatmaker and producer from the sunny Viseu, Portugal, telling us all about his production process, sampling techniques, and much more! Let's get to it!
Hi Marco, thanks a lot for taking part in our interview series. Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Marlow: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be part of this interview for Tegeler. I go by the name of Marlow Digs and I’m a beatmaker from Portugal. I’ve been making music for about 20 years, experimenting with audio, and mostly working outside the box with different samplers making Hip Hop Sampled Beats.
Tell us about your audio setup in general and, of course, in which part of your processes our product(s) are most important to you.
Marlow: My chain usually starts with a sampler and it runs through some outboard gear like compressors and EQs or effects processors. It ends on my laptop where I record everything and put it out to the public. I do a bit of limiting inside the box but that’s it, the real work is done sampling instruments or records and then using my analog chain to give color and movement to my beats. I own the Magnetismus2 from Tegeler and it sits right on my stereo bus after my Analog Heat. Normally the chain looks like Sampler-analog heatMagnetismus - EQ - Compressor. I like where it sits in the chain because of the VCA Compressor, it’s perfect to block some of the low-end and glue my mix a bit more. I have extreme bass on my music, I really love having disproportional kicks and a lot of bass which the Magnetismus treats very well. All that low end gets controlled perfectly by the VCA in the Magetismus. That’s something that my diode bridge compressor could not do at all but the Magnetismus can. So I find that that place in the chain is perfect, I can control the low end before sending it to the next EQ and compressor. The Magnetismus is slowly shaping the way my beats sound because I am relying on it for that final touch. I am using the Magnetismus2 as a resampling tool for my mix as well, the Magnetismus is used for treating the transients and adding saturation to drums and samples. I have all my gear connected to a patch bay where I can collect sounds from all my samplers and effects. I use the Magnetismus for Bass a lot, it can really make bass lines sound alive and groove. I really like to make the most out of all my gear so I try it on almost anything.
Building an analog setup is all about creating a signature sound and constantly developing it further. Before you got your Tegeler unit, which changes in tone or workflow did you look for and why did you decide to go for our Magnetismus 2?
Marlow: The Magnetismus 2 does more than one thing only, it looked a bit off from any conventional audio processor and that was something that attracted me straight away. I think that if you are looking to have a unique sound you need gear like this, that separates itself from the rest. I was looking for something to give saturators and compressors at the time and the Magnetismus had all that so I decided to try it out. It looked a bit more geared towards drums and for the mixing chain, and it does amazing work on bass and voice samples too but I found its place in the stereo out as well. The work it does with my drums and the overall sound is perfect and really what I needed to craft my output so I decided to keep it.
Can you describe the most important aspects of your work in 3 short sentences?
Marlow: Finding the perfect samples is really the biggest struggle every time, I spend most of my time trying to find them. Once I have the samples I am ready to sculpt the beat and find its color. I think it is important to have a signature sound or something that tells the listener that it’s you.
How did your production/mixing/mastering techniques evolve since you started?
Marlow: They definitely evolved somewhere, just can’t say it was for the better. It’s been a long journey and it has been filled with many mistakes and experiments. I went from tracking everything to a DAW to not tracking and mixing inside the sampler to mixing with my stereo outs. I really just love trying things and enjoying my life as a music producer. I don’t believe in a right or wrong way of doing things. I’m interested in the final product only, and there are many ways to get there. I started on an MPC 2000 XL and I’ve owned different samplers over the years. I learned that machines have different workflows and different sounds. They have different limitations and they all will give you different end products. I learned a lot from trying different samplers, new techniques that were hidden in front of my eyes because the machine’s workflow didn’t push me there. I would mix inside the sampler and then track out because I had the idea that I had to do it that way so I could have a clean mix and more balanced mix, but my mixes after tracking always sounded worse than inside the sampler. I lost years tracking to a DAW and hated the whole process, trying to create a perfect mix that I never really got. I learned to avoid the general concept of mixing and mastering and just be a scientist, for me became ok to sound dirty and bad. I realized that that is what I love. imagine the punk bands from the 80s sounding like polished clean pop, doesn’t feel right, does it? I decided to just do things that I love doing and not worry about being professional. I am not a professional in any way, I am a little kid in the bedroom having fun. I love that about my work and that’s why I keep things simple and try not to stress for the perfect whatever mix or arrangement.
Do you think that gaining experience in audio production/engineering primarily benefits technical skills or does it also affect creativity?
Marlow: Most definitely affects creativity. I can sample things now that I would never do before I gained knowledge of my equipment. I know how the Magnetismus is going to behave so I can be creative and explore my mix a bit more. I know that I can filter a bass line from a sample. I know I can create echo effects from different velocities in the sequencer. By knowing gear I can imagine outcomes. Of course, creativity also comes from experimenting, but I can build creativity on previous knowledge also.
The effects of the still ongoing Covid pandemic are a hard hit for society. We think it's important to keep up a good spirit. Did you experience any subjectively positive side effects of the pandemic? Did you spend more time in the studio?
Marlow: My life didn’t change much because of covid in regards to music. I was working from home before covid so I just kept doing my thing as normal. It didn’t affect me professionally because of that, I was already quarantined in the house making music. I have always been, ever since I started. I think the positive side effect of covid is that more people tuned in to my channel and I was able to grow as a consequence of that.
Are you currently planning on changing your hardware setup?
Marlow: Yes, I am looking for more. I am really happy I must say, I think I have an amazing setup that gives me all I need. But I want to explore more and try different sounds. Yes, I want to grow my studio and see what more I can pull out of different equipment. Looking for a stereo 4 band EQ for my master out at the moment and I would also want to try a small analog console at some point in my life. Looking for tape decks and weird machinery to run my samples through. That’s what’s on my gear radar at the moment.
How satisfied are you with our products and would you modify them in some way if you could?
Marlow: I am very satisfied with the Magnetismus 2. I think the human mind can always find ways to add extra bits like an extra bypass on the comp, but I honestly think the Magnetismus2 is great as it is. I love the simplicity of the compressor and the subtlety of the transient shaper along with the saturation, it’s a great combination and very well put together. I am still finding new ways of using it.
If you could have our team of experts design your dream analog gear, what would it be?
Marlow: I’ve been waiting to see Tegeler create a Stereo Parametric EQ with 4 bands or a Stereo Image of sorts.
Last but not least, what are you working on at the moment? Any projects that will be released in the near future?
Marlow: I have many things in the works, from videos to albums. Not planning dates but I would really love to drop a couple of beat tapes this year and also make a short film for my channel. I have been writing a small independent script for a short and just need to find the right people to do it. Of course, all this relates to music and beat making, just trying to make my YouTube videos to the next level.
Thank you very much for the talk, Marlow!