EDIT: We are sad to report Spencer passed away in the early hours of Sunday 5 December 2010 at his Hospice. The team here at Image-Line wish to send our condolances to Spencers family and friends. He will be sorely missed.
Spencer Steel pondering how wide his mixer should be (RIP, 2010)
1. Tell us about your track - Deleting All Contacts
My latest song is called "Deleting All Contacts" ... It was an attempt to set an angst written theme to my style of downbeat electronica music ...
I'm no good at genres, so i'm not sure what it would be filed under. Obviously based on my artist title, I wanted to express those times when you want to shut out the world, isolate and revel in a little self-induced "screw the world!". It's about those time of slamming the door against those that are trying to help you ... I think most people have been there at some point.
Sonically, I am trying to keep things current but I am harking back to slower 80's synth hooks ... Early Depeche Mode is an obvious reference. I like the way these songs could stick in your head with simple hook lines. There was no need for a million filters and a furious fx's ... these were just well-crafted pop songs and it's something that I find influencing me more and more.
Yes, I sing on this. Vocal production is still new and I definitely have a take-it-or-leave-it style. And yes, it needs work! But my philosophy is that I'd rather have a couple of fans who like my rough style than be creating faceless instrumentals or bringing in pitch-perfect "fly so high/in the sky" female divas. For me, it's not about being a "big" or "successful" artist but about creating something that I hear inside, warts and all. So expect more dodgy vocal attempts as DAC progresses. You've been warned.
2. What were your first impressions of FL Studio and how did you come to use it?
I stumbled across FL after building my own huge gaming PC (thankfully with a good sound card!). Once I had built the rig, I soon found myself bored - I like to build and create more than consume and one fateful weekend I found myself wondering how good my rig would be for music creation and what was possible with a reasonable PC.
My first impressions of FLS was probably unrepeatable. For lots of of personal reasons, it was like a door that I thought had been closed on me was flung wide open. I used to create music "back in the day" (1989 onwards) and my first DAW was Steinberg Pro 24, pre Cubase. Of course there was no such thing as a VSTi ... this was midi data only, hardware synths (god bless my Korg M1) and an Atari ST.
After loading up a couple of instances of Gol's "Sytrus" VSTi's and playing around with the free sample banks included with FLS blew my head off. I knew that I had rediscovered the joy of making music and it was something that would become my obsession. I remember not sleeping with excitement as all the musical ideas starting to rush to my head.
Exploring FLS blew me away. Simple yet so deep, the power of what was on offer amazed me. I found what I'd be looking for ... a way to start getting out some of my inner musical ideas and thoughts with minimum outlay. So much for so little.
The initial leaning curve was steep in many ways but easy in others, as once you understand any DAW then the concepts remain the same but what made FL special was its non-liner approach ... A flexible and open system that didn't tie you down to one work-flow. A sandbox to play with and find the ways of working that suited you best.
FL is deep. There's so much I don't know. Every time I open it, I find more. The beginner can get going quickly but will soon realise that FL Studio will take a lifetime to "master", in the best possible way ... And with Image Line constantly upping the stakes and introducing new tools, methods and techniques, learning FLS will be a constant ongoing process.
3. Tell us about your production environment & toys?
Once I started on the "studio build", I quickly realised that for that point onwards, that my spare money - and some life savings - was now going into this hobby. The good news is that, as far as FLS goes, you don't need to spend that much cash. The top FLS package offers everything a producer could need ... And don't forget that's free updates for life. What Image Line give away is ridiculous. I struggled to get their business model for a while, wondering how the heck they could give away so much for nothing!
The additional "pay for" plugins Image Line sell are of great quality and really fairly priced ... and there's normally a sale around the corner, so building my ultimate FLS setup didn't take too long and I'm proud to have a full suite of Image Line plugins and tools. I've probably mastered about 5% of each one!
However, my little obsession wouldn't really let me stop at just the FLS suite. As brilliant as VSTi's are, I found myself yearning to twiddle some knobs and embarked on the unforgiving world of hardware synths, ploughing some life savings into a Virus Ti2 Keyboard, a DSI Tetra and a DSI Mopho. Also, I invested in some Genelec speakers, a Motu audio interface and a great se2200a microphone/reflection filter bundle. Ah, then the dual computer monitors and the 3rd party plugins (I love the Spectrasonic stuff) and ... As I said, this stuff gets addictive. Gear lust is a big problem and I can't shake that Moog Little Phatty from my head ...
... but I don't want to get drawn on the "what sounds better" hardware/software debates. It depends on what you do with it. And to be honest, my Virus is my garaged Ferrari that I polish and gaze at and probably drive at 30mph of a weekend, much to the frustration of others ... but these are my toys to learn slowly and twiddle with. Although hardware synths can be a royal pain in the backside compared to ease of VSTi's, I just like the tactile keyboards and controls. I guess it's what I grew up with. I hear people who make the most incredible sounding tracks with stock FLS synths, there is no "need" to go outside the box ... It just depends on what excites you and how much of a sucker you are for complicating your life with lots of workarounds!
4. Do you have any links you would like to share?
I've very recently had the DAC webpage www.deleteallcontacts.com (this link no longer works) designed for me by a guy called J.D.Andrews (aka JDA70) from the Image-Line forum. He kindly built a simple but cool looking homepage for DAC, where you can get to all my media. There is an embedded SoundCloud player on the website to hear my current sampler playlist. Thank you again, JDA70 - amazing kindness.
With Facebook making it really easy to upload news, video and music, as well as having the advantage of fans being able to comment and follow, it's pretty much taken the strain off trying to create a full-functional artist website - everything can be pretty much taken care of by a Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube
Official links are:
www.deleteallcontacts.com (this link no longer works)
- a couple of videos I have put together (also available on the Facebook page). By the way, if anyone reading this enjoys making movies and is looking for some original music to add visuals too, please get in touch.
5. We know you have been battling a serious illness for some time, how has your music helped?
Yes, its been a hell of year. I won't go into too much detail but in a nutshell I have a life-threatening rare case of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma - actually, I have two different cancers, but you can read all about that here http://thekemokid.blogspot.com. A year of various chemotherapy treatments have sadly not shifted it and the latest reports were not great, with new tumours appearing ... but we haven't given up hope yet.
Music has been a huge help. As I said at the beginning, it allows me to get out some feelings into the world, or at the very least, get some relief from the constant cycles of hospitals, pain and treatment.
To be honest, actually sitting down for a full music session is proving increasingly tougher as time goes on - making music really requires you to be fully on form and alert. Concentration, inspiration and energy is needed to get the ideas recorded - but when I do get the good days and the music starts to work, then it's the best feeling in the world.
What I would like to say, is that even when I'm not making music, just being around the FL Community Forums is a really good way of staying in the loop. There are some great guys there and some friendly, lively and sometimes ridiculous debates and threads - so I never feel too far away from what is happening on the scene. People have been very kind and supportive, from the highest Image Line staff down to the forum members. I feel like its a home from home when I'm cooped up in hospital. Oh, I also just got an iPad for those hospital stays, to explore some of the simple music apps and be able to stay in the touch with the outside world. I'm looking forward to seeing what Image Line have lined up for the device!
In a nutshell, my life would be infinitely more frustrating without my hobby ... FL Studio has really changed my world in the last few years and I can't express my gratitude enough to Gol and the support team for the gift of music creation that you gave to me.
Does anyone want a tissue?
Spencer Steel - aka Delete All Contacts
Thanks Spencer, the team here at Image-Line appreceate your support. We all wish you the best with your music and especially that illness.
We have created a thread on Looptalk for discussion.
EDIT UPDATE: JWM Fellow FL Studio user made these dance remixs of Deleting All Contacts