Zardonic (Federico Agreda) has toured all over the world, awarded as Best Keyboardist, Best Metal Artist, Best DJ and Artist of the Year in his native Venezuela, voted the #1 DJ in Venezuela by The DJ List, reached #1 in Beatport’s Drum & Bass and Hardcore charts, #1 in Amazon.de’s Hard Rock & Metal Bestsellers, millions of plays on YouTube and his album “Antihero” got into three Top 5 charts in Tower Records Japan. When we heard he was using FL Studio, we were scared! We’d better get Zardonic on the Power User page before he comes looking for us…
Tell us about how you got into music ?
I think it’s something that was pretty much born with me. I was already fiddling with toy keyboards when I was little and was fascinated by synthetic sounds. To me it was a completely different world because they were sounds you couldn’t hear in nature. So you could say I was born with electronic music before I even knew about it! My parents also had a very exquisit taste for music. All I could hear in the car when I was 4 years old was Classical Music and Nu Jazz. And when I was 13, my brother played me “The Great Southern Trendkill” by Pantera. So I had access to a lot of different styles and loved them all. I think that’s what Zardonic is, a combination of all the music styles I love.
Tell us about the mask, how did that come about?
It’s based off my logo which is based off my face. At first it didn’t even have the cable hair you see there, it was meant to look more like a lucha libre character. And it slowly evolved into something more like a hybrid of Mortal Kombat and Spawn and Predator and a bit of Cyberpunk. As my music is pretty industrial sounding, it absolutely fits. Nowadays I would say it’s a thing of its own though, sort of larger-than-life. It kind of grew to become its own personality, which makes me think that in the next two decades I should start thinking about who to train to become the next Zardonic. Somebody has to keep that thing alive after my journey ends here!
How did you start using FL Studio & what does it mean to your productions?
I started when I was 18 when my friend got me FruityLoops v3.0. And ever since, FL Studio means EVERYTHING to me! If it wasn’t for FL Studio I wouldn’t be making music, and if I wasn’t making music I wouldn’t have this insane rollercoaster of a career that I am blessed and thankful every day for. So thank you.
So you’re from Venezuela, how did you buy FL Studio?
I’m glad you asked. The situation we have endured is extremely unfortunate. However, I have been out of the country since 2014 and lived in both the United States and the European Union, so I guess I am safe from the worst. But it’s true. It is impossible to buy anything online in Venezuela because we have very strange economic policies that only allow us to get $400 dollars per year to spend on the internet if they even still allow that much. Might be less or just nothing by now. I guess the government was trying to reduce imports and motivate people to produce their own stuff and start exporting and improve our economy. While that’s a noble cause and I agree with it, I don’t think it’s the right method. And it sure didn’t help the economy at all if you look at the disaster the country became these days.
So well, it was only when I started getting gigs outside of Venezuela, and finally got paid in dollars, that I could start paying for my software which is when I bought FL Studio Signature Edition and additional plugins. I wanted to purchase everything you had to offer because each and every single thing you have developed has somehow made it into my music. I felt bad in the beginning because I love your software and only was able to pay for it later, but I’m happy to be part of the Power User family now and a loyal soldier of the FL community. It means the world to me!
Tell us about how you use your FL Plugins. Any special tricks or techniques?
The first thing is to not be afraid of any of them. Even when you have no idea of what you’re doing, you will get something if you try. I always believed practice must come before theory. I learned synthesis by fiddling with random knobs until I understood what each of them did and slowly the whole theory was unfolding itself in front of me. Not to mention the first happy accidents that make you discover sounds you will never ever get after you’ve learned too much. Whenever I would hit a wall with my sound I would resort to online forums, but I was never a fan of the Pendulum snare tutorial or Skrillex bass tutorial type videos, because they will only teach you to sound EXACTLY like that, as opposed to teaching you how to develop your own signature sound.
I am a big fan of Sytrus and its capability to design waveforms, as well as the integrated filter waveshaper. That thing is AWESOME. It reminds me a lot of the tones I would get from overdriven Nord Lead filters. Sytrus has been responsible for most of the leads and pads heard in my tracks so I have a very special place for it in my heart.
For an analog-ish sound on virtual synths and sampled waveforms, use Fruity Fast Dist with just about enough to get some flavor in the high range, and then a highpass filter on Fruity Parametric EQ2 with open Q around 22khz. Alternatively, Blood Overdrive will work for this too.
For vocals, Fruity Compressor and Fruity Blood Overdrive are my go-to plugins. Compressor settings: -30db threshold, full ratio, 30db gain, fast attack and not-so-fast release. You have to make sure the vocal take is as clean as possible though, or else all that noise is going to kick you in the face! Then add a bit of Blood Overdrive for extra aggression if needed. I know that’s an old plugin and we now have Maximus, but that thing did a LOT for me. I hope it gets a revamp!
Harmor is another beast I have used to design a lot of bass hits and leads heard in my Reinventing The Bass samplepack. I would record myself doing any vocal random nonsense, analyze it in the IMG section, set Scale to 0 and set Unison to 4 and up. Then click and hold over the spectrum and move it randomly, slowly or faster depending on what you’re looking for. Once you get something that makes sense you can then assign an envelope to your liking, but honestly that’s too tedious for me. I’d rather just open an instance of Edison and record whatever happens. I get at least 9 out of 10 quality sounds.
3xOsc is what I used for most of my subs in the past. It’s a pretty straightforward plugin so for bass that’s all you need. Anyone telling you otherwise is selling you smoke. Simplicity. Sinewaves. Lowpassed Saws or a combination of basic waveforms. There’s a reason why the Minimoog, as simple as it is by today’s standards, was known for having an earth-rattling bass. All you need for that is 1, maybe 2 oscillators and a filter. I also used it for a lot of prog rock style classic leads.
Maximus on the Master channel for me is essential to control the subs. I keep the mid and the high band turned off but I try to compress anything below 100hz to keep the lows under control so it doesn’t distort the master. The stereo separation knob helps a lot to make the bass Mono, as it should be. Short attack and release times are good here, but not so much to turn all subs into one big square wave. Just about enough to keep some dynamics without letting the bass get too crazy, especially with bass heavy music, this is a must. Granted of course that you’re getting rid of nonessential sub 100hz content in the rest of your tracks.
Tell us about your production environment & toys?
Pretty much FL Studio and all its synths and effects. Fruity Parametric EQ might be the best plugin for clinical EQ I’ve had. For mixing and mastering I’m a big fan of Slate Digital plugins and it’s pretty much all I use now. Native Instruments Komplete is great for my production as well as Nexus when I need my orchestral sounds. I also recently got the LogicKeyboard for FL Studio 12 which helps my workflow A LOT. That alone is something everyone should get if they’re serious about using FL Studio. Thank you for this!
My favorite hardware synth is my Dave Smith Pro 2. It is truly the most powerful monosynth ever created! For analog oscillator goodness I have a Studio Electronics Boomstar SE80, an Arturia Minibrute and the Desktop version of the legendary Polivoks synthesizer. I know you guys are big fans of this one and I love how you took that idea to the next level with Sawer! Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol complements my software instruments. Hands on control are a must and I think Native Instruments excels at this. Then there’s the fun Bastl Instruments BitRanger, KORG Monotron and Monotribe. I could spend days in my studio discovering sounds and never get bored of it!
Then there’s an insane effect chain I have on an FX send on my mixer which has, in the following order, an Erica Synths Acidbox II (because one Polivoks filter is not enough!), Ibanez TubeScreamer, EHX Metal Muff, Behringer HM300 for that Swedish tone, AMT Pangaea CP-100 which is a cab sim that works with user loaded Impulse Responses, a Rowin Flanger, EHX Stereo PolyChorus, EHX Cathedral Stereo Reverb, JOMOX T-Resonator II, DigiTech Supernatural Ambient Verb and a KORG Kaoss Pad KP3+.
For monitoring, currently Focal CMS65 are my go-to Studio Monitors for Mixing, paired with an Avantone MixCube and Beyerdynamic DT-880 for reference. And I suggest anyone who wants to produce to not invest less than 2000 US dollars on a pair of monitors as well as acoustic treatment in their home studio. There’s a reason they exist. Trust me. I also had subpar monitors in the past and I thought I was doing fine because I liked what I heard. But serious monitors are a must.
Do you have any links you would like to share?
My official website is http://www.zardonic.net and that’s where you will find pretty much everything you need to know. I also post a lot on my Facebook page. Come and leave a comment. I usually try to reply as much as I can although it keeps getting busier and busier these days, but I’ll do my best to keep up with anyone who supports me!