Welcome to the latest edition of DIY Muso Spotlight, where I ask a few questions of other musicians who are doing it for themselves. This time I’m talking to Jeroen van Kuik, a DIY hardware loving, heavy metal monster from the Netherlands.
Spotlight On: Jeroen van Kuik
Name: Jeroen van Kuik
Location: Enschede, the Netherlands
What is your current set-up?
Got two setups really, one in the living room for my Reel to Reel looping videos and acoustic stuff, the other in my work room for all my other musical muses and videos.
DAW: Reaper 64-bit
Audio Interface: Lexicon Alpha
Monitors: My girlfriend’s speakers (whenever I can steal her PC).
Headphones: I mainly use these iDance branded ones, I also have some old but really nice Sennheiser ones I mainly use in my living room setup.
Controllers: M-Audio Keystation 49e
Instruments: BC Rich Beast guitar, Ibanez GSR-200 bass guitar, djembé, acoustic guitar
Synthesizers/drum-machines: A long, long list of VSTi plugins and recently a whole bunch of reel to reels which I customise to make them do all sorts of weird things. I mainly use Addictive Drums 2 for drums
Microphones: Behringer C-1, DAP Audio PDM-25, AKAI ADM-25, AKAI ADM-40, Philips N8215 and a brandless shotgun microphone.
My awesome and beastly Peavey Mark 4 bass head of course! I’ve never had such a sexy sounding, flexible, expansive and indestructible amp.
I also use a Behringer MDX4400 4 channel compressor and a Behringer MIC100 tube preamp. And last but not least I have an analog tube synthesizer and many other DIY audio projects planned, most of which I’m planning to use in my music. Need to buy new soldering gear first though!
Who/What are your biggest musical influences?
Phew, that’s a tough one! A wide range of musicians from all sorts of genres really: Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Dream Theater, Anaal Nathrakh, Dimmu Borgir, Muse, Gorillaz are bands that I often listen to for inspiration.
Which instruments do you play (if any)?
Guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboard/piano and my vocal chords. I really want to learn playing the violin as well.
When did you first get into recording/producing?
Ever since I got into music I’ve always dreamt of recording my own. My first actual “recordings” were made using a cassette deck and this cheap keyboard back in 2006. I got my first proper keyboard somewhere in 2008 and my first proper audio interface (an M-Audio Delta 44) later that year as well.
This is when I really got invested in recording my own music, as well as my band’s. However, it was not until last year I got actually serious with wanting to learn proper audio engineering skills and I also started dreaming of having my own recording studio.
Could you talk us through your usual recording/producing process?
I usually start with preparing the project in Reaper, setting up tracks and their busses, colour coding and naming everything and preparing any MIDI tracks. I then load in the base VST plugins, such as Addictive Drums for the drum track (I pretty much always start with a beat, makes it easier for me to get what’s in my head on track). After that I pretty much start with whatever instrument I wrote the idea or riff on, I record some really rough takes until I have the basic song structure in place, writing in new things as I go.
I generally let the song sit for a while, taking a break from it for at least a day. I listen to it again, taking notes of what I do and don’t like, then re-record everything with proper takes. This is also when I’ll put it some basic EQ and compression where needed, to clean up things. When I’m all happy with the recordings I start mixing the song, usually taking breaks of at least a day between sessions. This is also when I listen to the song on many different devices to get a clear idea of what still needs to be fixed.
How do you manage your mastering?
Not really yet, haha, It’s still something I need to grasp. I only do some very slight EQ on the master bus, if needed. I used to use this master limiter plugin, to compress the living hell out of a song, but now I only use (subtle) compressors on the buses, not the master channel.
I found that this makes my mixes breathe much more and it allows me to tailor the compressors to the specific tracks, minimising the actual compression used as much as possible.
Which piece of hardware could you absolutely not do without, and why?
I was about to type, my audio interface, but that would mean I actually approved of the Lexicon Alpha, haha. Jokes aside though, I think an audio interface with a good preamp and a good microphone are the two most essential pieces of gear for the home musician.
Which piece of hardware do you love the most, and why?
Does my bass head count? If not I’d say my Behringer tube preamp because it’s compact but has some very neat features such as an phase reversal switch, a limiter and that warm tube sound.
Which plugin could you absolutely not do without, and why?
Here it is again: Addictive Drums 2. I also have every expansion pack for that plugin and it has given me such a wide range of drum and percussion sounds. It’s really flexible as well, you can customise pretty much everything and it has loads of features. Combined with some good MIDI programming it sounds very realistic as well.
What would you say was the most significant upgrade/addition to your setup?
Having my bass head at home really meant getting the bass sound I wanted, for me this is especially important because I often do bass covers for my channel and do my own bass recordings for my band’s upcoming album.
What would you say are the most significant recording/producing lessons you’ve learnt up to now?
I’d say… learning not to mix visually and learning to dissect what you are actually hearing. We have all these fancy plugins with all this fancy GUI that can really distract you from actually listening to what’s going on in your mix. I found this allowed me to get better results with much less EQ. 😉
What’s next for your set-up in terms of new hardware/software and/or upgrades?
A new audio interface! I’m not too positive about my current one (check my review on my YouTube channel), it lacks proper preamps and the driver isn’t that great. I have my eyes on a Behringer interface that has some very interesting features, but I am also looking at some Focusrite interfaces.
Besides a new audio interface I want to get a portable rack setup going, with preamps, compressors, EQ etcetera. The idea is that I can have my entire recording setup in a single rack and thus can roll it to different locations both in my house (remember I have two setups now, which can be a hassle) as well as outside my house, need I ever record on location again (I do audio for interviews sometimes).
What’s next for you as a DIY musician?
I really want to make more gear reviews for my “It’s Cheap but does it Sound Good?” video series, because I want to help those budding musicians and engineers on a tight budget. I myself have had to deal with a low income for the past few years and know very well how frustrating it can be to be unable to get good gear, because it’s often so expensive.
In this video series I review gear that is cheaply available either new or second-hand to show if it’s worth getting. I have a bunch of old songs that I want to remake and some new material I want to release soon. I also want to build that tube synthesizer, integrate it into my ever wackier reel to reel setup and make more experimental music. 😉
Thanks for answering my questions, Jeroen!
And thanks to anyone reading this DIY Muso Spotlight, I hope you enjoyed it and found it valuable. Check out the following links to find out more about Jeroen’s stuff.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to add your questions or comments below. If you would like to have the spotlight turned on you then don’t hesitate to ask!
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