MixTips: Luca Pretolesi

Apr 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix


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Luca Pretolesi

Producers and artists working in electronic dance music must get a good laugh out of the fact that the United States just now seemed to “discover” the genre. Luca Pretolesi, who is credited with popularizing house music in Italy 20 years ago and producing pioneering work in EDM, is a true international producer/artist now making his home in Las Vegas, his space known as Studio DMI. Look for his work soon on the new Snoop Lion record, or take a listen to Steve Aoki, Tiesto, Bruno Mars, Major Lazer, Diplo, Cypress Hill and hundreds of others.

Twenty years ago, in Italy, I wanted my mixes to sound…

Clean and modern.

Today, I try to make my mixes sound…

Creative and full of color. [smiley face]

Can you describe, from your perspective, the trend toward the integration of EDM with other music genres.

From pop to hip-hop to rock, I hear more and more the influence of EDM. The mainstream hears it as a fresh sound. Mostly it’s the arrangements and sound design. It’s becoming more frequent to hear a dubstep drop on a pop song or a progressive house chord progression on a hip-hop track.

When you are asked to remix a song on an EDM track, what is the first thing you do? Then what?

I always try to create an order of priority on the mix. I bring only the main elements in first. A simple and clean session. In the case of a vocal song I always work around the hook and drums first, followed by main synths and bass. I start from leveling and panning followed by dynamics. I respect the original composition first and then bring my colors on the mix. For example, on Bruno Mars—“Locked Out of Heaven (Major Lazer Remix)”—I had the opportunity to retouch an amazing up-tempo hit with the right elements already in place. I worked mostly on drums, bassline, synths, separation and more “in-your-face/dry” mix.

When you get a chance to produce a Snoop Lion record vs. producing a single track for, say, Steve Aoki, what is your difference in approach?

Very different, even though I did mix the whole Aoki album, which was 100-percent EDM from the start. On “Ladi Dadi,” for example, I kept the Wynter Gordon vocal very intimate in front of the mix without compromising synths and pads, levels and dynamics. The overall album has a great balance of EDM/radio.

The Snoop Lion album…it’s definitely one of the most interesting and creative productions this year. I had a lot of fun and freedom with those mixes. The album has deep influence from reggae, West Coast hip-hop and fusion with electronic sound. The album is very rich with collaborations and guest appearances, including Chris Brown, Drake, T.I., Akon and others. I had to deal with all those guest vocalists recorded in different studios. I tried to keep the integrity of the artist sound but at the same time blend with the vision of the mix. The album sounds definitely current but with a retro feeling. I had the chance to experiment a lot—a lot of harmonic distortion, parallel processing, traditional UBK Fatso, 1176s on drums but also heavy plug-in use and lo-fi re-sampling on synths, including a nontraditional use of Metric Halo plug-ins and NI Guitar Rig on synths and even on vocals. Snoop sounds very intimate and in front of the speakers. To me this record sounds fresh.

What do you look for in the low end? And how do you get it to translate across all systems, from club to streaming?

I want to translate the club feeling over radio and any media. Sometimes I will do a different mastering just for radio/YouTube/TV. I start a mix with a specific space for kick and bass on the mix. I keep my mix mono up to 150/200 Hz. I love to experiment with parallel processing on kick and drum bus with unconventional plug-ins in combination with vintage outboards. I always try to minimize individual corrections to avoid phase problems. I like to group parts. Most of the time I mix OTB drums. I use 4 channels of an old Neumann W491a. A passive summing and API A2D just dedicated for my drums. I use an old 1987 Ramsa T820 mixer just for color on synth plug-ins. I always record back on the session for automations and fine-tunings.

You mix and master. But my guess is that your approach to mastering is different from, say, that of Bob Ludwig…

Mastering equals integrity to me; never force a record to sound unnatural. I like to really feel the producer vision as far as ratio—loudness vs. dynamics first. I like to try different solutions, and sometimes I do multiple versions, then I choose the best a few hours after the session is over. I almost never compress anything under 300 Hz, and if I do, it’s parallel compression. I combine analog clipping with plug-in limiting for loudness purposes. Besides the technical part, I love to use my “DJ” side when I’m mastering dance music. I really feel the music and A/B with other tracks. Mastering my own mixes is mostly just leveling and fine adjustments. If I need drastic changes, I always go back to the actual mix session.

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