In the studio with Nick Ray
Jaz from the RepostExchange Team

How long have you been producing music and how did you learn? 

15 Years. Learned from experimentation. Started with digital 8-track recorders. Spent a lot of time writing and recording demos on a Boss BR-8. That taught me some fundamentals, then graduated to early versions of Pro Tools.

What DAW(s) do you use and why?

Logic Pro X. I love Logic! I feel like it is catered to songwriters. When it comes to building and writing a song from scratch it has a more intuitive interface in my opinion. The way it is laid all the way to editing and virtual instruments makes the creative process of songwriting more seamless and enhances the workflow.

What are your favourite pieces of gear and why?

My Apollo interface and Neumann TLM 103 mic. I choose my Apollo because the ADA converters are great! And my Neumann well it works great for my style of voice. I achieve great results running my Neumann through my Apollo interface. I’m able to achieve industry-standard type vocals with these two pieces of gear.

What are your favourite software plugins and why?

Too many to list here, but I will try and sum it up to a few. As far as software instruments, I will start with Output Arcade and Exhale. I love Arcade because after I build a skeleton track, I’m always looking for something to add as the touchings on top. Arcade has a vast library of unique samples and loops all the way from vocals, bass and synth elements that can add that extra production element you may be looking for.

Same with Exhale. Exhale is a vocal sample library that has tons of female and male vocal loops and samples to choose from. Shortly after Exhale was released, I started hearing tons of artists using their samples, specifically Justin Timberlake, he used some of their sounds on his "Man Of The Woods" record.

As far as mixing plugins, I use a lot of Waves, Soundtoys and UAD Plugins. To name a few Waves EMI TG12345 channel strip for my drum bus and vocal bus. The UA 1176 SE and LN Compressor/Limiter I almost use in every session mainly for vocals but can be used on other instruments as well. Soundtoys' Little Plate is another one of my favorites, great reverb plugin! I use this on an AUX track for snares, vocals etc.

How would you summarise your approach/workflow when creating a track?

Most of the time it starts with a drum loop or groove. But I have also started with a guitar lick or vocal melody. I mainly like to start with drums because to me is the foundation of your track, then I will build on it with a synth bass line or guitar lick. Then once I’ve established the meat potatoes of the track, I’ll start working on vocal melodies etc.

What resources do you use to improve your craft?

Yes, tons of tutorials on Youtube! I don’t have anything specific, but If I have a question on how to achieve a specific result, I’ll type that into Google and find videos on YouTube etc. One magazine I use often is Performer Magazine, they are always posting new product reviews on the latest gear arrivals.

What is the last YouTube tutorial you watched that you would recommend to other Re-Ex Members?

I recently just watched "How to Mix Rap Vocals” with Leslie Brathwaite on YouTube using Wavs Plugins. He showed some great insight on getting punchy sounding vocals, it was a big help for me.

What knowledge or advice do you wish you'd learned earlier?

The importance of picking your computer. I’ve learned over the years never cheat yourself by trying to save money on your computer. The computer is the heart of your studio. Always get the best. In the end, you will regret now spending the extra money to get the specs you need. This will have a direct impact on your workflow. For example, if you choose between the i5 and the i7 core processor always choose the i7. Same with RAM etc.

What challenges related to making music do you face and how do you overcome them?

For writers’ block, sometimes I’ll just take a break for a couple of days or weeks and come back and usually, I’m refreshed and new ideas start spawning. Other times I work for it. I’ll dig deep to look for new and inspiring ideas from old and new records. Try using new drum samples etc.

Can you share any killer tips or techniques?

An engineer friend of mine turned me on to parallel processing and compression...That has been a big game-changer for me... Works well on vocals and for mastering. There are tons of tutorials out there on YouTube about parallel compression.

Do you use any online tools to assist with the production process? 

Not so much. But there are companies out there like Soundbetter that can help with mixing. I am actually part of this platform. It is a service that provides mixing and mastering engineers from all over the world. There are also tools like eMastered and Landr that provide mastering services. If your mastering game isn’t the greatest yet, you can try this as an alternative.

Do you try and get feedback or suggestions to improve your music? If so, how?

Yes. Mainly from people with the musical taste I trust, Like a close friend or musician. Someone that can be as least biased as possible.

Which track are you most proud of and why?

I have a track that I recording in my home studio called "Won't Go There". I did all the recording at my home studio setup, then sent out to be mixed and mastered by a guy named Rick at Festivals Studios in Kenner, Louisiana. Unfortunately, the studio is no longer in business. I’m very proud of the mix quality of this track.

Has RepostExchange affected the way you make music? If so, how?

Not creatively, but it has had a great impact on how I share my music

Desert Island Gear (top 5 software or hardware)

Top L-R: Apollo interface, Macbook

Bottom L-R: Neumann mic, Logic Pro X, Taylor acoustic guitar

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This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.