Featured Story - Johnny McDaid
Johnny McDaid is the first producer signing to Snow Patrol’s publishing company Polar Patrol. Originally hailing from Derry, Northern Ireland, he is a multi-instrumentalist and long-term friend of Snow Patrol having played live with the band throughout their career. McDaid went on to form his own group Vega4 in London, finding commercial success signed to Columbia Records. As the band ran its course this led to work producing artists; and so began FieldWork Music studio and recent work with artists such as Example, Gary Go, Eurovision-winner Lena and long-term collaborations Paul Van Dyk, as well as nurturing a steady stream of young musicians beginning their careers.
Originally relying heavily on Logic Pro’s factory plug-ins, the search for something superior led to Universal Audio UAD Powered Plug-Ins. McDaid chose a UAD Quad Omni card for FieldWork Music's Logic Pro-powered Mac Pro system. How is he finding it, we ask?
“Obviously someone is spending a lot of time getting them right so the circuitry acts like real circuitry, as opposed to just a part of it. I’m nearly expecting to hear crackle when I turn the dials! And that’s what you want from a plug-in.”
In fact McDaid got chance to compare a genuine (potentially crackly) Fairchild Compressor to the UAD Fairchild recreation within hours of each other:
“For me there was no discernible difference in terms of the quality it was able to produce, in terms of the sound. I didn’t do an A/B test where I used sine waves and charts and spectrographs…but I know that my ears told me that the UA emulation was just as fun to use and I had lots of them.”
Having nearly 70 mono instances of UAD’s SSL Channel strip available inspired a novel experiment to simulate the mixer that space, and cost, couldn't allow:
“I’ve got an SSL Desk that I love, but the SSL I have is the Matrix, so it doesn’t have any EQ or Compression on the channels. So what’s been really fun is pulling up UAD’s SSL channel emulations (the UAD SSL G-Series plugins), putting it on every single channel - they sound incredible.”
The system also led to McDaid getting friendly with a feature oft-disregarded (and even scorned) in certain circles:
“What UA have done really well with the whole line is made great presets. I was never a fan of presets before…but generally they’ve done such a good job of making those presets sit really quickly in a mix – so when it says ‘Super Big Kick’, it’s a super big kick. And I can play with that.”
The EMT140 plate also gets a severe nod.
“The plate is extraordinary. I’ve not used a real plate in here but it feels like I can hear vibrations from down the hallway coming through it. It’s that realistic. You have to really try them to see this, you can use convolution reverbs all night long but this thing feels like there’s actual metal inside it that’s vibrating…it has this low-end that you don’t get from convolution reverbs. They tend to focus on the high end of things. This has a vibration around the middle and the low that I’ve not heard before.”
UA's own Precision Series, while not seeking to emulate any particular piece of equipment, has proved unrivalled for tasks with no real world counterpart. He has made extensive use of the Bus Compressor, but it's the Enhancer which gets special recognition:
“The Precision Enhancer is great. On things like bass, you can pull out frequencies that weren’t there before! I tend to mix through my main monitors and a little (Bose) SoundDock…because that’s the way people listen to music. I can make something sound so huge on the SoundDock that I’ll put it on later at home, and people listen to it and can’t believe it’s coming out of the SoundDock - it’s mainly due to the Precision Enhancer."
McDaid is a major fan of buses (the grouping of audio tracks rather than the large vehicles full of weary commuters), and has experimented putting the Precision Enhancer to work on them previewing the results live on the SoundDock:
“I love bussing things, because I’ve got 32 channels of output here on this desk. I tend to bus everything into groups, I love master bus compressors and master bus EQs...I’ll bus stuff off, like a bass or a kick drum, and use the Enhancer on it. I’ll fiddle with it till it feels like it’s bigger than it should be for such a little box. Then you end up taking it home and putting it on an iPod and you get stares from people thinking…‘how did you get this to sound as huge as that?!’”
Of course this is to mention only a handful of the 50 plugins currently available on the UAD platform. How to sum up being UAD-Powered, as an experience?
“If you have something like the Manley Massive Passive plug-in along with one of the Precision bus compressors at the end of your mix, you can achieve some pretty stunning ideas, because when it comes down to it, all of these things are tools to make music with. They have to sound musical, and whatever has happened with the science of emulation in this set of plug-ins is musical. It sounds like music. Whatever you put through them simply sounds better.”
“Most of my time is spent writing, so speed is of the essence. Being able to achieve an idea quickly and have it sound presentable straight away is so important. And when an artist comes in here, we write a song and we record the idea. Whether that goes on to become the record or not depends on how good it sounds in that moment when they take it out and play it for their A&R man, or they take it home and fall in love with it. And what these plug-ins allow me to do is very quickly get that happening. So before they even leave here, it sounds like a mix.”
Johnny McDaid has recently been producing Eurovision-winner Lena, whose album is No.1 in Germany at time of writing. Many thanks to Johnny for taking the time to chat, we hope to see more UAD-laden productions coming from FieldWork Music soon!
See our full video interview with Johnny McDaid at FieldWork Music Studios here:
For more information, contact:
Unit 6, Pembroke Buildings
Cumberland House Business Park
London NW10 6RE
T: 020 8962 5080