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Top 5 Plugin’s with Ant LaRock

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If you know the New York house scene of today, you’ll be extremely familiar with Ant LaRock. Having released on labels such as Get Physical, Snatch OFF! and with strong support from Defected as a regular act on their USA tour lineups – he’s been boiling over as a name to watch for quite some time.

Production-wise, his sounds vary between the modern-day New York house and disco we know and love, across to a much harder tech house and techno sound which reflects the ample time Ant spent based producing over in Europe. What never varies however is both the productions quality and pure class of his music. Ant sit’s amongst the most exciting names of current talent in terms of studio skills, and his next release clearly showcases this in both concept and delivery. 

His first and highly anticipated full-length LP “BK” came out on Friday the 25th July, on Brobot Records Music (check it out here). The LP is a homage to his home city of Brooklyn with each track named after a neighbourhood which holds particular musical and cultural influence over Ant. It features gritty hip-hop soul samples and is colourful, loud, saturated, vibrant, chill and energetic – all in one.  It’s not lounge music, it’s not full-on club-bangers, it’s that absolute sweet spot right in between the two. Ant calls it “At Home House” which is a socially isolated world, brings that unique Brooklyn colour and hustle to everyone at home right now. This is truly a key album of the moment we are all in.

To celebrate the release we asked Ant to pick his Top 5 Plugin’s he likes to use in his productions, so you can upgrade your skills to be a bit more LaRock esq;

Words by Ant LaRock:

I can go weeks without natural sunlight and about two days without coffee but if I’m in the studio, I wouldn’t last an hour without these plugins.  These are my Top 5 Plugins and they really helped me shape the sound to my first full length album “BK”, out September 25th on Brobot Records.  

UAD PULTEC EQP-1A

This classic Pultec style EQ by Universal Audio is killer and not for the reasons you might think.  Yes, having those gentle EQ curves will give your mix that final touch but I love it for the way UAD emulated the no-loss amplifier circuit.  In the original Pultec EQP-1 (hardware unit) there was an amplifier circuit to compensate for signal loss when the EQ bands were cut.  UAD recreated the warmth of the unit beautifully with this plugin.  So most of the time I place the EQP-1 on a drum bus or my master and don’t even touch it, I just let the warmth of the emulated amplifier circuit warm and fatten it up! I used this gem on almost every master on my album, “BK” to give it that final last bit of character and warmth.Added bonus: A last minute bass boost is super easy and gentle with this plugin. 

KAZROG TRUE IRON

The Kazrog True Iron is the newest plugin in my arsenal and it has proved to be one of the most useful.  This little powerhouse was designed to emulate the real-world iron transformers from vintage analogue outboard gear. 

Ok, so what the hell does that mean? 

When we work strictly in a DAW, our sound never has the opportunity to really “exist” in the real world. When our sounds stay only in the world of digital 0’s and 1’s, this plugin emulates running through a real mixing console.  The added kicker is I can really drive the “crush” and the “strength” settings in the plugin to get a pleasing saturation and harmonic distortion to fill out your mix.  Much like the Pultec EQP-1A from above, I love it on a bus or right on my master. 

From a gentle, pleasing amount of harmonics, all the way to a loud mangled mess, this always sounds good. I used this on the master channels for both “Brownsville” and “Park Slope” to saturate and liven up the overall mix. Added bonus: Adjustable output gain control is always a welcomed feature.   

TAL CHORUS LX

So the first two plugins might cost you part or all of your paycheck but don’t worry, LaRock is a bargain-hunter as well.  And you can’t get cheaper than free.  I’ve been using the TAL (Togu Audio Line) Chorus LX for about 7 years now and it has proved it worthiness time and time again.  This is a remake of the famed Roland Juno Chorus originally installed on the classic synthesizer units. 

So it would seem logical that we could just heavy-hand this thing on any synth but I also love it to finesse finer elements of my tracks as well.  Often times I use this on a bus to widen and thicken out the vocals because the stereo width knob is fully adjustable, unlike the original unit in the Juno’s. 

Rides, pianos, vocals, anything I want to sit wide in a mix (especially if I want the wobbly, detuned sound of a chorus effect) I usually go right to the TAL Chorus LX first. Added bonus: Chorus type I, type II and a combination of both. 

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS BITE

Ok, now this is a fun one. Not all the nerdy stuff of mixing console emulation blah blah blah.  I got frustrated with the stock bit reduction options in most DAWs and stumbled upon this gem by Native Instruments.  Not only does it have fully adjustable sample rate and bit reduction, but there is also a seriously fat saturation knob and combo highpass/lowpass filter built right in! 

Once those are set, the “Jitter” and “Crunch” controls can further dial in that trashed 80’s/90’s sampler sounds.  If I don’t have an MPC on hand (or don’t want to go through the trouble of sampling to/from) this is my go-to for that 12-bit Akai or EMU SP1200 sampler sounds. 

I used this extensively on a lot of the sampled elements on my “BK” album, most notably the samples in “Crown Heights” and even on the master of “Williamsburg”, to mention just a few.  Lo-Fi grit at its finest!!!!!Added bonus: No need to add a lowpass filter after this plugin because there is one built-in.  

SOUNDTOYS DEVIL-LOC DELUXE

So you just spent hours perfecting the sonic characteristics of your drums and want to take it to the next level.  Why not completely mangle it beyond all recognition with this audio destroyer? 

Jokes aside, this thing is serious. 

Like go easy with it seriously or you will completely destroy your sound.  Why do I consider it one of my top 5 plugins then?  For starters, I am absolutely in love with the way the tube saturation feels on this.  It compresses my drums or masters in a way that I can rarely get compressor plugins to do.  Even with this plugin set on minimal values, I still dial the mix to about 10% or less and it really does the job.  I think of it as a parallel bus compressor with an overdrive circuit, rather than an overdrive plugin with a compression circuit, get me?. 

Nine times out of ten, I try this on my drums or at least kicks first before I go to other plugins.  Plus on a kick, you have the added benefit of getting all those nice harmonics that an overdrive unit like this has to offer.  Set it to 7% wet, drop the mic and walk away.  I used Devil-Loc Deluxe on the drum bus for “Park Slope” to glue and saturate the individual drum samples to feel like one single drum kit.

Added bonus: Slow and Fast release times to give you a really pumping compression sound.

Ant LaRock’s “BK” came out on Friday the 25th July, on Brobot Records Music (check it out here)

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