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GEAR TALK: Airwave

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The Bonzai producer elaborates on his highly detailed approach in the studio.

From efficient minimalist studios to elaborate labs that could double as music history museums, in GEAR TALK, we visit some of Belgium's most exciting beatmakers in their natural habitat. How do these people make music? And which tools do they use to make their next anthem? In every video, we uncover the producer's go-to tools and most-priced piece of equipment. In this episode, we travel to the capital, visiting Bonzai legend Airwave.

Laurent Verronez, aka Airwave, has to be one of the most underrated producers in the Belgian electronic music scene. Throughout his impressive career, the Brussels-based artist is much more than just a trance or techno producer. From releasing dozens of records on the iconic Bonzai Records to making music with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, Airwave is serious about every project he takes on. This man must be a gear freak – he even worked on the latest KORG synthesizer. We visited his home studio to find out his approach in the studio, his favourite equipment, and to learn more about his love for field recording.

Can you give a short introduction of yourself for those who might not be familiar?

“I’ve been playing gigs and touring around the world as Airwave for over 20 years now, but my real passion is music production. I'm just a sucker for synthesizers. This is what drove me throughout my whole career: squeezing my very own sound out of any machine I could get my hands on. From the mid-2000s onwards, those efforts started to pay off. I’ve shared the studio with many big international acts like Armin Van Buuren, Markus Schulz, and Above & Beyond, and I've done multiple DJ-tours around the globe.”

Always save all your projects, even when you don't like where it was going. Even sub-optimal sketches can ignite a golden idea.

How do you make music? Do you have a plan when you enter the studio? Or do you see where the vibe takes you?

In the studio, I have two directly opposing approaches (laughs). Sometimes I know exactly what I want, and other times are reserved for jamming. It's that chemistry between those two approaches that work best for me. Always save all your projects, even when you don't like where it was going. Even sub-optimal sketches can ignite a golden idea."

Many artists that break through are happy with their winning formula. Yet you never settled doing the same thing over and over again.

"Quite soon after I released my first records, I wanted to go one step deeper and record all my music from the ground up. That meant I got into sound design, literally making every sound in my music from scratch. As a result, I now have a vast database with my own samples to draw inspiration from. KORG even contacted me to work on the software and sound bank of their Wavestate synthesizer. I'm proud of that".

Many people might be surprised the concept of making all your own sounds isn't a standard procedure in electronic music.

“So many producers spent tons of money on new synths with their pre-installed sound libraries and presets, yet they never actually make their own samples. They are missing out on the best part of music production! If you do everything from scratch – and that doesn’t even require expensive gear – you’ll have a greater sense of ownership over your music. It will become so much easier to create your own identity as a producer.” 

If you make your own samples, you’ll have a greater sense of ownership. It will become so much easier to create your own identity as a producer.

Where do you record these sounds then?

“That can be anywhere, literally. Just in my last sample package, I’ve included sounds from an escalator, slamming doors, opening my refrigerator, dropping a metal bar on the pavement, the echoed clap in a parking garage, etc. The possibilities are endless.”

Any tips for those interested in digging deeper into the world of sound design and field recordings?

“I suggest getting you a decent stereo sound recording device, like the DR-22WL from Tascam – although anything from Zoom works great too. Having one of these at hand allows you to shoot sounds like a photographer shoots images. You can record just about anywhere. In my last sample package, I’ve included sounds from an escalator, slamming doors, opening my refrigerator, dropping a metal bar on the pavement, the echoed clap in a parking garage, etc. I can guarantee that you'll have a big database of sounds in no time – perfect if you want to give your productions your personal touch."

What is your biggest gear tip for beginning producers?

“That has to be the Arturia DrumBrute Impact, an amazing drum computer. It’s so easy to use, super straightforward, and it sounds amazing. I don’t even use the MIDI’s. Just playing around with a couple of samples and the sequencer is incredibly fun. It’s not even that expensive, compared to most other options on the market. It’s a 10/10 recommendation for any young producers out there.”