null At Home with Synth & Soda

At Home with Synth & Soda

Danilo Braca and Mario Gentili - AKA Synth & Soda - were winners of Beatport’s recent Remix contest, remixing DJ Harvey’s track ‘Berghain’ and earning themselves a Genelec 7050C subwoofer as a prize, nicely complementing their existing 8030 monitor setup!

We talked to Danilo in New York, and Mario in Rome, about their home studio setups, how they collaborate remotely, and what drives their creativity……

Congratulations on winning the DJ Harvey Remix contest! What are your tips for creating a great remix?

Mario & Danilo: We believe it’s necessary to have an idea, something that gives direction to everything. Conceiving a remix as a simple rearrangement of sounds never works well, it’s just a technical exercise. In the case of ‘Berghain’ we kept very little of the original sounds, and we conceived our version as a gigantic 12 minute long flow of energy and emotion.

What inspired you to start making or recording music?

Mario: In my family there is a musical tradition, my grandfather was a professional sax player. So I've always listened to and played with music since I was a child, choosing the violin as my main instrument.

Danilo: My Dad was a High Fidelity pioneer in Italy, he founded the first HI-Fi magazine in 1971. I was born in 1973 and I was always surrounded by the best sound system available. He raised me listening to his enormous collection of records.

What was your first ever piece of recording gear?

Mario: Nice question! I seem to remember a Soundcraft Spirit mixer, in 1994.

Danilo: Oh well…. I was very lucky that I was able to use my father's equipment, but in 2005 my first buy was the Genelec 8030As!

What was the last piece of gear that you bought?

Mario: The UAD 2 Satellite, some weeks ago.

Danilo: A Focusrite ISA One to give me better results with my ribbon mics.

In which room in your home is your studio based, and were there any challenges in setting it up?

Mario: I have designated a room in my house as a home studio. The first step was soundproofing and acoustic correction, then various wiring to keep the computer out of the room. Everything was conceived as an ultra-quiet environment to record my strings and mix my productions.

Danilo: I was renting a room inside a big building with more than one hundred units, and the challenge was to build walls with enough soundproofing plus of course acoustic treatment like diffusers etc. I am writing this from my house in Brooklyn where I turned the top floor into a very special studio. The previous experiences helped me a lot and my speakers sound incredible here, because of the uneven ceiling shape.

Which Genelec models do you have?

Mario: 8030Bs.

Danilo: 8030As.

What type of projects do you use your speakers for?

Mario: Now my main projects are the remote strings recording (my nickname here is Layer Bows) and electronic music production, both with Danilo and for my label. I take care of my projects until the end, often including mixing and mastering. In the past I worked as a sound engineer and music assistant for various composers. And my Genelecs have always been an essential tool.

Danilo: From recording to arrangement, mixing to mastering. I worked at various recording studios and I always found a pair of Genelecs, from the 1036A main monitors to the 1031A or 8030 as nearfields.

What you think of the speakers, and what do you like about them?

Mario: I love my 8030s. Their linear, colourless sound helps me get a great result in my work. When I finish a mix or string section and play it back in another studio I am never disappointed with the sound. I’m also fascinated by the materials used and the construction technology, they give me a feeling of great solidity.

Danilo: I love the fact that they are not heavy on my ears, I can have them at low volume for many hours and keep my attention to details. I also love the design. Unique, solid and still modern after more than 15 years!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating remotely?

Mario & Danilo: We have been friends for many years, we met working together in a recording studio. So we understand each other easily, and sometimes you don't need many words. Working at a distance does not create problems for us, it gives us the advantage of expressing our musical ideas each in the privacy of our own studios and then joining them together. The only disadvantage is to respect the time zone if we have to talk on the phone!

Describe your perfect day in the studio.

Mario: I enter the studio with my cup of coffee, turn on all the gear and the magic begins :) Unlike the habits of many artists, I try to make the most of the morning hours, when the ears and the brain are fresh. I make my best mixes this way. Sometimes I recreate the sound of an entire string orchestra, overdubbing myself even 30 times! The day in the studio can therefore be very long so it’s necessary to avoid listening fatigue. This is essential for maintaining a good level and once again my Genelecs are a great help.

Danilo: Walking out of the bedroom, cereal and yogurt, and carefully turning all the power on. First thing that I do is to listen to some music from my iTunes archive, just to get into a mood and feel proper sound from proper productions. Like a warm up, doesn’t matter what type of music.

Mixing in-the-box or not? What do you prefer?

Mario: I always prefer to mix through my analogue summing box, handcrafted in the UK and equipped with Neumann V372 preamps. I can get a more detailed sound, especially in the placement of the various instruments within the mix.

Danilo: I used to mix analogue at big studios, but I have to say that recently I went to master a song at an analogue studio and I was disappointed that the result wasn't better than in-the-box. I really believe that what makes the difference are your ears!! I am so happy that Universal Audio was able to reproduce original hardware with their clone plug-ins. Sounds really close to the original. I even did a test myself with a Manley EQ.

What’s your top tip for being creative at home?

Mario: My trick is to isolate myself completely, as if I were not at home but in a studio, who knows where. This way my creativity comes out in the best way.

Danilo: Create cozy lighting that will help you to feel somewhere other than home, like a professional studio, and… turn off your social media!!

Have you come across any new gear or apps to make home creating easier?

Mario: I recently discovered Scaler 2 from Plugin Boutique. While I have no problem creating a harmonic loop, it sometimes gives me some good ideas. I would like to recommend it to all those producers who have not had the opportunity to study music theory in depth.

Danilo: We just won iZotope Suite 4 and I really love it. So many great tricks to be able to achieve professional results in seconds.

Which three artists would you love to collaborate with in a Zoom lockdown session?

Mario: DJ Harvey, Louie Vega and Dimitri from Paris.

Danilo: Patrick Adams, Sébastien Tellier and Pink Floyd.

Have you picked up any new skills during lockdown?

Mario: Oh yes! I have long been intrigued by parallel compression, usually used in vocals and drums. I found a way to use it in strings, making the sound richer.

Danilo: Remixing skills - for labels like Music For Dreams and Best Records Italy.

If there was one recording session you could have attended, which one would it have been and why?

Mario: I would have given everything to attend the Star Wars soundtrack recording session with John Williams at Abbey Road Studios. I can't find words to describe my love for the orchestra and for that wonderful soundtrack. Imagine the London Symphony Orchestra in Studio One, oh my god....

Danilo: Recording ‘Barefoot Boy from Queens Town to Mongezi’ by Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand. It was the test song that my Dad used to play to compare sound systems. It is still mine nowadays.

Do you want to be featured in our ‘At Home’ series? If so, just post some pictures of your home setup on Instagram using the #GenelecProAtHome hashtag. We’ll be keeping a look out for the most interesting home rigs, so who knows? We may be in touch with you!