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Artist Talk: Claude Young

Claude Young doesn't need much of an introduction. He is part of the second wave of Detroit music producers who changed the landscape of electronic music with their records, their styles of DJing, and even their design aesthetics. Often a bit moodier and darker, Claude’s timeless productions became milestone releases across techno, house, and ambient genres.

Claude Young is always moving on, looking for the next challenge. After some well received remixes and productions, we struck up a three-way collaboration with Young and Reverb.com. This led to Claude making a dedicated set of sounds inspired by hardware classics and slasher films, and those samples form the backbone of our new artist package, Claude Young - Cinematic Synth Sounds, which is an introduction to "Claude Young | Detroit Sound Science Vol. 1 - Cinematic Synth Sounds" released on Reverb.com.
It merges Claude’s own samples and presets made in collaboration with Bitwig. These evocative sounds are now available for free, coinciding with the release of Bitwig Studio 2.4 and a boatload of new Sampler features.

Creating a sample pack himself was a new experience for Young. Looking for ideas, "I talked to a friend and decided to do my interpretation of one of these sample packs," Young says. "I enjoy sound design and love to do it. I wanted to give the sounds character, but leave space so you can control it," making it a good starting point for more artists and more songs.

"A lot of packs are over-produced," he explains. "I wanted it to be kind of neutral," so that the artist using the sounds could decide what to do with them. Not that this more inclusive approach was easy. Getting starting with this project, Young confesses, "this was a slap in the face, but ultimately a good thing for me."

But technical challenges and sampling itself aren't new to Young, having lived through the pre-digital days. "I've been into sampling since the early days, back when you used to tape edit," he recalls. "But we can do anything now. Before, it was a pain, and now it's super easy." While Young does miss some aspects of the hardware instrument era — "the best part of that period was actually learning your instrument" — the strength of modern software somehow made him nostalgic because he could focus on interesting sounds instead of programming.

"Making this collection made me fall in love with sampling again, because I was really just screwing around with synths, laying audio down, and manipulating things." Instead of working to relearn each instrument's lower-level options and interface, "I can just take a quick blast of the raw waveforms or maybe I'll dial in the timbre the way I like it. And then I just print it, because I can do the envelopes the way I want in Sampler."

This has been Young's preferred way to work for a while now: printing audio that is interesting, then using Bitwig Studio and its Sampler to do the detail work. "I like to use the playable envelopes for everything. So a lot of times I'll just render it out and make Sampler instruments with it," applying other modulators in Bitwig Studio as appropriate. And it's the flexibility and simplicity of Bitwig Studio that has made it Young's DAW of choice. Young sees multiple strengths in Bitwig Studio, making it unique to each user.

"It's different things to different people," he explains. "To me, it's this weird modular thing that's made me rethink how I deal with virtual instruments. Now, I look at synths and think, 'I don't really need to learn this architecture; I can do the modulations in Bitwig so I just need the sound source.' That's the brilliance of it. You can rethink how you are using things now."

Always the tech head, Young has been known to have three-day benders spent with a manual or watching all the videos tutorials for a new piece of software. When he wanted to randomize parameters across multiple tracks, he dug in and learned Pure Data (Pd), an open-source programming environment made by the creator of Max. Sending randomized MIDI streams from Pd was enough for a while.  

"But then Bitwig came along; it's all already in here. It's really simple, and it's extremely powerful. It changed everything."

In this next evolution of Claude Young, he is trying to simplify, starting with his own production techniques and workflows. "Recently, I've come to this point where I try to work in general methods instead of getting into the specifics of certain software. I try to find basic techniques that work, even avoiding plug-ins sometimes. I'm just stripping things back."

While this may seem difficult in an age enamored with complexity, this is where Young's sound has already arrived. A preference for simpler parts, each with clear frequency boundaries. Avoiding thick presets that, when used together, either blend into mush or require a surgical use of EQ. Saving the effects chain for color and placement. Never sacrificing your song's dynamics, even when compression seems like the way to be heard.

To Young, the outlook on both fronts is bright. The tools of today do give us more options, but that includes cleaner workflows. And in his estimation, the era of over-compressed music is drawing to a close.

"Now, I feel, is the perfect time to get dynamic. That's the way things are going. Now is the time for breath. Now you can breathe, so just breathe a little bit."

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