Kristian “Kohle” Kohlmannslehner is a German producer who has worked with such bands as Benighted, Aborted, No Turning Back, Powerwolf, A Traitor Like Judas and many more. Check out his Kohlekeller Studio here. We reached Kristian via email and spoke about the hype behind analog gear, how emulation in a way has already surpassed the real thing, why most albums sound the same and much more!
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
Most boring story ever cause it’s how pretty much everybody in this business found their way into producing, I guess.
I was a metal guitar player in a band and always cared more for the perfection of a well produced record compared to the energy of live shows.
So I bought a 4 track cassette recorder and later an Alesis ADAT and so on. As soon as I wasn’t totally shitty anymore other bands showed up and wanted me to record them.
And after a few years I realized I had become much more of a producer than a musician. Shock! 😉
However compared to others I’m not very interested in gear and the technical side of things. I care for music.
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
I have loved digital from the get go.
The ability to edit things, move and copy parts unleashed a creativity that wasn’t possible with tape machines.
If you come up with a killer hook-line for a chorus because you’re able to improvise on a loop and record 5000 takes until the golden moment comes, that will make the song better, even with the shittiest converters.
Also I really loved when I was finally able to record something THE WAY IT WAS instead of being colored by a tape machine.
But I think the whole digital vs analog sound discussion that is btw slowly coming to an end these days has been started by all the “grown up” dudes in the business who were used to work with analog tape machines, consoles and outboard. So when digital came up, it felt strange to most of them.
But for more than a decade they dominated the discussion so that the first thing every audio kid learned was that “digital sucks”.
Everybody believed you can’t live without a real 1176 or 1073 and that your mixes won’t sound good without analog summing or at least a plugin that emulates the analog tape/console sound. This might have been true in the ADAT times, but that’s long ago.
In my opinion analog circuits add something to the sound (much less than people might think) and that can be cool or not.
I tried some of the analog summing boxes and never cared for what they did.
I hardly use any console or tape emulation plugins. They mostly do something that I don’t need to get the sound I want.
What I’m saying is: Don’t believe the hype. Try those things and let you ears decide! If you like having 15 emulation plugins on every track, go for it. If not, don’t feel ashamed not to use them.
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
I think they already have. I’m not talking about if the 1176 plugin XY will sound 98 or 120% like the original hardware, I’m saying that for example the Kemper amp gives you possibilities the real amp can’t. I recently profiled an AC30. After profiling you can crank the gain and turn that thing into a high gain monster on the Kemper. Not possible with “the real deal”.
Then there’s many plugins who surpass the analog originals with their functionality and flexibility.
On the other hand I’m still using analog gear. I have shitloads of tube amps, I love my Distressor and my SSL bus comp. Not because they’re more analog or better
than digital emulations, but because I know them and can quickly get great results with them.
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
The level of production has gone up. No doubt. There used to be a lot more shitty stuff back in the good old days.
The main difference is that everybody can listen to everything being released. Back then you would sit in your studio, do a production without knowing what the trend was or how everybody else was working. The result were productions that sounded vastly different from each other. Today everything has become better but also more generic.
Everything sounds more or the less the same. At least compared to 20 years ago.
A globalized sound.
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
The Kemper was a milestone. But everybody knows that.
I’m also enjoying my Dynamount. Finally the remote controlled micstand has become reality!
If you have reached a certain level, I guess it’s the small things that count. It might be a new mic (loving the Voodoo ribbons from SE for example) or a new way to do something.
A different approach to mic something up, a new way to process your room mics. Stuff like that. Small steps that make the end result better.
6. Let’s say we could get the brightest of the brightest and smartest of the smartest to come up with a piece of gear (software/hardware) and it could eliminate one annoying thing, what would it be (could be audio or anything, physically impossible or possible)?
I still don’t understand that nobody has come up with a plugin that can do convincing fake double tracks. Can’t be that hard right?
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
These days I guess the key is to use the overwhelming information that you get on youtube and in forums to help you getting started. But then find the right moment to ignore everything that the internet tells you to find your own sound!
8. Where would you draw the line between enhancement vs masking?
It’s not a certain technique or so. Do whatever is cool in the studio as long as the band is capable of reproducing the main feeling or atmosphere live.
What I’m saying is that it’s not sooo important to play things exactly like they were recorded. It’s more important to make a heavy part sound heavy and an atmospheric part sound atmospheric live. If you achieve that, usually nobody will care for details.