Swedish producer Jakob Herrmann and his Gothenburg based Top Floor Studios have worked with quite a number of known artists, including Anthrax, Amaranthe, Evergrey, Machine Head, Raised Fist, Kee Marcello, Europe, Hardcore Superstar and many more. We reached Jakob and we talked about what made him become a music producer, emulation vs the real thing, why it’s never wise to lean back and think it’ll be fine in the music biz and how most of the annoying things have actually been eliminated by modern technology.
- What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
There’s really not one thing that triggered it. I’ve always been into music, and I’ve always known that music will be my occupation. I started playing piano when I was 5, and drums when I was 15. I’ve always enjoyed working with other people’s songs and I often hear I’m a good fit for songwriters. I’ve always had a good ear for music, pitch and rhythm, and I’ve been analyzing music and how it’s built up since before I can remember. So I guess working with sounds and becoming a producer came pretty natural.
- What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
What battle? Tools are just tools. Gear is just gear. It’s what’s inside someone’s head that matters, in someone’s fingers, and in someone’s knowledge of how to put it all together and make something out of nothing. The same would apply for all the fantastic songwriters and artists out there, most of them are not really depending on gear to do what they do.
BUT to answer your question, I don’t see a distinction. It’s more about how you choose to use your gear, analog or digital. Of course I love my analog SSL console and outboards, and of course I love my digital plugins and DAWs, but I don’t see a battle between them, because I’ve gotten to know the beautiful symbiosis of the two. I will say this though; Good tools are great, but a great sound and performances that fit together as planned are still everything that matters to me.
- Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
I’ll quote your interview with Lasse Lammert, I think he was spot on; An emulation can’t surpass the real thing, it would mean it’s not a very good emulation. However, I’m not very interested in plugins emulating real gear, for instance all the SSL busses out there have yet to outshine my console version. Instead I love plugins that does what hardware doesn’t do, or can’t.
- How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros, the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
It’s mixed, for sure. Songwriting has never been easier, and being creative is so accessible, which is fantastic. But entering the studio without playing a single note together as a band has its downsides, no matter what kind of production style or genre.
The music production scene is very fast and interchangeable, since everything gets swapped out so easily. The latest plugin get more focus than the in-depth knowledge how to use the most basic functions of gear that’s been around for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting new plugins and gear, but I think the focus should always be on how to use what you have and not always looking for the magic pill or the quick fix.
- What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
Well, I bought a new Gibson acoustic guitar just in time for the Anthrax acoustic session that sounds wonderful. I just got a new pair of Focal SM9 midfield monitors, meaning my fourth pair of high-end speakers. I finally ended up with the Focals, after weighing between them and the Barefoot MM27, but you can’t go wrong with either one.
Even though I’m getting new stuff regularly, my Milab microphones actually makes me go bananas every time I use them. And sometimes it’s the small things, you know? I got some stuff from Snareweight that really blew my mind on a small scale, and I use those collars for guitar frets, those are really something I go back to at least once every session. Guitar pedals can make me very happy in the right place in a session. Or just comfy chairs and an espresso machine, does that count as gear? They’re very crucial to the sessions… And then of course there’s a reason I have 30+ snares in the studio, but that’s another story.
On the digital side, everything from Softube and Soundtoys is always just the most fun to work with, but there’s almost too much gear to mention, to be honest. It’s the other way around, I guess; Usually I get stuff because it blew my mind in the first place.
- 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)?
That would be the Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books. But if that’s not possible, it would be a guitar not going out of tune. Oh, they made that? Well, give me a plugin to even out some irregular drum hits with the click of a button without sound replacing. Oh, they made that too? Well, I guess I don’t have the imagination to come up with new stuff, just use it. Although, I’ve worked together with some plugin manufacturers and have been able to give some ideas and input, so who knows, maybe I’ll get my dream plugin one day…
- If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
I’ll give you a two-part advice; If this is what you wanna do full time – Be ready to give up everything else and give it ten years. If this is something you wanna do as a hobby or part time thing – don’t quit your day job.
- What was the moment in your career when you knew that this thing is coming together and that this is going to work?
Still waiting, haha! I’m doing well, but no sane person in this business leans back and says “yup, this is going to work just fine”, no matter the level they’re on. But of course, it was a big step up when I started working with artists and producers I used to admire when I was younger (I still do, but I will never tell them that!). And I guess to me, a big step forward was reaching that level when I didn’t only have to go find the gigs, but instead the gigs started coming to me.