Samu Oittinen is a Finnish producer who was worked with bands such as Korpiklaani, Sonata Arctica, Rotten Sound, Insomnium, Behexen, Enochian Crescent, Diablo, Oranssi Pazuzu, Baptism and many more. He works out of his Fantom Studio in Tampere, Finland. We spoke about how to keeps things fresh, why a certain element of danger is missing from many new albums, why a well kept 60’s Ludwig kit can be the coolest thing ever and much more!
(Original interview translated by Ron D. Rock)
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
I was a die-hard music listener and at the age of 11 I got into the band scene, so those two paved the way for a broader interest in audio. First recordings were done with a simple cassette recorder, then a couple of years later my friend had a 4 track that we used to record. All the sound engineers are more or less “failed” musicians haha. I was a 13 year old up and rising rock star when I met a Sound Designer who worked for YLE (Finland’s National TV/Radio) and he got me pumped about audio engineering when he told me what his job was like. After that I knew what I wanted to do in life.
In 1993 we co-bought an actual 8-track tape recorder, console & a few mics with my band mates and we set up our first actual studio in our practice space. Slowly but steadily more bands started coming in and in 1996 I set up my official business: Fantom Studio. A dear hobby had become a job and a lifestyle.
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
My workflow features the best of both worlds. I mix with an SSL console and analog outboard integrated with Pro Tools (as hybrid). I love all sorts of vintage gear and real buttons and faders, but I like the recallability of plugins. They also give me a broader range of options and make my work a lot easier. All of these have their place and purpose somewhere down the line. The feel is also a big factor and I enjoy dialing real buttons and riding actual faders. With time I have minimized my outboard collection a lot and these days I only use a few outboard compressors (e.g Distressor) and a few reverbs/delays.
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
Only the end result matters.. well.. the budget too sometimes. I don’t think modelling can fully replace the real deal (at least not anytime soon) but they both have their fortes and areas where they shine. Real orchestrations especially can eat a big chunk out of the budget and less and less projects have the funds available to make it happen. On tour the modelling amps make lives easier for everyone, takes less space, the stage volume stays under control and you’ll get the same exact sound every night. As for drums, even the shiniest electronic drums cannot replace real drums with their touch and feel.
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
Music Production has become more accessible and has gotten more convenient in many ways but on the flipside basically anyone can record music anywhere these days. Budgets have shrunk so bands tend to do more and more DIY which unfortunately means you don’t always get to work with the best possible source files.
The overall level of production has gone way up but unfortunately lot of the stuff sounds very predictable and a bit boring. Things tend to blend in a bit too much and the sonic perfection also means there’s no real element of danger in the production anymore. Earlier there were maybe a bit more variety and bands and engineers weren’t too scared to experiment with fresh new things. Loudness war is the scourge and I really hope we’re past the darkest hour. There have been rays of hope in the horizon so I can only believe that things can get brighter from here.
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
Something old, something new…
The old Neumann U67 mic and brand new Genelec 8351 monitors, they both look cool and sound even cooler. Brand new gear rarely makes me go bananas anymore, but old vintage gear does even more so. I recently had awesome time recording an old 60’s Ludwig drum kit that was well kept and that made me go bananas. Big time. Me being a drummer probably plays a big part in that haha.
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 believe almost all the essential tools have already been invented, though many of those tools could use some updating & improving. Perhaps it would be a plugin that could fix the feel and the delivery of the take. We could call it Charismator haha.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
Focus on the song and on the big picture. Work on the song, and not just a single instrument/track. Don’t settle for just okay, be brave and try more and try harder. Do and do a lot. Experiment.
8. When you make records for many many years, what keeps you going? What’s your drive?
Do what you love and love what you do. Try to find “that thing” that makes you push harder from each and every project you do. It’s important to stay passionate about your craft. Certainly the great people you get to work with plays a big picture.
Old School Black Metal Drum Sampler: