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Shadow Child Turns To SSL SiX for Analog Summing

Victoria Wasylak • MMR GlobalSupplier Scene • June 8, 2020

Simon Neale, aka Shadow Child and formerly DJ Dave Spoon, has been making pivotal electronic music for more than 15 years. After getting into synths at school, a love of analog was born, and on the creative side, he’s fused core hardware kit with his computer setups ever since. His latest addition is the SSL SiX, which he is using to sum audio between DAWs, and utilizing the Super Analogue channels and G Bus compressor on his live synth jams to fatten up his sound.

For Shadow Child’s recent Apollo Series, 90 percent of the sound sources have come from outside the box. Neale isn’t big on processing outside the box, but on the creative side he is all about getting hands-on – and most recently, that’s meant bringing the SSL SiX into his workflow.

“I’d seen a lot of stuff online about SiX, and it looked very interesting – and this was in January when I had a bit of downtime, and was getting to know Ableton a bit better. I had noticed that the tracks I’d made in Ableton had some kind of sound to them that I wasn’t keen on, and it didn’t feel natural to me. I realized I needed something that I could do analogue summing with, and SiX seemed a great option,” he says. “I soon realized it’s an amazing summing mixer – on top of all the other things it can do – and the Super Analogue channels are just brilliant. I’m coming out of Ableton out of my UAD Apollo into the SiX, then I come back in to the computer through the Apollo and into Luna, UAD’s new DAW. Compared to the way I was working with the [Dangerous Music] D Box – my previous summing mixer – the SiX feels so much more natural: the route in, the sound, everything, basically.”

Neale has all his drums running through the Super Analogue channels as a stereo by default, and utilizes four stereo groups in total: drums, bass, instrument, and vocal/FX.

“And they all sound fantastic! I’ll stick some G Bus on those as well from time to time, but most of the time I literally use it as a ‘flat’ tool to glue the track together, which Ableton just doesn’t do for me,” he reveals. “And I immediately noticed a different sonic quality. I noticed it on my pre-masters, and when tracks come back from mastering, too. I listened to a remix of Becky Hill, which I started and finished in Ableton – now this may be in my head, but I honestly feel I can hear Ableton in it – and I didn’t want it to have the sound of the DAW in it. So now I’ve got four groups out [of my Apollo] going into four stereos using eight channels on the SiX, and I then print a pre-master stereo mix into Luna, monitoring direct from the SiX. The difference is amazing – it’s really glueing the track together – and if I want a more chunky version of a mix to have a bit of fun with, I play with the G Bus compressor, which is also fantastic. I am just loving the process of getting my hands on something. Even my studio is all routed in, so I don’t patch anything; and now with SiX, that hands-on thing is part of the production experience.”

Neale’s live synth jams are also running through SiX: “The 808 into the Super Analogue channels sounds incredible; the low end out of the machine when it’s pure anyway is amazing, but when it goes through the SiX and I can squash it some more, it really adds flavor to it. People making more urban music would appreciate that maybe even more than me, but it really is taking everything up another notch, like SSL gear always does. I’ve put the Jupiter 8 arpeggios through it, too – and my System 100M with 909s for a Beatport live jam, and everything sounds nice and fat – and for me, doesn’t have that kind of ‘in the box’ sound that you can end up with in hardware. I am not getting any of that at all, which is perfect.”

Neale is also interested in running some vocals and samples through SiX and resampling some stuff back in, as he thinks that will add yet another sonic flavor: “I have been working on some samples with [artist] Josh Butler, as we are both big house heads, but we also love jungle from the early ’90s, and sampling and resampling, so I am hoping I will be able to emulate that authentic ’90s sound, because if you sample drum breaks now, it’s all super-clean as it’s from the original source, whereas back then it had that 12- or 16-bit vibe to it: it was very crunchy normally, as it was going through some channels on a desk, so I am interested to try and push the low end and break beats through the SiX too. I can’t wait to get some different music through it as well, as I think that’ll be very interesting to listen to.”

Neale has become quite attached to the SSL Native plugins, too – particularly the reverb: “I just can’t find a reverb as good as this one,” he admits. “Some reverbs are quite dramatic, and I need something that is more subtle and dynamic, which this really is. Also, the software version of the G Bus is really good to have.”

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