KatalystTHE STUDIO: interview with K@Alyst NDO.  Twitter: @VulaneMthembu

By Siphesihle Msomi...

Tell us about K@Alyst NDO and how did you start out?
K@Alyst NDO the first cat on your best hip hop list. Well a soul brother and groove collector.  I am a former maths and science teacher, now photographer and producer. Quite a mouthful ha ha.  Started rapping in 1995 and discovered I suck at it and moved onto production in 2001. My first beat was made in May that year just before the Black August Concert that was held in Durban. Wanted to sling my beat to Jeru Da Damaja or Black Thought because I had heard they were going to be coming through. Ha ha ha. Never got to do it but I managed to link up with Jeru which set me up for a career in producing. What really made me get into hip hop particularly was hearing Arrested Development back in '91. That sound blew me away especially their '94 sophomore album "Zingalamaduni". I had never had hip hop sound so musical and African at the same time. They had a band and everything going on there. I could identify with it. Producing wise I would say Fantastic Vol II especially the song "untitled" that set me off to wanna do beats.”


In your experience as a producer and studio engineer, how important is studio language in terms of communication between the recording artist and the engineer?
Things like the energy of the performance and the idea of what the artist is trying achieve need to be communicated quickly and efffectively between all parties involved. This is because studio time is extremely expensive so the understanding of studio jargon is pivotal. Words such as “stems “, “bounces” etc.   Should be in every recording artist’s vocabulary.


What is your take for recording, when an artist has to make a decision about his small budget for recording versus spending more on a professional recording?
It goes without saying that bigger budget recordings are what every artist aspires to make. I personally feel that an artist and his team need to spend as much as they can afford to on getting the best possible sounds on their record whether it involves hiring session musicians or using the best recording spaces. I know it’s not always possible to get the ultimate in these areas but it pays out in the end if you do.

Please provide some steps that a musician must take when looking for a studio.
Of course the first and most limiting factor when considering a recording space is budget. Once the budget has been settled upon the next step to consider is logistics. Is the studio easily accessible to all the band members etc.? This is a very important factor that is sometimes overlooked, you don’t want to record with tired grumpy musos. It’s not a healthy situation. Another thing to consider is the environment how big or small it is, the atmosphere and the vibe. It goes without saying that if you want to simply record some rap vocals over a backing track, you do not need to splash out on a huge recording studio with a live room. If you are however recording live instrumentations and multiple backing vocals it will serve you well to choose a studio with all the amenities to facilitate this. Remember studio time is expensive. Efficiency is the key word.

Please give your overall opinion of home recordings. (pros and cons)
Well with the advent of better recording equipment at an increasingly affordable rate to the masses home recording is finally a very viable option. I’d say both home and pro studio recordings have their advantages and disadvantages. Home recording wins on the cost front. It’s cheap and very convenient if the studio is in your home. On the negative side the recordings done this way may not sound very professional (although this depends on a lot of factors), unless you are looking for a Bon Iver ‘lo-fi’ feel. When it comes to big bands and live instruments, professional studios win hands down because they are equipped with supreme acoustics and better recording equipment.

At times this role becomes blurred between genres, who exactly is the producer?  What does he/she do?  How can one pick the right one?
The music/record producer has always had an elusive job to define. The music producer could be anyone from the person who finances a musical project, suggests session musicians and sound of the project like Phil Spector, can sometimes handle some engineering duties or can have artistic input as in the work (actually playing) e.g. Brian Wilson and Ahmir Thompson.  But most importantly he/she is responsible for the overall feel and direction of a musical project. When looking for a producer for your project choosing a person with a proven track record in a particular genre is important. By this I am not referring to chart success but one who you as an artist respect creatively and you feel can help translate your ideas across well. The best producers have vast musical knowledge not only of their genre which I regard as very important.

Would you also give us a breakdown of what the production process entails?
This is a tough one because in my experience it varies from project to project. At times I’ve been the financier of projects other times I’ve played in the projects sometimes I’ve just guided the musical direction. It varies widely. There are no set rules or steps when it comes to this in my opinion.
In setting up a budget for recording, what are the things that one must consider to be most important.

1.    What type of recording is it? Live music often costs much more as there are various people that need to be paid.
2.    Type of studio required
3.    Session player fees
4.    Studio time (the fees for the tracking and mix engineers may be included sometimes)
5.    Refreshments!!! Remember people the guys helping you out on your record are not robots they need to be fed especially if the recording sessions drag for too long.
6.    Transportation to and from the studio.



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