Audeze interviews musician and producer El Gusto

El Gusto (nom-de-plume of Angus Stuart) is one half of Australia's electronic duo Hermitude. A multi-instrumentalist producer, he found his way to electronic production through his love of jazz, soul and funk in the early years and hearing it sampled into classic golden era hip hop and dance music. It's that mix of musicality vs production that has helped shape his sound and lead him to multiple awards, a number one Australian album and festival stages all over the world.

 

"The LCD-MX4's have been fantastic for my mixing, I've really loved using them for checking the low end and using them as a general referencing tool for my mixes."  - El Gusto
Here's our talk with El Gusto:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I'd have to say one of my favourite productions is "Cloud City" on our 2012 album HyperParadise. It is such a journey song and I love the textures that we managed to create. The Buzz from 2015's Dark Night Sweet Light is one of our most well known songs but I love it because it was actually on the throw away pile until I listened back to a bunch of demos while we were on tour. Luckily I heard the potential in the intro and we went back in on the drop once we got back home to the studio. I'm also super proud of Not About You that I produced for Haiku Hands, it was one of my first forays into four on the floor dance music. It's also just a super fun tune with loads of energy!

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

A lot of the time I spend writing music with either my long-time writing buddy Luke Dubs (of Hermitude) or by myself for other artists. We often share the creative process but then I kind of do a bit more of the engineering side of things like mixing and production work. I enjoy the technical side of things a lot and I came up mixing records when I was a teenager. My Dad actually ran a small recording studio in the Blue Mountains where I grew up and that's where I cut my teeth with a lot of the engineering side of things.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

As I mentioned above my Dad not only runs a studio but is a musician himself so I grew up with music all around me. I started playing drums in a school band and we gigged around a bunch but then I heard The Prodigy and artists like DJ Shadow and the Ninja Tune label and that was it. My friend and I saved up and bought an Akai sampler together and it took us months to figure out how it all worked. Like months... But that was the beginning of my journey into the world of production and songwriting essentially. Now I'm listening to a much broader range of music than I have before, I feel like my scope was quite narrow when I was a kid and now it's a lot wider. I've been listening to a bunch of classical music lately, Floating Points latest release with Pharaoh Sanders is incredible.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

It's funny but after our third album with Hermitude we took a break, it was a year or more but I think it really helped us to gain direction and gave us time to really understand where we wanted to go with our sound. After that we decided to drop other projects and focus on Hermitude full time. We rented a space and started writing 5 days a week which ultimately led to HyperParadise which was essentially our crossover record. It opened up a whole bunch of doors for us in Australia and internationally.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Well for our last album Pollyanarchy I think we actually needed some time off before we went into that album, just like we did before HyperParadise. But that didn't happen, we'd been on the road touring abroad off the back of Dark Night Sweet Light and we felt a pressure to have new music soon. But I feel if we actually took a couple of months off before we started, we may have had a clearer vision for that album. I love that record but it took us a lot longer than usual. But who knows, sometimes things just take time.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I have an old Roland Juno 6 that has been on every album I've made. It's just a great work horse of a synth. I've been loving the Overstayer Modular Channel lately, it's such a creative beast! You can really shape sounds and take them into completely different realms if you want to. My other new love is the Moog Matriarch, it's a beautiful instrument and it's built for exploration, I've spent days alone just tinkering and getting lost in it.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Spend time living life. It's important to have experiences to draw from when you're getting creative in the studio and I have definitely lived life but it's always easy to get lost along the way. I think it's healthy to be balanced in most parts of your life if you can and I think it rubs off on your work.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

The LCD-MX4's have been fantastic for my mixing, I've really loved using them for checking the low end and using them as a general referencing tool for my mixes. They have great detail so you can really hear what's going on in the finer details of a mix. It's also extremely handy having a pair of headphones you can really trust, I'm on tour a lot and sometimes I'll have to check a mix or master in a hotel room or at an airport, having the MX4's with me gives me a great level of confidence sending notes or okaying a mix or master.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

Since I've had the MX4's I've been producing a bunch of new music for Hermitude and Haiku Hands. Working on some live mixes for our shows and also have just enjoyed listening to a lot of music through these beautiful headphones! My partner and I have just had our first child so having headphones has been an extra bonus because while the baby sleeps I can still get some work done haha...