Audeze talks with music producer Cloverdale

Alex Walsh, better known as Cloverdale, is known for big basslines, loud mixdowns and a whole lot of energy. High Octane Tech House is what it's all about. From his home studio to the main stage, Cloverdale has released on labels such as Confession, Dim Mak, Night Service Only, Insomniac’s In/Rotation and more. With records being supported by artists such as David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Tchami, Malaa, Oliver Heldons and countless others. In 2020, Cloverdale and team launched Vibrancy - a new platform for tech house and art. With a focus on pairing musicians with one of a kind visual artists to craft releases that are more than just a song online.

Walsh has been producing dance records for over 9 years with another 4 years of live sound work before that. His previous dubstep alias, AWAL, has gained over 10 million streams with records signed with Flux Pavilion’s Circus Records and Deorro’s Panda Funk. Additionally, as an engineer and producer, Walsh has credits with Warner Music Korea, Toolroom, Kannibalen and more. With a constant drive to improve and sound better, who knows what's to come from the young producer next.

 

"These headphones are wild. The detail and clarity in the mids and highs has made mixing down drum grooves a breeze." - Cloverdale
Here's our talk with Alex:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

In chronological order:
AWAL - Puppet Master (2016) - the first record I signed and my first record to break 100k streams. This was the song that gave me the confidence to pursue music as a full-time career.

Cloverdale - Octane (2019) - This record was another level up moment. It was at a time where I really felt my mixdowns were starting to shape up into how I truly wanted them to sound. We signed it before it was even finished and it instantly took off, becoming our most successful and most supported release at the time. Topping over 700k streams and support from by Martin Garrix, Ephwurd, Dr. Fresch, Botnek and many more. Additionally, Octane became the first Cloverdale track to receive a sync placement in the Netflix Original, ‘Behind Her Eyes’

Cloverdale - Racket Tactics (2020) - At this stage I had been writing dance records for about 8 years and had written everything from Electro to Hardstyle to Dubstep to House Music, always in search of a style and energy that was truly me. As soon as I nailed the bongo groove and vocal chop in Racket Tactics I knew I was definitely headed down the right path and was truly crafting a sound that I wanted to become quintessentially Cloverdale - or as I once said half-jokingly in an Instagram comment “It’s high octane tech house”. We ended up using Racket Tactics to launch ‘Vibrancy’ and become the official sound of the new music and art label. We had full creative freedom with the release and so we went wild! It will always be a special one for me.

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

As an artist I'm very much doing it all. Writing, producing, recording, mixing, mastering. I’ve always really enjoyed the final mix and master process and find it really is part of an artist's “signature sound.” Doing it myself has always been important to me.

I also work as a freelance producer. Offering for hire productions, co-productions, mixing, mastering etc. I do all of my work out of my home studio in Halifax, NS, Canada.

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

I've always been a big music lover. Growing up in a house with AC/DC and the Stones on the radio, once I reached about 9 or 10, I knew rock and roll was going to be my calling. I was the kid in high school decked out in Led Zeppelin tees and skinny jeans. I sought out friends who also shared a love for this 30-year-old music. Soon enough a gang of us had formed a band, I was learning to play bass guitar and the musical journey hasn’t stopped since.

Playing in rock and metal bands throughout high school was amazing. I was fortunate enough that my parents didn’t mind the noise coming from their basement. My place quickly became the place with the gear and soon enough we were recording all our demos, then my friends' demos and then the demos of the random dude down the street. It kind of snowballed from there.

In 2010, I moved away for university and began exploring writing music on my own. This happened to time exactly with the release of Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. The first moment I heard that record I had to figure out how the sounds were made. I had never heard anything like it at all. From there I fell down the deepest rabbit hole I could’ve. I fell in love with dance music, the culture, the scene, the energy and the production methods. I loved being able to create music on my schedule without the need to have 4 other people show up to practice. I could do it anywhere with just a computer and a pair of headphones.

I really love all genres of dance music too. I gave my stab at producing most of them (maybe with the exception of Trance). I didn’t care about DJ stereotypes or what was “cool” or what wasn’t. I love everything and was down to make everything.

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

In 2012, after I had put up my first few electro tracks on SoundCloud, I really didn’t expect much of it and had completely made the songs for fun. I really had no ambition to create dance music as a career and to be honest, I was pretty set on becoming a graphic designer.

However, one day on YouTube I stumbled on a 20min tour documentary of this guy Porter Robinson. It was chronicling his first ever big tour in support of his record Language. It was the first time I ever saw a documentary showing how in just 2 years he went from uploading tunes to SoundCloud in his bedroom to touring all over the country. It was a video that proved like no other, that with hard work, that could be possible. From that moment on, I’ve had one goal, one focus point, no fallback plans, giving it 120% of my effort to make it my career.

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?

My first 4 or 5 years of releasing music was a struggle for me. It was me constantly being rejected by labels and not getting booked for the shows I wanted. It was a bit of a smack to the face after year 2 or 3, however it was also at that point that my perspective started to change. The rejections didn’t feel as bad anymore. I realized that my music, brand etc. just was not at the caliber yet and that was just okay! I knew that with each new song I wrote, it was better than the last. So, all I needed to do was just keep writing songs and naturally I would improve.

That realization allowed me to worry less and have more fun. If a song I wrote sounded like trash, so be it. Not a big deal, I’ll just write another one tomorrow. Eventually you’ll write one that has a spark to it. Keep repeating the process and as a whole your tracks will all get better.

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 work almost completely in the box - so gear for me is pretty much all software based. I run Ableton 11 on a MacBook Pro.

Some of my favourite plugins lately are:

Soothe2 - Okay this has become everyone’s favourite mixing plugin lately. This fancy dynamic resonance suppressor. It honestly works like magic sometimes by notching out those annoying high-end spikes. I like using it on my hi-hat groups as well as vocals. Sometimes even a touch of it on the master can do wonders!

DIVA - My go-to Synth lately. I love how great of a job it does emulating the warmth of vintage analog synthesizers. It's so versatile with a variety of oscillator configurations, filter set ups and fx. It really is a beast that doesn’t leave some of the digital sounding colour that other synths like Serum may leave behind.

Decapitator AND Saturn - Okay I couldn’t pick a favourite between these two saturators. Both are incredible and are a major player in what brings my records to life. Decapitator I find myself using on more high end filled tracks, like my drum group (minus my kick) as well as leads and vocals. I even sometimes use it as a sound design tool by using the punish function. Saturn is my bassline sculptor. I love its multi-band function, allowing me to use a cleaner setting on the sub and a warmer drive for that beefy 100-250hz range.

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

This is so cliché, however the most important thing to a successful career in music is making sure you’re always having fun and not losing that excitement you get after creating something new. Sometimes it might not always feel like it's there, however by forcing yourself into the seat, trying new things, getting weird, you’re sure to excel!

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Since day one I’ve be a huge proponent of mixing in headphones. I'm of the school that - if you can learn your headphones, train your ears to know what to listen for and how mixes should sound on them - then you can do just as good of a mix on a pair of cans as you could in a fancy treated studio. I make better choices in headphones, I place things better and can understand where things may have space to sit both in the frequency range and the stereo field.

Some tracks of mine have been 90% done in headphones with just a few reference sessions on my monitors to double check how things are sounding.

Plus, not to mention the fact that I can produce on the go while traveling or late at night when people are sleeping. It allows me to bring the studio wherever I am and not have me worry about if I made the right call on boosting that bassline or not. A true 100% game changer.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

These headphones are wild. The detail and clarity in the mids and highs has made mixing down drum grooves a breeze. Plus I’ve never felt more confident mixing vocals - an area I often struggled with in the past now just all made sense on the LCD-XCs. Overall I’ve really gained a whole new level of confidence while working out of a pretty limited home studio.

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

I’ve mixed and mastered all my recent releases on these bad boys - including tracks on Insomniac, Confession, Hau5trap, Solotoko and more. They’ve become a crucial tool in nailing all my final mixdowns.