Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use

Plugins I Actually Use: Kalcagni

Ruckus electro with an old-school feel made using today’s most popular plugins.

Kalcagni is an upcoming name in dance music, the owner of Manchester-based record label Cosmoba and the creator of raw, uncompromosing electro music. His new EP, Lost In The System, sees classic drum machines smashed together with gloopy, wet synth sequences and overarching melodics pads.

We speak to Kalcagni about what’s hardware and what’s digital on the four-track EP, and find out about his favourite plugins. These VST goodies come in the form of expensive high-end UAD plugins, an essential Soundtoys bundle, a stock DAW synth and more.

Kalcagni! Thanks for stepping into the Plugins I Actually Use HQ! You make chugging, squelchy electro. What classic hardware has influenced you to create this sound?

Mostly the sounds coming from modular synths. Whether that would be considered classic hardware or not I’m not sure. I was watching a lot of tutorials and videos with producers playing with their modular gear and realised that it had the potential to create incredibly unique sounds and melodies. As soon as I had the time to invest in learning the basics and a bit of money to start building a rack, I got stuck in.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
oeksound Soothe 2

What’s your latest plugin purchase?

The oeksound Soothe and Spiff plugins – they get absolutely rinsed! Especially Soothe. Honestly, I’m never doing anything too technical with it. Occasionally it gets used on bass and mid-range sounds with the bands directed towards the lower frequencies to reduce muddiness. However, more often than not, I’ll use it to tame harsh, resonant frequencies in the upper mids.

As with most plugins, unless I’m doing proper sound design, I tend to avoid any drastic processing or major signal altering. On a single sound it’s hard to notice the difference, but the accumulative effect undoubtedly provides a much cleaner mixdown.

What’s the best-value plugin you own?

The Soundtoys 5 bundle. Bundles are great value if you end up using the majority of the included plugins. The Soundtoys stuff sounds great, all the effects have such a raw and gritty sound, reminiscent of hardware. Echoboy in particular is excellent. Each delay ‘Style’ provides a different flavour of delay and if you dig into the controls on the ‘Style Edit’ dropdown you can really customise things. Decapitator and Filter Freak are my other favourites.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Soundtoys Echoboy

What’s the most expensive plugin you’ve ever bought?

Probably the Universal Audio Apollo 8 and various UAD plugins. I managed to get the interface for around half price second hand, which came with the UAD Classics bundled in and was absolutely worth the cash. The Teletronix LA-2A Legacy is my most used compressor, the subtle nature of the processing suits my mixing style perfectly.

Since then, I’ve bought a few UAD plugins, some much more expensive than others. I always think the value is in how much you use something rather than what you spend on it.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Xfer Records LFO Tool

I got the Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor, and that gets used all the time. It compliments the Moog Sub 37 very well indeed.

I also bought the Studer A800 Tape Recorder – I think every time I tried to use it I ended up removing it and swapping it out for something else. It’s probably been two years since I’ve even loaded it up!

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Logic Pro Multimeter

What’s a DAW stock plugin you use all the time?

Apple Logic’s Retro Synth. It’s the absolute one for retro 80’s pads. There is a fantastic set of presets, which just take a little tweaking and they’re good to go. When I’m creating pads or strings I tend to combine a Retro Synth patch with some pads from my Waldorf Streichfett synth – this always creates such a lush and wide sound.

What plugins go on your master bus without fail?

Honestly, nothing goes on the master the bus that would affect the sound, apart from a limiter that gets taken off when I’m creating the final pre-master. What I find invaluable these days are mix referencing plugins, such as Mastering the Mix Reference. I’ll load a bunch of pre-masters of mine where the master turned out really nice, and I’ll try and match the energy and sonics of those mixes.

That and frequency analyser plugins. I’m fully aware that there are much more advanced analysers available these days, but there’s something about Logic’s relatively basic Multimeter, that I’d really struggle to mix anything without this. I’ve been mixing with it for so many years, I know exactly where my kicks, subs, mids, tops, etc, all need to be hitting. I fear for the day the Logic developers decide to ditch or upgrade it.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Logic Pro Retro Synth

What plugin would your EP Lost In The System be incomplete without?

Probably the PSP Mix Saturator 2. This, along with the Micro Warmer from the same developer. They’ve been around forever, but they work perfectly on drums and are used on every drum bus of mine to date. You can really drive the Mix Saturator. It sounds incredible on 808s, especially when you engage the Tape2 shape.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
PSP Mix Saturator 2 Mircro Warmer

Some people say you should try to use effects and processing plugins as little as possible and let the instruments do the talking. What’s your take on that and do you think your music has a lot of processing from effects plugins?

I would say this is entirely subjective. It depends on the sound you’re creating. A classic Moog-style bass will likely only need a tiny amount of EQ and compression, provided the source sound is excellent you can respect and show off the quality.

If you’re doing sound design with a chain of effects, this process is completely different. And what I would point out here is you can never underestimate the power of signal processing. For example, a delay placed after an auto filter will generate quite a different vibe if used the other way round.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Splice Astra

My approach is to have a fair amount of plugins on each channel, but each one is only doing something small. For example, I’ll start off with some basic EQ, then a compressor to control dynamics, some sidechain or volume shaping, then something like oeksound’s Soothe to notch out resonances, and then maybe another EQ at the end.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Mastering The Mix Reference

Do you have any secret sauce plugins?

Quite a few of my drum top loops have come from Audiaire’s Zone and Splice’s Astra Synth. Having done a lot of sound design on both synths over the years, it’s almost second nature for me to work with and manipulate sounds with these synths. Both use a parameter sequencer, which makes them excellent for unique and quirky percussive loops, rhythms and FX.

What about a guilty pleasure plugin?

The LFO Tool from Xfer Records, I find it so much more effective than using a compressor to sidechain. Of course, it’s much easier to use with a 4×4 rhythm, with electro and breaks you have to customise the envelope a bit more. But an indispensable Mix Tool I would say, you can carve out so much space in the mix with this simple plugin.

Kalcagni's Plugins I Actually Use
Audiaire Zone

What do you use without fully understanding?

As a sound designer, I feel like it’s my responsibility to get ‘under the hood’ with plugins, taking the time to fully understand the synths and effects I use. I have a very curious mind too, which helps. I like to know exactly how things work.

I find all this mundane reading of manuals and time spent reverse engineering patches pays off when you’re in the mood for being creative, it makes the production process much more fluid when you need to quickly tweak or alter 3something on a synth or effect.

Listen or buy Kalcagni’s EP, Lost In The System, on Bandcamp.

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