How Kat Duma uses DAW stock plugins to create experimental pop
“Okay – this is a secret hot tip…”
Image: Kirk Lisaj
Belgrade-born, Toronto-based experimental pop musician, producer and singer, Kat Duma, began her journey into music after she was given a makeshift violin crafted out of a paper towel roll and a Kleenex box as a child. Now, she’s sharing stages with the likes of Yves Tumor and is now set to release her debut full-length album, Real Life, in April.
- READ MORE: Plugins I Actually Use: Aether
The album’s title single is a drowsy and distorted electronic groove drowned in Kat’s eerie vocals. As a plugin-focused artist who likes to record vocals on the go, the producer tells us which plugins suit her mobile workflow, about her love for Ableton Live’s Dub Echo and shares an interesting technique for voal melody inspiration.
Hi, Kat! Where did you make the Real Life album?
Hi! A little bit all over. Mostly at home (in Toronto), but also in Belgrade, Antigua and Miami.
You create music in all sorts of environments – do you think you’d flourish in a ‘proper’ space?
You absolutely don’t need a big fancy studio. You can make music wherever the vibe feels right. But I definitely wouldn’t turn down a fancy studio invite.
What’s your latest plugin purchase?
iZotope RX Elements, specifically for the De-click and De-hum. When I sing quietly, you can really hear the saliva (sorry) so the De-click is a lifesaver.
I used to manually edit the waveform to remove these and now I don’t have to. The only problem is it uses a lot of CPU so I only add it at the very end of the process. The De-noise feature is also useful for recording while travelling. Well worth it.
What’s the best free plugin you own?
To be honest, I don’t really use many free plugins, mostly because it takes a lot of time to find something that fits into my workflow. I prefer to use either Ableton stock plugins or purchased ones, because either I’ll have sought them out specifically or I already have them. I do love some of the Spitfire Audio Labs ones like the Dulcimer, Autoharp and Siren Songs.
What’s the best value plugin you own?
The Arturia V collection isn’t necessarily cheap but is so comprehensive, you could go your whole life and not need a new instrument plugin. Per instrument, I think the price is very reasonable.
What’s the most expensive plugin you’ve ever bought? Was it worth the money? Why?
Maybe a UAD custom bundle. But again, when broken down into individual costs, it’s not so bad. It’s got Autotune, the Neve 1073 and the 1176 collection. These get used all the time so it’s totally worth it.
What’s a DAW stock plugin you use all the time?
Okay – this is a secret hot tip – but Ableton Live’s Dub Echo is hands down my favourite reverb/echo plugin that I’ve ever used and I couldn’t live without it.
What plugin would your Real Life be incomplete without?
Probably Arturia’s Mellotron and Farfisa emulations and Ableton’s Dub Echo – almost always paired together.
There’s a lo-fi feel throughout the release. How did you achieve that?
I’ve always been drawn to crunchy sounds delivered melodically, so I think it’s an expression of that. There’s a meme that’s like: “I like music that’s slightly shitty sounding but in a mysterious and sexy way” and I feel the same. A lot of the time, I’ll start with a sound that has a lo-fi feel to it, and then work to polish/modernise it where I can.
Do you have any secret sauce plugins?
I love Soundtoys’ Microshift on vocals. It widens the sound in a really beautiful way.
What about a guilty pleasure plugin?
Another Ableton preset: Fade to Grey. It’s a single knob and does exactly what it says. Comes in handy when you want an ambient outro.
What do you use without fully understanding?
I am 100 per cent not shy to turn a knob I know nothing about, as long as I can feel what it does to the mix. If I can’t come up with a melody I like, I’ll sing any melody in the key of the song and reverse it. Really interesting things can come up. Of course, I won’t use the whole thing, but I’ll hear certain pairings of notes or inflections that I may not have thought of otherwise.
Buy or stream Real Life, the first single from Kat Duma’s debut full-length album of the same name, out on 21 April, via Bandcamp.
Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.Subscribe