Plugins I Actually Use: Satl

An intuitive virtual modular rack and an essential Fabfilter plugin go into Satl’s debut album, Gloom.

Satl

Hailing from Poland, Satl is a diverse producer exploring the murky depths of low-end-led music, from techno to dark and deep drum ‘n’ bass. He’s just released his debut album, Gloom, on Lenzman’s label North Quarter. As expected, Satl continues to peruse through varied styles and his extensive experience in attention to detail in music production shines.

In this week’s Plugins I Actually Use, Satl gives us an insight into his favourite plugins, telling us about how he douses every sound with Fabfilter’s Pro-Q 3 and why he can’t get enough of his beloved VCV Rack 2.

Hi, Satl. On this album, you dip your toe into a variety of styles. How have you developed such a diverse approach to music production and made each style sound so good?

Hey, thank you for your kind words. I have always liked all different genres of music so it was just a matter of time before I started experimenting with them more. Before I focused my career as Satl on drum ‘n’ bass, when I first got into music, I used to make house, electro etc. So, bringing all these flavours back on the album is a full-circle moment for me. I believe that people grow and develop more when they get out of their comfort zones so that’s basically what I did and try to do.

What’s it been like releasing on Lenzman’s label, North Quarter?

Releasing on North Quarter and working with Lenzman is indeed inspiring, but on a whole different level than creatively affecting my music. I’m really grateful for his guidance, but what I like the most about working together is that he gives me absolute creative freedom and is always honest about it – whether he likes it or not. It’s important for me that I can send him a track in any style or genre and he will always check it.

What’s your latest plugin purchase?

My latest purchase is VCV Rack 2. I’ve used VCV Rack standalone for ages and I love it. It’s been heavily used on Gloom and a few other projects but I always had to record whatever I was doing in there and resample it in the DAW.

VCV Rack 2

Now, being able to control everything inside from within DAW is a massive upgrade in the workflow for me. It’s basically a virtual modular system that pretty much doesn’t have any restrictions so you can either use it as an instrument, effect or sequencer. What I like about it the most compared to hardware modular systems is that in the real world not everyone can afford to buy three of the same module, for example. In VCV Rack there is no limit to how many instances of a certain module you are going to use in one patch. It’s stable and most of the modules are free (some are even digital clones of real hardware modules).

What’s the best free plugin you own?

It’s not really an instrument or effect but a very useful meter that I always use is Voxengo Correlometer. This plugin is basically a multi-band correlation meter and I use it to check for out-of-phase elements in my mix. Very simple tool but it makes my process so much easier.

Voxengo

What’s the best-value plugin you own?

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 without any doubt. I use this on literally every sound in every project. Really clean user interface and works smoothly as well. I really like the dynamic EQ option and also the Mid/Side – very quick to do and super useful.

Fabfilter Pro EQ 3

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

Spectrasonics Omnisphere. It’s absolutely worth the money, in my opinion – loads of great sounds and super easy to get grips with the interface. What I like about it the most is its versatility; you can use it to get anything from bass sounds through to crazy foley background noises. An incredible amount of good quality factory presets makes it really easy to start jamming with and, for me, this is probably the most important factor – I just hate losing time when I’m in my music mindstate.

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

It’s got to be Alligator Filter Gate from Reason Studios. As the name says, it’s a filter gate with a hands-on super easy interface and big creative potential. Whenever I need to add some movement to any sound or instrument I usually go for this one. It can be very subtle and smooth but has also got this raw power to go a bit crazy if you want it – that can lead to some happy accidents.

What plugins go on your master bus without fail?

It’s a very short and easy chain but it works really well for me – SIR Audio Tools StandardCLIP and SSL X-Limit. Just the clipper and limiter – I always engage them after I am done with creative choices and I can just focus on the mixdown part a bit deeper.

What plugin would your album, Gloom, be incomplete without?

Definitely VCV Rack. Not all tunes feature it but it has definitely shaped the sound of the whole album. The track Kamikaze for example is made completely on it, excluding the drums and effects. All the musical parts like bass and synths were made inside it. I feel like this modular environment can be really interesting and doesn’t have any creative boundaries.

Tell us about the synths used to make Standing By?

They all come from the Oberheim Matrix-12 and Roland Jupiter 8 emulations by Arturia. I’m absolutely in love with the whole V Collection from them, to be honest. These synths sound really warm and exciting and even with minimal processing, they will sit nicely in the mix straight away.

How have you created the bass and pads in Karma? And did those luscious vocals need any treatment from yourself?

Karma is this track that was made heavily using hardware – most of the sounds come from my beloved Waldorf Blofeld. There are a few of these aggressive mid-range bass hits that were made using Xfer Serum.

The vocals came to me all dry so I had to process them the way I wanted and the most important plugins in that process were: Purple Audio MC77 – a cool compressor; Fabfilter Pro-R – my ‘go to’ reverb; Soundtoys MicroShift – great plugin to add some stereo width; SSL DeEss – a standard de-esser to tame these harsh frequencies.

Do you have any secret sauce plugins?

Something that I use often is Octoseq Modulator – it’s a free Max for Live device that is very handy to modulate multiple parameters at once and create non-obvious and complex rhythms/triggers within your parameters. It’s got a super easy user interface and it’s just as quick to map to the parameters of your choice – highly recommended. Another one is this multiband transient shaper called ST4b from LHI Audio – absolutely love it and it works wonders. The interface is straightforward and it is just so quick to get the results you are looking for.

What do you use without fully understanding?

It’s got to be Waves Harmony engine – this thing is seriously amazing but it sometimes feels like a lot and takes a long time to try and program it from scratch in my opinion. Once you are running from some preset it feels easier to modify it closer to your needs.

Stream or buy Satl’s album, Gloom, on Bandcamp.

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