Hailing from Athens, Greece, Stelios Vassiloudis is a mainstay on John Digweed’s legendary Bedrock label and an audio aficionado. With a degree in acoustical engineering and a master’s in composition, the electronic music producer isn’t afraid to explore new sonic territories – his latest album, Human Damage Human, is a strong testament to that.
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Pivoting away from the dancefloor, Stelios’ album transports you to the 90s in trip-hop tracks such as Kaizen and Failure Of Imagination, and places you into deep introspective spaces in Heat and Stay Calm. The 12-track opus is rife with clever sound design and sees three features from Alex Avdis, former vocalist for London metalcore band, The Defiled, who brings a distinct, industrial edge to the album.
Stelios’ vast palette on the album might have you imagining him in a studio packed with samplers, instruments and synthesizers. Guess again. Much of his work is created on a laptop and a guitar, with software like Native Instruments Guitar Rig and Reaktor proving essential in his workflow – plus a few handy free plugins that give him a damaged, lo-fi sound – perfect for an album like Human Damage Human.
Stelios Vassiloudis. Image: Stelios Vassiloudis
Hey Stelios. We’re loving your new album, Human Damage Human – serious trip-hop vibes. How did you get into music production?
I come from a rock background so I spent most of my early musical years dabbling with pedals, preamps, racks etc. By the time I got into electronic music, a lot of the recording and programming was being done in the box and was the antithesis to the cumbersome patchwork and imprecision (both of which, it turns out can be great things) of hardware. From that point on, and as computing power became increasingly powerful (I’ve been making music on my laptop recently), I just continued along the same path.
What’s your latest plugin purchase?
Native Instruments’ Playbox was probably the last thing I purchased. To be honest, it was an impulse buy because I was really, really impressed with the promotional video they did for it. It seemed like (and is) such a fun and creative little jam tool. The presets are really cool and the randomiser function yields crazy results.
What’s the best free plugin you own?
There’s this amazing company/record label called Puremagnetik and one of its free plugins is Driftmaker, which is a disintegration-type delay. I run a lot of one-shots or chopped elements through it and record multiple takes (the results can be crazy and unpredictable). A lot of the lo-fi sounding, glitchy elements on the album come from hours of experimenting and recording with it.
What’s the best value plugin you own?
Waves OneKnob Filter! I’ve owned – and used – it forever. I love its interface and simplicity, not to mention its sound. I probably use it too much but I just find it to be so smooth and easy to program.
What’s a DAW stock plugin you use all the time?
Apple Logic Pro’s compressor still does the business for me; great interface, easy to understand and dial in. I haven’t compared it to a great deal of third-party versions to be perfectly honest but I’ll say it works wonders for me when dealing with low-end in my dancefloor-oriented tracks but also when trying to shape and craft some of my more floaty, ambient sounds.
What plugins go on your master bus without fail?
The last stage of production for me is the mixdown – I don’t touch mastering with a ten-foot pole! As for the engineering and mixdown phase, I’ve always got a Logic multimeter open, iZotope’s Tonal Balance Control and a Lindell Audio PEX-500 by Plugin Alliance.
What plugin would the album would be incomplete without?
Probably NI’s Guitar Rig. You might not be able to tell, but there’s a lot of guitar on there and, as I recorded the tracks over a long period of time and in different locations, It wasn’t always convenient to mic up a 2×12 cabinet (as I used to).
Where do you source your drums from? How do you create beats?
It depends on the track. Sometimes, I’ll get jamming on something like NI’s Battery or Maschine (more than I’d like to admit, actually). Other times I sample and chop loops the old-fashioned way. On occasion, I’ve even mic’d and played my own drums. It really does depend on the circumstance as the music I make varies from ambient downtempo to drum n bass!
Do you have any secret sauce plugins?
This is probably going to sound lame but I think I probably use Soundtoys’ Decapitator way too much. I love the transients and harmonics you get from overdriving stuff – particularly when you make stuff do things they’re not really supposed to. A lot of my one shots or transitions SFX come from these happy accidents.
What about a guilty pleasure plugin?
Definitely this crazy Reaktor patch I discovered on one of the obscure NI message boards. I’m not going to name it, for fear of someone stealing it (sorry!) but it combines a crazy LFO, delay, filtering, pitching etc. It’s quite unpredictable and a bit unstable but the presets are great and, if you’re patient, can yield some amazing results.
What do you use without fully understanding?
More than I care to admit!
Find more about Stelios’ work on his website.
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