“Now you can make anything perfect… you’re erasing yourself from the record”: James Ellis-Ford on Pro Tools
“With Pro-Tools I try and keep the editing to a minimum and try and use it as a tape-machine”
Credit: Pip Bourdillon
James Ellis-Ford has spoken about how advanced, modern DAWs make it easier to over-perfect your music and essentially “erase yourself” from a project.
Speaking to MusicRadar, the producer, who’s worked with Simian Mobile Disco, Arctic Monkeys, Depeche Mode, and Gorillaz, and released his debut album in May, discusses his love for musical imperfections and the Korg Arp 2600 synth.
“The problem with something like [Avid] Pro Tools,” he says, “is that now you can fix and tweak and make anything perfect and you’re almost erasing yourself from the record.”
He expresses his preference for using Pro Tools as a “tape machine”, implying that he tries to avoid excessive editing and manipulation of recordings, keeping “editing to a minimum”.
“I spent all my time trying to make things sound worse, whatever worse means. With Pro Tools there’s just too much information there. We’re used to hearing all those records where there’s so much harmonic distortion and the bandwidth is so limited and it’s sometimes hard to remember that as you’re going through. I think it’s sometimes annoying to reverse engineer that on a computer and it’s better to use the gear that does it automatically.”
The producer moves on to his love for the Korg ARP 2600 synth, a classic analogue instrument launched in 1971. “Part of what makes it so cool is not the oscillators, it’s the way it distorts. For me, most of the new synths haven’t quite got how cranky that old gear actually is.”
“I use Pro-Tools for everything. For MIDI programming, it’s streets ahead of Pro Tools, but I’m just really used to arranging and mixing in Pro Tools and I could never particularly get my head around finishing a track in Ableton in the same way.
“Same with Logic. I feel like Logic is slap‑bang in the middle of the other two. It’s probably better in terms of MIDI and its samplers and tools but the way I use Pro-Tools is pretty old-school like a tape‑machine. I’m so used to it that I don’t even have to think about it.”
This isn’t the first time Ellis-Ford has spoken out about his love for human imperfections in music. In March 2023, he told The Cue newsletter, “human-ness and that wonkiness is what I love to hear in records”.
Check out James Ellis-Ford’s debut album, Hum, via jamesellisford.com.
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