When Being a World-Renowned Music Producer Means Producing Music Anywhere
February 25, 2021
While working with acclaimed artists, Rami Yacoub learned that new software can turn any environment into a sonically rich studio.
Rami Yacoub was in a great spot professionally. The renowned Swedish record producer and song writer, who’s worked with such artists as Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and Madonna, was part of the legendary Stockholm-based Cheiron Studios, along with multi-award-winning Max Martin. (The two collaborated on Britney Spears’ career-launching “…Baby One More Time”.) Then, in 2008, Yacoub went his own way.
“There’s a great music scene in Sweden, no doubt about it,” he says. “But you feel a unique pulse in Los Angeles. You stumble upon things and meet people you weren’t supposed to meet. Somebody rolls into a session and you start talking, and then you book a session with them the next day. It’s like this domino effect.”
On days he’s not collaborating with an artist he meets during one of these serendipitous studio encounters, he’ll just sit and play with ideas he’s been having, melodies recorded on his smartphone.
“I’ll pick up the guitar and find the chord structure, then the tempo, then I’ll record an eight-bar loop, cut it together and maybe add a simple bass; or sometimes I begin with a keyboard or synth,” explains Yacoub.
“I’ll then turn on the mic and add vocals using auto tune and other effects so it sounds pretty darn good, and then I’ll run through the verses and choruses until I build a song.”
According to Yacoub, collaborating with an artist follows a similar process, though they often have their own opinion about what they want and what’s in their heart – which has to take priority given that they’ll be performing the song for hopefully many years.
“Whether on my own or working with an artist, my process begins with following my heart and finding the right chord progression that can be the foundation for a great song. It’s a simple process yet it’s consistently produced major hits over the years.”
In L.A., Yacoub started Kinglet Studios, which also operates out of Stockholm. He continues to collaborate with Max Martin, as well as his production partner, Swedish-born Ilya Salmanzadeh. He’s traveled between L.A. and Stockholm for 12 years, laptop in tow, and come to embrace the technology advances that allow producers to work and collaborate virtually anywhere.
Every Studio is Different
With greater accessibility and easy collaboration comes fresh challenge. The fact is, no two recording environments are exactly alike. But even today, as a global pandemic has forced artists to work safely from different locations, and as mobility has enabled them to pick up and work in various studios, the technology now exists to overcome sonic variances when creating great music.
“Every studio is different.And every environment you might work in is different.”
Working across a range of environments, Yacoub has come to embrace Dirac Live – a software that minimizes a room’s impact on sound and ensures the best possible acoustics. Dirac Live works with leading digital audio workstations (DAWs) to improve acoustics without requiring expensive treatments.
“When you run Dirac Live, it doesn’t really matter what studio you’re working in.The space’s design doesn’t matter; its construction doesn’t matter,” explains Yacoub. “The software compensates for the nuances of each studio so that, as a producer, I hear that true, faithful sound I’m trying to achieve.”
Dirac’s digital correction technology improves studio acoustics and enhances sound accuracy through patented impulse response correction and frequency response correction algorithms. The combination makes it so a DAW running Dirac Live can overcome problems caused by a particular studio’s unique frequency and time domain characteristics.
“It’s important to get the best possible sound, regardless of where I set up, without having to think about it too much.”
“The fact that really smart software can make studios sound consistently great is pretty amazing,” Yacoub says.
No Bass Traps the Size of Refrigerators
Yacoub got his first real-world taste of Dirac Live in Stockholm, when he acquired an existing studio and was trying to correct for acoustical imperfections.
“We knew it wasn’t built perfectly. If you were sitting in the sweet spot, it sounded great, but if you moved your head back just a little, the bass was overwhelming,” he says. “You’d be sitting with your partner and wouldn’t hear what he was hearing.”
A sound engineer came a measured the studio and suggested bass traps, which he offered to build and deliver—two months later. “He calls and asks if we can come out and help him unload them,” Yacoub recalls. “I’m like, ‘Unload what?’”
To address the acoustic issues in Yacoub’s Stockholm studio, the engineer had built eight large bass traps that Yacoub describes as the size of a refrigerator each. After they’d gotten just three of the eight into the studio, the bass traps had taken up half the space. Yacoub sent them back and arrived at another solution.
“Dirac Live eliminated the bass imperfections and inconsistencies without requiring us to sit on top of a ‘refrigerator’ as we produced,” he says. “With the room correction software, wherever we were in the studio, we all heard the same thing.”
“When working in a new studio, you can pinpoint a problem with the low end, which you address by adding or subtracting bass. Then, when listening to the track outside the studio, you realize you’ve overcompensated for the bass, based on an acoustic issue in the studio that’s not present where you’re now listening,” Yacoub explains.
These days, as Yacoub moves around, recording and collaborating with long-time partners—and with those serendipitous connections he meets between Los Angeles and Stockholm—the ability to create perfect, balanced sound in any recording studio is liberating.Along with Dirac Live and his laptop, he typically uses a Universal Audio interface and 1176 compressor, with a vocal chain comprising a Chandler TG2 preamp and Shure SM7 microphone.
“But it’s Dirac Live that’s the secret weapon. “With Dirac Live, we’re ensuring an acoustically perfect studio wherever we go, so you get a true, honest sound,” Yacoub says.