Building an LA Dream Studio with Symphony I/O
Recent Projects: U2, The Temper Trap, Miike Snow, Diddy and Skylar Grey
Dirty South, Australia’s dominant club king, is Grammy-nominated DJ, producer and remixer Dragan Roganovic. Broadening his audience with popular remixes of U2, The Temper Trap, Miike Snow, Diddy and Skylar Grey, Dirty South’s flourishing fan base now extends beyond Down Under to the many corners of the world. When he’s not on the road with his Apogee ONE in tow, Dirty South splits his time between his home in Melbourne, Australia and Los Angeles. Faced with the exciting task of building a second studio in his home away from home in LA, he gravitated towards Apogee’s “Amazing” Symphony I/O with 16 channels IN and 16 channels OUT as the centerpiece of his custom-designed facility.
What appealed to you about getting Symphony I/O?
„I’ve always heard great things about Apogee products and always wanted to one day upgrade my current setup to a higher grade interface. When I started setting up my LA studio, the Symphony I/O just came out so it was the perfect time to go for the next level interface. PCI interface is far more superior then USB and Firewire, so I’m very happy that I went for this interface.“
„I like to keep it fun, as I think music should be!“
What is your Symphony I/O configuration?
„I have the 16 I/O setup. Gives me 16 input and 16 output analog channels. It’s very flexible as I can record many channels at once and also do my summing.“
What do your gear setups in the studio and in the club consist of?
„In the studio, the Mac Pro together with the Symphony I/O is the heart of the setup. For recording vocals, I use a Neumann U87 microphone going into the Avalon 737 and then into a LA-2A compressor. The signal then ends up going through Symphony I/O finishing off in Logic where it gets captured and edited. I use Focal SM11 for main monitoring and little Genelec 8020s for reference. I just got myself a pair of second-hand Yamaha NS10s for that classic „crap“ sound reference.
For summing, I use all Symphony I/O outputs that go into a Dangerous 2-Bus summing box. After that, the signals get processed through a Tube-Tech SMC 2B multi-band compressor for that finishing glue. Finally, it comes back to the Symphony I/O and gets recorded to Logic. I also use a bunch of soft synths and plugins like WAVES and UAD and many other outboard gear and microphones/instruments.
In the club my setup is quite simple: 3-4 Pioneer CDJ 2000’s with a Pioneer DJM 800 mixer. I use SD cards for all my music. My headphones are Sennheiser HD-25.”
How would you describe your music style?
It’s mainly electronic music. I produce house music and i would say it’s melodic/energetic/vocal/techy sounding. I also do some live recording/band type music which is a nice break from the house stuff as it gives me time to do something totally different, and then come back to electronic music with a fresh mind. I like to keep it fun, as I think music should be!”
What other Apogee gear do you own and use?
„I also own the little „ONE“ interface. It’s great for when I’m on tour. It has a little microphone built in and it’s of very good quality.“
What current projects are you working on?
„I’m doing a lot of new Dirty South material, whether it’s remixes or original songs. My current single was just released and it’s called ‚Alive‘ and i produced that with Thomas Gold. I also just finished putting a Dirty South compilation together for a label called Strictly Rhythm. I also started my label, Phazing, so I am releasing my material and signing other projects to the label. On the other hand, I’m just finalizing a new project which is more alternative/live sounding. I’ve written and produced it with a friend and it will be coming out this year. The project is called Ruben Haze, so look out for that!”
How did you get started as a DJ and how did you make the transition into remixing and producing?
„I first started messing around with a bunch of tracks and made medleys/megamixes that went for 15-20 minutes. Then I started making bootlegs of tracks and pressed it on vinyl and sold it in record shops. I taught myself DJing on an old NEC cassette desk where I emulated DJing by mixing with cassettes. After that I bought some turntables and got more serious with DJing. At the same time I also started getting more serious with production so I bought some proper gear and taught myself as much as possible about production.”
„I think everything around me affects me in a certain way and inspires me to make the music I make.“
Can you tell us about your new LA-based studio? How does it compare to your studio in Melbourne?
„The LA studio is much bigger than the Melbourne studio, but essentially the gear setup is very similar. I wanted to have a very familiar environment to work in regardless of which studio I was in. The main difference is that i don’t have the Symphony I/O in the Melbourne studio, and that’s probably the next thing I would like to upgrade to. Both studios run Mac Pro computers with Focal SM11 and Genelec 8020 monitors. Logic is my sequencer with a bunch of plugins from WAVES and UAD. I have acoustic, electric, and bass guitars in both studios and a bunch of other keyboards/instruments and outboard gear.”
When you were first getting started, I read you made some remixes and distributed them yourself around the world. How did you spread the word and get your music out there? Do you think self-promotion is an art any new DJ needs to master at the beginning of his/her career?
„Back then it was different. I think it was much harder than these days. Now kids have the mighty power of the internet and they should use it the best they can. There are so many social networks where they can spread their music like SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter and many many more! It’s a must!!!”
You were born in Serbia but grew up in Melbourne. Has that affected your music in any way? Were your parents musicians?
„I think everything around me affects me in a certain way and inspires me to make the music I make. Music was always around me in the family so that was definitely an influence.”
What do you look for when you approach a project? How do you go about a remix?
„The main thing for me to look for when I get approached for a remix is a vocal or a melody part from the original that grabs me. I need to be able to visualize in my head that I can do something with this particular track. Once I say yes to a remix, I would go through the stems/parts and select bits that I think are useful. I would build musical ideas on top of that. Normally after that, I work on the drums and then a rough arrangement. While I’m remixing, I also mix and EQ so by the time I’ve finished the remix, the track is also balanced and mixed. It’s a great advantage that I DJ because I can test out tracks, and come back afterward to tweak anything that is necessary.”
Has anything changed since your Grammy nominations? (Congrats, by the way!)
„I try not to get caught up in awards too much. Of course it’s amazing to be nominated. I guess it inspires me to work even harder!”
For more about Dirty South, visit his website: http://dirtysouth.com/