If you're a techno or house producer, then you're probably already familiar with Yalcin Efe aka "Biskuwi". The Stockholm based electronic music producer and YouTuber has been influential in helping out a new generation of music producers via his fast-growing YouTube channel and Mercurial Tones Electronic Music Academy.
In this article I catchup with Yalcin to talk about his musical influences, how he got started in music production, as well as his workflow and favourite gear. I mean, you all want to know what plugins he uses...right?
Yalcin, tell us about your early musical influences. Were you always drawn to electronic music, or have you transitioned from other styles & genres?
[Yalcin] My big brother who is seven years older than me was a fan of early nineties disco and dance music, so when I was child, I was listening to those tracks all day long. I remember sleeping with those tracks as well, as my brother liked to sleep with music.
However, I was drawn quite heavily to rock and metal music in my teenage years and early twenties as well. I played lead guitar in several metal bands and then learnt to play drums and was a drummer in a few others.
When I returned to electronic music in my mid-twenties, the scene was quite different.
There were so many exciting electronic artists that immediately made me jump back into electronic music production.
How did you get started in music production? Tell us about the moment you opened a DAW for the first time.
[Yalcin] The first DAW I opened was a freeware daw I don't even remember the name of.
I was recording some ideas while playing guitar and I remember downloading the first random free DAW I found. I think it was around the early 2000s.
It was really a new world. At that moment of time, I was mostly playing in cover bands, and I never really enjoyed playing other people's tracks. I realised what I could do with that free DAW and then never looked back. I have been trying to produce my own music ever since.
What is it about music production which appeals to you?
[Yalcin] Music has a huge place in my life, it always has. Like a friend that I've always had with me all the way. A friend that helps me within my head space. And playing around with melodies and rhythms gives me comfort.
Many times I find myself creating stories in my mind and using music production to tell it in a cryptic way. I want to say that music is my meditation, but it would be way understatement. Music is kind of life itself for me.
What about your current musical influences? What artists really inspire you?
[Yalcin] There are really many great artists in many different genres that have influenced me and my music. David Bowie had a huge influence on me, so did Burial, Stephan Bodzin, Led Zeppelin, David August, and my favourite band Wild Beasts.
I feel bad about all the other artists that influence me every day when I start giving names, as there are so many out there. The list can go on forever.
Your YouTube channel is a fantastic resource for learning about production. Tell us a bit about the genesis of the channel and how it's evolved over the years.
[Yalcin] I never thought about creating a YouTube channel until one day I got frustrated by a tutorial I watched on YouTube. It was really bad. So, I decided to make one for myself. And I think that one was bad too :)
But I had fun making it and the comments and community have kept me doing it up to now.
Over the years, of course I learnt more about video production, different concepts in filming and probably most importantly how to explain things better.
And this led to the channel being very community driven. Most of the topics are picked by the community themselves and it has become a safe place for everybody who wants to learn a bit more about electronic music production.
Tell us about your workflow. How do you usually start your tracks and what techniques do you use to ensure tracks get finished?
[Yalcin] I always start with the hook. One thing that would make people remember after they listen to my tracks. It could be a melody or a bass line or something else, but always the hook.
And I never really start arranging a track if I don't have a hook I believe in in the first place.
Because when you decide to figure out the track while arranging it; if you are lucky it works.
But other times, it doesn't, and it gets very frustrating.
Once I have a hook, I often finish a track very fast, mostly in a week. I have a video on the channel called Macro-Arrangement Theory. It is basically execution of this idea in real time.
How long does the complete production process take you, and how do you know when your track is done?
[Yalcin] Finding a hook may take from a few minutes to a couple of weeks as I am very picky about it. I often find them at least expected moments.
Arranging the whole track and mixing and mastering it; probably a few days if I am not busy with other works. If I am then, it may take a few weeks.
I've been really impressed by your sample and preset packs. Do you have any beginner tips on how to set about learning sound design?
[Yalcin] Ear training. Sound design for me is often reflecting the sound I hear in my mind to a synthesiser/sample. I have been lucky as I have been playing different instruments for many years and have always been in musical circles. So probably learning to play an instrument and training your ear are the first steps to becoming a good sound designer.
The rest is just learning synthesiser basics and training your ear about different waveforms and different FX. Once this is done, I think the final step would be additive synthesis and FM which is a bit harder to grasp.
Do you own any hardware gear or instruments? How do you incorporate them into your production workflow?
[Yalcin] I have quite a bit of analog synths, guitars, and drums kits. I think the only instruments that are directly embedded in my flow are my analog synths. I often just mess around in my idea creation phase and once I nail the sounds that I want, I stay in the box for the rest.
Analog gear is fun, but nothing really replaces the workflow of working in the box.
And Diva is still one synth that I can't replace with anything including my high-end analog gear.
What are your favourite go-to VST plugins and what's on your wish-list?
[Yalcin] Diva, Pigments, Hive, Repro, Softube modular and Serum are my go-to synths.
I have been dreaming of a percussion synth that doesn't exist on the market for a long time. We have been working on it for more than half a year now, and hopefully next year it will be on the market as the first Mercurial Tones plugin.
There's been a lot of talk recently about machine learning and how AI is going to change how music is produced. How do you see music production technology evolving in the future?
[Yalcin] I think a lot of audio engineering decisions will be made using AI powered tools.
We have already seen tools like Soothe which is indeed better at taming resonances than the best audio engineer out there.
I think melody/pattern generators will get quite popular too. And producers will become more like composers, matching pieces together to create the full story. Whether we like it or not, I am pretty sure AI will be the reality and embedded in music very much. I just try to make best use of them.
If there was one piece of advice you could give someone who's just starting out in music production, what would that be?
[Yalcin] Just keep producing. Everything else is secondary. All the consistent producers that I know of have become good producers and have created beautiful art and music.
Tell us about what you've got planned for 2022.
[Yalcin] We have quite big plans for 2020. Firstly, Mercurial Tones plugins are on the way. I really put a lot of emphasis on this because there are some plugins that I need for myself.
Secondly, there will be an online Mercurial Tones Academy, and it will be curriculum based. I don't want to reveal too much, but this will be really great for people who want to have more structured learning.
Finally, I am also working on a live show for 2021. This excites me very much as well. So 2022 will be an extremely interesting year.
Want to Know More?
You can find out more about his Mercurial Tones website here.
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