Attack editor Eric Brünjes sat down with KSHMR to talk about his new reverb plugin ‘KSHMR Reverb’ and his desire to help other producers.
“Niles is running late. He’ll be there in five mins.” Given this information was received two minutes past the hour on which we’d agreed to meet, it was rather unexpected but welcomed.
Not to throw shade at artists, the lifeblood of this publication, but readers should know we’ve often waited in all types of conditions to secure an interview. They are not often prompt and even fewer make an effort to inform you. They’re artists after all – let them be so!
This, therefore, had a different feel from the off. It’s a ‘feel’ that tends to align neatly with Niles the person and KSHMR the artist. Same same but different.
As an artist, his track record has been well documented. A gazillion streams, radio smashes and loyal dogmatic followers. Yet, I’d hazard a guess that Attack readers know KSHMR better for his leading Splice packs and his Dharma Studio video-on-demand courses. In short, there’s more to it than the hits.
We’re meeting to talk about his new KSHMR Reverb plugin. It’s a tidy new device that has an attractive cost-of-living price point. The intrigue from our side was why bother? Most artists he shares credit lists with won’t engage so much, if at all, with the producer community. Yet Niles has been a vocal leader in our world for years.
“I got into this as I was just so enamoured with samples, little plug-ins, and hardware. Growing up, my dream weekend was my mom taking me to Guitar Center and I would get to buy a new little synth module or something else to make music with. I would go to Barnes and Noble and there would be these magazines that would have the CDs on the front and I’d grab the CD just to have more samples. That’s it really – it just seemed really fun”.
The producer world has benefited from this enthusiasm. His KSHMR label on Splice is regularly one of the most downloaded, and with the recent introduction of licenses, at least you can be sure you won’t hit the pesky content ID snags on YouTube while using his creations.
“It would be cool to be a part of the ecosystem, that is first and foremost my favourite thing about music, the discovery of new sounds and then to be able to contribute to it that was a really fun part of it to me. I don’t see myself as a face, like a pop artist. I’d rather see myself as someone giving cool tools to the industry. That seems to be what I’m more interested in.”
[quote align=right text=”I don’t see myself as a face, like a pop artist. I’d rather see myself as someone giving cool tools to the industry. That seems to be what I’m more interested in”]
The proof is in the pudding. And pudding, kids, you got to work for. Despite the scary yet impressive efforts of Musk’s ChatGPT, plugins don’t just magically appear. The first iteration of ‘KSHMR reverb’ was in April 2020. “At the start, I basically created the plug-in in Ableton Live using their reverb and a bunch of audio effects. More or less I was creating a new reverb. It was then expanded with a developer to include further algorithms.”
Was it plain sailing from there on? “There were times when it came to the transient, where we were unsure how we’re going to interpret the transient to influence the effects that we had. We ran up against a wall at one point.”
“For example, if you deal with something like a super saw (wave), it gets hard for the computer to interpret what is a new note or transient. In the saw (wave), there are so many small transients and you have to think about a re-trigger and cool-off time so that you’re not constantly re-triggering the transient. It got really complicated to figure out a method that works for all the different effects.”
Given the near three-year development, KSHMR appears relieved but excited to release it in partnership with W.A Productions. I put it to him that an online comment suggests it’s as if “Valhalla and Fabfilter had a baby”. He laughs loudly and elaborates:
“That’s funny. I guess they’re right. The Pro-Q 3 (by Fabfilter) shows how frequencies correlate with pitch, adding dynamic EQ and even letting you compare multiple instances. I love their take on it. It was the same goal we had with KSHMR Reverb.”
“I don’t think we’re going to make a better reverb than other people, but I do think there are a lot of techniques that take time to set up that no one’s even attempted to really give people within a reverb, like side-chaining. I often feel there is a gap between producers and plugin makers and I tried to close that gap slightly.”
[quote align=right text=”I often feel there is a gap between producers and plugin makers and I tried to close that gap slightly”]
The enthusiasm is evident. Niles can talk gear for days and I’m glad we’ve avoided falling into marketing hyperbole at this point. A recent bugbear around the Attack team is the seemingly constant need for speed in your workflow. Each new plugin sells the dream to you that if you “use our product you can reach your dream quicker”. Is there really a need to speed things up?
“I think you’re describing the world, right? The truth is speed is everywhere you look”. It’s hard to disagree but I’m certain my disapproval is hard to wipe from my face. Looks like that travels far, in this case from Croydon to California.
“I mean, you know, the power of something that’s fast is that you’re willing to try it. Like there is a curve of something that takes too long to do. It might be the right option. It might sound the best, but it takes too long. And so the longer it takes, the more likely you are to stop trying it.” Fair enough. I can reason with that.
KSHMRs explanation has merit and reinforces his evident energy for helping new producers. The latest plugin is not the first. His KSHMR Chain in partnership with Excite Audio has been a frontrunner in the Swiss Army plugins such as Studio Rack by Waves. The edge is KSHMR has the hits to back it up and producers love to peek behind the hood to find the secret sauce. Not everyone is willing to share, however.
As we wind down we discuss how growing older affects musicians in different ways. KSHMR describes how he finds it harder to get as excited as he did when he was younger. He cites hip-hop in particular as a genre he cut his teeth to, but is feeling a little out of sync with currently. We talk about his collaborator Tiesto as an interesting example of what it takes to keep producing hits.
“Tiesto has always been one of the best at incorporating young people into his process to keep the sound fresh and up to date. That is the skill of its own to be selfless and to incorporate others into your work. A lot of producers are kind of lone wolves and not great at that, but that’s kind of a necessary skill as you get older I think.
You can join the back of the queue to criticise Tiesto. He’s not to everyone’s taste, but most would bite his hand off for a fraction of the success. It’s likely envy. Who would have thought? But KSHMR is right, even being a producer is a team game. Beat making might be a lone “lone wolf” game but it doesn’t have to be. KSHMR knows that and it’s driven his significant contribution to our community.
Be sure to check out Attack’s in-depth review of ‘KSHMR Reverb’.
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