Lee Mortimer is one of the hottest producers around at the moment, mixing up tracks for various labels including A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, CR2 and Made To Play. He’s also been on remix duties for bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Futureheads, as well as knocking out crafty re-edits of DJ Zinc, Dave Spoon & Pete Tong and Foamo. He does all of this using Propellerheads’ production software Reason. We asked Lee why he fell in love with this one-stop- shop music creation tool…
When did you start using Reason, Lee?
My story with Reason started back with Version 2.5. It was the first proper production software I used. Before that I used to play around with a very basic sample sequencer called OctaMED on a Commodore Amiga, and then a PC.
What attracted you to it initially?
“I instantly took to the all-in-one design of Reason and the ease with which tracks could be made. It also came with really good presets, drum loops and samples. This is still the case today with the ever-expanding Factory Sound Bank.
“For me, the heart of Reason lies with the quality of the synthesisers. I’ve used Subtractor in so many of my tracks, it’s ridiculous. I use Reason for absolutely everything in my tracks since I began with it in 2005. The beauty of Subtractor, though, is that it’s so easy to get new and interesting sounds out of it, so no two tracks sound the same. ‘Easy’ is the word that comes to mind so many times when using Reason.
What features of Reason stand out for you?
“The Thor synth is an absolute beast, and since it was introduced in Version 4 I’ve loved Reason even more. The six oscillators it comes with can be combined to make any sound you want, from thick bass to soft pads. The Factory Sound Bank is a great building block from which to create your synths, too. One of its best features is the modulation — just about any knob or slider can be assigned to modulate any other. This can make for some pretty unique sounds. Thor’s filters are top-notch too, and with a bit of trickery any signal from Reason can be routed through them.
What about the other synths?
“Every synth in Reason is so usable, and I’m still finding new ways to use them. In fact, I only recently really learned how to use Maelstrom. It only took half a day of playing around and reading the instruction manual! Now I’ve used it in loads of tunes.
“The other recent addition of the Kong drum machine to the Reason family is a nice bonus too, adding a little bit more flexibility to its predecessor Redrum. One of the best features of Kong is actually the new drum hits that come with it. There’s a new bunch of samples and loops that are great for dance music.”
Why do you use Reason and not any other sequencers like Logic or Cubase?
“Purely as a sequencer, Reason is really easy to get to grips with. The way everything is displayed is really straightforward, and the use of clips keeps everything clean.
“When I first started producing about six years ago I did try Cubase, but found it very daunting. That may be different now that I’ve got more experience, but as a relative beginner I remember gravitating towards Reason — and I’m so glad I did, on the whole. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Reason!”
What is your virtual set-up in Reason 6?
“I have a default song that loads up every time I start something new, it consists of a MClass master section with my favourite settings already tuned in. Next in the virtual rack I have an RV7000 Advanced Reverb, again with my favourite setting already chosen.
“After this is ReDrum, which I wire into the Kong drum machine. This way I can still use the pattern editor on ReDrum to trigger the respective sound in Kong. Then I have each audio out-routed into its own mix channel, so every drum hit can be dealt with individually in the Reason Mixer.
“A top tip is to make a good default song with all of your must-have settings, so you can be up and running straight away.”
How do you go about recording a track in Reason?
“I pretty much always start with the beat, and the kick-drum always comes first. I find that even the type of kick-drum used can define a whole song. I’ve got a decent library that I’ve collated throughout the years; some I’ve sampled myself off vinyl or CD, some I’ve downloaded, some that I never know where they came from!
“I use Dr Octo Rex to get a good groove going. I’ve got a bunch of classic and obscure breaks that can bring dull beats to life. They don’t always have to be loud in the mix, or maybe just use a few particular Rex slices of your choosing. Once the beats are slamming I’ll move onto the bass — that’s my favourite part! Thor is the go-to device for this.
“There are some great Vengeance Thor presets which I often use, and the Factory Sound Bank is full of great sounds. I never like to use default settings, so knob twiddling is essential. I like to run a separate Thor that deals with just the sub bass. A simple sine wave pitched down does the job.
What new additions are there to Reason 6 that you like?
“The new additions to Reason 6 are great for working with big basslines. The Pulveriser has some excellent new features. A bass sound that remains the same throughout a song can get tiresome, so adding even a little bit of modulation can really liven things up. Pulveriser's Envelope Follower lets you do all kinds to the filter and LFO speed. The LFO can then be used to modulate the filter, pan or volume. Couple this with the Squash and Dirt settings and you can get anything from a subtle bit-crush effect to a big phat wobble bass. There are loads of great presets to work from, and the Dry/Wet blend means that you can apply as little or as much as you want.
“Alligator is the new gate device which splits your audio signal into hi, mid and low. Each of these can then have a multitude of effects added to them such as phase, delay and filters. You can then select from an array of patterns that trigger the desired split signal, rather like an arpeggiator. I’ve often applied FX to different frequencies of my synths, but the Alligator takes it to another level.
“Neptune is the pitch adjust and voice synth which is new in Reason 6. It first appeared in Propellerheads’ other product, Record, and I’ve been using it since then. I’ve not delved into its auto-tune capabilities but it does a great job bending vocals and anything else that is run through it.
Are there any drawbacks?
“It’s great to see the use of proper audio now available in Reason 6, but it’s not as user-friendly as it could be yet. Using short samples is fine but anything longer can be fiddly. Especially if the track was recorded live and isn’t perfectly beat-matched. Cutting and moving each beat into place is laborious. I guess that’s what Recycle is good at, though.
“There are now compressors and gates on each channel as well as master compressor, although I do tend to stick to the MClass Master Suite.”
What makes Reason 6 a standout product for you?
“It’s all you need in one space, and is so user friendly. When I started to produce and use Reason, people asked me what I used to make tracks? They would always be a little bit surprised that I would get such a good sound from Reason. Now this isn’t the case and so many more top-flight producers use it. Maybe because I’ve been telling everyone how good it is! Propellerheads, are you listening?!”
“Every upgrade adds something really usable, and every device can be used in non-conventional ways when you start digging deeper.”
|Ease of Use||9.0|
|Value for Money||9.5|
|Hype||Literally everything you need to make tunes in one box. Thor is worth the money alone.|
|Gripe||Audio editing can be fiddly. Slow file handling.|
|Conclusion||To get all that’s on offer for around £300 is staggering. Essential!|
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