Luke: I’m a producer / composer and mixing engineer best known for my remixes for Kylie Minogue (a Grammy-nominated Billboard #1), The Killers, Robbie Williams, Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse–to name but a few–I just produced Twenty Five Ten, an album in homage to my late mother.
It has sounds for here and now, rooted in decades of influences and experiences.
Featuring successful collaborations with Kevin Godley (10 CC, Godley & Creme), model Roxy Horner, Nick Tart (Diamond Head), Rachael & James Akin (EMF), Lucy Pullin (The Isle of Man, Robbie Williams), Melanie Taylor, Flora, Phat Hat.
My 18-track album was recorded in various places such as Brisbane (Australia), Tel Aviv, Mallorca, Brussels, Los Angeles, Dublin, Katowice (Poland), and Baton Rouge (USA).
Besides my emotional motivation to get this project done, I really wanted this record to connect genres, eras, and mix generations. Somehow connect the dots between timelines in a unified story, with its joyful and bonkers moments, with its own directions and contradictions, or more simply put: my story.
I have a rock-solid PreSonus eco-system based around a Quantum 2, FaderPort 16, and ATOM, nothing superfluous—they all have a purpose. The FaderPort 16 is giving me the gestures I’m used to when balancing tracks on a console; the vibe is based on even relationships between instruments.
It’s a different experience, and the decisions I’m making helped me to assign a more prominent role to sounds buried in a mix, with fingers on all faders I’m sorta painting a sonic picture based on my impression. With a mouse it’s also achievable, but it’s more cerebral; it’s laser focused, and less expressive.
The ATOM is perfect when I want to jam with drums or synth shots. It’s perfect for fortunate accidents! I come up with ideas I wouldn’t get from a keyboard. In some of my remixes I like to slice vocals that I then drop into impact to create what we call “vox lox” to build new lines, for example that was a centerpiece of my Kim Wilde Kids In America remix. The new chorus idea was all done with Impact XT and the ATOM.
Quantum 2 is just brilliant, it’s been my companion in so many tasks, it’s never let me down. As musical director for a Native American show I’m in charge of, I used this thing on stage in large venues with thousands of people, the sound was amazing and so stable. I also mixed a full season series for a TV network; a short film for Disney; sound mix for HBO; my album and remixes—it’s been so reliable and with a constant, pristine sound. It fits perfectly in my backpack, so I’m super mobile.
I usually work from home, and when necessary I just take my laptop to a commercial studio, plug my Quantum 2 to their system, launch Studio One, and I’m set. I can do the adjustments I feel are needed and go back home.
My album was also mastered that way, I’ve had a reliable listening environment there, and all songs loaded into the project page. The big plus was when I felt that I was doing too much tweak, I could just open the song, fix whatever was needed with one click and go back.
Lately besides my remixes, I’ve been asked to mix a couple of original songs from the ’80s/’90s on which I’ve been given the multi-tracks, such as Fine Young Cannibals, Shakespear’s Sister, or Bananarama to name but a few.
I could really set up Studio One to be ready at all time and nicely organized like a vintage console, and now with Version 5 Professional, I can switch between an SSL or Neve sound in just 2 clicks. That’s fantastic.
What led you to choose Studio One?
Studio One is just another part of me, it never gets in the way. It’s a companion standing in front of me that is always ready for war.
The interface is very clean and soothing in a way, it always feels like some quietness before the storm. It also sounds great, fully-featured and with the Project page, you can virtually do anything within ONE app.
These days as a musician you have to wear so many hats that the last thing you want is distractions and learning curves on different apps. With Studio One I can produce, compose, mix, and master with features located in familiar places.
What Studio One features have proven particularly useful and why?
The drag & drop concept, be it for sounds, presets, instruments, or FX. This thing is a home run. When I feel that I’m not going to be in a productive mood, I spend a lot of time organizing all of the above for future sessions.
How does Studio One compare to other DAWs you have used?
They can be the adult in the room in a world where feature lists to sell new major updates are prioritized over the quality of their achievement.
With backward compatibility, if something is poorly implemented from the start, then you’re stuck with it until the end of days. We all love new features, of course, but it shouldn’t come at that price.
So when I see something not yet available in Studio One, I just tell myself: “If you can’t make music with what Studio One has to offer today, maybe you should just quit.” The kid in me is not a fan of that sentence, but it’s a nice motto to move on.
Which Studio One feature or concept doesn’t get enough spotlight (or isn’t talked about enough) in your opinion?
Without a doubt I’d say macros, they can be really powerful, I remember doing one for a friend of mine, he was new to Studio One, he was looking after a way to slice and map samples easily.
So I came up with one that analyzed the loop, detected transients, sliced at transients and sent them to Sample One XT, it was so good that I’ve added it to a shortcut and ended up using it myself. I’m thinking of sharing it with the community.
Any useful tips/tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One that would be of interest to our user base?
During the lockdown with friends we’ve had some virtual sessions, we were sending ideas back and forth and it appeared that none of them used MusicLoops, they were saving their ideas or overdubs as songs.
I told them that I have a folder called ideas, so every time I try a new synth or jamming with a virtual instrument, I just drag & drop it to that folder, and it then becomes an asset for my future project. Everything is saved in a single file with an audio version, MIDI, presets, and FX used all in one go.
From time to time, I like to browse that folder to see if there’s anything inspiring or useful.
That’s basically the story of the opening track on my album, I’ve had this nasty groove made with Impact XT floating around for some time, and one day it was the right idea for the mood I was in.
Never lose your ideas, phrases and so on, don’t expect to remember anything two years or two months from now with random or cryptic names… Just drag and drop in a place, where you’ll find your sparkles of ideas at all times!
Any final comments about PreSonus and Studio One?
I always found the name intriguing, now that I see how powerful it’s become over the years, and on its way to become the ultimate DAW, I take it that it was not just a name… it was a plan.
2020 has been a year like none other that most of us can remember in our lifetimes. But, we managed to see another Halloween weekend come and go… and true to my own annual tradition, I busted out the Oingo Boingo playlist to honor the songwriting/compositional mastery of Mr. Danny Elfman, along with one of my all-time favorite drummers, Mr. Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez and his quirky approach to propelling all those amazing songs they created in the 80’s.
So, I had the honor of spending time this past NAMM 2020 in Anaheim at our PreSonus Booth with Mr. Bill Jackson, who I discovered was Oingo Boingo’s recording engineer on one of the songs to a hit movie I used to watch ad infinitum back in my youth, Weird Science and all subsequent album releases as well as my go-to end of year holiday film (to this day), Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. We spoke at length about how he’s been using our Faderport line of control surfaces to craft his mixing with total human organic interactivity.
Here then, is what he had to say and much more!
During college, I played guitar in bands and also recorded them, as well as other local artists, with a Teac A3340-S. I had no EQ on my Tascam mixer, but I had a Tapco spring reverb.
My career started at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. I started as the runner, but I was always going in early and staying late. Sunset has 3 rooms, and I would go to each room, before the session started and look at every mic, then follow the path through the console and all the outboard gear. These were great engineers, working on projects like Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, Toto, etc. Eventually, I was able to hang out during some of the sessions and the clients got to know me. That led to me getting thrown into a lot of sessions, including some for a solid month of engineering for Prince, Sheila E., and The Time.
I randomly was selected to be the assistant engineer on “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo. When they came back the next week, to record the Dead Man’s Party album, the engineer could not commit to it, so he told Danny Elfman to use me. I recorded every album after that, including the final Live Farewell album.
Danny had also started scoring music for films, and I recorded music for about 12 films with Danny, including recording all of the singing voices for Nightmare Before Christmas.
Around the same time that I started working with Oingo Boingo, I had been recording demos with this producer, Howard Benson. That eventually led to recording and mixing about six major-label albums with Howard, including Bang Tango’s Psycho Café. Howard continues to make records that achieve gold, platinum, and #1 status.
I have probably worked on about 200 albums, in some capacity.
Now, I mix a lot of prime-time network television and a lot of documentaries and have created a space at my house for mixing all of that, as well as recording and mixing albums and singles for independent artists.
So, my PreSonus journey actually started with a music editor, Micha, that I was working with. I noticed that he (and other music editors), would bring in a little box, that sat beside their computer. It had one fader, cool transport control buttons, lots of function buttons and a big blue knob. I asked him about it, and he showed me what it could do. (Music editors, as part of their job, have to present Quicktime mixes to the producers, using the music score from the composer, the way it should sound in the finished mix. This helps the producers decide if they want to keep the music, or make changes to it).
NAMM was just a few weeks away, and by chance, I walked in to the entrance where PreSonus was set up. I was immediately drawn over to what turned out to be an 8-fader version of the single-channel FaderPort that the editors were using. I played around with it and asked a few questions, and when I got home, I ordered one of the first ones available.
What drew me to the FaderPort 8 was the small footprint and low profile. I like having it right in front of my timeline monitor, and it doesn’t block my view, as some new controllers can, and its depth is shallow enough that my monitor can stay completely behind it, but still be close to me. I also loved the price. I don’t think there is anything out there that compares with the FaderPort 8 and FaderPort 16, for the price.
What I like the most about the FaderPort series has to start with the amazing transport controls. Whomever designed this transport is a genius. I am all about minimal movement and conservation of energy. My setup has four monitors, and I divide my movements fairly evenly between my right and left hands.
The tactile feel of the buttons, and the precise layout, which matches where my fingers naturally fall, is awesome. Especially if I am recording overdubs and constantly using the transport controls… I don’t have to move the position of my hand or even look at the controls. It is very ergonomic and natural.
Other features that make my life easier, are the big blue knob that allows me to quickly spin to the next bank of tracks, or move 1 channel at a time. I am always spinning that knob to get the channels that I want to be on the surface. In addition to a Solo Clear button, there is also a Mute Clear button, which will clear the solos and mutes showing on the surface in Pro Tools.
I like that the Audio and Virtual Instrument buttons can be used to switch between the Mix and Edit windows in Pro Tools.
Very convenient are the Latch, Trim, Touch, Write, Off and Read buttons, to change the automation setting of highlighted tracks.
Something that definitely should be mentioned, is that I can choose between Studio One, MCU, HUI, and MIDI Mode, when I set it up to use with my DAW.
I also love that I can adjust the fader sensitivity. I have always had issues with moving faders knowing that I am touching them. The Faderport gives me 7 levels of sensitivity to choose from. Level 6 works perfectly for my fingers.
I can also easily adjust the contrast and brightness of the display to work with my viewing angle.
It comes in handy for recording music, especially how the large Select buttons can become the Arm buttons, in bright red. My average tracking session is about 12-14 tracks of drums and the other live musicians (usually playing along as guide tracks for the drummer). Boingo always recorded that way, with everyone playing live, even if we were only going to keep the drums. I still record like that. It helps the band realize that the tempo and drum parts are right.
The Faderport 16 especially shines when it comes to mixing for Television. Here’s the workflow/process:
For each episode, my mix tech, Christina, at Sony, sends me the Pro Tools session, which is made from a combination of my template and my FX editor, Mike’s session, and the audio files folder that goes with it. They both have my template, so this is an easy collaboration. Mike has cut in all of the FX and BG tracks, from scratch, but also includes some pre-mixed 5.1 sounds, that I have made from previous episodes, that I sometimes blend into similar scenes in the new episodes. It ends up being a combination of my pre-mix and his new tracks, for these particular scenes. Mike also includes the Foley, which is performed by Robin and Sarah, the Foley walkers that I love at Sony. I asked for them to be on Madam Secretary, and they also created the Foley for other shows I worked on, such as The Goldbergs, and now The Resident.
What is great about the Faderport 16, is that I can easily grab the eight or so background tracks for a scene, and get a quick balance, then I press the Sends button, and (in this case, select Send C) and grab those same faders to add the ambiance reverb to the BGs that I have selected for that scene.
I then press the Pan button, which turns those same faders into left and right panners, that I use to pan the more specific tracks of the BGs, such as typing, paper shuffling, cars, and sirens. If I am just panning a single track, I may grab the blue pan knob to do a traditional knob pan. Any surround panning is accomplished with a touch screen I have, which mimics the surround panner in Pro Tools. I also use the Sends button to send FX to the subchannel, and any of the other 3 reverbs that I use. Even though I am using HUI control, I am able to do all of this. I also have the input meter turned on, as well as the ability to see the fader dB levels in the scribble strip. I also use the VCA button to show and hide my EQ plug-in. The Shift-Track buttons allow me to display the SMPTE (or BPM) onto the strip.
When I started mixing episodic television at my place, I need to be able to work efficiently and fast. I had used other small format controllers, but wanted something different in price and also features.
Having 16 faders available on the surface. I really mean this, when I am mixing backgrounds, it is nice to have the faders spaced relatively close together. I can work faster, grabbing 8-10 faders, and then switching to Sends mode and grabbing the same faders to add ambiance. This works very efficiently for me.
Seeing the track input levels on the FaderPort, as well as the level of the fader, really help during a mix, as well as the other features that I mentioned.
I would love to have a single button for saving. I am saving my session all the time, and it would be great if I could just double-tap on the big blue knob to save my work.
All in all, I love how you guys took a console for everyone and made it work so well with HUI in Pro Tools.
An added bonus of mixing at Jacksonland (my home studio) with the FaderPort 16, is that I already had a personal mix workflow in place when COVID-19 appeared, and have been able to continue working on The Resident, every week while all of us are sequestering ourselves from each other, since I was already mixing in this manner.
👀☝️Faderport 16 as a centerpiece of Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo’s studio setup
PreSonus: For those who don’t know already, please tell us about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Sir Bob: Been in the music business since 2006, worked with a lot of artists from Paul McCartney to Tommy Lee, going to Jason Aalon Butler, to Zhu.
I’ve played all the major festivals of the world, multiple times; Coachella, Lollapalooza, Primavera Sound, Rock im Ring, Rock imPark, Sziget, EDC, Summer Sonic, Fuji Rock… I could go forever.
I’m a musician, producer, and photographer—and I go crazy for motors!
PreSonus: So, tell us… how did the Faderport 16 and you become involved?
Sir Bob: I fell in love with the original Faderport almost four years ago and now got crazy with FaderPort 16. I needed a simple and solid machine. This fit the bill nicely!
Long story short—I love mixing and having control of the faders under my fingers. Nothing can replace the human touch and the Faderport 16 somehow returns it back.
PreSonus: What DAW do you use with the Faderport 16?
Sir Bob: Ableton Live 10.
PreSonus: What would you say you like most about PreSonus?
Sir Bob: Your customer service, peripheral installation speed, and ease of product use.
PreSonus: Any tips or tricks with our products you’d like to share?
Sir Bob: As you can imagine, I’m not new to DAW controllers. I’ve played with a lot of them, and I’ve bought many during the years from Mackie to SSL. This is the only one that has never given me any problems… which should be a priority for all controllers out there, just saying.
PreSonus: In closing… what would be on your “wish list” from us in the future?
Sir Bob: I’m dreaming about the Faderport 24. MAKE IT REAL!!!
[This just in from Charlie Bauerfeind, producer for genre-defining power metal pioneers, Helloween! In his search for the perfect DAW Controller for his ultra-compact-but-complex, MacBook Pro-based, live-broadcast setup for Helloween’s Rock in Rio Show on October 4th, he turned to Presonus’s Faderport 16.]
I was blown away by the ease of use in the FaderPort 16’s setup, and the incredible versatility in this most compact DAW controller. It was truly a plug-and-play experience, and made my job in Rio go perfectly smooth… My Pro Tools-based setup is comprised of several session-based pre-programmed automation parts… but the much bigger dynamic automation part needs to be handled flawlessly during the live performance. I’ve owned a FaderPort Classic for a long time, but the FaderPort 16 allowed me to deliver a great broadcast result for one of the biggest Rock festivals on this planet.
A big THANK YOU to the guys at PreSonus!
Want to use your FaderPort 8 or FaderPort 16 with Pro Tools? Check out this new series from Richard Gaspard!