It takes a leap of faith to leave a successful career in music education and reconnect with a passion for 90s Nu Jazz and Hip Hop production. Yet Mick Feltham did just that and set up a small, acoustically designed mix/production studio in his back garden, choosing iD22 as his audio interface.
iD22: “a positive contribution…to my creativity, quality and consistency”
For Mick, getting back in touch with his 90’s UK Broken Beat (BRUK) / Nu Jazz roots wasn’t a leap into the complete unknown, as he had released on a number of different labels including LTJ Bukem’s Cookin and the Earth series as a co-writer/producer in Gee Dubya’s K-Scope, “which led on to some very lucrative syncs and commercial music.” Inspired by what he was hearing coming out of the LA Beat Scene, he was itching to get back to it.
“As most of my production is ‘in the box’, what I needed most was a great sounding space where I could write creatively and produce mixes that would translate anywhere,” explains Mick who (rather fortuitously) had gained plenty of experience as project manager for the Music Department at Northbrook Metropolitan College where he helped design and specify their new, high performance 20-studio complex. “That’s how I got to know Audient; they were incredibly supportive of the project and what we were trying to achieve there.”
“Fortunately the iD22 is built with expansion and compatibility in mind”
Back to his own, more modest production setup. “Using that knowledge I took my time ensuring that the three critical components of acoustic space, monitoring and audio interface would give me not just accuracy, detail and sonic integrity, but also suit my production style and work together as an optimal setup. In other words I didn’t need to over-specify, but instead pick the right gear for my productions to sound right.
“Having a solid vision of the music I wanted to write and produce brought a lot of clarity to my studio design and setup. I chose the iD22 because, at the time it was the most featured of the iD series (the iD44 was yet to release),” he continues. “Apart from the crystal clarity of the Burr-Brown converters and pristine pre-amps, the fact that it had a dedicated JFET DI, Inserts Points on Channels 1&2, ADAT I/O and an independent headphone out made it pretty much future proof. All that in one small box!”
“upgrading that mic pre to an ASP800 is definitely next on my list”
You’ll find Mick making tracks in his studio 5 days a week, 10 hours a day, and this strict work ethic means he is a stickler for finishing everything he starts. A voracious auto-didact, he’ll search out interviews with producers that inspire him and regularly review his setup. “I take note of what I am using often,” he confirms. “I then look at ways to make each part of my workflow more accessible and effective.
“The great thing about the iD22 is that it can cope with so many configurations, and I could try out loads of workflow ideas.” A self-confessed expert in ‘rinsing’ tech support, help pages and online material, his constant refining has served him well – as has Audient. “I have to say that both Audient support pages and the technical support team really helped me when I was trying out new configurations.”
He tells us more about how he arrived at his current setup. “I’m a real big fan of old analogue synths and run them through my Joe Meek VC3 and AKAI MFC42 to add a bit of character. However I didn’t want an external mixer solution, I wanted to use the iD22 converters once on the way in and once on the way out – just two points of fixed gain – the DAC at an amazing 120 dB and ADC at an equally impressive 114 dB.
“I can do everything I want with minimum time but maximum creativity” – Mick Feltham in his mix/production studio
“Everything else is then 32 bit floating point processing (unless I want to do some real time sonic mangling by using Outs 3&4 as an external effects bus which goes into a Korg Kaoss Pad KP3 + then into my Akai MFC 42 before coming back through the return inset points as a Cue mix in Ableton).
“I decided to create a ‘virtual mixer/patchbay’ using iD22 software mixer output options and the extra I/O available through ADAT. It means I can call up any of my analogue instruments using the External Instruments plug in in Ableton. (MIDI is handled by a MOTU Express 128). Fortunately the iD22 is built with expansion and compatibility in mind.” Plugging in an 8-channel mic pre increases his inputs to ten. “After using the iD22 for 18 months, upgrading that mic pre to an ASP800 is definitely next on my list.”
Mick is totally happy with his setup, emerging from the UK’s seven-week total lockdown having written and produced eight new tracks. (Eight!?) “That is a very good indication of an effective workflow. Right now I can do everything I want with minimum time but maximum creativity and sonic integrity and most importantly, fun!” he explains. “I wanted to let Audient – and the music production world – know just how much of a positive contribution the iD22 has made to my creativity, quality and consistency.”
Quite the endorsement! (Thanks Mick ~Audient) He’ll be posting some bite-sized examples of his studio setup over the next few weeks, so if you are interested in any of his methodology, pop over to his Instagram. And definitely check out those eight aptly entitled tracks: ‘Straight Outta Lockdown’ which he describes as “a celebration of crate digging, analogue synths, creative sampling and beat tape culture” on either Soundcloud or Bandcamp.