Andrew Spraggon from Sola Rosa
from Sola Rosa
With six albums under his belt, a raft of accolades and well over a decade of producing genre-splitting music andrew Spraggon’s work as Sola Rosa has cemented him as one of the world’s most exciting and versatile producers.
What gear are you using in the studio?
As far as the latest album goes I wrote everything in Pro Tools, then once I got the stems back from the mix engineer we’d put them into Ableton Live. Now I’m starting to write in Ableton Live but I’d imagine I’d still put it all into Pro Tools for mixing.
The plugins I can’t live without are from SoundToys - I pretty much use all of their plugins on a regular basis especially for drums like Decapitator & Devil-Loc. EchoBoy is my go-to delay and the Oxford EQ is my go-to EQ plugin.
Since getting Native Instruments Komplete 8, I don’t know how I lived without it. I also use Native Instruments Maschine and it changed everything for me. It wasn’t until I got Maschine that I’d used anything with pads before. It’s more hands on, you can get a feel out of it rather than programming or quantizing- you can just play in your drums or samples until you get it right. I use a lot of the Spectrasonics stuff especially Trilian which really pops.
How have you found changing from Avid Pro Tools to Ableton Live has affected the song writing process?
Ableton Live is far more creative and there’s so much more you can do with it on the fly. The Ableton synths and sampler will create certain sounds that I’m not going to get out of Pro Tools. The main thing for me is how quickly you can get an idea down- when the idea comes you just want to capture it before it disappears.
How do you approach the live set compared to working the tracks
in the studio?
We’ll rework the album track to work live. We found that when we’d rehearsed the tracks from the album and performed them live sometimes they don’t work. We spent the entire American tour reworking tracks as we went and got it to a point where we’re happy with them all.
The album has lots of horns, strings and percussion that we don’t have live players for, so we stripped it back and took out a lot of elements we thought don’t need to be there live. We often remixed things with effects & filters to give the live show its own life rather than just playing backing tracks out of Ableton Live.
Now that all of the beats come out of Ableton we’ve reworked those in the studio as well- the drums are all beefed up and smashed through plugins like Decapitator. We’ve also added kicks and snares where we thought they needed them. There’s been a lot of studio prep to get the stage show happening!
We’re constantly changing the live tracks for the shows. We sometimes completely rework older tracks- remix them, rewrite them and perform them.
How does performing live help you write new tracks? What DO you learn from performing them live?
What you do is write the album, then you have to learn the tracks, you perform them live, get better at performing them and then you turn them into something better than what’s on the album. I’d really like to write tracks, tour with them, get good at them, figure out what works then go into the studio and record them.
What comes out naturally comes out, but I’m always thinking of how it will translate live more than I ever would before. Sometimes you know when you write a track its going to be good live- like “Lion’s Den” I knew a big bashy hip hop beat is going to sound good through a PA whereas something that is soft and delicate might not translate as well.
It can be as simple as where you put a song in the set- if you put it after a bunch of energetic tunes it gives it new life- it gives it space and the audience can appreciate it more. We’re learning and getting better at it as we go but it takes a few years to work all of those things out. We used to just start from the lowest BPM and finish with the highest BPM - back in the day!
We also do the Sola Rosa Soundsystem shows if we can’t take the whole band- the concept behind that is just me and the vocalists. It’s more affordable to tour and a bit more of an introduction to Sola Rosa really.
I really like doing those shows because they’re quite different. I run loops & samples from Maschine and run Ableton. We basically spend a good few months in the studio prior to those tours reworking the set- it’s more dance floor & club orientated than the live band thing. It’s more of a hands-on thing with the pads which is right up my alley. That’s the two main touring options.
Check out the new Sola Rosa album “Low and Behold, High and Beyond” and check out Sola Rosa live this summer on the festival circuit.
Andrew Spraggon's live rig.
LIVE Gear List
Ableton Live Software running on a Macbook Pro
Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 Firewire Audio/midi Interface
M-Audio Axiom 49MKII MIDI Controller Keyboard
Evolution UC33 MIDI Controller
Muse Receptor 2+ Software Instrument Module running KOMPLETE 8 plugins