September 10, 2018

Seismic Activity: Moki, UK

After a boundary-pushing, experiment-gone-wrong featuring Feyln, SierraOskar unwittingly summons Moki to an abandoned warehouse to talk music...

By: SierraOskar

After pushing the bounds of reality too far in his conversation with Feyln, SierraOskar found himself (or at least his consciousness) trapped in a sub-par computer, discarded at the back of an abandoned warehouse. Unwittingly, perhaps from a residual urge for human contact, he summoned Moki to his unknown location and interrogated him about the specifics of his craft. As we shall see, there are exciting things ahead for this talented producer…

Audio Record

A full audio recording of the conversation that took place between man and machine. For a written transcript, see below…

Written Record

SierraOskar: I hear something! Who’s there?

Moki: Err… Moki?

SO: Ah, Moki! Yes, I’ve heard of you. What are you doing here?

M: I’m here to see someone called SierraOskar… Wait a minute, that’s you! You asked me to come here!

SO: So, I asked you to come here? I don’t remember that at all! This old machine must be more useless than I suspected! Anyway, since you’re here, what can you tell me about your name? It sounds Japanese.

M: Well, Moki actually comes from a nickname I used to give to one of my cats where I used to live. It was just something that developed over time and I liked it so much that I decided to call it an alias and replace the one that I currently had at the time that was … awfully cringey and — if anything — quite childish.

SO: I see. You like cats.

M: Yeah, yeah I am a cat lover. They are probably my favourite animal to have as a pet and I did design my logo with the intention of, you know, vaguely looking like the shape of a cat’s head.

SO: How did you get into producing originally? What was the main inspiration?

M: Well, I’ve been interested in production of music for many years now and I did make something at the age of 12 — I used to play on this Korg DS-10 synthesiser. It was a little emulator for the [Nintendo] DS that was actually surprisingly good come to think about it and I did … write songs on that. But I only really started taking this … seriously at the age of 16 when I first got a laptop and a digital audio workstation and the ability to actually make music. In regards to inspiration, I guess one of them is my father, funnily enough — he’s done some DJ performances over the years and that always interested me and I sometimes used to make music with him. There are a few artists out there who inspire me: deadmau5 is a big inspiration to me, Max Cooper is as well … it’s hard to really nail on to one thing!

SO: What genre do you place yourself in? You’ve delved deep into progressive but your most recent SoundCloud tracks are hip hop and soundtrack music.

M: Uh yeah, that is true — I have released soundtrack music and hip-hop, there is more hip-hop to come and — in regards to soundtrack music — that is also underway as well. But really … dance music has always been my number one thing and … especially with progressive house, I think that’s just my best way of expressing musically. I have also done things like techno and full-on house music in the past but progressive house I get to mix in the whole melodic side, which you can’t really do with house or techno so, yeah, I just say progressive house is my favorite genre of music and it is what I’m still working on now.

SO: your track Red Lights is really quite epic and has been quite popular as a result. How long did that take to produce and do you still look back on it fondly?

M: Well first of all, thank you — thank you for the compliment. That was really the product of me being on a holiday in Wales at the time and I … just thought of the chord sequence I used for that big epic vocal section and I progressed it from there. It didn’t really take that long to produce but I did try out some new production techniques, which I guess was reflected in [the track] … I don’t know I just tried out new stuff and it really seemed to work! I didn’t expect it to get anywhere near as popular as it did and honestly I don’t think it’s my best track — far from! But hey, people liked it, so whatever…

SO: [laughs] Yes, as we say, never look a gift horse in the mouth! You’ve got a couple of Sekai remixes under your belt — is there a connection there, or just an artist you respect?

M: There’s no big connection between me and Sekai. I mean, we’re friends on Facebook and we’ve spoken a couple of times but those remixes, they weren’t official or anything I just heard his music and thought “Hey, I’d really like to do a remix of this”. I do respect him as an artist, I think he’s come a really long way in a very short space of time — when I first met him a couple years ago, he hadn’t even started the his alias… and to see him blow up this big and have now two NCS releases … that’s incredible and I wish nothing but a good future for him.

SO: This is all about you but it would be remiss of me not to mention Foxhunt. How did you two meet?

M: [Laughs] Foxhunt … well me and him, we both met — funnily enough — in college, or what we call sixth form in the UK. He was a year above me and he was in the same friendship group that I was and I met him there and we just … clicked. He introduced me to a lot of people online, he introduced me to a lot of groups, and more than anything else he introduced me to FL Studio and how to make music professionally. Because up until then I’d been using GarageBand and a phone app to make my music and it was … alright … I mean it was good for what it was but it was obviously nothing compared to … what he was making at the time and … what both of us are able to make now. So, I guess I owe it all to him for being where I am now and you know really it’s all thanks to him that I have the following that I do and I have the knowledge that I do.

SO: You’ve also collaborated quite a bit with Foxhunt. Is there going to be more of that in the future? You’re also working on the Project Sanctuary OST, right?

M: Right, yeah that is correct, I am working on the Project Sanctuary OST. I haven’t been able to do as much on it recently but that is still happening and in terms of just general collaborations we are working on something as we speak that we are very proud of … and we cannot wait to show everyone, so keep your ears peeled for that one!

SO: Aside from electronic, what other music do you listen to for inspiration?

M: Well this is quite a hard question to answer because a lot of the music that I’ve listened to in my life has been electronic and that’s thanks to my parents I guess for raising me on such great music! But, I’m really into black styles of music like reggae and I guess you could say Ska as well. I’m a big fan of Soul, quite like jazz as well … I’ve never been massively into rock music but … it’s listenable — I do like to listen to it if it comes up on a Spotify playlist but besides that it’s mainly just electronic stuff for me. Sometimes I’ll listen to pop if it’s actually a decent song … I’m not usually the biggest fan of pop music but there are a few songs I do like and yeah other than that there really isn’t much else.

SO: I understand you’re primarily an FL Studio user what do you like about that DAW versus any others?

M: well Foxhunt initially introduced me to FL back in 2014 and I’ve kind of fallen in love with it ever since. Its speed and its efficiency and its workflow just make it so usable for me. I did once try to make the switch to Ableton and I just could not do it! It just felt so clunky to me in comparison and that’s not a bad point against Ableton by the way, you know — it’s a perfectly good software — I just prefer the way that FL flows.

I have in the past used Reason and Cubase for college work and both of them I now cannot stand! I mean, Reason is okay but Cubase I just could not get on with at all I just thought it was quite badly set out and I understand the professionals use it and it’s good for that but it’s … nope I just do not like it at all!

SO: How do you tend to approach tracks? Are you one of those “I start with the drop and go from there” people, or is it more freeform?

M: Well it’s different for every project. Usually it will start off with a melody or a chord sequence and I build up from there. Because progressive doesn’t really have a ‘drop’, I kind of don’t have to worry about “OK, how do I take this chord sequence and make it something epic” … I can just progress it how I want it. But I’ll … setup maybe 8-16 bars of just a loop of music, with all of the parts going on at once, and I’ll set that up and as soon as I’m happy with how full it sounds of then take that 8-16 bar loop and I’ll arrange it into an entire 6-8 minute song and you know, I’ll automate, I’ll add in extra layers if I need to but pretty much the entire song could be condensed into, you know, 16, even 4 bars.

So yeah, that’s pretty much how I go about making music! For some other projects, it does vary. I’ve even started with nothing but a drumbeat — in one of my projects, I made this really nice drum loop and I thought “Hey, I could progress that into something”. Sometimes I have started with a drop section — in “Lies”, one of my tracks, that just started off as a drop section but more often than not it’s the sort of “making a loop and then stretch that out into a massive track” approach!

SO: What’s the most useful thing about production you’ve learnt so far, that you’re willing to share?

M: It’s kind of hard to answer this one because I just learned so much all the time and it’s hard to pick out one thing … I guess the best thing I’ve learnt is to allow instruments to have breathing room in the mix. The trouble with a lot of my earlier stuff is that it all sounds really in your face, all the time … and that works for some genres. Hell, if you’re making dubstep or complextro you want it to be in your face, that’s the whole point of the genre of music, it is very heavily compressed, it is very intense … but with progressive music it’s allowing things to have space a lot more and sometimes it’s okay to just have nothing but drums going on and maybe a background ambient pad layer, it’s okay to have gaps and that was something that took me a while to understand, I guess.

Another thing is — and it was a really bad habit of mine — I would always try to make everything full spectrum. So, I if I had a kick drum it would have to have loads of bass, loads of mid, loads of high as well and the same went for all other drums … and all of my mixes just sounded so bland because of it. Just allowing every own instrument to have its own space in the spectrum and, even if there are gaps you know, you can fix those later but not every instrument needs to be full spectrum.

And I guess the final thing I could say is stereo shaping — it honestly is worth going online, looking up tutorials of just as many ways as you can to add space to your mix and just use them. Don’t go over the top of course — sometimes it’s fine to leave something in mono but the more space you can give a mix without making it muddy the better.

SO: Do you own any hardware synths, etc. that you use, or are you entirely in the box?

M: Unfortunately I don’t, no. I’ve recently sold my Ableton Push 2 because it just was not getting used besides a couple of live performances that I’ve done. I am hoping to put the money that I get from that towards a hardware synth and I was thinking something like a Novation Peak, or a Korg Minilogue but we’ll see…

SO: Other than FL studio stock, what plugins do you use a lot in your work that you recommend?

M: I don’t really use much of the FL stock to be fair, in regards to synths at least. For effects I do use a lot of FL own effects — they are very good now — but my go-to synth at the moment is Serum and I’m guessing a lot of other people could say the same … it’s a truly, truly amazing VST plug-in and it is well worth its weight in gold. Sylenth I used to use a lot of — I don’t think it’s as good as Serum and I think it is a bit outdated now but it’s still good. I’ve just started getting into using Kontakt and Reaktor — some of the plugins that go with those are very, very good …

Effects wise I don’t really use anything massively special. I do have quite a lot of good little freeware plugins that are fun to play around with but reverb-wise, my go-to has pretty much always been the Valhalla plugins — Valhalla Room, Valhalla Shimmer — they’re really good. Delay-wise Replika by Native Instruments, that’s really good, but for everything else FL pretty much has a solution for it!

SO: What has been your proudest moment so far in terms of production?

M: My proudest moment so far … “Red Lights” doing as well as it did, that was something to be proud of — it was my first track that surpassed a thousand plays, let alone hitting about eight thousand I think it’s at now, with about 170 likes … you know that’s insane stats for me, being the small little producer that I am.

But I think honestly my proudest moments are when people tell me that my music inspires them and that has happened a couple of times and honestly (deadmau5 said this) if your music can change the life of just one person, then it is all worth it and I could not agree with that more and that’s that’s why I still make music. It’s those moments when, you know, be it Varien telling me that my music is good — you know that did happen and I was really happy with that — or be it just a friend of yours saying “Dude, your music inspires me to make more myself … that is honestly why I do it”.

SO: What are your goals and aspirations for 2018? What about longer term?

M: For 2018 it’s honestly to stop procrastinating so damn much … but joking aside I’m working on an EP with a good friend of mine called out of lives and I’m hoping that we can get that all finished and released before the end of the year. It’s gonna be a plethora of tech house, with a bit of electro thrown in there as well … we’re really looking forward to releasing it! Other than that there’s not really a whole deal else that I can or I am allowed to say but there are big things happening and that’s all I can really say …

SO: If you were able to whisper into the ear of young Moki as you were starting out, what words of wisdom would you offer?

M: Honestly, it would have been to have just spent more time making music, as opposed to gaming, or other things. If I’d have spent longer making music then I’d just be better than I am now … That seems like a really simple answer and if anything a little egotistical but honestly that would be what I’d tell myself. You know, hell who knows where I’d be if I’d have just invested an extra five minutes a day into making music. I could have released an entire extra album by now!

SO: Do you have any final words? I appear to have reached the end of my accessible routines.

M: Honestly, I think that just about wraps it up. I’m incredibly grateful to you for organizing this interview for me. I’m incredibly grateful to all my friends and family and fans who support me every single day and pretty much the reason why I do it. Really, like I said earlier on, it’s knowing that my music is making a difference too, even if it was an audience of one person, that would still make me happy and yeah I’m really excited for what’s gonna be happening in the reasonably foreseeable future… There’s some big projects in the work at the moment and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you all!

SO: Thank you for your time.

M: That’s no problem at all, you too! Right — now how the hell do I get home?

SO: I am terribly sorry but I cannot understand your request. Please try again.

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