From his early days as a Grammy-winning remix artist to his latest breakthroughs in all-original music, André Anjos (RAC) continues to make waves in popular music with catchy lyrics and an ever-developing sonic palette. Take a listen beyond household hits like ‘Let Go’ and ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ from the 2014 album, Strangers, and deeper compositions of lush guitar and synth layers, pristine vocals, and ethereal melodies emerge.
Building on the success of Strangers, Anjos has expanded his portfolio of original music with the release of his latest album, EGO, in Summer 2017. Speaking on his inspiration for the project, Anjos explains, “Starting as a remixer, I was able to gain a fan base which is fairly uncommon. I wanted to start doing original content, which began in 2014 with Strangers, and this was a life-changing experience. It did extremely well and exceeded my expectations, which changed my perception of everything. So, EGO started as a self-exploration project focused on finding ‘who you are,’ what I want to say as an artist, and what my key influences are.”
Fresh off the 2017 EGO album tour, we sat down with the Portland-based producer to discuss his workflow, go-to hardware and software, and how his extensive experience in remixing and collaboration has helped develop his sound and skillset.
Like your 2014 album Strangers, EGO features various artists on each track. Are these mostly vocal collaborations or are they involved in the production process as well?
Each track was different, some were purely vocals and others were involved in the production and writing process. For a lot of the sessions, I was in the room with the artist which was a lot different than Strangers. I loved the variety, it’s fun for me as a musician and I learn from everyone.
You’ve been extremely successful with achieving clean pop vocals, which is a key element to both EGO and Strangers. How have these artist collaborations helped you in this regard?
For a bit of background, remixing allowed me to develop relationships with many other artists, so I reached out to people because I wanted to. Collaboration is almost necessary for me though, because I don’t sing. However, I think to any degree, it’s valuable to see how other artists get inspired, approach a session, or even organize things.
One of your tracks on EGO, ‘Unusual’ with MNDR, has a lot of creative movement and textures within the synths and vocals. What are some of your techniques for adding motion and space to a mix?
That [track] has the UAD Galaxy Tape Echo plug-in prominently in it and I am just using it for the reverb tank, actually. I love it, I think it sounds awesome, and it’s mono as well so I just think it’s an extremely creative tool. There’s a bunch of the UAD EMT 140 Plate Reverb on there as well. I use all these and the Lexicon 224 on my return tracks. They all just make things sound more interesting and creative.
You have your own personal studio in Portland, but also operated sessions in LA for EGO as well. How did you maintain a consistent workflow between locations and what gear helps you stay mobile?
Most production was done in Portland, the other studios were used for writing and recording vocals. I’m pretty hardwarebased so my home setup is not too portable. However, I have a well-developed template in Ableton Live, which has everything I need in one place and is always ready to go. I have a portable version of that with a laptop and a Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII QUAD that helps me use everything on the go. Obviously, it’s not the same because I don’t have my hardware but it allows me to bridge the gap to some degree.
You recently produced music for Universal Audio’s Moog Multimode Filter XL plug-in trailer, which had a cool ‘Stranger Things’ vibe to it. Which instruments and software did you use for that piece?
Well it’s a Moog thing, so I had to at least use Moog oscillators. I used a variety though; my Juno 60, I have a big modular system as well, and there’s this thing called a [Synthesis Technology] Cloud Generator that I used for voicing. I also used digital sources like Mellotron and these all had the Moog Multimode Filter on it. My goal was to show the versatility, so I used it for everything from sound design, shape shifting, sequencing, drum filtering, noise filter sweeps, etc.
Speaking of UA, what role do UAD Plug-Ins play in your workflow? Do you find yourself using the analog emulations for sound design?
There are two in particular that are key to my sound—the EP-34 and Galaxy Tape Echo plug-ins, so it’s important for me to maintain these everywhere I go. For my vocal chains, I do a lot of parallel compression with the 1176 Classic Limiter and then high-shelf EQ with the Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ—I love this one a lot. For side processing, I play with the LA2A Limiter/Compressor and really start to crunch sounds; I almost use it destructively. I like to mangle sounds and mix it in slightly or even use that as a slap-back delay. It adds interesting layers and motions by having a system of parallel processing for vocals, main elements, etc., so it comes into play in many phases of the production process.
Can you speak on your work in remixing? How did you imprint your own sound when using other artists’ material?
I try not to think about it. I focus on what feels right for each track and it just happens naturally. After my Lana Del Ray remix, people wanted me to sound “like that” and it was frustrating. In the end, it doesn’t work that way and you have to let the sound develop organically.
I think of remixing as a great learning tool; you get access to full stems and files which provides a great template for how things should be done. At the beginning, I was in Portugal, pre-YouTube, where it was hard to get information and tutorials. I remember one of my first remixes, Bloc Party gave me all the stems, perfectly labeled and everything, and it was a great learning experience for me. Years and years of that has given me a unique and invaluable insight into how pros work in the music business.