EQ: I hear you decided to go the home studio route.
Dennis Ferrer: Commercial studio time is really expensive [in NY], so you have to make do with what you’ve got. We asked our landlord if we could rent the garage, and he said, “Give me a $150 a month, and do whatever you want.”
DF: Next thing you know there’s shipments of panels, 2x4s, and wool fibre flying in. We did the whole thing properly: Built a room within a room, floated the floors, installed double doors — all for a 500 sq ft. studio in a garage. The next time the landlord came over he nearly fell flat on his face!
EQ: With what kind of gear did you outfit the studio?
DF: When I used to work at a music store, I had a lot of gear — every keyboard you could conceivably want. But this time, because of the space, I went mostly digital — working with software and plug-ins, but with really good “front end” equipment.
EQ: Like what?
DF: For mics: a Soundelux E47, Neumann U67, and a Shure SM7B.I love that mic [SM7B]; it sounds great on male vocals. I used it on Underground Is My Home because Tyrone Ellis has a real raspy voice. . . .
EQ: And it smoothed everything out? In this genre, a big, warm vocal is key.
DF: Every time we put that mic up, it sounds better than everything else. Anyhow, I went completely digital using a [Apogee] Rosetta 800 at the front end teamed with a Big Ben. Inside, I have every plug-in I could possibly need. I mainly use the UAD-1 for my EQs. The 1176LN and the LA-2A emulations are amazing as well. They are dead on. The only thing that I want right now is something I know won’t be emulated, or at least emulated for some time: the [Roland] Juno-106. So I kept that.
EQ: There were no problems going “into the box” other than not having a 106 soft synth?
DF: Not for 3–4 years, when my CPU becomes worthless [laughs]. What happens when it doesn’t all work with the 25th version of Windows?
EQ: So you’re writing primarily in that studio then?
DF: Yeah, but when I’m on the road I’ll take the battery-powered [Akai] MPC 500. Everybody laughed at that little thing and said it wasn’t for pros, but when I’m on the plane all I need is six AA batteries, and I’m banging away on the next record.
EQ: Would you say your work as a DJ directly influences how you operate in the studio?
DF: If you had asked me that question five years ago, I would have said “no.” But they really work together. When you go into a club you watch people’s reaction to records, you work out pretty quickly what’s going to work, and what isn’t. You develop that and then, in the studio, it works like a sixth sense. I think you have to DJ out in order to get a sense of what’s really going on. Otherwise you get too caught up in yourself.