Whether he’s working on dubstep projects or strumming away on his guitar, NY born and bred Mark Evans is a full-fledged audiophile through and through. Audio quality and musical integrity are the foundation of Mark the Beast’s exemplary work, raising the bar for bass music producers across the globe. With releases on Subhuman and Uplink Audio and the success of his single on Circus late last year, Mark the Beast follows up with his debut full-length EP, Your Love Is Like Fire, out February 23 on Circus Records.
From track conception to the mastering process, Bassrush caught up with Mark the engineer, to learn more about his studio and production habits from go-to multi-band compressors to favored limiters.
How did your sound first get noticed?
I started working with Dieselboy and he introduced me to Downlink, who gave me a lot of help with my first slew of projects I did; not only signing them to his label but production tips as well. He really helped me out a lot in the beginning.
Did you have any “Ah ha!” moments on this latest project for Circus?
I think in any track you’re making there’s a eureka moment where something just clicks and everything sort of falls into place. When I was writing “Rip Me Up” I had one of those moments for sure. I made all the synths in Operator and I was messing with feeding Operator into Redux and hit a wrong key and this super wonky kind of distorted sound came out and I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ That’s where that super weird noisy sound between all the chords came from.
Once you’ve started a session do you have a particular workflow mapped out?
Honestly it’s usually just chaos. [Laughs] I just throw a bunch of ideas at the wall until something sticks. I usually start with opening a synth and messing around and making random patches, loading up some drums, making patterns, really just playing until I stumble upon something I like. Once I have a solid idea, I write the song around it, write a top line, get a vocalist, mix it, probably scrap the drop three or four times, and eventually finish it! [Laughs]
What’s the most challenging part of the production process for you?
Definitely the initial finding out what the idea for the song is. I am really picky about writing music and I like to genuinely be inspired by the idea I’m working on and have it be original and not just a rip-off of every other dubstep drop you’ve heard 100,000 times over again [coughs] because where’s the fun in that? I don’t get it!
Make shit that you like, that’s most important.
How do you typically come up with melodies or chord progressions?
I just sit down at a keyboard or guitar and play around! Usually I’ll find a riff I’m jamming on and then start humming a vocal melody or something, and feel some lyrics that fit well with it and just kind of write a song, you know. That’s definitely the root of my process. I was a songwriter before any of this.
Where is your studio? What does it look like?
My studio is in Bushwick, Brooklyn! It consists of so much fun stuff; I have a bunch of guitars, my favorites being my sunburst American Strat—always a classic—and my 1980 Gibson Explorer E2. I have some outboard preamps that I really like called AWTAC preamps. I do all of my vocal and guitar tracking through them. I run that into a XPRESSOR 500 series compressor and then into some Apogee converters and back into my UAD unit. I use the Dangerous Music D-BOX for summing and monitor control.
For monitors, I’m using Neumann KH310s and NS10s, which I absolutely love. I do a lot of mixing in headphones, too. I have Audeze LCD-3s that honestly I don’t think I could live without. They’ve made mixing—especially sub bass—so nice. I have some modular gear that I use from time to time for synths, but that’s pretty much it! I have a bunch of little random instruments here and there around the studio but the majority of what I do is in the box, really. I would say my monitors and headphones are the most important thing to me.
What are your go-to plugins and synths?
SoundToys plugins! I love everything SoundToys does, as well as FabFilter. I could not live without the Pro-MB. Honestly, everything FabFilter does is incredible. PSP Vintage Warmer 2 is something I always find on my drums at some point. The new Pro L 2 is pretty wild as far as limiters go—really been enjoying that one. For synths I love Operator. I pretty much just use your usual suspects: Operator, Massive and Serum. I always find myself falling back on Operator, though. I love how clean it is and how powerful it really is; it’s a tiny little synth but you can do a lot with it.
Is Ableton is your DAW of choice?
It’s just great for writing! I use Pro Tools a lot for tracking and mixing sometimes. Pro Tools is definitely a superior DAW as far as sound quality goes, but as far as songwriting goes? Ableton for the win!
What type of audio interface are you using at the moment?
I have a UAD Apollo 8 duo. I love UAD plugins.
I was a songwriter before any of this.
Do you have any pointers when it comes to the dreaded task of mixing and mastering?
Oh, the fun stuff. Pay attention to your bass and mid! You always gotta make sure you’re cutting enough to let the low end breathe. I also try to make sure my highs aren’t too shrill. That’s something that really bothers me with electronic music mixdowns. It’s like this giant boost at 16 kilohertz that’s not only piercing to your ears but makes me want to go Pro-MB that shit! For mastering I use a series of compressors and limiters. I guess another piece of advice is don’t do a lot with one thing. I usually do different stages of compression and limiting, only doing a decibel or two of gain reduction on each thing and boosting the volume just a little bit.
What piece of advice would you give to newbie producers still honing their craft?
Just keep working and don’t try to be like everyone else, unless you want to sound like everyone else. [Laughs] Have fun with it! Make shit that you like, that’s most important.
Whose productions do you love right now?
As far as producers, I love Dntel. He’s such a cool unique producer as far as dubstep goes.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
Water, coffee and Doritos.
Tell us about your new music video for the unplugged version of “In Love with The Devil”?
My friend Ryan Bojanovic directed the video. We shot it at a speakeasy in Lower Manhattan. It’s something special so check it.