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Joe Solo — Going Anything But Solo

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Contrary to his name, Joe Solo is all about partnerships. As head writer and producer for Famous Music, Paramount's music division, Joe works with signed songwriters developing pitch songs for major-label artists including Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, and Eric Clapton, just to name a few.

Joe also develops influential artists such as Macy Gray, works with Rami Jaffe of the Wallflowers, and composes music for film. And Digital Performer is one partner Joe works with on every project.

Joe, can you tell us about your current projects?

I am currently in pre-production with Macy Gray on a song we wrote called Glad You're Here. The song is very much in the vein of I Try and Sweet Baby. I'm also developing a handful of new artists: Italian singer Veronika, Anna Sehlene from Sweden, and L.A. hip-hop artists Javis and Kam Talbert. Occasionally, I do music for motion pictures—Digital Performer is indispensable in this arena!

I'm also wrapping up final mixes on 13 pitch songs for Paramount, and was the casting consultant for a TV show that Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne are making.

Generally speaking, how does Digital Performer factor into your work?

Digital Performer is the central tool for coordinating all of my musical projects. Not only does it interface seamlessly with MOTU hardware—of which I have much—but it also makes a great front end for Digidesign Pro Tools hardware.

I spent some time up front setting up the perfect set of custom commands to let me fly around the program super-fast. Knowing and using Digital Performer's custom commands (Setup menu) is by far the best way to increase productivity.

Can you give us a specific example of how you've used Digital Performer in a recent project.

I just finished a recording called Crazy House, which has a very Outkast vibe. The arrangement is made up of numerous custom sound bites that are woven together into a funky fresh sonic tapestry. Digital Performer's Tracks window makes it really easy to see how all of these building blocks fit together. In the Tracks window, experimenting with different arrangements is a breeze.

Digital Performer's Mute Tool also helps with this process by allowing me to quickly activate and mute different soundbites. Since good producing is about what you don't put in, this tool makes it really fast and easy to figure out what not to include.

What software and hardware (MOTU or otherwise) would you recommend to someone just starting out?

If we had a fire at the studio, and a big check came in from the insurance company, we would get exactly what we have now...

  • Digital Performer running on a dual-processor G5 with 8 gigabytes of RAM
  • MOTU MachFive universal sampler
  • A bank of MOTU 2408mk3 interfaces
  • Two MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV USB MIDI interfaces
  • Yamaha 02R 24/96
  • An Apogee Trak2
  • Gobs of preamps by Neve, API, and Summit Audio
  • All Spectrasonics virtual instruments
  • Reason
  • TC Electronics Finalizer 96
  • Empirical Labs Fatso
  • Lexicons
  • Stomp Boxes galore (especially the Roger Linn AdrenaLinn!)
  • Koass Pad 2
  • Antares Plug-Ins
  • BBE Sonic Maximizers
  • Genelec monitors
  • Boards, axes, amps, drums, mics, chords, and picks
  • And, of course, plenty of Starbucks!

That would depend on your work style, budget, the type of music you do, of course. Regardless of these factors, there are five basics everybody needs:

  • Digital Performer
  • A fast Macintosh with all the RAM it can handle
  • A great preamp like the NEVE 1272
  • Happening mics
  • Monitors you know and trust (I use Genelecs)

What features or qualities do you think make Digital Performer particularly useful to recording or production professionals?

My favorite of many "wow" factors are:

  • The Tracks window for easy visualization of the arrangement—audio and MIDI tracks are in one window.
  • Graphic time stretching gives me instant decay change ability.
  • Custom keyboard shortcuts in the Commands Window give me blazing speed.
  • Digital Performer's very high track counts are great for pop/rock acts where it's all about live instrumentation.
  • The Merge function gives me quick consolidation of tracks, which help keeps thing visually clean, and frees up processor resources in seconds.

Do you recommend Digital Performer to other recording and production professionals?

Absolutely! Several producer buddies of mine have added Digital Performer and the MachFive sampler to their studios.

I recommend MOTU gear to up-and-coming professionals as well. When I was invited to give a speech at the Expressions media school in San Fransisco, I mentioned to an auditorium of 500+ engineering students the equipment and software I use, and made specific mention of Digital Performer.

MOTU products are very stable, and have intuitive user interfaces. This means I can stay in a creative groove without having to troubleshoot or waste brain-space figuring out how to quickly achieve results.