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Mind-blowing electronica created with Cubase and HALion

DE DE MOUSE attracts many fans both in Japan and overseas thanks to his unique sound, fusing his signature melodies based on ethnic music and finely programmed beats. His third full album, A journey to freedom, has been a great success, and now it can be said that DE DE MOUSE is one of the most important artists leading the Japanese electronic music scene.

The main production tool for DE DE MOUSE is Steinberg’s DAW software, a combination of Cubase and HALion. From composing to programming, recording, and even mixing, DE DE MOUSE does all the work by himself using Cubase. We asked him about his production system and workflow.

How did you first get exposed to Steinberg products?
It was not until recently that I switched to the computer world. Before that, I had been making music with a combination of an all-in-one synthesizer and a sampler. Five or six years ago, I realized the limitations and decided to purchase a computer. For DAW software, I chose Cubase right away because a friend of mine already used it
— as well as electronic pioneers Kraftwerk.

What do you like most about Cubase?
I really like the easy-to-understand project window and the Key Editor. So, even a guy who was only familiar with the internal sequencer of an all-in-one-synth can easily work with Cubase. I also like the possibility to customize things freely. For example, I heavily custom
ize key commands to make my work as easy as possible. Cubase can even save the settings and preferences for use on other computers.

What are your favorite Cubase features?
As for features, I am interested in VariAudio. I used to
connect Melodyne via ReWire, but now pitch correction can be done within Cubase. I hardly correct pitch for my songs, but it could be useful for remixing.

Could you give us a short overview on your setup?
Right now, I use two computers: a MacBook for productions and a MacBook Pro for live performances. T
he Cubase versions as well as the installed plug-ins are exactly the same on both systems. As for the audio interface, I use the RME Fireface 400 for live performances. At home, I use MacBook’s internal sound output. Of course, I sometimes connect the Fireface 400 to check the final sound. But I want to make my system simple. My home is my living space too, so I don’t want to keep unnecessary stuff, including external sound devices or even a MIDI keyboard. In most cases, I enter MIDI data using the pencil tool in the Key Editor. So, all of my work is completed with a laptop.

Leading the Japanese electronic music scene: DE DE MOUSE

DE DE MOUSE - journey to freedom video

I don’t like the robot voice or chipmunk-like sounding vocals that are in fashion today. I prefer natural-sounding vocals.

How do your ideas for a composition come to you?
When I make a song, I usually build chord progressions first and then add melodies. I have always worked mainly with MIDI. I enter MIDI data into a MIDI track and play it back via a software instrument like HALion. From rhythm to melody, HALion is a critical part of my work. I have used other software samplers, but I like HALion because I can use it like a hardware sampler. The sample mapping is also easy
I really like it!

I mainly use HALion to play back libraries that I sample by myself. The sources are various: from sampling CDs to an old PCM synthesizer. I like old-time sampling CDs more than the latest ones. However, as for libraries, I only use a limited number of sounds. Even if I had a great number of libraries, I wouldn’t use all of them because it would make my work more complicated. I only keep my favorite libraries at hand. This is the same for plug-ins.

Please tell us more about the production of your song my favorite swing.
For
my favorite swing I structured chords first and then added melody lines using HALion. I cut the voice samples from ethnic music and assigned them to keys on the keyboard. It’s often misunderstood that the melody of my favorite swing is processed with a vocoder. But actually, I never used that effect. I made it sound the way it does by cutting the samples into pieces and rearranging them. I don’t like the robot voice or chipmunk-like sounding vocals that are in fashion today. I prefer natural-sounding vocals.

Do you have some production tips and tricks?
I always have many blueprints that include samples, BPM, sub melodies, etc. These blueprints are waiting for their turn in my head. I hardly sit in front of the computer with a blank head. I’d like to tell everyone that it’s better to have a clear vision first before starting to make a song. In this way, you cannot only speed up your work, but also create great music.

In the last few years, I obtained the skill to realize the image in my head as it is. I think I am free from the pressures or forces against making music. In the past, I was always fighting with the pressure to make great sounding music, or thoughts like, “what if I can’t make great music”. But maybe it was good that I stopped caring too much when I was producing the second album, sunset girls. If everybody thinks that electronic music with ethnic samples is DE DE MOUSE, why not follow that? Then I felt relaxed, and then I was able to make great songs.

For more information, please visit DE DE MOUSE's official website.

A journey to freedom, the critically acclaimed album by DE DE MOUSE – now available on iTunes.