David Hancock, or David H as he is known to the Producertech community is a PT Member with an interesting story to tell. After telling us how much our livestreams have helped through a difficult time recently, we reached out and asked him to tell his story.
Hi David, tell us about your journey as a budding producer, how long have you been making music and what got you into it?
I have been making noise for 44 years. Music chose me! I learnt to play the drums as a child and was in a band during my teens.
It was the late 80’s, early 90’s that really did it for me. Heavily influenced by the new sound of ‘House’ music coming out of Chicago / Detroit and the British ‘Acid-House’ / underground ‘Hardcore Rave’ parties that totally changed my life…
I purchased a Yamaha DX7, an Alesis sequencer, a Roland MT32 sound generator and taught myself MIDI. Making dance music was totally liberating. No more band arguments about direction or not being available for band practice.
By the end of the 90’s EVERYONE wanted to be or was a DJ !! For me, the scene had become over-super-fashionable and clichéd. So, I decided to add live percussion to my DJ sets and thus I became ‘The Bongoman’. For the next 15 years, I accompanied some of the most famous DJs around the planet playing at clubs, parties and festivals.
By 2010…. And, at long last, laptop computers were now fast enough to process multiple mathematical calculations. The ability to carry huge amounts of data stored securely was no longer a dream, it was a reality… For me, it was revolutionary… I sold all my vinyl, all my hardware and outboard studio gear and totally immersed myself into computer software music.
When did you become a Producertech Member and why?
Having experienced music creation using real instruments and enjoying a recording studio with a proper ‘hands-on’ mixer, sequencer, drum machine, outboard effects and MIDI keyboard, I needed to understand where all these things were inside a DAW.
Since I didn’t know anyone locally who was into computer music, I had to look further afield. I did some online research and found Producertech. I didn’t want to attend any physical lessons or pay a huge price. I wanted to learn at my own pace, preferably in small chunks and at a time that was convenient to my lifestyle.
It was in 2015 that I became aware of Producertech. I loved the style Rob teaches in. He is very articulate, patient and describes the actions that are needed to follow in order to learn. I became a member as soon as they launched the subscription!
Needless to say, I purchased both Logic and Ableton courses. For me, it was the ease of using online learning materials that helped the most and understanding the cross-over from hardware to plugins and software instruments.
You told us the livestreams were invaluable to you, can you explain what made them so important?
Yes! - Livestreams totally changed the ‘lockdown’ experience.
They were so important because I felt connected to the instructor. I could ask questions that were answered there and then. I was introduced to new people, buddy producers, literally from all over the world. All of us shared the same interests and wanted to share our learning experience. The community spirit was excellent.
Livestreams were so important because no longer was I isolated. We were all connected, learning, enjoying, understanding and sharing… I loved getting involved.
You’ve won 2 of our remix competitions, both well deserved despite quite challenging circumstances...
In summer 2019 I had torn my elbow tendon and required surgery which was unfortunately postponed because of the global pandemic. I spent all 2020 totally off my head on painkillers!
As with so many of us, I noticed that my life had been restricted to staying indoors. I was suffering both physically and mentally. For me, the livestreams became a saviour. I told no one of how I really felt, however, every livestream was like therapy.
My surgery was in November 2020 and my arm was in a cast for 12 weeks.
Also during 2020 my doctor advised I got a hearing test. Unfortunately I had permanent bi-lateral hearing loss in the 4k to 7k frequency. So any high end is lost and it is extremely challenging to hear the mix correctly.
Even worse, I now have permanent Tinnitus. Imagine trying to mix when all you can hear is this constant high pitch tone! I soon learned to take breaks and not have my headphones on for too long or too loud. This condition is for the rest of my natural life and it will only get worse. In my left ear I now have Bass Tinnitus. This is very depressing and it sounds like a Techno rumble. Fortunately it comes and goes. However, there will be a time when it is permanent.
In December, Rob announced the end of year remix competition. I was totally inspired by the livestream and in my head I could hear a remix in the style of drum and bass. It was really difficult writing with one arm. Just getting my Mac out, putting the headphone jack in was tiresome. I ditched the MIDI keyboard and learned how to play using ‘SCALER 2’. So, along with Khords, Loopcloud, Loopcloud drum, Loopcloud play and a wealth of knowledge on Producertech I was now able to make music on my laptop at home, in my bed on headphones with one finger!
To win the end of year remix competition was amazing. I felt truly humbled and honoured. My journey learning computer music had been worthwhile. I still felt that I had a lot to learn. Without complacency and with a renewed lease of energy, I watched almost 35 Producertech courses. Sometimes just taking snippets out of the wealth of knowledge available.
The Ruckspin remix was awesome. The original livestream opened my eyes into how the vocal track was made and then when Rob launched the competition I thought, ‘I’m gonna go for it’!
No one knew that unfortunately my body had a dependence on Opium and as I came off the painkillers I found myself in A&E with horrendous withdrawal issues.
Whilst trying to make a full recovery, I tore my calf muscle and spent eight weeks on crutches and in a ‘Beckham-Boot’. Mentally, I was depressed and worn out. The Ruckspin remix competition gave me focus and a chance to write in a different style of dance music. I remember sitting on my bed with my leg raised thinking ‘here we go again’. To be honest, I tried very hard to put my personal issues aside and purely focus on the remix.
I didn’t think I would win. For me it really was about the taking part and more the consistency of continuously writing / experimenting.
When Ruckspin commented that my sound was ‘Big’ and ‘Professional’ I thought how wonderful his comments were and my investment into all the new Plugins had been worthwhile.
I was genuinely surprised to win and very happy too. Rob’s comments reinforced my continued desire to learn more and never give up, regardless of all the challenges I was facing. Since winning both remix competitions, I realise how lucky I am to be a part of a wonderful community and how much music has a positive influence in my life.
How has your condition affected your ability to make music? Has it? What is it like making music with hearing aids?
My hearing condition has made listening more enjoyable. I appreciate that one day I might be completely deaf, this inspires me to write music daily. I know one day it will all be gone and I’ll never hear music again so it's now or never.
It is possible that, if I keep writing, I might actually produce a hit song that will give enjoyment to others way after my death. My hearing loss has made me realise that nothing is permanent. I am very grateful for this opportunity, to write, play, perform, record, release.
Wearing hearing aids when making music is weird. I feel slightly bionic. My hearing aids are Bluetooth and I connect my Mac and iPhone directly. When I make music I have to be careful about the mix-down, unfortunately, I have a tendency to boost the top end...
My advice is to look after your ears. They are the best tool you will ever have. In a club / festival, wear ear plugs. When recording you should take breaks and reduce the volume of your headphones.
How has Producertech helped you with your production process in general?
In every production process Producertech is my Bible. I can log in and watch a module that directly relates to the track I’m working on. There is so much knowledge on writing, engineering, sound design, vocal recording. So many different styles and genres are covered, many great producers offer fantastic advice.
I wish I was thirty years younger. The opportunity kids have today is outstanding. Everything is possible. There are so many different avenues to explore. Producertech took me from a total beginner and turned me into a Pro. I had no idea how to make computer music, use a DAW, or what a plug-in was… Now I know where everything in my DAW is, what it does and how to get the best out of all my software.
Most importantly, Producertech courses allowed me to follow along at my pace with course notes and downloadable modules all streamed directly into my comfortable space.
What are you looking forward to seeing from PT and what would you like to see?
The Producertech Community is the next logical step. Keeping in contact with everyone, learning, advising and receiving advice from fellow budding producers in the community is key in this business.
I’d like to see a new DJ course showing Traktor or Ableton being used in a club set up. Maybe where the DJ has exported his / her own track or remix out of Logic / Ableton and the way they import the track back into their digital DJ setup. How they prepare their set. How they play, what controllers they use. A proper ‘over the shoulder’ tutorial.
I’ve recently joined Beatport Link and watched Rob use the Beatport DJ App.
I’d like to see Producertech make ear plugs for all of us who visit night clubs and live events.
Thanks David! We might not be able to create our own line of earplugs but we would encourage budding producers to protect their ears as much as possible!
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