Producer of the Week: Not Mani

The title of our very first Producer of the Week has fallen upon Maninder Singh, aka Not Mani, an Australian melodic and progressive house producer with the drive and efficiency of any electronic music producer twice his age. Mani, a 21-year-old producer who has been based in Sydney for the last year, has made huge leaps in electronic music since dipping his toes in production in his late teens, releasing nearly a dozen beautifully melodic tracks and—most notably—featured at the beginning of Eric Prydz’ 2013 Essential Mix.

Mani has shown an unparalleled quality and consistency in his tracks. After making big waves very early in his career, there’s nowhere to go but up. Keep an eye out for this kid. He’s going places.

If you could sit across from sixteen-year-old Maninder right now, with all the current knowledge of music you have, what advice would you give your younger self?

Less is more. I remember when I was starting to get my head around producing I was trying to make the most crazy synth with copious amounts of effects and layers. This was time consuming and sounded bad because I lacked ear training. I learned over the past few years, whether it’s changes in my taste of music or expansion of musical knowledge, that you can’t actually force yourself to write great music without sounding too cocky; the process should come naturally. I say this because in those initial years I was spending six-hour sessions every day just trying to get something down, I was overdoing things and not really thinking about how my audience is actually going to perceive this music that I was writing. Ultimately I probably spent two years just writing nonsense music instead of forward-thinking behind the tracks I was writing. Now I spend less time producing and have been way more productive than ever.

Tell us about yourself. What makes you stand out?

I would say I’m solitary. I’ve lived like an only child most my life even though I have two sisters. They’re much older than me and they moved out of home when I was about 10. I grew up learning and developing myself from a fascinating environment from a young age—I lived on a farm with my parents in a remote area so there wasn’t much to do or many people nearby. I spent most of my childhood kicking a ball against a wall or playing video games on my SEGA, just being a kid I suppose. I recently moved to Sydney about eight months ago and am juggling a few things after finishing university and turning 21.

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Why did you start DJing and producing?

My family and I were in Canada when I was 11. My cousin used to DJ in some nightclubs and other low-key events around the Van City area. At this age I was listening to R&B and rock guys like Justin Timberlake through Limp Bizkit, mostly stuff that was showing on Rage (a program on television a bit like MTV but for the Australian audience). I remember sitting in my cousin’s car and listening to Ministry Of Sound The Annual, producers like Mylo, Axwell, and Junior Jack. That whole 2000s disco house sound was all over TV and radio as well in Australia at the time. For me that trip got me excited about house music and the energy that it brought with it, you couldn’t really compare it to what I was listening to. It was really ecstatic. So I began my interest in mixing through this cassette player we had in the living room and started to tape over my sisters old cassette tapes. I was purely just listening to music I wanted to hear and doing my own thing at the time. Four years went by and I decided that I wanted to buy some CD players because I was just diving deeper into following artists, events, and the feeling that I just got out of it all. I began doing work on my fathers farm and eventually saved for a Pioneer CDJ-400 and a mixer. This is really when it began for me so I started to look into producing. A couple of friends and I would also DJ at our high school house parties regularly and each time it would excite me a bit more because they got bigger and wilder so that was pretty key in developing myself. I eventually surrounded myself, I would go to school come back and just play around for about 6 hours every night trying to write the perfect groove or go track hunting.

What software did you start out on?

I started on Reason 4.0 and then went on to Fruity Loops. I was rewiring the two which worked well for me, using one as a virtual mixing console and the other as the actual generator. For the past two years I have been using Ableton and have recently just bought Reason 8. I am currently using a similar scheme—it’s working pretty well for me and I feel my production quality has been good.

If you were a new producer today, with no music knowledge or following, outline your schedule and tools you would use in your first year to have the biggest impact on the music industry.

I would firstly start off by writing good music; the hours you spend here are probably the most crucial part of your outcome. There are no shortcuts to good music. Secondly, I would surround myself around people who understand my music—community is the only thing that truly backs you up. Make yourself fit in where you can because there are so many different music families around the world. Thirdly, let the people come to you. I have always thought this and it’s not necessarily the best option in terms of promotion in this day and age, but for me it returns to the point about community. If people want to listen to your music they will put in the time and effort to listen and find you, I know that because when I started out I was taking the time to listen to other artists and follow them whether they had 100,000 followers or 500 followers. Good music is always going to be good music.

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Take us through your creative process. Do you have any rituals?

At the moment I’m spending about sixteen hours a week on production only. I break this up with a binge session on the weekend and two-hour sessions on the weekdays. The weekend session I use more so to create and experiment my ideas and during the weekdays I tend to analyze and critique what I wrote the past weekend. My process usually starts off with a certain theme in my head, a simple kick, hi-hat and a snare beat, focusing on a texture I have in mind. After this I move on to creating a rhythm I like and then begin to add melody and feeling to the track. There really isn’t a rule for me; I always switch it around. If I find a certain sound I like I will base the track around that. Ultimately I’m trying to imagine my tracks on a club sound system and the reaction they will have on the listeners. That’s whats driving me as of late. A key necessity for me is my water bottle, the phone on silent and a clear head. It’s a place where I like to relax and unwind.

What’s your favorite sample pack? Do you synthesize your own sounds?

I have been using the Deeperfect’s sample packs as of late. They’re brilliant. Everything sounds really clear and great in general. Yes, I do synthesize my own sounds. I never really use patches at all—if I do they are tweaked to sound how I want them to or I usually end up using them differently. I’ve found that when I’m synthesizing and layering I’m just tweaking parameters or levels until I find something that fits well with the track, apart from that it has to be a good idea. It has to be something that is interesting to the listeners.

Do you need to be in the studio to produce?

This is an odd one for me, but yes!, I have always had a desktop studio setup. Its been several years now, so naturally I look to the desktop studio to produce. I haven’t really produced as such on a laptop so I can’t really say with a definitive answer, but if I’m going to go into the studio I want to get straight to business. Currently I have two studios: my main studio is back at my family home (it’s a little bit more hi-fi with acoustic panels and some gear but still a reasonably simple setup) and in Sydney, where I have an iMac plugged into some KRK Rokits and a Arturia Keyboard.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

Guy JAdam Beyer, Eric PrydzLaurent GarnierMaceo PlexNic FancuilliHot Since 82, and Dixon. All of these producers hit the spot for me production and DJing-wise in the past couple of years, yet there are so many more that can be mentioned that have been inspirational over the years. What is special about these guys is that for me they have been pioneering for quite some time now and have provided me with so much good music over the years, essentially shaping who I am as an artist.

What have been your top three musical accomplishments?

Being featured in Eric Prydz’ Essential Mix in February 2013. At this point in time I had very little material and was just starting to get noticed around my local scene. When I found out that Eric had played my track in his essential mix I was overwhelmed because I had been following him for five years (and with no real establishment as an artist you can imagine that meant a lot to me). It really did get my writing confidence up, as well as flaunting my tracks (because I was shy up until that point of showing my work to peers).

Getting support from Groove Armada, Brodanse, and Cassian for my Sweat Remix. This was a Beatport remix competition I entered—I finished this track in one sitting. Danse Club Records were not going to release this initially but because they liked it so much they added another runner-up position. This release showed me that I don’t have to put in endless amounts of hours into a track but rather create an idea that works for me and move on.

Playing my first festival set at Splendour In The Grass. I had a early daytime set and a well-known promoting company, Sunday Safari, took over the Redbull tent for a day. I had never played on such a big system so I was incredibly excited—a lot of my friends were there and it was just an enticing experience.

What genres define you?

I see myself in a mixture of melodic and progressive tech house. But I still listen and write everything from progressive through techno. I have a mixture of my tracks on Soundcloud that are not necessarily one genre, but a representation of what I write overall.

What are your favorite plugins to use?

Thor, Ping-Pong Echo, and RV-7 Digital Reverb. The sounds can be endless with these, especially in Reason. Now I know them inside out, so it’s really convenient to go back to them and find the sound I need. I tend to use Echo a lot in my work and often create rhythm using just it by itself.

Do you have any advice on promoting music?

Create an image of your music through the various platforms we have. It definitely shows a lot of charisma and how seriously you take things. In this day and age it doesn’t require much to get noticed either; as long as you’re making good music and you have the right crowd, you can start to build and develop your audience. A lot of producers have been stumbled upon by various managers and artists themselves. With so many platforms to feed off of, you would be surprised as to when someone may be in contact shortly after you create some waves (even in your local scene). You have to remember that you do need to build the bridge—not everything is going to come overnight.

What producers have impressed you the most in the last year?

Mark Henning, Jeremy Olander as Dhillon, and Ashworth. They are writing some crazy tracks that are just great musically, and the emotion behind the tracks is impressive. These three have been pretty ear-opening for me so far. Every track that I have heard has been brilliant. I suppose they are almost like a driving factor for me as a producer. Better yet, it’s something that I look forward to as a musician: the consistency of bringing quality music to everyone every time.

What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played?

Probably a club set I did in my hometown that was a bit spontaneous. Late last year a good friend texted me early in the night and asked if I wanted to go back to back with him at The Northern (Byron Bay). It was just a really fun set and great atmosphere all around—it was getting close to the summer season around Byron Bay so there was a bit of momentum in the air. The venue usually caters for a lot of rock bands, but the crowd has been developing towards electronic music as of late with house-based events like Club Raiders, Sunday Safari, and Essential Intentions. It’s bound to have a appreciative crowd.

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