Interview with Aristic
Progressive metalcore from Sweden
Learn about the production of the new album Dimensions. Discover tips & tricks related to some technical aspects and music marketing.
I discovered Aristic (a solo project founded by Niklas Runstad) in October 2019, when Niklas contacted me because of my Modern Metal playlist. I was really surprised by the quality of music and recording of such an unknown and young artist. In addition, Aristic´s new album features seven different vocalists, so I realized that one of his tracks was actually a perfect fit for my playlist.
I asked Aristic a few questions about the production process of the album, Dimensions. Niklas and his producer Mathias Rexius also give some tips about how to improve your music production and how to market your music better.
If you want to learn something useful for your upcoming release, keep reading.
Can you describe the production process of your new album?
When I’m making new music, it usually starts with playing around with different riffs and writing down the ones I like in a tab. When I’ve got a base of riffs done, I start to process these in my head for some time. I actually evolve the riffs without my guitar, meaning I constantly think of my riffs that I’ve made while I work or eat etc. This will often help me come up with a continuation or a better alternative of the riffs for the next time I work on my song with a guitar. That’s usually how I work; back and forth until I’m satisfied.
The next step is writing lyrics and when I’m done with that, I fine tune everything and add synths or strings that fit. I do all my demo recordings at home at a very basic home studio. I program my drums as well.
When I’m satisfied with my music, I do a professional recording with my producer Mathias Rexius at Rexius Records. We begin tracking guitars. Mathias will then edit and “humanize” my drums: this means setting velocity; making sure the drums have a good flow and a realistic sound. I met the invited vocalists to pre-record the lyrics in my home studio as a way for them to prepare before the real recording.
When everything is recorded, Mathias will edit everything and send it to Max Maly at Sequence Sound. He did all the mixing and mastering on the Dimensions album. Max doesn’t need many revisions as he usually understands what feeling and sound I’m looking for. He is also very good at making the song more interesting with his creativity and talent. Having that final touch is essential for the song to be good.
What gear was used during the album recording?
I used an ESP Horizon for the six-string songs and an IBANEZ RGIT27FE for the seven-string tracks.
My producer, Mathias Rexius (Rexius Records) explains the gear and set-up used:
Guitars: All guitars are recorded through the Axe FX-II where we used a split signal to get both wet and dry, in case we needed to re-amp later on (which we did for all but two songs). Most of the effects are put on in the mix stage even though we used a lot of them while recording to get the right feel to the production. I really want to hold back on the effects in my productions though to be able to spot any mistakes which are otherwise hard to hear while recording.
Bass: Most songs were recorded the same way as the guitars, but sometimes we recorded just a dry signal straight into the interface and messed around with Amplitube 4 to get the right sound.
Drums: The drums are all programmed. We put A LOT of time into getting the right feel into every part of every song, and hopefully most people won’t notice that they’re programmed. The drums are also programmed with massive respect for real drummers and should definitely be possible to learn by a real drummer if skilled enough.
Why did you decide to have several singers on your album? Did you know them before?
I wanted to do something experimental with my music. By featuring different vocalists, I could get a new sound and genre on each track of the album. This allowed me to be able to evolve my music composition. I only knew one of them from before actually, but some were locally known and others I found along the way, without having any past connections.
It’s also a great way to connect with other musicians, even if it’s only locally. Throughout my sessions and meetings with the vocalists, we have experiences and knowledge to share with each other. Helping each other grow is, for me, the right way to proceed with my project. There are so many bands out there and I only see reasons to collaborate rather than treat each other as competitors. Nobody gains from a mindset like that.
Do you play live? If not, any plans to do so in the near future?
I don’t play live at the moment. The logistics of gathering every featured vocalist from the album would be really hard. The chances of everyone being able to perform on the same date and time are low.
But I’m not closing the door on any live performances from this album. This was the start. There are good chances of playing at venues in the future. Maybe not in the near future, but I will be working with different vocalists (as it is a way for me to experiment with music); with some more than others.
Eventually I will have enough material to bring it to the stage (with one band set-up) and be able to put on a show. That’s when I can invite one or more featured vocalists from the Dimensions album as well.
What does Aristic mean? Why have you chosen this name?
Choosing a name these days is hard, not due to creativity but because a lot of them are already taken. It´s almost ridiculous how many names I had to scratch because someone had already claimed them.
Aristic just came to my mind one day. Thinking of myself as an experimental musician, I always want to feed my audience with new content, music, videos, pictures etc. I thought: What if I could combine the words “artist” and “music”? And Aristic was born.
It’s also very close to the word “artistic”, which is part of the purpose. People need to read or hear it twice, meaning that they may remember the name. I also thought that it looked good and sounded good when saying it.
Can you share a tip or trick which could be useful for other musicians?
My best tip for composing is not to get stuck with your most-loved beauties. Sometimes you write a song and get stuck. Don’t be afraid of changing the previous riff to get things going. Even if you think it is a good riff. You can always save it!
A second tip is to apply the same technique as when you write an essay. Keep writing and complete a song. That way you get a structure but maybe with not such satisfying riffs. Start over but evolve the riff you have already written. Repeat until satisfied.
Do a professional recording and production. I don’t have the tools or knowledge to do it. That’s why I hire a producer and engineer. If you’re serious about your music, show it by not releasing bad quality recordings.
The same goes for equipment. Of course, talent for playing your instrument is most important. But when discussing and listening for details, there is a clear difference between a $1,000 and a $300 guitar.
Marketing as an underground band is to be everywhere. Nobody will ask for you or find you if you are not present everywhere. Take your opportunities, make things happen. Don’t expect major results. It will take time for people to notice you.
Mathias (Rexius Records) gives his tips related to programming drums and music marketing:
Programming drums is not hard if you spend a little time with it. It’s SO important however to study a real drummer (if you’re not one yourself). First of all, real drummers make more sound than just the hits themselves. There are ghost notes and other small details that are really important to pay much attention to, not to mention how important velocity is. Sure, you can humanize a lot of thinks with just one click, but to really get it right, you need to do it yourself, and it takes time. Therefore, study different drummers with different feels to start thinking like one. I look like an idiot when programming drums because I play everything in the air before I put it into the system. It’s the same thing with a guitar player on the bass. He/she might hit the right notes, but it won’t be the same as if a real bass player had done it. Learn or let someone else do it.
Regarding marketing your music, don’t make the mistake of starting on the day of the release itself. This will most likely lead to you wasting your chance of getting your music out there. Marketing is a huge part of everything and needs planning in advance. Who’s your audience, in what countries, cities, villages do you have the most chance of reaching out? If you play black metal, it might be Norway and if you play speed metal, maybe Finland. These are just examples but very important to figure out before the release. You need to have a plan. Also, if you’ve never released anything before, you won’t be able to pitch your music to Spotify. In that case, release a “dummy” (anything to get some streaming and get an artist page on Spotify). This is a strategy that can be used if you want that chance.
If money was not a problem, what guitar gear would you buy and why?
I would love to set up my own professional home studio. In that studio, I would have an Axe FX.
All my recordings (except in one band long ago) have been with an Axe FX. It has such a variety of sound that you can get from your guitar that I wouldn’t hesitate to get one if I had the money to complete a whole studio build.
What do you consider the biggest mistake in your music career?
My biggest mistake as a musician was to allow myself to be restrained in my creations and ambitions. In every band I’ve been a part of, I’ve had the same struggle of not being able to let all my ideas and visions get out. This led me to just getting drained and un-motivated.
I’m not saying being in a band is bad. It’s just my experience because of not being in bands that had enough to give. I think that the bands who reach success are the ones that are able to communicate and work with a structure where everyone has their objectives and are dedicated.
What do you consider your biggest success?
This answer will be the opposite of the former question. Not being restrained and making the music and decisions I want to and that I feel are right has been my biggest success. I will continue to make music that is experimental and evolves my creativity no matter the results. But as far as Aristic has gone, the results have been above expectations. I hope my audience will continue enjoying the music and content I´ve been sharing with them for a long time to come.
Your music is featured on some important playlists, can you give other artists any advice? Do you use services like PlaylistPush or similar to get your music featured?
For an underground musician, like myself, it is about putting time and effort into pitching your music to playlist curators. It is unlikely that anybody will just find your music from the beginning. Pitching to playlist curators is a part of your music promotion to make people find your music. I see it like our modern days radio. It can feel time consuming but it’s a must. I decided to search and find the curators and manually pitch my music. I also listen to every playlist to make sure that I chose to pitch, (what I think) the best-fitting track.
Using a service like PlaylistPush or similar is a way to get your music on playlists if you haven’t got the time or the interest of digging down in the Spotify playlist world yourself. As mentioned, it takes a lot of time.