Name: Harry Romero
Occupation: DJ, producer
Nationality: American
Current release: Harry Romero's remix of Fatboy Slim's "Everybody needs a 303" out on Skint.
Equipment recommendations: Definitely Roland Cloud and Izotope. Roland for sounds and the latter for sound.

If you enjoyed this interview with Harry Romero and would like to stay up to date with his music, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.

What was your first studio like?

My first studio it was basically some cheap Alesis monitors and an Ensoniq 16+ Sampler. I was using an eight channel mixing board that I borrowed from a friend. It was very rudimentary but I was able to be creative and that’s what was important.

How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

Obviously technology has played a major role in the evolution of my studio. I’m not one of those guys that has to have the latest and greatest but I do follow technology when I can see it’s going to enhance my workflow. Meaning I’m going to be able to work faster and in a more efficient way. And it also helped that I started making money and was able to buy better equipment.

I was able to upgrade my samplers to Akai samplers that had a lot more sample time. Everything in those days was very heavy sample-based so it was important that the sampler I was using had a lot of ram. I was also able to upgrade my mixer to a Mackie 32 channel mixer. The sound quality I was getting from that mixer was way better than the mixer I was previously using.

Some of the more important pieces of gear that I’m using now aren’t that much different to that I was using about 15 years ago. I’m still using my Genelec 1031A speakers. And I really love my tube tech PE1C equalizers. Those EQ’s are tremendous on my kick drums and my high hats.

The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?

The options are endless in the digital world in which we now make music in.

For me it’s not so much about experimenting it’s more about getting the sound that I’m hearing in my head for the project. Once I find that compressor that I know will work on my baselines I tend to use the same compressor over all my baselines. The same goes for vocal treatment.

Plug-ins have opened up a door for me that was previously closed in the sense that some of these plug-ins really bring that professional sound that I always wanted in my recordings and Mixdowns. So I really try not to get caught up in the digital loop. It’s really more about achieving the sound that you want and as a little clicks as possible. I really strive to work very efficiently.

A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?

Maybe because I’m old-school but for me a studio is not a laptop and headphones. That is not a studio. For me a studio has to be a space that sounds professional and has a vibe. It also has to have the necessary tools to create.

I tend to like studios that are not so sterile. I don’t mind seeing wires here and there. Sterile studios from my experience lack soul and personality. Ultimately we always want to be in a situation where we feel inspired and for me that’s a room that sounds good and has that vibe.

From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?

I recently upgraded to the Apollo X8. The quality of the conversion is top notch and I know I’m getting the best possible sound that I can achieve. That being said I really do like a hybrid set up. By that I mean combining the use of virtual synths and actual hard synths.

My go to bundles are definitely the Roland cloud and the Arturia bundle. I find that those two bundles have everything that I need for my soundscape. And my go to for hardware is my collection of vintage Roland synths, Minimoog Voyager and my studio electronics rackmount modules like my Omega 8, ATC-X and my SE-1. Those things are beasts!

I find that having something to put your hands on really changes the creative process. Sometimes we stumble upon things that we cannot stumble upon if we’re 100% inside the computer. There is something to be said about those happy accidents.

How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?

Technology is really a way to get your creative ideas to become real. I view everything in my studio as a tool to either chip away at that marble or paint that painting. The technology of today really gets you from point A to point B in a much faster and more efficient way. What took us four hours 20 years ago you could quite possibly do today in 15 minutes. To me that is amazing.

For example, I did a track on Damian Lazarus's label Crosstown Rebels titled "RWP" that if it wasn’t for today’s technology that record would’ve never come about. I took a violin solo from a jazz artist and created those notes to MIDI. Once I had the MIDI I began looking for different patches in some Arturia synths and that’s how the melodies were created.

[Read our Damian Lazarus interview]

Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.

I am one of those producers that really like to stock pile grooves and ideas. I work on a lot of remixes and a lot of original productions so when a project comes across my desk I go to my archives and find something that will work for that particular project.

I tend to work every day. Sometimes for a few hours sometimes for just a couple hours and I always find myself creating different ideas in grooves to save for future projects.

Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?

Lately I’ve been using this piece of gear by Pioneer called the squid. It helps you create random melodies which naturally I would not be able to create. It really inspires me in the studio.

Whatever way I can stay inspired, whether it be a piece of gear or whether it be something I heard, is always welcomed.

Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?

The majority of what I do is always based on an idea. I come from a visual art background and part of the training was always you never sit in front of a blank canvas without an idea. I’ve brought that same concept into my music  production.

Having said that if there is a piece of equipment or a plug-in that’s going to inspire a track then by all means I am all for it. I take inspiration from wherever I can get it.

Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?

I’m actually one of those remaining idiots that does it all. I program my own drums. I play most of my keyboards. I do all of my mixing and mastering. Sometimes I wish I could delegate some of this but I love doing it and I am somewhat of a control freak.

Every sound in my productions are mine and all the mistakes are mine. That’s also why I like to do collaborations from time to time with artists I respect. For one thing it takes some of the pressure off of me and I also get to learn other ways of doing things.

At the end of the day I am still a student.

How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?

Digital audio has definitely been a technology that has profoundly changed the way I make music. The fact that we have a literally unlimited amount of recording time we can use was night and day to the early days of tape and very short sample times.

Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

I think that technology will always inspire creatives. It’s what the artist does with the technology that’s going to separate them from the rest of the pack and give them there identity.

Although there’s been a huge advancement in technology it’s the artist that creates the final piece and that’s how it should be.

To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

Not in my music for now.

What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?

Cloud based services that we as a community can add to would be great. I’m sure it’s out there. It that’s something I’d look into. i.e., you use 2 loops that weren’t yours and you add 2 loops that are yours to the pot.