Jeff Montalvo, known as Seven Lions, recently released a new EP titled Worlds Apart and has been on tour for the album but he took some time to hop onto Reddit for an AMA.
He answered questions about the origin of the name Seven Lions, favorite speakers, production, his influences (Opeth and Above & Beyond), the business side of this industry and the family atmosphere of the OWSLA label.
To view the entire AMA click here.
QUESTION: Hey Jeff thanks a lot for doing this AMA, was there a certain point where you felt your music’s production level, individuality, and overall catchiness began to rise above that of your peers’, and that it led to your current success? Sorry that this question kinda requires a conceited answer.
Huge fan of all of your work, I will be at your next show in the DC area
ANSWER: I don’t think many artists think that the music they create is better than their peers. Once someone things their art is the best out there (music or otherwise) they will stop growing and pushing themselves. I still wish I could make my songs fatter and cleaner and have more emotional impact, I don’t think that will ever go away.
QUESTION: BURNING QUESTION: What is the trick to getting a full, good, professional, legit-sounding track? Is it all in the mix or is there some kind of mastering technique?
Oh, and additive or subtractive synthesis?
ANSWER: Its for sure not the mastering. Although mythbusters have proven you can polish a turd, it’s not true in the audio world. It’s all about the mix, there are lots of ways to get it sounding good. High and low passing pretty much everything can really help clean up the mix. Using all different kinds of synthesis especially when layering can really help fill out your sound. Don’t just stick to one synth!
QUESTION: How did you link up with Viper Recordings, seeing that I’ve hardly seen stateside artists that have releases on UK labels. Any plans for some drum n bass in the future? Also, the second buildup on Keep It Close is one of the biggest teases I’ve heard in dance music in recent memory, kind of camo n krooked like. Wish you would have extended it just a bit!
ANSWER: I sent Brendan a demo after hearing some of the dubstep they were putting out. It was a long shot but after I won that remix competition of You Gotta Go it really helped out. I don’t think I would do straight up DnB but I have been working on something at that tempo 😉
As far as Keep it Close, that was the point! As the last song on the EP I wanted it to build into oblivion.
QUESTION: Do you ever play She Was live? Saw your thrice already and I’m wondering if I’m just being extremely unlucky! Keep up your good work, your latest EP is out of this world!
ANSWER: I did once and it really didn’t go over well AT ALL. haha. It’s a bit too funky for a bigger room to get down to. If it was a smaller day time party I would totally play that track. I’ve noticed even break beats are a bit too funky for the average club/festival crowd. Gotta bring back the funk.
QUESTION: Thanks for coming to NYC last Summer. I had my birthday celebration at Webster Hall with a bunch of friends.
- What direction do you see yourself taking your career in the coming years?
- Do you see yourself making music as a life long career?
- What’s your favorite snack?
See you Monday at Governor’s Island!
ANSWER: Webster Hall was NUTS… That show was the hottest sweatiest shows I’ve ever played. So much fun!
- That’s always a tough question. Musically I will be doing a lot more vocal tracks. I’ve always been into vocal songs and not I have the resources to work with really great vocalists so that will be the direction.
- Maybe not as a career, hopefully I will go back to doing it as a hobby again one day. Music for me is therapeutic and really something I’ve done all my life. I can’t wait til the day I can lock myself in my studio for a year and just get back to what I love.
- Almonds and Beef Jerky 🙂
QUESTION: If you weren’t a sick ass producer and dj, what would you be doing? Other dream jobs?
ANSWER: I’d love to do sound design for video games or movies. If it was non sound related I think I would open a BBQ restaurant 🙂
QUESTION: I remember reading in an interview of yours that you are a big fan of metal, especially Opeth. That made me really happy, because I’m a huge fan of them as well.
So, two questions:
1) What’s your favorite Opeth track?
2) How does your appreciation of metal influence your music writing process, if at all? Do you deliberately incorporate anything indicative of metal styles into your own style or are you trying to do something completely different?
- Such a hard question… Demon of the Fall, Moonlapse Vertigo, Still Day Beneath the Sun. Top 3 will hafta do 😛
- The Running to the Sea remix had some really overt metal influences. She was also does with the drumming esp. I always think about it when working on broken beats but sometimes it isn’t so obvious.
QUESTION: How old were you when you started producing?
ANSWER: I started messing around with FL studio when I was 17 or 18. Didnt REALLY get into it until 20ish and that was 7 years ago.
QUESTION: Please man, how do you get those pads to be so full and beautiful?
ANSWER: Layers! Try using more than one synth too 🙂
QUESTION: If you could be ANY Game of Thrones character, who would you be? I’m torn between The Hound and Jon Snow
ANSWER: Hmm… Probably Jon Snow, but that vow of celibacy… Dang, so many babes in Westeros.
QUESTION: Just wanted to start off by saying I can’t wait to see you tomorrow night in Austin, TX! I’m so excited…
- I’ve noticed that you are a big fan of Above & Beyond (Honestly you and A&B are my top favorite artists 😀 ), but I was wondering what other trance artists you like to listen to?
- What synthesizer do you like to use for your super saws specifically, or does it vary? *3. How do you make you drums, eq wise, layering, etc. Do you make you own samples?
- What was it like working with Myon & Shane 54?
- And can you pleaseeeeee play She Was at Republic Live? 😀
Thanks a lot, and keep up the awesome tunes. See ya on friday! -John
- A&B are my favorites as well. I got into the music listening to the old Tiesto In Search of Sunrise mixes. I also like Ferry Corsten and Gareth Emery quite a bit. Super8 & Tab as well.
- Sylenth is usually the “root” supersaw but I layer a shit load of stuff. I do make my own drum one shots (kick/snare) often I get criticized for using the same snare too often but I don’t really care because why fix something that isn’t broken. There’s only a few other people who have my snare because of colabs M&S54 is one of em 🙂
- Mario is a great dude. He taught me a shit load of stuff about 4 on the floor music. Especially about making and tuning kick drums.
- I would love to but I really don’t play that track out do to the “too funky for a crowd of ravers” factor. I’ve don’t it a few times and then all the sudden it starts looking like a high school dance.
QUESTION: I just want you to know I almost cried when I found out your show in Boston was 21+ I’m only 5 months away… I literally tried every possible solution to try to get into that show
ANSWER: Sorry about that :/ It’s never my call. If I could make ALL my shows 18+ with no bottle service I would be fucking stoked.
QUESTION: When you came to London last November with Krewella, completely unannounced, that was pretty much the coolest most awesome surprise I’ve ever had in my 10 years of going to gigs. (You fucking stole that show by the way, apologies for the lame London crowd)
I wanted to come find you and chat about folk metal and Mikael Akerfeldt and shit but the bouncer wouldn’t let me outside with a full pint 🙁 so i guess my question is:
How does being a full on metal head affect you as such an active member of the dance community? do people take the piss out of your style or taste in music? Who would win in a circle-headbang battle between you and Jahan?
ANSWER: Dude! That show! If you thought that was cool I really can’t wait to come back and do another one. I was feeling pretty off that night but I tried to not let it show. We had just been in India and I was sick as a dog from the Malaria medication we had to take.
I think there are a lot of metal heads in the dance community, producers included, I just really let it influence my music and my shows while other don’t as much. Between me and Jahan? I think we would turn the stage into a vortex of hair and sweat demolishing the venue and plunging the world into 666 of darkness, so we were careful not to do that on tour.
QUESTION: Whats it like being on OWSLA and getting to work with Skrillex?
ANSWER: Pretty rad. They are really about the family vibe. Its more a group of friends than anything. They are also really open to being experimental and down to help their artists get across their vision, even if it is against the grain. Serpent of Old is a really good example of that.
QUESTION: Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to producing music?
ANSWER: I’d say Opeth are my biggest inspirations musically as far as song writing and composition. Above and Beyond are really influential as far as the sounds I like to use and the textures.
I’ve seen you live twice now, once back at Red Rocks Global Dance last year (I couldn’t believe that you were on the mini-stage, you were the reason I went!), and again at club Beta in Denver last month! You signed my friend’s flag that night at Beta and that was pretty much the most amazing thing that has happened to our concert group, she screamed so loud when you grabbed it out of the pile of people rushing the stage to get stuff signed. We seriously worship your music. Thank you for the good times.
What are you currently working on that you are the most excited about?
What track of your own that is your personal favorite/are you the most proud of?
When are you going to do a Red Rocks show on the main stage?!
Either way hope to see you back in Colorado ASAP!!!
ANSWER: Red Rocks!!! That was such a fun night! It was the sundown set so being up on the high stage was fine with me. My parents came out from FL to see that show so it was a good night in general.
I’ve got quite a few new songs (instrumentals) near completion and just working on getting the write vocals. This is one of the most exciting parts for me because I love working with vocalists.
I’d say Tyven is probably the song I am most proud of. Also Keep It Close.
I would LOVE to play Red Rocks again. Hopefully this year sometime 🙂
QUESTION: How was it to work with Ellie Goulding on Dont Leave? I love that song
ANSWER: It was awesome, super low stress. She hit me up on Twitter a while back and asked of I wanted to remix one of her songs. I said yes but I think it would be cooler to do an original and surprisingly enough she said yes!
QUESTION: What speakers do you have?
ANSWER: Dynaudio BM5a MKii’s. I LOVE THEM.
QUESTION: 3 things for you Seven Lions.
- Thank you for introducing me to Latro in the Mist.
- Who does your mastering?
- I understand that Birds of Prey took you under their wing (pun intended) to show you the techniques and tricks they use for producing tracks. Would you ever consider passing on the knowledge to an up and coming producer? Not necessarily me
- It’s a damn good book isn’t it? The imagery is beautiful.
- It changes depending on if it’s an EP or a single. Latley its been this guy Huntley. He did the Days to Come and Worlds Apart EP
- Basically what they taught me is working in audio and clipping your reverb and delay tails is really important, plus you get all the freedom to really manipulate the audio in cool ways. That was the biggest thing I took away from them. ALWAYS bounce your audio. The second thing is really really pay attention to where you are focusing the listener’s attention to. If you have too much going on at once its impossible to grasp, be bold in your mixing, if you want people to notice something then make it louder!
QUESTION: Did you ever regret doing anything in the music business? Signed with the wrong record label? Release something bad? etc.
ANSWER: Ohhhhh man.
Yes, it has happened. Fortunately I work with really good people so we got it all cleared up relatively fast. One thing that I wont go into great detail about is the fact that the Worlds Apart EP was delayed by a month, nobody really knows that but think about when we announced the tour and when the EP finally came out. haha. It’s definitely interesting working on a professional level when all I really wanted to do was be a hobbiest.
At the end of the day I am grateful to be doing this professionally but I don’t really want to be a business man, never did. I am also learning that if I don’t pay attention to the business side of it, it’s really easy to get fucked. Trying to find the balance.
QUESTION: Do you have any tips for general production?
Perhaps in how to come up with original ideas and not lose interest in projects.
And any techniques that aren’t used enough but work really well?
- Generally I would say make sure you are mixing in a proper environment. Just a small amount of treatment in your room could go a long way. Invest in some monitors (don’t need to be top of the line) and get familiar with them.
There are so many techniques for mixing. One I feel I should use more is parallel compression. I always remember too late :p
QUESTION: How do you approach sound design?
I’ll break up the question a little more to make things easier:
- How do you make your supersaws so full? (I assume this is partially sound design but also partially which notes you play and how you structure chords, so any tips on either would be great)
- How do you make the glitchy fills that you use during the drops in tracks like Fevers and such?
- How do you approach making atmospheres? I really love your intros and builds for how atmospheric they are while still using glitchy elements to keep them interesting – what sort of techniques do you have for adding those glitchy effects while keeping the smooth feel to the track?
- Any tips you have for mixing it all together!! How do you combine all those different sounds in a way such that nothing sounds jarring or out of place?
ANSWER: Thanks! Fevers isn’t usually a track that gets a lot of attention. Stoked you like it!
- It’s all about layering. Make a supersaw sound, play the chord you want, bounce it out and then change the synth, throw it on top of what you’ve already bounced and start going through sounds on the new synth until you are like. holy tits, that sounds awesome. Bounce that synth out and then do it all over again! Sometimes going an octive can help fill it out too. It’s just about making it sound wide and fat and glued together.
- The glitches are just lots and lots of editing/snipping. I will have sound design sessions where I make lots of cool beeps and boops and then I chop them in once I get to the glitch out phase. It’s all about being meticulous.
- If I am making something glitchy that still has melody involved then I will usually make a synth with a ton of delay or cool fx and then riff over the section I am working on. Bounce out that riff and then bring it back in, reverse it/chop it/pitch it up and octive, all kinds of ways to make things sound cool but the key is to bounce it to audio first so you really have control over the manipulation.
- I say TAKE BREAKS. come back to it with fresh ears. that’s when you will notice if things aren’t right. I take short breaks all the time and then listen back, sometimes I will even take notes during the first listen after a break.
QUESTION: For how much time have you been producing music? Did you have any music/production related classes? Keep up your godly work. Everything you produce is a masterpiece, literally. Much love!
ANSWER: I’ve been producing music on and off since highschool. I used to make trance and progressive under the name Jeff Montalvo and that’s when I really started getting into production. I went to a Sound Arts college called Ex’pression. It was less about production and more about recording/mixing.
QUESTION: A few questions:
- What track of yours are you most proud of?
- What kinds if risks have you taken in your music, and did they pay off?
- What kind of music do you listen to for inspiration in your own, if anything?
Thanks again, keep up the awesome work!
- Keep It close and Tyven
- I’d say doing Keep It Close in 3/4 timing was a bit of a risk because I feel like its pretty unique and sometimes unique doesn’t go over well!
- I listen to a lot of metal, tons of acoustic stuff, also some industrial (depending on the mood) Right now I am listening to Trace Bundy.
QUESTION: Why the name Seven Lions?
ANSWER: From a book called Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe, apparently. There’s a character named Seven Lions and Jeff probably thought “well, this is a fucking cool name, I’m going to use it”
QUESTION: Au5, Fractal and yourself are my favourite producers. How do you see Au5 and Fractal? Do you sometimes get inspiration from their work? Will you do a collab with one of them ( or both!) one day?
ANSWER: I love the remix they did for Days to Come! They are good producers for sure. I have realized pretty recently that I am not a very good collaborator. I am too much of a control freak. At this point I think most my future colabs will be with vocalists and not producers.
QUESTION: What is your favorite remix you’ve done and why is it All Alone?
ANSWER: Haha. I see what you did there!
Running to the Sea. Susanne has an AMAZING voice on that track. Also the vibe and the mood really came across well. It was fun adding in the metal break down elements. Felt like I got to show my roots!
QUESTION: I’d like to ask you a few production questions:
- Your mixes are incredibly clean, do you have any mixing or mastering tips to get a track sounding clean yet full?
- What advice do you have on EQing supersaws or EQing in general?
- What are some of your favorite plugins?
- I think the mixing really has to do with repetition and getting to know your speakers. It’s really important to take notice of your listening environment.
- I use a ton of layers and when I am going through supersaws I really pay attention to how they fill the stereo field and how they sit with each other (phase wise). Always low pass and high pass.
- Sylenth1, Massive, Omnisphere, Nexus and then my new fav is Spire.
QUESTION: I just am curious, because you and I are very similar musically: Will we ever see Seven Lions Live or you utilizing more instrumentation during shows in the future?
Also thanks for introducing me to Skingraft!
ANSWER: Congrats on Moolight! Epic track man. I’m not sure if I will be doing anything live unless I can make it sound really really good. I’ve heard too many EDM acts try and add live instruments over mixed and mastered tracks and it just sounds way too out of place. Maybe one of these days tho.
AND the one question you were probably hoping would be asked and answered and it was….
QUESTION: What kind of shampoo/conditioner do you use on that lovely mane of yours?
ANSWER: Oh man… Whatever the hotel provides. Haha. I wish it weren’t so but its true.