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Artist stories

Artist Feature: Michael Oakley

Posted May 22, 2020, 11 a.m.

Scottish retrowave artist and producer Michael Oakley is back with his brand new single "Queen of Hearts". A track co-written with Ollie Wride that carries Oakley's trademark retro elements, but with an esprit that carries some elemenets of his sound at least three decades into the future. Oakley's music is described as "melancholic postcards from the heart wrapped up in synthesisers and drum machines" and we couldn't agree more.

We spoke to Michael about how he approached writing and producing his new single in Reason.

Tell us a bit what has changed in your process of writing and producing your new album. How did you approach writing new material?

Whenever I finish an album I like to take time away from writing to reshuffle all my workflow. I’ll go through my sample collection to delete things I’ve used before or have no intention of using on the new project. I also like to change up my synthesizer and plugin choices to help add new character to my music and deliberately avoid using things that I used heavily on the previous album. This takes months of my time to do but it massively helps me in shaping the new sound I’m looking for.

"Corona has really influenced me lately"

Your new single “Queen of Hearts” has a bit of a more modern take, production-wise, than your previous material. How did you approach this song?

Yes absolutely! My previous two albums California and Introspect have a retro 80s feel. With Queen Of Hearts I’ve been pushing into a more modern take on my retro sound. I wanted big punchy drums and an overall high energy feel. I’ve been listening to a lot of early 90s EuroDance music like Haddaway and Corona as well as more modern progressive trance music which has really influenced me lately.

"I’m a big chorus fan so Quartet Chorus Ensemble is just beautiful"

Favorite things about Reason 11?

Without a doubt being able to use the Reason Rack as a VST plugin has been a game changer for me. This has allowed me to go back into collaboration projects created in other DAWs and use my favourite Reason devices. I’m a big chorus fan so Quartet Chorus Ensemble is just beautiful.

Most used Reason devices in the Rack?

Thor is still the king of synthesizers in Reason and I’m always discovering new ways of using it. Scream 4 is my most used effect for tape compression and overdrive. I also love to use it just for the EQ section because it has a nice way of giving more presence to sounds. Layers has also become a favourite sound source for retro flavoured sounds.

Keep listening to new music every day for ideas and inspiration that you can apply to your own music

Any tips you would like to give producers just starting out?

Enjoy yourself and make the music you love. Then if other people like it too it’s a bonus, but don’t try to please others above yourself. That includes labels and managers. If six out of ten people think you’re great but four hate you, don’t dwell on the four that hate you. Desensitize yourself from criticism, especially if it’s non-constructive. Keep listening to new music every day for ideas and inspiration that you can apply to your own music.

Follow Michael Oakley on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube.