This week on Pedals with the Pros, we had the chance to catch up with Washington, D.C.’s Enamour, DJ and producer. Enamour spoke with us about using FX to remix tracks and improvise while DJing, and how the H9 makes that possible.
When did you first get into DJing, and what kept you hooked?
I first got into DJing around 2009/2010, when EDM was just starting to really bubble up and make its way through colleges. I had always been somewhat of a musical curator – making mixtapes for friends since I was 13 or 14, so DJing was the natural progression of that, combined with a burgeoning interest in clubbing and festivals. I started as an open format DJ and was able to book gigs in my college town and the nearby Washington, D.C. nightlife scene, which helped fuel my interest and kept me engaged.
DJing requires careful attention to the crowd, so every set winds up different. Where does improvisation come into play for you?
Improvisation plays a huge role in my sets. My preparation beforehand is less about the set itself and more about having an organized library that I can quickly filter through to find the right track at any given moment. I’ll sometimes prepare a playlist of anywhere from 50-200 songs that I think would do well given the specific venue, city, or audience; but it’s not in any particular order and I always pull from outside of it during the set. Using my H9 also helps make every set even more special, since it gives me the opportunity to significantly transform each song, and get a lot more mileage from particular sounds that I may keep in the mix for several minutes as I manipulate them.
Between your remixes, live sets, and originals, you have a finely tuned ear. Where did you learn to engineer/produce?
From a production standpoint I’m almost completely self-taught. I did take piano lessons as a child and then guitar in my teens so I have a background in music theory, but my knowledge of Ableton Live and DJing was mostly from experimentation, reading books, and watching videos online. I’ve received guidance on composition and songwriting from other artists in the past, but a lot of my background comes from referencing other music and just generally understanding good song structure.
Could you talk with us about some of your favorite H9 algorithms and presets?
I like using Blackhole and ShimmerVerb for creating musical and angelic reverbs that can uplift breakdowns and transitions. Blackhole is also able to generate what essentially sounds like white noise with adjustable tone via the EQ parameters, and that comes in handy from time to time. Those two algorithms are both heavily used in my production as well – I’ve got the VST versions for ease of use. TremoloVerb is also a DJing favorite for creating cool pan effects that can translate into something really special in a club with a proper sound system.
Going a bit deeper, I think Quadravox and Resonator are useful in creating unique musical additions to isolated sounds in a mix, since you can adjust them to be in key and alter the rhythms. I get a lot of mileage out of UltraTap as well, it can do everything from glitchy stutters to drawn out delays. And then from a production standpoint, I love using Tape Echo and Reverse on my hardware synths.
Aforementioned hardware synths!
Your creative use of FX in the mix keeps even the most minimal tracks on their toes; how do you know when to use one effect versus another in the mix?
It’s a combination of experimenting at home and instinct based on my production experience. Since I know what each effect does in a practical sense, I’ve got a good idea of what source material will respond best to each effect. For example, some presets really don’t work on full mixes, but instead require an isolated sound without any drums, so maybe those are best for breakdowns. Other presets work really well with the brightness of percussion, so they could be better suited for the verses.
Of course the function and purpose of the FX in the mix itself is a key driver – for example, am I trying to enhance a breakdown, make an intro/outro more interesting, create a new melody out of an isolated sound, build tension before a drop?
Why do you use an H9 and not a laptop or a different multi-FX station?
Though I started off DJing with a laptop and Traktor, once I made the switch to CDJs and the simplicity of carrying around a few USBs, I don’t think I’d ever want to go back. I also think I would fall into the trap of staring at my laptop and losing engagement with the crowd.
As for the H9 vs. other multi-FX units – at the end of the day, Eventide is known for their world-class effects while many of these DJ-oriented multi-FX units are made by companies that don’t specialize in effects, but rather DJ equipment; so they don’t sound nearly as good or offer as much control.
I think since the H9 isn’t necessarily designed for DJing, it actually allows for more creative, unique, and tasteful “effecting,” vs. a DJ FX unit that is pretty in-your-face and geared towards big-room EDM or techno. The fact that I can drastically manipulate a very dreamy and or minimal song in a way that sounds musical and natural with my long-form mixing style makes it a no-brainer for me.
I also like the idea that I might be the only person in the world with a specific custom preset applying it to songs in a specific way–it makes my DJ sets that much more special.
Note the H9 Dark Max!
In DJing virtually rather than in person, how has your style changed?
DJing virtually has definitely opened the doors to more creative exploration with the H9. Since there isn’t much of a crowd to react to, the decision-making from song to song requires a little less effort and therefore that time can be spent manipulating the tracks themselves. The audience is also often listening on headphones which makes it possible to hear all of the little details from certain delays, panning effects, harmonizers, etc., and thus encourages more careful and creative processing.
Well I’m really hoping to return to a busy touring schedule ASAP but until then I’ve got a couple releases, including a collaboration with Local Dialect on Gorgon City’s REALM imprint which came out this past Friday, as well as an EP on Kindisch in May. I also recently launched a Patreon page that’s been off to a great start, as well as a production course on IO Music Academy.
*Use code EVENTIDE20 to save 20% on Enamour’s “Inspiration Workflow” production course*
Download Enamour’s Custom H9 Presets here!
Once you have downloaded the presets, unzip them and open H9 Control. Then, follow along with the GIF below to import the presets!
Find Enamour on social!