An interview with LD
Wheel & Deal Records have always impressed with their releases, whether from the early days of the imprint through to what’s come through over the last year or so.
The next EP to drop from N-Type’s label features one of dubstep’s early influencers. An incredibly talented individual who mastered the tunes that became classics at the now-legendary Transition Mastering studios, produced his own dubstep (which released on some huge labels) and even played the early DMZ nights.
Yes, we are of course discussing the one and only LD…
LD. How are you, sir? I’m good, thank you… Excited about sharing my new music.
For our readers unfamiliar with your work, can you take a minute or two to introduce yourself? As you may know, my name is Leon Day and I produce dubstep and DJ under the alias of LD. I have had releases on a few popular labels including Hyperdub, Dubpolice, Domino Rec, VP Records, Sin City, Ringo Rec and now Wheel & Deal. I have also worked for over 10 years as a mastering engineer. Recently, I have been studying and completed a degree in Audio Production (which I received with 1st class honours).
Going back to the early days, you were a mastering engineer at Transition right? Yeah I was at Transition for over 10 years — to begin I was a runner, but then did an apprenticeship and worked all the way to a vinyl mastering engineer. Whilst working at Transition I heard lots of different styles of music, and was encapsulated by the dubstep sound.
If there’s one crucial lesson you’ve learned from your recent studies, what would you like to pass on to the readers? To be honest, I learnt a lot at university — maybe too much to go into but there are definitely a few simple techniques I would love to pass on.
The first simple, but powerful, technique is filtering. When mixing, you should remove all unused frequencies from each channel. For example, on your snare channel you should Hi Pass Filter (HPF) from around 100hz and on your hi hats channel you should HPF around 1KHz. The filtering will remove unwanted frequencies that may be there (but very quiet). If these are left untreated, it could interfere with other sounds in the mix. This should be applied to all channels — remembering to listen to each channel separately and only filtering out unwanted frequencies. It’s a bit technical, but for those who produce, it is a really handy tip.
How did you get into mastering, and what was it like working with the Transition team during the early dubstep days? My brother in law (DJ Paleface) was working at Transition and he told me about a new runner position being available. I applied and was given the job. Working at Transition was fun. We all became good friends and are still good friends now.
Although it was fun, we worked hard, often cutting dubplates and mastering into the early hours of the morning. In the early dubstep days, I cut a lot of dubs for the pioneers of dubstep, including Benga, N-Type and Mala. The first dubstep producer I cut dubs for was Distance — that was special and something I will always remember. DJ Chef joined the team and we instantly clicked. We ended up doing a radio show together at Rinse and DJing b2b all around the world. Transition was like a hub for the dubsteppers… Everybody was in and out of the building. I was in a great position to trade dubs with other producers on the scene too.
Being involved in the early days, how was your experiences with the seminal events like DMZ? My first DJing experience at DMZ was b2b with Chef at the 2nd B Day Bash. The event propelled my DJing career as many heads only knew me for mastering. When they heard me DJing and selecting some of my own tracks, lots more people became interested in my sound. I’ve played at DMZ many times over the years and look back on the early days with fond memories.
It was the atmosphere that I loved the most. Everybody was there. Producers, DJs, agents and, of course, the public. People would travel from around the world to come and experience it. It started at Third Base, but stepped up to the main room at Brixton Mass by the 1st birthday. I was lucky enough to play in both rooms.
You took some time out of mastering (was it mastering and music in general?) but have recently returned with an EP on Wheel & Deal. How did you first meet N-Type? Yeah, I took some time out from music in general for a few reasons. Firstly, dubstep was changing. It became really noisy and, to be honest, it wasn’t inspiring me. I would still produce the odd tune here and there, but wasn’t releasing music as much at all. Lots was also happening in my personal life. I got married, bought a house and went to university. When I finished my studies at SAE, I started back up with the music and found out about a new style of DJing with STEMS, which really inspired me. I sent some of my new music to N-Type; he was feeling them and so we went from there.
I’ve known N (N-Type) for years! We’ve been around each other in the scene for so long now its nuts. I met him at Transition and was cutting lots of dubs for him. He was one of the first people to play my music and continues to support my sound today.
What can you tell us about the release you’ve got coming with the label? I am very excited about the release. It is a 4 track EP going back to the roots of dubstep. It represents what I have been working on over the last few years, trying to create the energy and diversity that made me fall in love with dubstep. It breaks away from the noisy ear piercing sound that has become, in my opinion, quite numbing and destroyed what the music was originally about.
It’s my first release on Wheel N Deal and it will also be the first release that I have mastered myself, with the added bonus of being in STEMS format too. The EP is like a selection box of music, offering different tastes and textures within each track. Beta Blockers, the headline track on the EP has a computer game feel, whereas Space Walk is a halfstep growler. Hinka Tinka has tonnes of energy, being inspired by the early work of artists like Skream and Stitched Up has more of an electrical vibe. Each track represents the sounds that have inspired me, with elements of the signature LD vibe.
When did you start producing tunes as well as mastering them? What’s your production workflow? That’s a funny question actually. At first, I never used to master my own tracks, just because I wanted unbiased ears editing the sound. It would always be J at Transition. As the years moved on, I started mastering my own tracks at Transition too. You have to put on a different hat. Producer or Engineer. Once I was able to go from one discipline to the other, I was set.
Currently, I mix and master all in the box, using a variety of plug-ins. I built my own studio and invested in one of Genelec’s flagship speakers, the 1034. When producing, I use Cubase and Native Instruments and always start with the drums and bass. Once the rhythm is set, the melodics take form… Synths, chords ect. Finally, I add the finishing touches like the sound effects and fills. Once this is done, the track gets a mix and master.
Have you changed how you approach sound design and mastering after completing your degree? If so, how? Yes, I have. Hmmm… without giving too much away, getting a track loud is usually what is wanted from the customer. Getting a track both loud and clean is what I now do. My new secret weapon is parallel compression.
How did you start working with Native Instruments’ new STEMS format? What are the benefits of working with STEMS? I saw a promo video online and instantly saw the potential of the format. I bought an S5 controller and haven’t looked back. I’ve even got my 9 and 11 year old sons learning the craft! Mixing with STEMS enables the DJ to create bespoke sets, which may never be recreated again.
Being able to manipulate the different elements of the track is nuts. I can now put a vocal from one track with the bass line from another track and the drums from another. It’s sick! The possibilities with Stems are endless, and so, I plan to make all of my new releases STEMS-ready. This is something Wheel N Deal also envisions, and so, all Wheel N Deal releases will now have STEMS Masters too. It is the next phase in the evolution of DJing. Those who don’t know, get to know!
You’ve kindly put a STEMS mix together for us — it’ll follow in a later update — what can you tell us about the mix? There is a lot of my new material in there, with a few old classics. You will see what I mean about being able to manipulate the tracks whilst mixing. You can have 4 tracks going, with 4 STEMS from each track all at once! I use it to its maximum potential. I hope you enjoy it.
We’re previewing one of the tracks from your W&D release today; what can you tell us about Beta Blockers? Beta Blockers is the headline track on the EP chosen by N-Type but also my kids’ favourite on the EP. It has a triplet or even a 6/8 feel to it, which creates a bouncy energetic vibe. I called it Beta Blockers after the heart medication as I felt like the track had an uplifting and healing ambiance.
Any final words or shoutouts? We’ll be following up over the next few weeks — looking forward to linking up! Shout out to N-Type, Chef, Crazy D, all the heads who have been there from the beginning and all the new heads I’ve met along my journey.
It’s all about making real music with a love for the sound. Enjoy the new tracks and watch this space coz LD is back!
We’ll be rolling out a more-detailed overview of WHEELYDEALY051 in the next week or so, as well as a FKOF Free Download and STEMS-based remix competition. Big thanks, as always, to N-Type for the linkup on the awesome tunes.