“I Got Curious”: New Drums, Japanese 45s, and the Making of STLNDRMS’ “Veggie Tacos III”
For many years STLNDRMS utilized the same work flow: a Roland SP-303, a Roland SP-404, and an MPC. Using the MPC for sample chopping, sequencing, and composition, the 404 for stutters and dropouts, and the 303 for vinyl simulation and compression, the Atlanta resident has amassed a growing online following by embracing a simple workflow and a basic studio setup. “I got eight outputs, I use four,” he said while explaining his process in a May of 2017 Micro-Chop interview. “I use two for the sample and two for the drums. It’s the simplest stuff ever.”
Though STLNDRMS found success using the same formula for much of his career, 2018 seemed like a good time to break the mold. Between his expanding online presence and some recent equipment malfunctions, he decided to shake things up a bit with his latest release Veggie Tacos III.
Using his MPC for half of the album’s instrumentals and Maschine for the other half after his MPC broke, STLNDRMS also integrated the Serato Sample plugin on select tracks. The learning curve with these new means of production may have seemed steep at first, but they fit nicely into his routine after an initial adjustment period. “It’s a dope workflow,” he says while reflecting on his latest release.
By using new methods and tools, STLNDRMS composed what might be his most ambitious project to date and took more time to think about the order and presentation of the album as whole. “It’s meant to be listened to from start to finish,” he explains. “I ordered the tracks by key.”
“I reached a bit outside of my go-to drums from time to time. I got curious.”
I addition to taking a more methodical and deliberate approach to structuring and sequencing the album, STLNDRMS also stretched himself a bit in terms of his sample sources. “There’s a ton of Japanese samples on this project,” he says. “The samples came from a friend of mine dropping off a stack of 45s.”
Though STLNDRMS historically leaned a 15-sound drum kit that he compiled in the early 2000s for his work, he also explored new territory with his percussion on Veggie Tacos III. “In Maschine I had like 50 million drums to pick from,” he says with a laugh. “I reached a bit outside of my go-to drums from time to time. I got curious.”
There was also an added emphasis placed on making each song a bit more nuanced and complex. On the sublime “Blue”, STLNDRMS played with the sound design and paid close attention to the track’s subtleties to get it just right. “I was playing a lot with delay and the stereo field to get texture, but also maintain space and separation in the mix,” he says. After completing “Blue” he took the opportunity to teach an online class breaking down how he crafted the drums.
“It’s meant to be listened to from start to finish. I ordered the tracks by key.”
Though the making of Veggie Tacos III mark uncharted waters for STLNDRMS, some parts of his process were non-negotiable constants. He still ran all beats — whether made on the Maschine or MPC — through his trusted 303 for compression and then through the 404 for selected delays and stutters.
By evolving his process in both sample sources and equipment used, STLNDRMS breathes some refreshing new life into his work while also maintaining elements of his signature sound. Veggie Tacos III will satisfy his fan base while giving new listeners a good point of entry to the rest of his catalog.