Meet Alan Sacha Laskow, Canadian guitar player and multi-talent that makes album-quality productions right from his basement. Curious? Check out three of his most recent productions involving Toontrack drum sounds, one featuring the Superior Drummer 3 core library, one The Rock Foundry SDX and one the Hard Rock EZX.
HARD ROCK EZX
SUPERIOR DRUMMER 3
THE ROCK FOUNDRY SDX
When and how did you start growing an interest for playing music?
My older brother got me in to metal at a pretty young age, like eight to ten years old and I was already listening to evil stuff like Venom and Possessed. Then around twelve-ish, I started hearing some of the more progressive guitar work like Dream Theater, Joe Satriani and Testament and it just captivated me. I wanted to learn how to make those sounds and translate what I was feeling to an instrument. Also, girls.
How come you ended up playing the guitar as your main instrument?
So many things spoke to me emotionally when I listened to progressive music: Chugging power chords, screaming bends, powerful riffs and fluid legato etc, etc.! Hearing those things just made me NEED to learn how it was done. Once I managed to convince my parents to buy me a cheap-ass Squier strat, I was playing eight hours a day till my fingers bled. Also, again, girls.
You’re making awesome-sounding productions, right from your home studio and all on your own. Looking back on when you first started and compared to now, what’s your take on the massive development of recording tools the past decade?
Thank you! It’s absolutely incredible, it’s pure black magic wizardry and I love it. I can sit in my basement bedroom, pants-less, and create the most pristine tracks with access to an entire history of recorded sounds, tones, and processing the likes of which are unprecedented in history. Compared to when I started with a cassette four-track and a shitty drum machine, it’s come a long way.
Seeing as these tools really have democratized music-making on a larger level, a natural effect is a much bigger supply of new music constantly being released. You’ve personally managed to pierce through and gain a following on various social media platforms. What are some of your best tips to those just starting out releasing music on the internet? Dos and don’ts?
That’s certainly both a pro and a con of that democratization, and an interesting grey area no doubt. I’m no marketing expert by any means, I think I’ve really just persevered and was one of the early guys hammering things out as a ‘one-man band’ ever since way back with MP3.com etc. These days though with so much content, my one piece of advice would be to not skimp on quality. Not on anything. Don’t put something out ‘just because’; your first impression might be your last! With the aforementioned access to amazing technology, there’s really no excuse to release something half-assed these days. Tying in to that would be to use all the incredible resources out there for learning to your advantage!
Walk us through how you usually go from idea to finished track. Do you start with a basic riff and go from there or do you normally have an entire structure in mind before you sit down and actually record? Do you tweak sounds as you go or do you finish all instruments before you start thinking about mix and sound?
It varies wildly. Sometimes I’ll start with a riff, sometimes a drum pattern, sometimes a synth patch or even just a feeling in my loins. To be honest these days I’m writing a lot more away from the guitar, ‘composing’ as it were. I’ll hear something in my head or build off a groove and just keep layering it up like musical papier-mache. I’ll get a rough form in place that probably sucks, and then keep chiseling away at it until I don’t hate it quite as much anymore.
What’s your longterm personal goals with your music?
I just want to keep creating and having fun, I don’t have any grandiose goals or rock star ambitions at this point. Of course I enjoy building my audience and hearing from people that dig my work as well. Every song I still learn something new about writing, production or playing and vacillate between loving something and extreme self-loathing, so I still have a lot to learn!
You’re user of Superior Drummer 2 since way back and now just recently moved on to Superior Drummer 3. What was your first impression?
I even started with Drumkit from Hell back in the day… That was a massive step from my shitty drum machine and revolutionary at the time. Each iteration of Toontrack products is just a massive step forward for the industry. You obviously don’t settle for ‘good enough’ either, you innovate and bring new things to the table that I didn’t even know I needed.
How does Superior Drummer 3 help you when producing your music?
It’s such a fundamental part of my studio, it helps in a multitude of ways and I couldn’t really do without it. Drums are the foundation to a Metal mix, they have to kill or you are screwed right of the bat. With Superior I can write, record, produce, transform, replace or accomplish any other goal imaginable when it comes to my drums, all in pristine quality and with intuitive usability.
You just did a demo featuring the Hard Rock EZX by Bob Rock. What are your thoughts on the sounds?
The demo was a “re-boot” instrumental re-mix of an old Every Hour Kills track. The sounds are really fun to play with! I think they fill a nice niche that Toontrack perhaps hadn’t covered before; that HUGE ‘80s type of production style. Who doesn’t like huge drums?! The built-in processing in the presets is also a great starting point with the compression and reverb already good to go.
Anyone into rock and metal probably have a relationship to Bob Rock in regards to the bands he’s produced. What’s yours?
Everybody knows Bob in the production world. Of course, “The Black Album” set a new benchmark for huge rock production in its time, along with many of his other giant hits like Mötley Crüe etc. Less people might know this, but he’s also a good Canadian boy like me! He’s worked with a ton of great Canadian artists as well like the Tea Party and Our Lady Peace etc.
Top three Bob Rock-produced albums?
Motley Crue “Dr. Feelgood”
The Tea Party “Seven Circles”
In ten years from now, Alan Sacha Laskow is…
In a cabin in the mountains, wearing a bear-skin loincloth and writing sick jams with Superior Drummer 7.
FIVE Q SHOOTOUT.
Six, seven or eight strings: Eight, MORE IS MORE
Tune down or go all regular: Standard is low enough on an 8
Best-ever metal record: Couldn’t pick just one so here’s five: Dream Theater “Awake”, Cynic “Focus”, Gorguts “Obscura”, Meshuggah “Chaosphere” and Megadeth “Rust in Peace”
Best-ever non-metal record: Joe Satriani “Crystal Planet”
Dream-team band with you on guitar: Man these are hard! Dirk Verbeuren (drums), Tosin Abasi (lead guitar), Steve Digiorgio (bass), Devin Townsend (vocals)