Artist Interviews Heavy Month Studio interviews

Interview – Stefano Morabito

Stefano Morabito is an Italian producer/guitarist known for his band Eyeconoclast and his work in many roles behind the desk with a massive list of incredible bands.

#1 – It seems like a large chunk of our readers are Italian and Italy seems to be a hotbed for not only great music in a ton of styles but also for studios, music software developers and other related industries. Has it always been this way or is the current activity level a newer development?

Hey hello everyone! we have had many good bands, in the past but since 10/15 years the scene has been constantly growing, and with it the whole production and related stuff. We like to do things our way, and it seems it is paying off. Everyone in this business is working 24/7 for their projects to work great. We have good music related software companies, good management people good studios and good bands popping out everyday.

#2 – You are quoted as being a big fan of the 1989 Reverb plugin from IMGL / Ugritone, could you elaborate by giving us a few of your favorite uses for it?

That plugin emulates the Alesis Midiverb, something I never really considered using in my life. Instead, with this plugin I had the opportunity to test it and discovered that I like it and what I like about it. At the beginning it may sound a bit “unrealistic” to some, with all these perfect emulations around, BUT it’s exactly what I always looked for. That “electric” perfect sounding reverb, that does wonders on a snare track or a toms bus. Purely “controlled decay”, and no other thrills. It has a place in the mix, always. Nothing more nothing less. I like it very much, yes 😀

#3 – You have a nice selection of amps in your studio, can you take us through the majority of the guitar gear you have at your disposal?

I have some options here at 16th Cellar Studio, the classics, a ’90 2 channel Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, a Peavey 5150, an Engl Fireball, and a Framus Cobra. You may know the others but the Framus Cobra is pretty uncommon, and I’d like to spend two words about it. It is the best sounding amp for me, but the worst in dialing the correct tone. Sometimes is a nightmare to dial everything to get THE TONE but once you are there… Oh boy….! The pedal that I use all the time is a Maxon od808 in place of the Ibanez Tubescreamer, and sometimes a very old analog pedalboard from Ibanez, whose name is PUE-5. It has one of the best Ibanez Tubescreamers EVER inside there. Then there’s the classic pedals, that you use once in a while, HM-2 , Metal Zone, Hm-3 and various eqs and classic fx.

Regarding guitars, in the studio I have a schecter Hellriser modded with ZEAD PICKUPS <— (check out these guys they make the best hi gain oriented pickups I have ever heard.) Then an Ibanez RGR08LTD again with ZEAD pickups (yeah I love those pickups) a ’90 Jackson Dinky Rev. with BILL LAWRENCE L500XL pickups (the one who made pickups for Dimebag), An Overload Guitars Raijin 7, pale moon ebony multiscale, with Gorilla pickups. A monster of a guitar, check out that company, they make crazy good stuff!!! And lastly a Kramer loaded with EMG81, pickup that I don’t really like most of the time, but hey, you have to have it, sometimes it’s useful, haha!

#4 – In addition to your very busy life as a producer with your own studio, you play guitar in Eyeconoclast. Will there be a follow up to 2013’s “Drones of the awakening” (Prosthetic Records) anytime soon?

That is a Good question 😀 we have four or five songs which we like but is not enough for a full album. We don’t have to hurry about it, our life doesn’t depend on it at the moment, we just care to make good music, we can afford to make a good album, which takes time. I don’t want to put out something just to say “heeeey we are still here” I want my music to be meaningful to me, and of course I don’t like “pollution” in music. This is a REAL problem nowadays 😉

Image result for Stefano Morabito producer
Stefano tearing it up with Eyeconoclast

#5 – Every producer has experience working on a low budget but a low budget for underground metal can mean almost no budget. What tips can you pass on to us on how to get the best guitar tones on a low budget?

There are things one must have. A good high impedance input, good cables and a good converter. The instrument inputs on low budget sound cards/usb interfaces won’t do the trick, 90% of the times. A Radial j48 active direct box is the best bang for the buck in terms of good guitar input devices. Then there’s the amp simulation thing: the best of the best in my opinion is the IGNITE AMPS stuff, it’s a company from here made from passionate people that wakes in the morning thinking about only one thing: HIGH GAIN. Ha!!! And the best thing is that all of their bundle is FREE. That’s sufficiently low budget for you? haha! Then after dialing the right tone you need to correct resonances and unwanted freqs, and if necessary, limit the dynamic range to an acceptable level.

#6 – What’s your basic approach to rhythm guitars from tracking to mixdown?

Choosing the right guitar, the right pickup for your style (with time I find myself more and more discarding guitars with active pickups) BRIGHT strings, I like steel strings a lot, playing around with the settings of the amp, and a VERY important thing: setting the right volume on the amp. At low volumes one amp could be its exact contrary that the same amp with the same settings at high volumes. There’s no rule, but you have to know what you are looking for. And that’s where amp sims often fail, the change of sound between low and high volume and the incorrect reproduction of a microphone membrane who’s at its limit, and that of course have a sound too.

In tracking I prefer the parts to be played by ONE guitarist at time, L AND R, I often say to my clients to learn the other guitarist’s parts, and who plays it better, plays it on that particular part. I work riff by riff L guitar ans R guitar when I can i make quad tracking, and immediate editing if needed. I often try to push the guitarist to his limits, giving all they can so the notes and strokes are all distinguishable. Unfortunately, this can’t happen when i have to work with guitars to be reamped I have no control on execution there.

In mixing… It’s a tooooo long story 😀 i do a lot of work with resonances and dynamics, equalizers, multibands, compressors and a lot of headbanging  heheh

#7 – Same question but this time for leads and soaring solos!!

Most of the times I like solos with emulated amps. When you are close to the ending of the mixing you always find doubts on this and that thing. And one of these is the gain and amp settings of solos, so that’s Why I like to keep it “open” till the last moments. In tracking I wait to see what kind of guitarist I have in front of me, and I decide what option is best in the next 5 microseconds. If he’s a guitar hero type or the “emotional” type he wants to play from the beginning to the end and maybe change something afterwards, if he’s a perfectionist or a bad guitarist you may want to do bit by bit. In mixing of course harmonics control and lots of limiting 😀 then a good stereo delay with different repetitions left to right. I usually  prefer 4/4 left and 3/4 right, low pass on delay (otherwise it becomes a nightmare every note repetition) to make it more mellow.

That wall of amps though…

#8 – You were a consistent face in the studio doing a variety of jobs across 7 different Fleshgod Apocalypse offerings. With a band that big with so much happening in the mix, what are some basic techniques you use to create space for everything to be heard?

With big orchestras plus metal you have to somewhat limit very much the amount of frequencies each instrument has. Once together they will sound good, but you absolutely cant keep the sub low freqs of (say) a tuba, or the highest freqs of a trumpet, because 90% there will be something else there, striving to be heard. The other important thing is compression and limiting. everything has to have their “allocated” space, and never more. If you need to hear it more or less you will have automations by your side as well as Buses everywhere. Everything has to have their bus, (ex. compressed brass bus which goes into compressed orchestra bus which goes into master, and so on for every category such as strings  winds and percussions) In simple words, you basically have to treat every track by its own, then craft a “box” in which to put every category of instruments, and a “box” for them all, then another bigger “box”. The space is limited, so everything must be at a determinate place, both frequency-wise and dynamic-wise

#9 – What do you think the most important component to put money into for those with small inexpensive home studio setups?

As I stated before a GOOD direct input box, and when possible a good AD/DA converter. Many of these usb interfaces around are crap…..

#10 – Another thing about being on a budget is that the plugin selection has to be economical. What are three plugins you think everyone recording music should have and why?

My favourite of all times is the whole Sounitus:FX bundle. It’s simple. and sounds very good in my opinion. and it allows you to put numerical data inside. Let’s say you run an analyzer in the track and it says “hey you have to remove frequecy 4579” well, with their equalizer you can do it. Which is not super common, I mean, there are lots of eqs that can do it (not the majority of it) but I tend to prefer the ones where you can SEE and KNOW what you are doing. I’m not a guy who mess around with settings finding the sweet spot by ear only. I like to take my freq analyzer and see (and of course hear) where is the problem and SOLVE it.

The second one is TRIGGER from Slate Digital. very good trigger detection and VERY good sample editor. It allowed me to make my own drums samples for personal use in an heartbeat.

The third one is the reverb from It might get loud we spoke about before. A bit CPU intensive, but  it gives a good controlled reverb on your snare and tom tracks. It’s flawless!

#11 – In an interview a few years back you said you almost never used amp sims for rhythm guitars because you hadn’t found anything you really liked yet. Has that view changed at all with the evolution of the industry and the quickly increasing level of quality? If so, what plugins changed your mind?

Still use real amps on 80% of the stuff, for the reasons stated before, but lately I’m finding myself more and more using the IGNITE AMPS stuff, I have always been an extremist on that matter, but Ignite amps stuff is slowly carving a place in my extremist metal producer heart, hahaha! Carlo and Federico are great people who know two or three things about high gain and of real-amp-extremists too, hahaha!

#12 – You have always remained relentlessly active behind the desk, what albums are you working on in 2019 and into 2020?

Relentless. Yes thats what I’m about haha. Non stop working behind the desk, yes. Never out in the sun, yes. Many coffees yes 😀 . It’s simple when you love your work, and you wake up in the moring longing to continue equalizing that snare or those guitars. This year will see many great albums completed, the new one from Hideous Divinity, that will be out on Century Media is the next work that I will be working on! And for 2020 I have gooood stuff coming, yes, still can’t talk about it, we’ll see!

Thanks for the interview! Hope I could be useful for someone! Have a great day everyone!

Some of the most talented people in metal are the most humble and approachable. Stefano is absolutely the type that enjoys passing his knowledge onto others and he does such in a way that is easy to understand for anyone. This guy knows how to bring the best out of every band he works with and his long list of great sounding albums is the evidence. For all details about 16th Cellar Studio see the link below!

16TH CELLAR STUDIO