Photo by Eric Silvergold
Evan Marien is a composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Decatur, Illinois and now living in Brooklyn, NY. Most recently he has been seen playing bass, keys and singing backgrounds for Elliot Moss, playing bass with Thundercat drummer Justin Brown’s NYEUSI, and the last bassist to play in guitar legend Allan Holdsworth’s band.
Most recently, Evan put out his new solo album ‘EMARVol 3’ which was all made in Reason, along with some pretty interesting guest apperances. We had the opportunity to catch up with Evan and talk about his new album and he uses Reason to get the sounds he wants.
You recently released your new album ‘EMARVol 3’. Congratulations on that! Tell us a bit more about the album!
I’ve been working on EMAR Vol3 on and off for a couple years now and it feels so great to get it out and into people’s ears! It’s a special album for me since I called on a couple special friends to help make the music come alive. Cory Wong from Vulfpeck came up with so many great guitar parts for the songs ‘Welcome to Bacon Road’ and ‘Under The Sky So Blue’. Louis Cole is one of my favorite musicians so I feel really lucky to have him playing drums on ‘Special Zone’. Sirintip helped me make ‘Under the Sky So Blue’ tell a special story with her lyrics and a cool vocal melody. It’s also a special album for me because it’s the first album I’ve made that was completely created and mixed all in Reason.
The album features a lot of different genres, and I think Vol3 has some music for everyone on it. Hip hop heads will probably dig the beat tracks like ‘Green Dragon’, ‘Sector 6’ and ‘Paris’. Jazz fusionites will dig ‘Waves’ and ‘Tour’. Folks who just want to dance will dig ‘Welcome to Bacon Road’ and ‘Special Zone’. Metal dudes will dig the direction that ‘Requiem’ goes in, and that it features the legends Fredrik Thordendal and Morgan Ågren. I love all kinds of music and wanted to showcase that for EMAR Vol3.
they gave me a school laptop with Reason on it, and I had no idea what to do in it but I loved how creative I could be in it.
How did you start out making music? How did it all begin?
Back in my high school days (2003/04) I used to sit in the video production lab and tinker with making my own patches in VST synths. When I got to Berklee in 2006 they gave me a school laptop with Reason on it, and I had no idea what to do in it but I loved how creative I could be in it. From there I started tinkering and messing with making my own weird sounds, saving them into a folder and started building my sound library that I still use today.
How do you get started with a new song? What sparks your creativity?
I have a default template setup so I can get up and running with ideas. To get some creative energy going, I usually throw on an OST from a video game to get a vibe and sounds in my head.
How do you use Reason in your music making?
I’ve been using Reason since 2006. It’s been my secret weapon for creating all of my music. I love Reason and it’s been so cool to see it evolve over the past decade. In the past I usually exported the stems and mixed in other programs, but recently with the VST implementation and a number of other upgrades I’ve been able to just totally edit, mix and master inside Reason. I’m so excited to see where the next evolution takes Reason, it’s all very inspiring.
I also really like to layer my bass playing with a sub bass from Subtractor or a punchy bass from the FM synth PX7.
Any secret tips for getting a killer bass sound in Reason?
I love using a technique called ‘Parallel Processing‘. For example, I like to duplicate my bass track, hi pass the duplicate and add an effect like Scream to saturate/distort. I prefer to use the Digital setting on Scream to get a bit crush effect. I also really like to layer my bass playing with a sub bass from Subtractor or a punchy bass from the FM synth PX7.
The three most used devices in your Reason rack (and why)?
What are your tips for new producers wanting to start out making music?
It’s important to dive deep into other producers’ sounds and samples, production techniques etc…but don’t get stuck with someone else’s sound. Use your imagination and dig deep. It’s a hard journey, it’s not easy…but your future self will thank you for the work you did.
What’s the best music making tip you ever got?
The habit of saving copies of a project, naming them Mach 1, Mach 2 etc as you make changes or experiment with different arrangements, sounds etc. That way you can always revert back to an older version or mix if you go too far with an idea.
What are you listening to right now?
Right now, in my car I’ve been listening to The Whispers ‘Greatest Hits’, Joe Zawinul’s live album ’75’, and Bibio’s new album ‘Ribbons’. When I’m at home doing housework or cleaning I usually put on an OST like from Mega Man, F-Zero, Sonic the Hedgehog, Xenogears or Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.
On the track ‘Requiem’, you collaborate with Swedish musicians Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) and Morgan Ågren (Mats & Morgan, Frank Zappa). How did that come about?
I’ve been listening to Meshuggah and Fredrik’s solo album ‘Sol Niger Within’ for years…and a couple of years ago, ‘Sol Niger Within’ became usual rotation in my car during long drives. That album is so good, like unbelievably good and I’ve always had a dream to somehow make music with those guys. Luckily we live in this online world where all of us are connected somehow, and we all met through Instagram. Fredrik is a huge Allan Holdsworth fan and had watched a Youtube video of me performing with Allan and reached out through Instagram, and we struck up an online friendship. I also met Morgan through Instagram. And the collab went from being a dream to actually becoming a reality. ‘Requiem’ was sort of a sketch that I sent to Morgan first and had him track drums to it. Then I sent it to Fredrik and he added his soaring lead to the melody.
Once I had their parts, I started to solidify the mix in Reason and fine tuning the synths. It’s a dream come true to make music with them. I think we’ll make some more music in the future together 🙂