Steven Ellison, a.k.a. the musician, producer, and rapper Flying Lotus, has installed a Solid State Logic XL-Desk, in his personal studio.
Ellison, a great-nephew of the jazz and avant-garde musician Alice Coltrane, has long pushed musical boundaries and defied categorization. His fifth and most recent release, You’re Dead!, includes contributions by Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. It was named one of Rolling Stone’s top albums of 2014.
Ellison selected the analog XL-Desk for its capabilities, which simply didn’t exist in his previous laptop or in-the-box recording style.
“Before I got the XL-Desk, my biggest issue was always how to make my music more dynamic, with even more space in the sound and defined bass—how to widen the 3D field,” he confides. “That’s something I’ve been battling. I’ve wanted the analogue warmth for so long, and I’ve always wanted the analog depth. I wanted to see how far I could take it. When I hear my music through the XL-Desk, it has a natural sound to it, it sounds real. Once you actually hear your music through the console, you get addicted to it. There’s so much more room now. It makes me feel the openness.”
Contemporaries like the hip-hop producer Daddy Kev, who himself owns an XL-Desk, and producer Dr. Dre nurtured Ellison’s love of SSL’s signature sound. When he decided to add a console to his studio, Ellison knew it had to be an SSL.
“As a producer, Dre was the guy I looked to. He was like my hero growing up,” he says. “It’s funny—I had dinner with him once, and I asked him, ‘Do you still use a mixing desk?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, always.’ I told him I had never used one, he looked at me like I was crazy: ‘Never?’ That was a turning point—ever since then, I’ve become really fascinated with them. It’s how I take my sound to the next level.”
Ellison has equipped the 18-slot 500 format rack, a standard feature of the XL-Desk, with SSL’s E-Series console channel EQs and the Stereo Bus Compressor.
“It’s just blown me away,” he continues. “I can do some really cool stuff that I never did before. I can run these analogue 500-format modules and I’ve been able to get really creative with patching in a way that I never thought I would. I’m able to route things in a really interesting way.”
Working with the XL-Desk, Ellison says, has been revelatory. “The sound is different, man,” he adds. “There’s a lot more space and you get a lot more headroom as well. Using it has also been helpful in ways that I didn’t expect. Having balanced subwoofer control is really good and the iJack has been great, too. It is a lot of little things like those that have been awesome about the desk.”
And when it comes to mixing, Ellison says, “Things happen a lot faster when everything is in the desk. I would toil on the computer forever, but when it’s actually on faders, everything just makes sense a lot quicker. And there’s a more hands-on feel to it—it’s a beautiful thing.”