In relocating from Canada to Los Angeles, six-time GRAMMY-nominated producer, engineer, mixer and remixer, songwriter and programmer Damian Taylor took the opportunity to streamline his production workflow with a Dante-networked setup centered on a new Focusrite Red 8Pre 64-In/64-Out Thunderbolt 2 and Avid Pro Tools|HD compatible audio interface.
The new Studio Bonsai, located at Taylor’s home in L.A.’s Frogtown neighborhood, also includes a pair of RedNet 2 16-Channel A-D/D-A interfaces and a RedNet AM2 stereo audio monitoring unit. He’s used Focusrite’s Dante-enabled equipment since the company’s first RedNet units were introduced. “I got the very first RedNet 5s, which tied in with the Avid I/Os. But I’ve been really happy switching over to the Red 8Pre and getting rid of all my Avid interfaces. It’s a far more integrated and slicker way of being able to integrate Pro Tools,” he says.
Being based in L.A., Taylor has access to all of the city’s studios for the recording phases of his projects, so Studio Bonsai has a tighter focus on mixing, programming and writing. It’s set up in an acoustically accurate mastering room that was built by the previous tenant of the house. Now focused on mixing, programming and writing, Taylor has pared down his racks of vintage synthesizers to a more focused collection, including a Eurorack modular system, which interfaces to the Dante network via the two RedNet 2 units.
“I just have one of each type of toy, so I have a much smaller setup now than I had in Montreal,” he notes. When combined with his outboard gear, which includes two Focusrite ISA 828 MkII microphone preamps and an ISA 430 MkII channel strip, “I’m using all 48 channels of analogue I/O, which is very unusual in a writing environment.” he adds. “I’m able to have all of my instruments patched in. Everything is immediately available all the time, and that’s really wonderful. When I was in Montreal, I had a whole bunch of stuff that I still hadn’t plugged in. It’s been nice just to focus down to a much smaller, yet still quite expansive, set of tools.”
Taylor controls the Pro Tools|HDX system, which is hosted on hardware from Pro Tools PC, with an Avid Dock. “I have a set of Focal Twin6 Be monitors, which I mostly just use for loud listening. But I get most of what I need out of the tiny little Avantone speakers; I’ve been really into those for years and years,” he says.
With the hub of his setup, the Red 8Pre interface, offering both Thunderbolt 2 connectivity and dual mini-DigiLink ports, Taylor can switch between digital audio workstations. “I can use the same setup really seamlessly and jump over into different DAWs. I do a ton of work in Ableton Live as well, so not having to run everything through the HDX Core Audio drivers allows it to work brilliantly,” he says. “Both in Pro Tools and Ableton Live I have templates with all my inputs, outputs and main routing there all the time. It really is a dream come true in terms of how smoothly it’s all working.”
During the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, Taylor has been hosting a webstream from Studio Bonsai on the Twitch platform three times a week, during which he provides insight into his creative process, speaks with artists and other creators and tests gear and technology. “So I’ve just set up a streaming PC as well,” he says. “I’m now using Dante to link the two computers together. Dante Virtual Soundcard can handle some of my routing from my main workstation computer to that PC, which has all the broadcast software.”
He has also implemented Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback software. “It lets me handle the additional level of complex routing between applications and between computers. But it’s using the Red 8Pre’s 64-channel interface as its journey in and out of the computer, and then Dante as the way to shuttle it over to the PC as well.”
Taylor is additionally sending eight channels of ADAT into his modular synthesizer, he says. “It has a module by Expert Sleepers that allows me to use Ableton Live’s control voltage tools. So the same system that’s bringing in my vintage Russian microphones, Neve channels and Tube-Tech compressors is also sending stuff out to really weird, esoteric digital audio devices that allow me to control a huge Eurorack modular system.”