"Everybody here in the camp stays as close to SSL as possible. OCTO is a perfect piece for this generation"

Solid State Logic recently launched the PURE DRIVE OCTO 8-channel preamplifier and one special early adopter in particular is welcoming the new SuperAnalogue™ hardware addition to their hybrid production workflow. “I've always worked on SSL consoles,” says Bernard “Focus…” Edwards, Jr., the GRAMMY-nominated staff producer at Hip Hop legend Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. “Everybody here in the camp stays as close to SSL as possible, and the new Mic Pre’s with built-in interface is going to give us a little bit more of an ability to get that sound within the DAW.”

Twenty-three years after he got into music production, Focus… says, “The difference between me and a lot of young producers, the reason that I have staying power, is because of my past. I still implement my past and my present. A lot of the kids are not going to sound like me, because I'm going to mix outside of the box. I want to give you a feeling, but I want to get a feeling as well. So we need the things that give us that inspiration, that motivation, and SSL equipment has been one of the biggest and best for my entire career.”

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Hardware for a new generation of SSL users

The new PURE DRIVE OCTO rack unit (a 4-channel PURE DRIVE QUAD model is also available) includes an integrated USB soundcard and a flexible digital and analogue I/O section for easy integration into a hybrid workflow. This comprehensive I/O allows Focus and other staff engineers and producers at Aftermath to incorporate the SSL sound into whatever they are working on, even when the studio’s SSL console is busy being used on a session. “If I were going through an SSL board, I could get some of the filters, some of the attack and some of the warmth. Now I can get that through my PURE DRIVE OCTO interface. I love that; I think that's phenomenal!” he says.  

Focus…s’ entire career — in fact, his entire life — is inextricably intertwined with Hip Hop, which celebrates its milestone fiftieth anniversary this year. He was born nine months before what is now recognized as the birth of hip-hop the August 11, 1973 party in the Bronx where DJ Kool Herc used two turntables to extend a song’s instrumental break. This party launched a global cultural revolution, starting from these early days of beat juggling vinyl record breaks, to early trailblazing producers in the ’80's, competing to find the rarest records to sample with the advent of samplers/drum machines. It’s no surprise that Focus… would grow into becoming one of Hip Hop’s most iconic producers — he is practically hip-hop royalty, the son of the late Bernard Edwards, co-founder and bass player with R&B icons Chic, whose “Good Times” was turned into rap’s first mainstream commercial hit in 1979 by The Sugarhill Gang on “Rapper’s Delight.”

Focus… has produced groundbreaking tracks for a long list of prominent artists, including Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Anderson Paak, Rick Ross, John Legend, The Game, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, 50 Cent, ScHoolboy Q, Joe, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Amerie, Christina Milian, Mac Dre, Marsha Ambrosius and many others.

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An existing SSL lineage

The first Solid State Logic mixing console that Focus... ever got to work on belonged to Dr. Dre, whose Aftermath Entertainment company he joined in 2002. Dr Dre is a longtime SSL user and has worked on or owned nearly every model of SSL large format music console since the E Series. The first SSL console that Focus... ever encountered, he says, was when he visited his father in the studio while he was working with the late recording engineer and mixer Jason Corsaro on a 4000 E Series at the Power Station in New York City during the 1980s.  

“Large format mixing consoles are not for everyone,” Focus… says. “For the latest generation of producers, digital natives who have grown up working exclusively in-the-box, SSL’s new PURE DRIVE Pre’s enables them to introduce a sonic character that isn’t easily replicated with plug-ins. Hip Hop productions are returning to more of a live feel,” he continues, “and SSL’s PURE DRIVE units have a place in that workflow. This is not just a studio component; this is an on-stage component. There are so many things that you can do with this box. This hardware is giving these kids, who are trying to get our sound without going to the pieces that made our sound, a different feel for music.”

QUAD and OCTO: three distinct sonic flavours

"The OCTO is great for recording my analog pieces within my Logic DAW," Focus... says. "I have gone back into retrieving old MPC 3000 files to update and I love that OCTO allows me to do this with each channel. Certain kicks have great body when I engaged the Asymmetric Drive while using the Classic Drive on my snares and hats. I also love being able to record bass and guitar onto my tracks with OCTO. Both the PURE DRIVE QUAD and OCTO units include three different modes that deliver the flavor of SSL’s iconic mixing console. Clean mode delivers SSL's signature ultra-low noise floor, linear preamp, recognized for its ability to faithfully capture the sound of the source with exceptional clarity and detail. Classic Drive is the symmetrical mode that generates predominantly odd harmonics, the same drive sound found on SSL’s ORIGIN console. Finally, Asymmetric Drive makes the even harmonic content dominant, providing more pronounced thickness, coloration and softening of transients.

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"I have an aggressive sound/push in my music, regardless of genre so I would tend to use the Classic and Asymmetric Drive a lot more on the OCTO," Focus... continues. "Working with Dr. Dre, I have always known how important it is to have clarity and presence in my tracks. The presence/detail with the Classic Drive is important when laying poignant parts such as guitar, synths with highly resonant attributes, or even vocals. I am known for hard-hitting drums, so however I choose to color each part, I have the ability to engage the appropriate drive on each separate selection."

"By using this PURE DRIVE hardware, these new kids are going to start to understand how to work a board just by plugging in a USB cord. So this is really a cool way for them to dial sounds in and find out how to make this thing work for them. OCTO is a perfect piece for this generation.”

Solid State Logic is distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd. For more information please call 01462 480000 or visit www.soundtech.co.uk/ssl