W&W (Armada Music) Talk Workflow with Ableton Live, Sylenth, Collaboration with Hardwell and more

After a headlining set on the main stage at Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, Splice had an opportunity to speak with Netherlands-based duo Willem van Hanegem and Wardt van der Harst of W&W about their workflow with Ableton Live, go-to plugins and synths, collaboration with Hardwell, Blasterjaxx and more.

Nate Mars:  Individually, where did you each begin to discover electronic music?

Willem van Hanegem:  With dance music, I was 12 or a little bit younger. I heard a song on the radio called Alice DeeJay “Better Off Alone.” It had that synth sound and I was like, “What is this kind of sound? I love it.” Since then, I started listening to more dance music. In the Netherlands, there was a lot of dance music on the radio. I decided to check it more. I was first mainly into trance. That was big back in the day.

Wardt van der Harst:  There was always trance on the radio, like Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren and Tiesto. Stuff like that was always on the radio in Holland. We grew up with it.

NM: Then, in terms of you guys coming together and working with each other, can you tell us when you really decided to form W&W?

Wardt: We both have had our own solo careers. We have been active for at least three years but every single track we have produced as W&W sounds better then all of the stuff we do alone. So we decided to continue with this instead.

NM: In terms of your collaboration process, are you guys always working together in the studio when you start projects? Or do you individually start ideas and then bring them together?

Wardt:  We go to the studio and it is the best way for the creative process as well, to both be in the studio and discuss whatever is coming up.

NM:  When you get started with projects, does one of you have a specialty going in?  Do you feel one of you is better on drum mixing for example, and the other one…

Willem:  How we usually start is, I have an idea of what kind of track and Wardt always comes up with a melody. We start with the main part of the track, and go back and forth.

Wardt:  Then we try to work on a little loop, to be as good as it possibly could be, to make it as good as it could be, and then from there we spread it out and start arranging.

NM:  Which DAW are you currently working in as your main sequencer?

Wardt:  Ableton Live.

Ableton Live - Arrange View

Ableton Live – Arrange View

Willem:  Ableton Live. We used to work in Reason, but we could not use any free VSTs, so we are like, “OK, we have to switch.” Then we switched to Cubase for a while and now we are in Ableton Live.

NM: Do you find with your busy schedule being on the road so much, that you find any time to compose ideas on the road, or are you mainly touring and then setting aside time in the studio?

Willem:  Both. When we are at home we are always in the studio. But some songs may release were made on tour like “Liftoff” and “Thunder“, they were both made on the road.

W&W – Liftoff

Wardt: That is why the mix down is different.

NM:  So you are mixing those down, to a large part, in headphones?

Willem:  Yeah, and then we go back to the studio and try to mix it down and improve the mix down, and sometimes it kills the whole vibe of the song. We have to stay with the mix down we already started.

W&W – Thunder

Wardt:  For DJing and mixing we use the V‑Moda headphones. We very much like the sound of them.

NM:  That is interesting. We have a picture of how you guys are working together and collaborating, but with other recent collaborations like with Hardwell, what was that process like?

Willem:  For Hardwell, when we are in the studio together it is natural. We all have the same kind of vision, so it works really well. That is why we make a lot of tracks together. He is good at translating the song to the dance floor. I think he is the king in that. Also EQing. He is a master of EQing.

NM:  You guys are working mostly in the same room together?

Wardt:  Yeah, “Jumper” was made in a hotel room in Melbourne.

NM:  What about the recent collab with Blasterjaxx?

Willem:  They came over to our studio, and they had a couple of ideas and we had a couple of ideas, we fused it and made a track. For us, making the song took maybe two or three days but the mix‑down took a month.

Wardt:  With Hardwell we did that, with Armin van Buuren we did that. We started in the studio and we did the final things on Skype, live.  We also did a track with Dimitri Vegas which was via the Internet because they live in Belgium.

NM: Can you tell us a little bit about some of go‑to plug‑ins?

Willem:  Still Sylenth, because it is easy to create your own sounds from scratch. That is what we do.

Wardt:  It is really powerful. We have Spire as well. We also use Diva, for more like… analog kind of sounds. What else? It depends. Every synthesizer has its own character. For instance, if we want that old‑school trance vibe, we go to the old synths, like Zeta, Vanguard, and…V‑Station. It depends, because it sounds really thin. But… It is good to create a certain feeling.

Willem: Sylenth is mostly the top lead, the main lead, because it is in your face.

Lennard Digital Sylenth

Lennard Digital Sylenth

NM:  What about any kind of sound sculpting plug‑ins? Are you mainly using tools native to Ableton Live live for mixing?

Willem:  OTT, which is multiband compressor. Wardt:  We use UAD Cambridge a lot for EQing.

NM: any projects or other collaborations in the works that you want to tell us about?

Willem:  We have a new one with Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. We’ve got another one with Hardwell as well.

NM:  So not that much sleep?

Willem:  No. definitely not. Every couple of months we want to make new music for our sets, to keep things fresh.

NM: Any words of wisdom to share?

Willem: It is important that you have your own sound, your original sound. Of course, you can grab elements from stuff which is popular for that which you like, but if you shape it your own way, that is what makes it stand out.

About the Splice Artist Series – We empower music creators to create and collaborate fearlessly. Our goal is to build the best platform possible in order to enable that process. We hope that you learn just as much as we do, hearing from artists about their workflow and how they collaborate. Most importantly after reading, we hope you are inspired to make music!

July 2, 2014