The Rise of the Digital Studio: Behind the Scenes at Decloak Music

The Waveform Transmitter’s Andy Weights directs his focus towards Manchester’s Decloak production studio and school to shed some light on the inner machinations of the sonic machine.

We all know a bedroom producer or DJ, right? The kind that plays or makes brilliant tunes but doesn’t care or can’t bring it to the audience’s ears. Perhaps they are learning their trade, getting ready for the moment that the sound is ‘good enough’ to dish up on a club system or send off on a hope or a prayer. Maybe, they are happy enjoying the artistic outlet.

Either way, it is common nowadays to see tutorial videos on Youtube, adverts on Facebook and posters in music shops offering digital music lessons in producing and DJing.  Schools of musical thought that teach the fundamentals of the beautiful thing that is digital music production, but are they any good? Are they what some people need? Are we being fleeced by schools or studios promising the skills or a piece of paper saying you can become a producer, a DJ or even famous by learning to point a mouse and turn a virtual dial?

In the belly of an old mill in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, DJ, producer and Decloak studio & school owner Jack Barton is making the right kind of noises. Whether its techno, house or any of their relatives, Jack will know how to make ‘that’ sound and is proactively inspiring the next crop of DJs and producers the right way. I sat down with the guy for a chat about his music school, the equipment he uses and his thoughts on things that affect the scenes.

Decloak’s Jack Barton in ‘out-of-studio’ guise. (Credit: NICK MIZEN)

Jack Barton has been involved with most of the underground electronic goings on in the Techno / Manchester scene for the last decade, whether it be his A-Fair EP release or the popular underground parties of Micron which has seen years of success for him and his studio Decloak, a combination that has seen Jack firmly placed as a go to guy for producing, mixing and mastering, as well as a general minefield of information and advice.

Decloak is a simple down to earth studio/school that boasts the right experience and equipment to offer students the opportunity to learn underground music production in a one on one environment, in a bespoke fashion that suits the learner, not only concentrating on the music and production side but also the much-overlooked organization of ego and image, self-management, creating a lasting brand and looking after your mental health.

The lessons are very reasonably priced, in fact, a bargain for the personally tailored lessons that will work well as either gifts or life affirming challenges, they can be a great way to meet like-minded people, build confidence or move forward with getting you and your music out there. Decloak sessions also offer attention to originality and idea forming techniques, plus learning the importance of collaborating and the sharing of skills.

As I walk through the studio doors I’m met immediately with the “heartbeat” of the studio, a pair of Dynaudio Acoustics speakers, transmitting the sound from a range of synths like the Auturia Keylab49 and the fantastic Novation Bass Station, which is put through the soundcards and computers then controlled by the Ableton push2 with an AKAI APC40 that comes along for the ride, as well as plenty of outboard gear including reverb and delay units the studio boasts a full DJ set-up of Technics 1210s mark2, a pair of CDJs with a practical mixer, which allows the school to teach the production and DJ skills to pay the bills.

Although there are other platforms upon which to produce electronic music, Jack is now dedicated to Ableton. However, he is unable to reveal any gossip on the exciting new software due out, as he has been “signed to secrecy” (the magic circle has nothing on the Ableton secrets) he will “reveal many tricks and work arounds in under half the time of similar schools”.

Decloak also offers the service of mixing and mastering tracks that can be sent over, cleaned up and balanced then returned to you, all without leaving the comfort of your cave.

Of the clientele that uses the school Jack say’s “some of our customers are 40 plus year olds, who used to go out raving but now just want to revisit the feeling in the comfort of their own homes and need to brush up on certain skills, while some of our younger learners will, and have gone on to success” and with acts like Nolga and Mimic, former students that showcase the potential of taking a course with Decloak, there is never a better  time to take the first steps into music production or DJing.

We spoke about the gentrification of Manchester and its creative spaces. Once a city with many an abandoned building, perfect for housing nightclubs and studios, the recent boom in the locale has seen this culture being sold to the highest bidder, a topic Jack is actively engaged in.

Barton, who has seen “the smaller mid-week nights suffer from the booking of big artists that fill the 500+ warehouses,” states that “The techno/House scene appears to be spreading to the outskirts of the city like when Sankeys was in the middle of a once rough Ancoats. It used to be a sketchy mission walking home at 6 am, and I think we are going back to that sensation of pure, underground, edgy raving again.”

As it came time to re-enter the light of day I was hit with a taste of Barton’s new projects, I was blown away by the professionalism and experience that over a decade in the game has on offer, keep your eyes open for his future releases and if you want to learn more about underground electronic music production get in touch with Jack at Decloak studios, here.

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