Interview: Plugin developers Evil Sound Lab

KVR’s 2016 Developer Challenge is on again (check out all the entries here) and among the hopefuls are the bright sparks at Evil Sound Lab, creators of the meaty Malefica virtual high-gain distortion pedal.

We liked the sound of their pedal sim and thought it might be worthwhile to pick their brains about things laptop-guitar-ey, so we got in contact and hit them with some questions.

LaptopGuitarist: Hi guys. Introduce yourselves!

Evil Sound Lab: Greetings, readers! We are Evil Sound Lab, a tiny company specializing in the research of evil sound. We are trying to build guitar and mixing physical-based audio plugins with character, based on original schematics.

How did you get into plugin building? Are you guys musicians, computer doods or both?

Both! Evil Sound Lab is an only-two-man company that consists of a mathematician and software engineer in one person (hello, it is me!) and a graphic designer. And we are both computer nerds, musicians and music lovers.

Ever since I saw first Amplitube I always dreamed of building my own audio plugins based on real guitar pedals and amps. But simply copying it seemed to me too boring. In my mind I was looking for original schematic solutions. Then one perfect day I decided to make this dream come true. It was lucky for me then I had met like-minded person and highly talented graphic designer! It was a miracle!

Where did the idea for the Malefica come from? What makes it unique?

We wanted to create flexible guitar distortion with a unique character that would fit a wide range of extreme music genres.

With Malefica every guitarist can present himself as a creator of dark guitar tones because we embedded two switches that give real control.

The first one is for the different sound ‘color’. It has three modes which are associated with three sound design concepts – removing unnecessary things from sound to make tone clear (i.e. cutting muddy and annoying frequencies), keeping the sound as ‘natural’ as possible, and emphasizing resonances to make tone brilliant (adding some high and low frequencies).

The second switch is for producing a different clipping character – crunchy low-gain overdrive (fitting for blues, rock and clear parts), bright distortion with sparkling string sound (if you need an open and readable sound from every note when playing chords) and a classic diode clipping high-gain tone (perfect for black/death/doom/-core and other the most aggressive genres).

In addition to this, we’ve added a tone knob with an adjustable focus frequency. This is the ‘slope’ control of amplitude frequency characteristics – you turn it to the left to add more high frequencies and turn it to the right to add more low frequency.

And if you want even more gain there is a pre-amp control which can increase the gain up to 50 times!

Wow. So it’s not based on a particular type of pedal then?

No, it isn’t. We analyzed circuits of ton of distortion guitar pedals while designing it though.

You’re going for super meaty distortion – who has the best guitar tone in music today?

Guitar tone is a matter of taste. We are against the old-fashioned views of high-gain guitar tone like “Take an oldish Les Paul, plug it into 5150, which is connected with 4×12 cab. Warm up it with a certain old green pedal and viola, you’re done!” We don’t dispute that it sounds pretty, but that idea really gets under our skin.

Our tastes? I think we prefer unusual guitar tone solutions. We were very inspired by the ‘wall of guitar’ sounds of Jucifer and Sunn O))), the dark mystic tone of Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room, and lo-fi revolution in Mayhem’s ‘Ordo ad Chao‘ album.

But when it comes to the modern death metal/deathcore genres, we’re really interested in the sounds of things like In Flames ‘Soundtrack to Your Escape‘ and Bring Me the Horizon’s ‘Suicide Season‘ albums. We also like the guitar tone of Matamp, Bogner and some of boutique amplifiers and pedals.

And of course, today guitar amp modeling devices influence the guitar tone on many records – I mean Line 6 and Fractal Audio Systems devices etc. So, laptop guitarists, all of you are the future!

For beginners interested in getting into building plugins, where is the best place to start?

Here and here are good places to start. It’s necessary to learn native programming language (C++ or Java) and download some plug-in interface’s Development Kit (e.g.Steinberg and VST).

There is a alternative way as well, one based on Visual Programming Language (e.g. SynthEdit, SynthMaker, etc.). It allows you to build your own plug-ins without the writing of low-level code. Calculus, Numerical methods and Digital Signal Processing courses also will be perfect as a starting point to develop math algorithms of audio plug-ins, if we’re talking generally.

We wish good luck to every new plugin fighter!

What’s the long term goal for you guys? Are you aiming to be the next Slate Digital?

Hah, funny! Steven Slate is like Tony Stark of digital sound world, you know. He is recording engineer, CEO of two companies and he looks like a captain of the football team! How we can catch up with him? Steven, if you are reading this lines, let’s go on a date! I’m just kidding. 🙂

We prefer to imagine ourselves as a tiny garage (band) sound laboratory, guys in the dirty flannel checkered shirts, actually. Our long term goal is to continue doing what we started doing: making audio software products based on crazy ideas. And we are thinking about making some our plugins real guitar pedals in the distant future…

What have you got planned next?

In our road map we’ve got a few virtual guitar pedals planned (each based on an insane concept and design, of course), a virtual vacuum tube amp and a sample pack with forest sounds for independent filmmakers and sound designers. But we don’t know exactly what will be next yet.

If people wanna donate to you guys, how can they do it?

They can support our further development via PayPal on donation sidebar in http://www.evilsoundlab.com or just by this link. Donations really do help us and we are very grateful for it!

Anything else we should talk about? 

Only that we are opened to any suggestions, requests or constructive criticism! Please e-mail us to support@evilsoundlab.com or via feedback form on the contact page of our website to submit a feature request, bug report, question, or other. We will try to answer you as soon as possible, as soon as we can!

All the best in finding your own unique awesome guitar tone! Thanks for the interesting questions! Stay rock!

To find out more about Evil Sound Lab, visit them here. Check out the KVR Developer Challenge here

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