Jakob Rabitsch, a.k.a. Yakob, is an Austrian success story: Having grown up in a musical family in Vienna, Austria, he moved to the US as a young adult and received a scholarship at Berklee College of Music where he graduated summa cum laude. He went on to intern for legendary film composer James Newton Howard, which paved the way for his career in film, tv and advertising as a composer and producer. He received a Grammy nomination for the rap album ‘Free 6lack’ in the category “Best Urban Contemporary Album”. Additionally, he has written and produced songs for artists such as 6lack, J. Cole, Future, UMI or Gallant. This year, he’s nominated for the 3rd time for a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Album” for his production work on Take Time (Giveon).
Today, we catch up with him in his studio in Los Angeles:
How do you like living and working in L.A.?
Yakob: I really like it here from a work perspective! There are so many people who are incredibly driven and productive, especially in the entertainment industry, so it’s easy to stay motivated and inspired. All my favorite artists live here, and if not, they at least come here to work, so the opportunities you can find here are unmatched. Plus, the weather’s nice.
Do you miss Vienna? Do you get to go back once in a while?
Yakob: Of course I do, it’s still my favorite city! I try to go back twice a year, especially around Christmas I like to make sure I’m there. Christmas under palm trees just doesn’t feel right to me.
What are you working on right now?
Yakob: We’ve started working on 6lack’s new album, UMI’s new project, as well as Giveon’s next album, among other things. I’m trying to stay as productive as I can despite the pandemic, by doing Zoom sessions and such, even though it’s not my favorite way to work. But I think we all have to adapt in order to stay afloat.
It’s always hard to say when projects are actually coming out, especially now, when record labels are hesitant about putting out music the artist can’t support with a tour. But the projects I mentioned above are some of the ones I’m very excited about.
You were again nominated for a Grammy this year! Could you share some background info regarding the production of Giveon’s “Take Time”?
Yakob: Yeah! A friend of mine, Sevn Thomas, who’s an amazing producer in his own right (he produced Rihanna’s “Work”, alongside a lot of other amazing songs), reached out to invite me to a writing camp for Giveon. I listened to some singles he had out at the time, and once I heard his voice I knew he was special, so I said yes. We were in the studio for 3 days, with some of the best producers and writers in current R&B. Me, Boi-1da and Los Hendrix were making beats in one of the rooms, and Giveon came in, heard what we were doing and immediately started writing to it. That ended up being the song “The Beach”. The other song I was working on was “World We Created”. Sevn asked me if I knew any trumpet players for this song, and funnily enough, my roommate Ariel Shrum plays the trumpet. So I ended up writing a horn arrangement for the song and had Ariel play it.
Is your process the same for tv/film vs writing for an artist/album?
Yakob: No, I wouldn’t necessarily say so. I love doing both. But when I’m working on a TV commercial for example, I mostly deal with corporate clients who aren’t musicians, so the communication with them will obviously be different. On the other hand, one thing I love about working with visual media, is when the music syncs up with the edits, especially when it happens on its own. And how what we hear can completely change our impression of what we see.
Can you tell us a little about your studio? What is your set-up? What are your 3 favorite pieces of gear?
Yakob: My current home set-up isn’t very complicated, but it works perfectly for my purposes.
As a trained keyboard player, I have a couple of hardware synths that bring me joy, one of them being a Minimoog Model D Reissue. On the microphone side, I’ve been very excited about the Austrian Audio OC818, which I’ve been using on many different sound sources, mainly vocals, acoustic guitars, or as a room mic. And on the creative effects side, I’ve been loving my vintage Roland Chorus Echo RE-301, I used it on pretty much every track on my last single “Camera”, I just love the texture and the haptics of finding the right delay rate by turning a knob.
What do you look for in a microphone? Does it depend on the source or do you look for transparency and accuracy?
Yakob: It depends on my recording situation; when I’m working with bigger artists at a big studio, I love being able to utilize whatever their mic closet has to offer. But at home, I like to have a transparent mic, ideally with an expensive sounding top end, that I can use and various sources, such as the OC818.
Do you often need multiple patterns on a mic, say, to pick up more of the room/space, or do you prefer a tight pattern and add space in the mix?
Yakob: I prefer the latter. I’m not an expert when it comes to polar patterns, and I’m so used to working in-the-box that I’m more comfortable with controlling the space with plugins.
But when I am lucky enough to work with engineers more knowledgeable than me, I always respect their expertise when it comes to recording techniques.
In which situations have the Austrian Audio mics performed well for you?
Yakob: I’d be hard-pressed to say when they didn’t worked for me! They’re just such great all-around mics. They sound amazing on vocals, they sound beautiful on acoustic guitars (one of my best friends, Nicholas Veinoglou, an incredible guitar player, is currently refusing to return one of my OC18’s to me because he’s so in love with the sound of it), they’re just awesome.
How do you pick a mic for each artist you might be working with?
Yakob: I try to listen to their music and get a feel for their voice. Sometimes I think I know which one I’m going to use, but when I actually do, I have to adjust because the situation might call for something different. Their voice might already have a natural raspiness or high-end, or it could use some more body, it really depends. But it’s a great feeling when you find the right match.