Keyboardist, producer, engineer, songwriter, and musical director Sven Martin is a worldly man. You get that way when you grow up in Düsseldorf, Germany, live in the Los Angeles area, and tour the world as musical director and keyboardist for Russian pop superstars t.A.T.u. Concerts for 100,000 people in Kazakhstan, sharing the stage in Red Square with Shakira and Black Eyed Peas, playing keyboards on Liz Phair's "Chicks with Attitude" tour, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno—touring the world is just part of the job for Martin.
Recently, Interscope Records hired Martin for an interesting project: putting together an all-woman backing band for new artist Natalia Kills. The band consists of a keyboard player and a drummer with only a Yamaha DTX-Multi12 Multi-Pad electronic percussion instrument, with which she plays all the drums sounds from the record. The few remaining parts are on prerecorded backing tracks. As of this writing, that project is still in development.
Much as he enjoys touring and creative gigs like helping artists prepare their bands for the road, Martin also loves working in the studio. At his home in North Hollywood, Martin turned his two-car garage into a project studio, Garage Royale, which he describes as "a secluded, vibe-y retreat in a garden setting in North Hollywood that includes a massive collection of today's and yesterday's keyboards." It also includes a PreSonus Central Station. "I've been using the Central Station as the main centerpiece of my studio for years," says Martin. "I love the features and flexibility. It's so easy to switch inputs and speakers and to give two people a quick headphone mix, and when I mix in Pro Tools, I can bypass my board and go straight into it."
Like many of Europe's better musicians, Martin is a classically trained pianist. He discovered synthesizers at age 12 and later studied audio and video engineering at the prestigious Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, Germany, then continued his audio engineering studies as an intern at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles. He has written songs for a wide variety of artists and has a publishing deal with Chrysalis (now BMG), and tracks by his band Life, Death and Giants have been licensed for TV and film, including Summerland (Warner Brothers), and Raising Helen (Touchstone Pictures). And of course, Martin continues to write songs and produce artists at Garage Royale, including production and writing for Lena Katina's first solo album. (Katina and Julia Volkova are t.A.T.u.'s stellar lead singers.) "Balancing time between the stage and studio can be tricky," says Martin, "but I love them both, so I do them both."
Martin's PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 digital mixer is an integral tool in his band's rehearsal space. "PreSonus products are well thought-out and easy to use, and the sound is very clean," he explains, "and nothing else out there anywhere near this price bracket offers these features. StudioLive 24.4.2 is the only board out there that suits our needs. We run in-ear monitors for seven people, some of them in stereo, and this board can handle it all, with dynamics processing and two sets of effects in one great piece of gear. I like how you dial up monitor mixes: just press the Mix button for the person's aux send and dial in their monitor mix with the Fat Channel knobs and LED meters. On top of that, I can multitrack-record the whole band through one FireWire cable. Brilliant! And I love the ease of use; I never really needed to look into the manual, although I'm tempted to get an iPad just to make the board even more visual."
With the Central Station at the heart of his studio and the StudioLive 24.4.2 anchoring his rehearsal space, it's obvious that Sven Martin is sold on PreSonus gear. Indeed, Martin summed up his feelings with this recommendation: "Great stuff, great people—go and check it out!"...