One of the major reasons for starting this blog was to share my studio notes with you. I love sharing the creation process and hearing feedback. Take This Step was released last month with remixes by Pet Duo, Mark Hawkins, Brian Burger and Lenny Dee. You can get the full details of the song including a promo video on it’s original post page: click here. Today let’s get into how I created it. My last album Joyless Pleasure was very autobiographical, song structured, love songed and a real listeners album. For my next album Fire Funmania which will be released later this year I wanted to go back to my roots a bit. The first single Take This Step clears the way. Lyrically it has two themes. You can take the song literally as an indoctrination anthem. Join the army, the troop and fight. You can decide if I am being satirical or not. However, the theme could also be about getting a day job or even being pushed into marriage and society. As a 42 year old trying to conform and be healthy yet keep my art pure surely there’s a reason I was able to make this song. The arrangement shows the nervous tension with 5 parts growing to a peak each higher than each other until the cresendo at the end. I think I’m trying to say yes it’s ok to join but if you do do it strong, properly and aggresively!
Ok so yeah now to the toys. There are several kick drums on the track. I’ve been DJing on my Traktor S4 a bit and you can hear that influence here. As I use NI’s Traktor anytime I put a loop into one of the Sample Decks and it loops more than 2 times is saves the loop on my hard drive for later use. I grabbed 2 of the kicks on Take This Step from this folder. I also created 2 kicks on my Jomox Mbase 01 which is signed by Jürgen Michaelis. The Mbase has a depth you can’t get from samples. There are parts of the song where you hear the underlying kicks booming and that’s the Mbase in action. In sections of the song there is a Boss DM-100 bucket-brigade analog delay on the kicks. You can hear it right away as the song starts. The ride is from my MFB-522. The 522 is like a mini Roland TR-808 and I like it quite a lot. You can get some really clean shimmering rides from it that again most of the time samples can’t match. I used Ableton Live’s built in Auto Filter to cut some of the high’s out from it so it fit well in the song. There are some large long white noise crashes that bring in new sections. Those are from an Ensoniq ESQ-1. I bought a Crystal-X cartridge off eBay that has a few hundred sounds on it and the crash/smash is on there.
The main synth is a Moog Slim Phatty going through Audio Damage’s Vapor diffusion chorus plug-in. In different sections of the song the main synth pattern changes. I used 3 plug-ins each seperately at different times to achieve the different synth patterns: Izotope’s Stutter Edit, PSP’s N20 and Sugar-Bytes Turnado. These are the type of plug-ins that are nearly impossible to replicate in hardware without a serious amount of work. What I usually do is go through the presets, do some editing and then render the same part 5-10 times. Then as the song plays back into the section I swap out the different renderings and choose the one that’s the coolest. It’s that little extra work that makes all the difference. Towards the end of the song there is a build up where the synth starts panning, changing and “lifting”. This was done with Sugar-Bytes Effectrix and automation.
I wanted to keep these vocals clean and commanding. The chain was a Shure SM7b mic through an API 512c micpre. I also used Izotope’s Nectar plug-in. There’s quite a few places where the last song in a verse has some effects on it. Like the synth parts I would render the last word, move it to a blank channel, load several effects on the channel and change presets, edit and render about 5 different versions. I would again listen back to the song with replacing each version and choosing the best one.
I follow my own advice and the faders were all at about half height so the mix came out nice and clean. I added some volume to the master file using Izotope’s Ozone. I didn’t work on this song all day in a succession of days so it’s hard to tell you exactly how long it took to create it. I would guess about a full week or two weeks on and off. For me the most difficult part is always the arrangement. It’s like a puzzle and if you don’t feel inspired or take the time to get it right you can really ruin a song. So this song is a mix of the best hardware and software I have.
The next single which comes out in August is called The Man Master. I shot a music video for it in Berlin, there are remixes by David Carretta, Millimetric and Dupont and there will be a limited edition 7″. Production wise this song is a full analog affair using only analog sequencers and such. More on that when it’s released!
“The Horrorist’ new single is pretty awesome. His new record is going to be the best one yet.” – alexxaugustus (via Twitter)