Take This Step Studio Notes

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)

For more info: iTunes, Amazon and Beatport

D.A.F. Sequence

So how did he do copying the bassline from Verschwende Deine Jugend? Proper EBM basslines are tough to do without a real analog sequencer.

“ust a small attempt to create a sequence in the style of D.A.F (Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft) recorded with the camera microphone. Gear used: Korg MS20 and MS50 with Sherman filterbank to add some distortion. Korg SQ10. Doepfer quantizer. Korg MS02 to go from the SQ to the Quantizer and back to the MS synths.” – MentallyUnfit

For more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.A.F._(band)

via matrixsynth

Audio Power Tools

Williamsburg Brooklyn has another boutique pro-audio store! Just last month we saw the modular synth shop Control open and now my good friend Dan Physics and his business parter Blue Wilding have opened Audio Power Tools. Dan cut his teeth as a manager at the flagship Guitar Center store on 14th street and now he’s working exclusively with high end stuff. The great thing is they will let you try before you buy which is important because unless you work in recording studios most people don’t have access to say a Germanium micpre.

“Only the good stuff…with the highest performance, value and support for working pros. Every purchase is a balance of necessity and personal taste. Our “demo-based shopping” helps you make confident decisions.” – Audio Power Tools

For more info: audiopowertools.com and facebook.com/Audio-Power-Tools

Miselu Neiro

Engadget has coverage of Google’s I/O conference. Did you know that Google is showcasing a “Net-enabled social music device with a musical keyboard and a wide multi-touch display, and a variety of musical apps and cloud services.” called the Miselu Neiro? Retronyms, Korg and Yamaha are showing off software on the device. Check out the Polysix, a touch screen Theremin and more in the video above. It’s interesting but the iPad has such a huge lead in music apps this will have to be very inexpensive or get some exclusive content. I do like the idea!

“Yamaha is providing the upcoming “neiro” with the Yamaha AudioEngine (TM) Series Sound Chip NSX-1. This powerful synthesizer engine delivers a quality that almost matches the sound of real musical instruments. The DSP chip offers a larger variety of sound effects such as reverb, chorus and EQs that create a rich sound experience.” – miselu.com

For more info: miselu.com

East German Spring Tank

Two awesome things! A custom built spring reverb and a Vermona DRM-1. I own a DRM-1 and I recommend it highly to everyone. Just listen to how great these sound together.

“Finally, my custom built spring reverb is ready. (thanks much to Csaba Füle, the best)
Basically it is an RFT spring tank driven by a Doepfer A-199 module. Much bigger space, much wider spectrum, much better than Accutronics imho. Audio: It’s a basic sequence with the Vermona DRM-1 put on multi channels sent to the Spring Reverb. Changing Emphasis and Feedback here and there on the Doepfer A-199 module, changing the filter on the snare at the solo, and finally, slapping the rack hard in the end. :) It’s just wonderful. Everyone should forget vst reverbs – for a while at least. This thing sounds so unpredictable, so different every time, so alive… I have done some phased and hi-lowpassed feedback and send-return business too, really shouldn’t waste words trying to describe those sounds…” – Hargitai András

For more info: wiretotheear.com/vermona-drm1-mkiii-audio-video-review

via matrixsynth

Cassette Doormat

A $50 cassette doormat. If it were a Maxell XLII 90 I may have considered it.

“If you have fond memories of avoiding The Electric Slide or making mix tapes of your favorite songs from the radio, you’re probably grinning like a fool at this Cassette Doormat. Designed to look like a K7 tape, this rubber doormat is ready to receive your dirty feet. Unlike a cassette tape, it will never require winding with a pencil and it will never wear down to the point of not working anymore. You can even wash it off with the hose when you don’t like the stuff that’s on it. Can’t say that about a real cassette!” – thinkgeek

For more info: thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/gear/ecd4/

via laughingsquid

Jomox Moonwind Videos

I’ve been waiting to see a bit more of what the Jomox Moonwind can do and this week Jurgen has posted three new videos. This is the kind of interesting (and expensive) boutique gear you can really love. I think it’s really great he designs and makes this stuff himself.

“Moonwind Analog Filter Tracker is a true analog stereo filter with built-in step sequencer, a fantastic sounding digital FX chip, 2 LFOs and envelope modulation. Everything is storable and controllable via Midi.” – Jomox

For more info: jomox.de/…product_id=15

Sync Trigger

As I am about three fourths of the way done with my next album and my studio is a mass of wires. I’ve become obsessed with syncing my old drum machines and analog synthesizers using various methods. I’m not looking for perfectly quantized MIDI. I’m looking for some Control Voltage madness. Last night’s experiment will definitely make it to a full song. I haven’t shared anything with you in a while with regards to my upcoming music but it’s time I start breaking the ice. The audio sample may not be your cup of tea but the method can be used to create all sorts of nonsense in many music styles.

I have an old Korg Rythm 55 drum machine. I go out of it’s Trig Out to a Doepfer Dark Time analog sequencer’s Click In. On the Korg you can set the sequencer to trigger in various times. If you select a 16th note you will get your typical Giorgio Moroder type of thing. This time I have it set to follow the Korg’s kick drum (blue arrow above). The Doepfer is hooked up to one of the oscillators on an Analogue Solutions Telemark synth (both pitch and filter). This time around I don’t want the Dark Time telling the synth to play different notes. I only want it to Trigger a very slight pitch change and that’s why (see the green arrow) I have the pitch line stop after the second step. The two steps are just slightly detuned. The filter does change open and closed over 8 steps (which you can only hear when the filter is partial closed at the beginning). If you notice there is a grey Midi cable plugged into the top of the Dark Time. If I wanted I could play different notes on my attached MIDI controller and the entire sequencing line would change pitch.

Hit play on the Korg and off we go. I turn up the filter, bring in the Korg’s snare and you have something from a different decade. To add to the whole vintage feel the Korg has some Boss DM-100 on it. You can hear when I hit the fills on the Korg the synth follows and it’s really magic. One last thing to note is if you look at the Analogue Solutions Telemark photo above you see that orange arrow? That points to the other oscillator that’s not being controlled by the Doepfer. Its another reason you hear a detuned sound. I can bring it and the noise knob in and out for great effect (or verse/chorus parts). Time to add the vocals.

“At its most basic, an analog sequencer is nothing but a bank of potentiometers and a “clock” that steps through these potentiometers one at a time and then cycles back to the beginning. The output of the sequencer is fed (as a control voltage and gate pulse) to a synthesizer. By “tuning” the potentiometers, a short repetitive rhythmic motif or riff can be set up.” – Wikipedia

For more info: thehorrorist.com

Acidlab Modular 303 808

Acidlab who already make great Roland TR-808 (Miami) and TB-303 (Bassline) clones is recreating those products in beautiful Eurorack modular form. As far as pro-audio gearlust these things rate high on the wow I want to touch them scale. You can read an interview I did with Klaus Suessmuth here. Klaus posted these photos and information over at the Muffwiggler forum (link).

“The newest products are FRAME with 84TE space, a 5-ch Mixer and the POW-Modul. 3HE Case is at 75 Euro; the Powermodul with powersupply is at 65 Euro. POW-modules’ performance is +12V/700mA und -12V/700mA. Another new products will follow in the near future: 6HE Case, 303VCO & M303 (303-module); the 808-Drumodule will need more time. -a V/Octave to V/Hz Converter (for Korg-CV & Metasonix) will follow, too!” – Klaus Suessmuth

For more info: muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=55660&highlight=acidlab

Electro Harmonix Sequencer Drum

In the late 1960s Mike Matthews worked as a salesmen for IBM. He then started Electro Harmonix in NYC. The legendary effects pedal company is still going strong. His most famous pedal is the Big Muff fuzzbox. I’m far more interested in his very early analog products. One of them is awesomely named the Sequencer Drum. It’s a simple analog synth with an 8 step sequencer. You can hook two together and they will be in sync. You don’t buy these for their features. You buy them for the sound. Like calves liver it’s something not everyone is after. After watching the video above some of you are already on eBay. You won’t find these often. If your looking to recreate an early 80s Soft Cell demo cassette this is a good starting point.

“The Sequencer Drum is one of the rarest Electro Harmonix pedals. Unlike some of the other EH obscurities, this one is actually useful and sounds amazing! Not only is it an 8-step CV/Gate sequencer, but it has a built in synthesizer and a mode that allows you trigger the sequence at a set decay! The leather pad on the front is meant to be tapped to activate the trigger (hence the “drum” in the title). This particular sequencer is the fully patched out version, with an input that allows you to clock the unit externally, and CV and internal Clock outputs for sequencing other synthesizers.” – Matrixsynth (captured eBay description)

For more info: ehx.com and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electro-Harmonix