I had the opportunity to work on a project for industry veteran Linda Lucchesi, owner of Memphis’ legendary Simply Grand Music which is the home of Sam The Sham and the Pharaoh’s “Wooly Bully”!
“Red Rose Blue” caught Linda’s attention which led her to ask me to remix “If It’s Good To You (It’s Good For You)” written by Dan Greer and performed by Barbara and the Browns, a southern soul and gospel vocal group led by Barbara Brown and backed by her family. The band released music from the early sixties to the early seventies.
My approach for this remix was that I didn’t want to just take a snippet or hook of the track and add new material the way many remixes do, instead I wanted to honor the song and work around it’s form and performance. I considered it more of a “re-production” as opposed to a “re-mix”.
The individual stems that were sent to me straight off tape were lead vocals, background vocals, bass and drums together, congas, piano, 2 guitars, horns, and congas. I kept all the vocals as is and re-arranged the background vocals a little. I processed the horns, guitar, and drums in different ways to sound like vinyl samples so I could trigger from a sampler and achieve a “crate digging” hip-hop production vibe. All the other stems I didn’t use. The new material I added were a huge kick and snaps/claps beat and I also recorded some new guitar at 1:15.
Snippet of the original song from the album “Women of Sounds of Memphis”:
A track I wrote called “Birth of Hip Hop” available on Firstcom’s Darkfly series (Universal Publishing Production Music) was used on American Idol Season 13 as background in a segment where the contestants are goofing on each other. The track has the spirit of early 80’s hip hop in its blending of 60’s and 70’s disco/funk/soul samples.
The production of hip hop of that time was interesting because a track could have samples from multiple records made in different studios with different producers using different equipment to create an interesting blend of sounds (and music production technique history!) in one track. Artits like Public Enemy took this to the extreme by mashing/layering together tons of samples to create one production “sound”.
“Birth of Hip Hop” mixes imaginary samples created using different “aging” techniques such as tape emulation/compression, tube saturation, vinyl crackle noise, and eq filtering to simulate the sonics that an early 80’s hip hop track might have had.
The drums and bass guitar are produced as if they might be a drum break from a 70’s record with typical tape saturation and no reverb or ambience. The piano hook is filtered and distorted along with vinyl crackle to emulate a 60’s Motown sample. The guitar riffs could also have been from the 60’s, maybe from a garage rock (or “freakbeat” as they might call it in England) record. The horns stabs could have been from an early 80’s disco record. All of this combines to create a lighthearted blend of samples and sonic colors.
I was fortunate to have three tracks included in an incredible documentary film by Marcus Robinson called Rebuilding The World Trade Center. The film features amazing time-lapse footage of the construction process as well as drawings and paintings by the filmmaker created onsite. It’s truly a work of art and I am honored to have a small part in it. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 in September of 2013 and an eighty-eight minute version of the film will be broadcast September 2014 on the History Channel.
The first clip uses “Recurrent Act 3” from the Evil Designs release published by Immediate Music:
The second clip uses “Nihilist Tendencies” and “Cavernous Black” from Firstcom’s Darkfly published by Universal Music:
Sidechaining is a production technique used extensively in the electronic/dance genres to control the amplitude of one sound(s) based on the amplitude of another at a given moment. It is commonly used to lower the level of the bass the instant the kick drum plays so that both sounds can be optimally blended and balanced in the mix. Often it is also applied to the entire mix to give the music a “pumping” feel. Beyond this the creative possibilities of sidechaining are endless.
In “Utter Code” sidechaining is used to “turn on” a vocal loop using a noise gate that is “listening” to the synth part. The moment the synth plays a note the vocal can be heard. In this way the synth and the vocal are dynamically connected in rhythm. Later on in the piece (1:13) a second vocal loop is introduced that is controlled in the same manner by a second synth line. The synth parts themselves where created using an algorithmic MIDI generation program called M by Cycling 74. The software dynamically creates a synth part by selecting from a pool of specified notes and rhythmic values. The vocal samples for on this track are recording outtakes of Eddie Tadross for another song we were working on.
In “Ad-lib Algorithm” (most clearly from 3:00 – 4:20) there are two pairings of instruments: synth A controls guitar A and synth B controls guitar B. The synth parts were created with M as mentioned above. The guitar parts were improvised separately without playing along to each other or to any synth part.