So Harry, tell us about your creative process; how do you generally start a track?
I’ve been making music for over 15 years now and I’ve always tried to start off the track idea with something unusual and unique. Rather than starting with a sample CD, or plug-in, I’ve always wanted to use tones and textures that are personal to me. Whether it be recording an old school break on a real drum kit, sampling unusual world instruments or heavily manipulating a vocal, making it into something completely different.
So, you generally avoid using sample libraries?
I think is good to start tracks using your own stock of quirky noises, grooves and melodies. Sample CDs and plug-ins will always be there, as a go-to to give you the added energy and punch that you need, especially in electronic productions but there’s no replacing your own original sonic ideas. Plus, making music is more fun that way, right?
What was the concept for this particular track?
The process concept was simple: Try and use my studio environment unconventionally to create an electronic beat.
How did you go about doing that?
I decided to stick a couple of mics in various areas of the studio and start listening to both the instruments and the space differently. I wanted to use the most interesting instruments in the room. The first, being the tabla, which I bought in Goa a while back. After playing around with it was obvious it was a tonal bass drum. With a bit of EQ, I instantly heard a fat 808 kick. This immediately dictated a direction for the track.
After sampling organic clicks, I knew I had to use something else to create the groove but I didn’t want to use percussion. I found myself tapping out some rhythms on the studio desk to get a feel and quickly realised I would just use what I was tapping, a vintage ITA sidecar mixer. The room mic picked it up and using the Launchpad I could manipulate it into a driving groove.
Tell us a bit more about how you’re using Launchpad in this performance.
Launchpad is the perfect hardware companion for this workflow. I have it right next to the keyboard, when playing in ideas. I can record clips on the fly, load up the pad and then start jamming out arrangement ideas. It’s a quick and fluid way of working, very important at the early stages of a track.
The Launchpad in its various incarnations has been a crucial part of my studio setup as well as my live setup over the years. Since using Ableton, the clip session mode has been key when writing new productions.
Do we spy some contact microphones in there too?
Yeah, I hooked up a few instruments on the wall and I had to get the Autoharp in the in the mix but I didn’t want it’s original tone so using a contact mic, I ran it through some overdrive, auto filter and reverb in Ableton to get a huge pad. Like many producers making electronic music for years, I’m pretty familiar with the Roland TB303 but with a bit of tweaking and overdrive you can get a very similar acid bass tone from the Moog Little Phatty. I thought it’d be fun to use the Launchpad as a midi controller to program a 303 style riff. Add in a handy glass of water and an old funk break in for good measure, (it’s so much fun jamming out chopped up funk breaks on a Launchpad) and you’ve got all your groove elements.
Harry is the in-house engineer, producer and manager at The Blue Studios. www.thebluestudios.co.uk
He is also co-founder of Sound Matters which uses sound, in particular found-sound, to engage people with environmental issues. www.sound-matters.com