production

LoneRaynger – Heavy Daze (Mdavisto’s Mix)

So, I did another track with super talented Ray Connell (aka LoneRaynger). My last piece of work with LoneRaynger can be found here, back when he was calling himself Mr Ray.

For those who are just encountering LoneRaynger for the first time, he’s a frighteningly talented songwriter, singer, beatboxer and guitar player. Catch some of his work on Facebook, Soundcloud, or YouTube, or follow him on Twitter. At the time of writing, LoneRaynger is currently touring Canada – look out for him in the Vancouver area. He’s keeping a blog of his touring escapades, which shenanigans have included his tour van catching fire (it doesn’t get much more rock ‘n roll than that).

Working with LoneRaynger’s material presents the usual challenge – how do you produce it up to a level of glossiness while still maintaining the organic feel of what he does naturally with his mouth and his guitar? I ended up taking the material a bit further from its organic roots than I originally intended, but I tried as far as possible to keep it grounded in the original performance.

The obvious way to do this was through the rhythm. For the first verse, the beat is 100% LoneRaynger: that’s his beatboxing under there. Thereafter, I open the track up with bigger drums and more synths – but I used SliceX (a beat slicing plugin for FL Studio) to chop up his beatboxing and use elements of it throughout the track. That’s Ray’s mouth-snare you’re hearing driving the track along throughout, as well as his tsp tsp mouth-hihats and periodic mouth-sidesnare action.

In my ongoing effort to actually create synth sounds rather than modify existing ones, I made the bass sound using TAL-BassLine, a very excellent and free synth from Togu Audio Line, and fattened it up using TAL-Tube, also free. The kick and 808-ish hat are generated using Synthmaker, and the morphing pad is hand-filtered for better rhythmic control. Sundry FX were also made using FL’s 3OSC synth.

The end result is a lot more mellow than anything I’ve produced recently, and extremely satisfying.

Check it out. If you like the track, you can purchase it here.

LoneRaynger – Heavy Daze by mdavisto

My Coolest Piece of Audio Gear

I’m currently working on a number of projects which for various legal reasons can’t be posted here yet. In the meantime, lest you think I have vanished, I’d like to post about the coolest piece of audio gear I own.

It was built in the late 1990s by a good friend of mine (Hi RoverT!) as a dedicated interface for a piece of revolutionary software that was blowing all of our minds at the time: Propellerheads Rebirth. For those of you younger than a certain age, you have to appreciate that this app came out right at the dawn of the VST-engorged era we now live in. Rebirth is dead simple: it simulates a bunch of classic Roland gear: two TB-303 bassline synths, a TR-909 drum box, and an 808. It provides the same knobs and controls that the original synths had, and it was designed to be real-time controllable.

There was nothing else even remotely like it in 1997. In fact, I’d go as far as saying Rebirth kickstarted the virtual synth revolution. Sure, there were other synths around at the time – VAZ springs to mind (loved that) -  but nothing else had ever been so accessible, so easy to use, and frankly, so AWESOME SOUNDING.

RoverT built a hardware interface for it, so that he could control it live without having to fiddle with a mouse. It was a prototype for a much more elaborate interface that he subsequently built for himself, which had a bunch of sliders instead of knobs. When he completed the next generation, he gifted the old prototype to me.

Check it out:

The Box

As shiny and cool as his new box was, I love this piece of gear more. The fact that it’s built into a cigar box ramps up the coolness factor for me by an order of magnitude.

This controller basically handles Rebirth’s two 303 synths only – one row of knobs per synth. The telephone keypad on the left maps to the pattern controllers for each synths (you had to pre-sequence your notes on the 303) – eight pattern buttons per synth.

The knobs control Filter Cutoff, Reso, Envelope Mod and Decay – pretty much everything you need to make the synth express.

Life progressed and we moved onto other things, but I kept using The Box. After all, it has gorgeous knobs – seriously, they’re far chunkier and solid than anything you find on a dedicated hardware interface today. And they send out standard (although hardware fixed) MIDI messages.

All I have to do is remap them on the software side to whatever DAW or synth function I want to control, and I get to carry on using this epic piece of kit. I cannot imagine my life without it. I will be heartbroken when it finally dies (although, touch wood, it is showing no signs of doing so).

Incidentally, Propellerheads now gives away Rebirth for free as something of a historical oddity. I totally recommend grabbing  a copy, it’s an awesome synth.

Mr Ray: Run

Mr RaySo, yesterday I nailed a mix for a produced-up version of Mr Ray’s track, Run. The original is here.

This has been a tricky project because of what Ray does. Part of what makes him so unique is his style of delivery – not just the mind bending weirdness of seeing him pull off the simultaneous beatbox + singing + playing guitar thing, but the intimacy with which he does it.

So any production I do on it needs to respect that, and I have to approach it carefully in case in my zest to elevate it with cool synth noises I lose the very thing that made it appealing to begin with. Also, I don’t want to add too much that can’t be reproduced in a live setting, which is where Ray truly shines.

So I’ve done my best to keep it as organic as possible while going nuts on it. I think I’m happy with how it came out.

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edit: find Mr Ray on the Intarwebz here.  Buy his stuff here.