Talkback Blog

August 2011

Love Machine: The Epic Art of the Backing Track


As resident studio staffer who has some instruments, I jumped at the task. I did time in some bands that had horn players, how hard could it be? It’s no Blink 182 let me tell you that! In the afternoon we were sent the clip of the track they needed re-created. I rushed home to my Chinatown abode, and on the way stopped at the newly opened Cafe Grumpy, my lower east side espresso haven, to mentally prepare. The track was on loop on the iPod and I was in fight mode. Lets go through it together, shall we? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajsYPTaboKQ

Now listen to that. There appears to be approximately 41 people, pretty much just groovin. The tempo shifts a bit, the vocals are amazing, the bass is jumping all over the place doing some counter melodic harmonic junction extracting expressive science™ all while the guitar is doing some jazzy chord voicing, and the horns are accenting it like it’s Spanish punctuation up in here! Just breathe for a second.....Whew! Ok we’re back!

Not that I thought it would be simple, but half of me expected to be like The Other Edge (Guitar Player in U2, not us the studio) and hack out maybe 1 note and just plug in some delay pedals to let machines do all the work! But no, we were going to get crazy here, like only a recording engineer who works frequently in voice over can do. We were going Analog, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.

Out of necessity, I chose a different route than usual. I attempted to use an Elektron Machinedrum, a beautiful piece of hardware, but the changes were proving too complex for its step-programming based system. So I went into Logic, one of the most illogical programs out there...and used the built in drum machine. I created about 7 patterns on some vintage style kit... because those Motown drums are Air Tight! This was not the real challenge though. The challenge was the bass!

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