RECORD­ING TECH­NIQUES WITH MICK GOR­DON

HOW ONE MAN WROTE THE SOUND­TRACK TO HELL. WORDS

Australian Guitar - - Producer Profile - BY PETER ZALUZNY.

You might not know his name, but if you’re into video games, odds are Mick Gor­don’s mu­sic has ham­mered its way through your head­phones at some point in the last few years.

This one-man crew from Queens­land has com­posed, pro­duced and per­formed the sound­tracks to some of this gen­er­a­tion’s most mem­o­rable games, in­clud­ing Prey, Wolf en stein: The New Or­der and the 2016 re­boot of Doom.

Yep those de­struc­tive, vis­ceral tones that shat­tered your skull as you evis­cer­ated Hell’s arm with chain­saws, shot­guns and the mighty BFG were born in the brain of one guy. And with the Doom re­boot’s sound­track fi­nally see­ing a re­lease on vinyl and CD this year, it seemed like the per­fect time to learn the sto­ries be­hind some very mem­o­rable mu­sic.

How did you go about find­ing sounds and tones that suited the in-your-face ac­tion of Doom?

Doom was about push­ing the ex­tremes with ev­ery­thing, and that phi­los­o­phy was the most im­por­tant thing. In­stead of six-string gui­tars, it was nine-string gui­tars. We had five-string bases tuned all the way down to F-sharp, and ev­ery­thing in the mix was re­ally over-com­pressed and over-dis­torted.

I like to spend a lot of time cre­at­ing the sounds in Able­ton, FL Stu­dio or Cubase, and I like to ex­per­i­ment with­out any rules. Then, I’ll look out for any­thing cool that came out of it, and I’ll build li­braries of things that hap­pen dur­ing those ex­per­i­men­ta­tion pe­ri­ods.

My phi­los­o­phy with mock­ups is that I usu­ally try to demo the track with the worst sounds I can find – Saw­tooth waves, 808 kick drums, noise snares and stuff like that – be­cause if you can make the song good with those bad sounds, then you know it’s go­ing to be a good song. That was how I ap­proached Doom.

I’d get to that point with a com­bi­na­tion of all sorts of things on the chain: par­al­lel com­pres­sion, tran­sient de­sign­ers, 20 dif­fer­ent plug-ins... Plus, I get bored if some­thing’s sub­tle, and Doom was the big­gest, loud­est, most of­fen­sive game I’d ever looked at do­ing.

Was it tough to EQ a sound­track that’s so com­plex and punchy?

When a note hits a point, I want to make sure I’m push­ing all the fre­quen­cies that best rep­re­sent that note. Then, when the next hit comes in, those things get shifted out of the way and what­ever needs to take the cen­tre stage comes for­ward. That’s an in­cred­i­bly time con­sum­ing process, but it’s how that [punchy] Doom sound comes about. Ev­ery sin­gle 16th or eighth or quar­ter note gets at­ten­tion.

“BFG Di­vi­sion”, for ex­am­ple, is tech­ni­cally a sex­tu­plet rhythm, but it has that groove there and the hit on the first note. As that comes about in the mix, I’m tweak­ing the set­tings ev­ery­where to make that groove come through as much as pos­si­ble. It needs that push and pull. If you just layer up your parts, com­press ev­ery­thing and give it a bit of an EQ, it’ll sound like mu­sic. And that’s fine, but this su­per sur­gi­cal method is more akin to what an EDM artist might do.

So it’s closer to an EDM mix than the metal or djent feel it’s often as­so­ci­ated with?

Philo­soph­i­cally, it was more of an EDM mix with some sort of lower midrange to al­low the eighth and ninth strings to come through. A lot of EDM stuff is sub, kick and snare at 200Hz, 2000Hz, 5000Hz and up­wards. So I kind of took that – and then the lower mid-range of 300 to 600Hz – from heav­ier gen­res.

Did that con­trib­ute to the re­lent­less punch that pulses through the sound­track?

The trick with that is that your ear needs a rel­a­tive point to judge what’s punchy and what’s not. If ev­ery­thing is punchy then noth­ing is punchy, so you need those back­ground sounds and those at­mo­spheric el­e­ments. Then, when the kick comes in, that com­par­i­son makes it feel much louder.

The most im­por­tant part of that, rather than com­pres­sion set­tings, is the phi­los­o­phy of push­ing air. If you just take a drum kit and com­press it to the point where the speak­ers aren’t mov­ing, you’re not push­ing air, you’re just gen­er­at­ing noise. Whereas a great drum kit that’s com­pressed in a nice way re­ally pushes with the beat – that’s what I’m aim­ing for.

What role did re­verb play?

I hate re­verb, gen­er­ally, but I do use a cou­ple of other things that play the same role as re­verb. If I’m us­ing a drum kit, for ex­am­ple, I usu­ally run a mic from the drum­mer’s po­si­tion into a gui­tar amp that’s in a neigh­bour­ing room, and then we’ll record that amp us­ing a far mic. That gives us an in­ter­est­ing room re­verb tone that’s more ef­fec­tive than, say, an ‘80s lin­ear re­verb on your snare.

Does that mean you’ve got a never-end­ing wall of ef­fects, too?

I’ve to­tally lost count [laughs]. I’m not even kid­ding. I have four large cup­boards with 24 shelves, all full of dif­fer­ent ped­als.

Did you use those, or plug­ins, to cre­ate dis­tor­tion?

The ma­jor­ity of my ped­als are dis­tor­tion or drive cir­cuit ped­als. I like hard­ware dis­tor­tion more than plug­ins, be­cause you can feed a re­ally strong sig­nal through hard­ware and it will main­tain the note.

I have ped­als with re­ally nice trans­form­ers, and I have lots of re­ally old, cool valve equip­ment. I bought Jeff Lang’s Am­pex Tube preamp that they used to use in the ‘50s for tape recorders, and I’ve got a Cul­ture Vul­ture that I re­ally like. I love Soviet stuff be­cause they’ve got com­pletely ran­dom com­po­nents. I love dis­tor­tion, and the phi­los­o­phy of it too. Ev­ery­thing is dis­torted all the time – ev­ery­thing! To me, dis­tor­tion is mu­sic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.