Cul­ti­vat­ing cre­ativ­ity

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Producer Masterclass -

As a DJ, pro­ducer and remixer, Alex has to deal with a di­ver­sity of sce­nar­ios when it comes to mak­ing mu­sic. We asked him to talk us through his typ­i­cal daily work­flow and method­ol­ogy. : As you men­tioned ear­lier, you start writ­ing on pi­ano…

AA: “Yeah, a lot of times, es­pe­cially if it’s writ­ing with some­one else. A lot of stuff comes from acapel­las and songs that are pitched to me, and I’ll take the vo­cal and write some­thing un­der­neath; but if I’m writ­ing with some­one else, a lot of the time it’s bet­ter to do it on pi­ano – it seems to con­nect with song­writ­ers a lot more than a kick drum and a weird sound! Some­times I plug [my dig­i­tal pi­ano] in and record it straight in – it’s got a nice sound.”

: How does the process go when you’re work­ing with some­one else?

AA: “You just sit in a room, play mu­sic ideas that you’ve been work­ing on. I re­ally strug­gle to be­gin with be­cause it’s such a weird thing if you think about it: go­ing in a room with some­one and just writ­ing a song. But af­ter a while, you can judge what kind of thing some­body’s go­ing to write. Some­times, as I said, it’ll be all on pi­ano – I’ll start play­ing chords. Some­times I’ll have a bit of a beat ready, or I’ll play some­thing that I’ve al­ready made, and they’ll like it, so I’ll start some­thing sim­i­lar from scratch.

“I don’t write any lyrics, though – that’s not an abil­ity I pos­sess, un­for­tu­nately.” : Pre­sum­ably, if you’re work­ing with a singer, say, they’ll lay ev­ery­thing down

and leave it with you to fin­ish with­out them be­ing there.

AA: “Yeah, that’s the life of the pro­ducer. The song­writ­ing’s of­ten done in a day, then it takes how­ever long it takes to pro­duce up. Some­times, as they won’t have been here for that long, I’ll scrap what­ever I pro­duced in the ses­sion and start from scratch again. Or if I do find some­thing in the ses­sion that I think I’ll end up ac­tu­ally us­ing, I’ll just loop it through­out, rather than sit there and re­ally try and pro­duce a big drop or some­thing like that.”

: How do you de­cide what tracks to take on?

AA: “I can usu­ally tell from work­ing on a track for about an hour if I’m go­ing to do it or not. But hav­ing said that, there have been oc­ca­sions where I’ve worked on some­thing for a week solidly and noth­ing hap­pens, and then I’ll come back to it and it’ll just click into place. Gen­er­ally, though, I will know straight away if the el­e­ments are there”

: And how about remixes?

AA: “Peo­ple started ask­ing me to do remixes af­ter Make Me Feel Bet­ter started to do well. Remixes are big ad­di­tions to sin­gles these days, es­pe­cially with stream­ing – if you’ve got a pop record that’s not dance­able, you need a dance ver­sion to push it in cer­tain ar­eas. Some­times I will get di­rec­tion like that – ‘I want it to be slightly dancier’, or, ‘I want it to sound like this remix you’ve done be­fore’… I get that quite a lot, which is an­noy­ing [laughs].

“Tracks get sent to my man­ager or me, and if I like it, I’ll take it and see what I can do with it. The time­lines are gen­er­ally pretty quick – a cou­ple of weeks, nor­mally. The Louisa John­son one I did, they wanted in a day! It may have taken me around two days, but it was a very quick turn­around.”

: Do you make your sounds from scratch or do you use pre­sets?

AA: “I find sounds and then adapt them. I’ll never use a sound that’s not been changed at all, cos that’s when things do start to sound cheap. I love Serum, it just vis­ually pulls you in. I’ll make sounds with that from scratch – ris­ers, etc. But I mainly start with a pre­set that I like and just evolve it.”

Take note: Alex’s trusty white­board helps him stay on track and keep on top of on­go­ing projects

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