Ty and Drew talk production
Ty and Drew have a studio that is crammed with incredible kit, both vintage and new. They gave us some amazing insights into how they put their tracks together, by taking us through the making of Playing with Fire. The track features rapper and poet Akala, and rap and grime MC Durrty Goodz, as well as keyboard guru Amp Fiddler.
Playing With Fire is a hypnotic track off the Kick Snare And An Idea Part One EP.
The initial drum parts come from the MPC and then we’ve got a sample loop that we play around with. Amp Fiddler plays keys. It’s a swingy, happy, fantasy kind of record with us doing double time over it.
It’s kind of a loping, leading beat. We didn’t programme it so that it would have too much going on - the vocals would be the thing that walk all the way round it.
Ty and Drew say that the notes are played behind the beat, and Amp Fiddler is playing their favourite Fender Rhodes keyboard. Amp Fiddler is a soul and funk musician who has worked with everyone from Prince to George Clinton and Primal Scream. Leading jazz/soul singer Julie Dexter is on backing vocals, and Ty plays glockenspiel.
It was about building up the atmosphere, The sample’s already got a particular melody - we’re trying to build it up and have elements there that just made it bigger.
Their Korg MS-20 also features, with heavy filtering that makes it sound a bit like a theremin. They called the sound ‘Spooky Korg’!
The rap has to move the song
The beat is very static because I knew the rapping would be all over the place, all over the music, it just needed to be lolloping so the rap could fit in. I really find with production sometimes there’s a lot of overproduction. The producer does everything so the rappers just have to rap and it’s like really sometimes it’s just nice to create a soundbed where the rap has to then move the song. And that’s what we did.
Ty compares overproduced tracks to athletic chaos!
To me it’s like running a hurdle race. But actually you didn’t sign up for the hurdles. You signed up for a straight 200 with no Usain Bolt, you expect to win. And then all of a sudden you just get a bathtub, a giraffe, an elephant, you ‘re in a barnyard, all these things you’ve got to jump over just to run the distance. It’s important sometimes just to create space so that people don’t have to jump over stuff all the time vocally.
The danger of bedroom producing
I think as bedroom producers, it’s very easy to just sit home and because no one else is with you, you can just make the music and do everything and then create every nook and cranny and what you don’t realise is actually you’ve seasoned up the chicken so well that even the chicken doesn’t want to jump in the oven and get cooked.
The chicken’s calling you jerk, like why would I jump into this oven? You’ve done everything. So it’s about space and just giving a bit of time for certain things to kind of hop off and happen. That’s why we collaborate and do certain things a certain way. And that… is magic.
Drew says creating space is something he has learned from Ty.
He’s taught me how to listen out for spaces in the song, because often in the past I may have overplayed synths or keyboard parts and you know there’s actually no space or room for any vocalist to actually sit on it, so it’s quite a valuable thing to learn.
The essential Akai MPC3000
We’d heard that Ty is hoarding vintage MPCs and we had to ask him just how bad his MPC addiction is!
I have three of them! The reason why I love this drum machine is because it has a particular sound, it’s quite crunchy but it allows me to do enough things, it allows me to work alongside Drew. We can programme stuff and then develop it as we go.
The MPC comes from a long range of many different versions so there was the MPC60 then there was the MPC60 mark 2, then there was the MPC3000. So this was quite an early version. Then there was the 2000 then there was the 2500 then the 100 then the 50, 59, 99p, you know, there’s all of those.
But this one here, there’s something about it, just something that feels classic to me as far as the type of things you can do and get beatwise before you then click in with Logic and add those things. The MPC is my kind of apparatus that I talk with my hands with, as far as our collaborations go.
I love this drum machine, it has a particular sound
Live musicians and a hip hop beat
The MPC is not the only thing they use for beats. The studio has a number of vintage drum kits from the 60s through to the 80s including Olympic and Premier, as well as a new Sonar kit. There are plenty of musicians and real instruments on their tracks too, including leading jazz / hip hop / dubstep drummer Richard Spaven.
We’re not afraid to mix live musicianship with a hip hop beat to get a little bit of movement but then to still make solid beats. Richard Spaven has a way of playing music where it’s like, he brings a hip hop-ness to the way he does the sound when we do it live and that’s why we used him on Well Well Well because he just, Richard understood and I think loads of drummers understand but it’s about, it’s not just about having a live musician on your music, it’s about having a live musician that understands and plays the right thing for you to then manipulate for the way that you need it to be.
Linn Drum lyrics
We couldn’t resist asking why Ty references the Linn Drum in his track Like You Never.
With Like You Never, when I mention the Linn Drum in the third verse, what I’m doing is I’m really referencing a style of music that has become a mainstream music right now, from America, where they use the electro Linn Drum sounds as the general sounds for the drum kit.
To me at this moment in time that style of music reminds me of lazy production, it seems like people are very formulaic with it. I do use it, we flip around, we play around. I love the drum machine I just don’t like the way people are using it right now. It’s very cheap, very follow-fashion, very weak. Very whack.
The Neumann TLM 103 microphone
Ty and Drew favour one particular mic for their sound, as Drew explains.
The mic that we use mainly for recording Ty’s vocals is a Neumann TLM 103 and I really like this mic, it’s my favourite mic. I love the sound of it, it’s got a slight EQ push.
I always use it with a TLA voice processor. It’s an Ivory Series, and has a built-in compressor.
The combination just really works. It doesn’t always work on every rapper or singer but for Ty’s situation it really really works.
Neumann TLM 103 Microphone
It’s my favourite mic, it’s got a slight EQ push
At the heart of the studio, we use Logic. I like to use a really good sound processor, an audio interface, we use an Apogee Ensemble.
We went for a Toft 24, a Toft ATB console which is an analogue console and it’s based on a console from the 70s and that gives us the sound we need to compliment the synths and the MPC and everything else.
The Toft was designed by Malcolm Toft and based on his design of the Trident Series 80 Console.
Apple Logic Pro
At the heart of the studio