This is a step by step breakdown of how Protoculture and Max Graham remixed Gabriel and Dresden’s new single. Each step has a detailed account by each producer of what they did to build this remix.
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V.1: Max Graham: After receiving the vocal, i made a very simple drum track and bassline track with a piano just to create the basic ideas and chords (think pencil sketch of a car just to get the idea). I use piano at first to get a clear sense for how the chords are going to effect the vocal emotionally. No effex or transitions yet, that all comes later. The chords were pretty close to the final but there were a few notes changed.
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V.2: Max Graham: After adding a few stabby samples to give the track some drive the next step was taking the piano chords i had made and and constructing a sound and then a riff. The sound is four different Sylenth synth sounds combined with diff EQ/Volume/Filter for each. I write the notes for the riff then edit them with shorter notes in between to give it excitement.
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V.3: Protoculture: I received some rough drum tracks, basslines and musical elements from Max, some of which I kept in audio, cut up and rearranged to create some interesting backing patterns and so forth. I used Native Instrument’s Massive to create a few bass layers which were carefully eq’d and comped into the final bassline stem. Drums were done in audio tracks and I replaced the kick with one I tuned and designed in Vengeance’s Metrum plugin. With the vocals I created a couple of reverb washes for atmosphere, bounced some feedback delay loops to use as beds under the main groove and various other little tweaks. Often these edits and ideas don’t even get noticed in the track, but in my opinion its these almost unnoticeable details that really make a track shine production wise.
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V.4 Max Graham: This new bed came back to me and is really starting to take shape. I add my parts from V.1 and V.2 back in and using the inspiration from Protoculture’s new parts I added a few little mid bass sounds that i cut from samples as well as some synth stabs all tuned and effected to add some drive. Also added a couple more snippets of the vocal to give it a touch more bounce. I use Ableton’s Drum Rack and drop in a bunch of bits of the vocal, from there i can adjust the sample, the key, the filter on that sample etc. Makes it very quick and simple to play with small sounds to give a track more energy.
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V.5 Protoculture: At this stage the track is pretty much complete, to finish i bring it into Cubase and add a bunch of effects and some automation to smooth over the transitions and beef up the build ups and drops. I also set up some reverbs and delay chains on certain sounds to create some more depth and movement in the track. I take care of Mastering generally with one or two MS Equalisers, multiband compression (I’ll often use “New York” style compression to shape the tone of the track) a final bus compressor and a limiter. Finally we bounce it back to audio and send it off for approval.
Max Graham: There was one awesome change to the final, Protoculture moved the final vocal part back a section, when it kicks in after the breakdown the vocal no longer starts there but one section later. It then continues as the riff dies out then ends with a really cool delay. To me it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Generally when we work together I tend to take on the role of producing the body of the track, while Max will often take the lead on the arrangement and melodic themes, as was the case with this remix.
The transfer of our projects is handled in Dropbox. It automatically syncs files from my studio computer to Max’s so any changes to the project is reflected on both out setups. I’m based in Cubase as opposed to Ableton, which Max uses as his primary sequencer. We often handle this by rendering entire tracks in audio and creating stems. Midi parts are also exported, but I also have a copy of Ableton on hand which can easily be rewired into Cubase to reproduce parts Max has created. Cubase is great for audio editing and I do most of my drum arrangements and mixing directly on the arrange page in Cubase. Occasionally I’ll use Native Instrument’s Battery for drum programming should the need arise, but generally I find I don’t need to resort to loading up a drum machine at all.
When sending back to Max stems are create by routing channels to busses and then batch rendering audio in Cubase to wav files, which were in turn stuck in the drop box to upload for Max to then get into Ableton to work on the final arrangement and melodies.
The final mixdown usually involves me going through every track and double checking EQ, setting panning, levels and compression if need be, and then grouping everything into busses to do a final balance before heading onto the mastering.
These days I actually do the mastering in the project itself. Due to our hectic tour schedule I had to actually complete the mix on headphones, something which I’m normally not keen on doing but in this case I’d just received my new V-Moda M-100 Headphones which I found were more than up to the task. It did still require that I rely quite heavily on AB’ing other tracks to get the sound I wanted, common practice in my studio at home as well though.