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|WORKING METHODS - inspiration / techniques / devices
/ studio life
From: Johnny Richman
Who usually took the initiative to go and bash things in search of novel sounds?
In the earlier days (with Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller), it was like a pioneering expedition. All of us would go off to local derelict areas armed with hamster....er...hammer and tape recorder. In later years, once the novelty wore off, we limited ourselves to whatever was within eyesight in the control room.
From: Sylvain Chatard
I can't think of any other sample from a DM song being used to build another but I'm sure there are lots. Could you give me some examples?
Um......... no I can't think of any either, apart from remixes like 'Breathing In Fumes' (spawned from 'Stripped').
In the past, how were the songs programmed - with some very old sequencers or how? For example in 1981, was the sequencer already discovered? I suppose you didn't have a Mac in those days?
When I first joined DM, they were using something called an MC4 - a 4-track sequencer. We also used Dan's Arp 2600 sequencer which required a CV and Gate triggered by a click (spike) recorded on tape. Ironically, this method of sync is actually tighter than Midi. After the MC4, we used an Atari with BBC sequencer and midi or sometimes, the internal sequencer of the synclavier. It wasn't until 'Violator' I think (or maybe even 'SOFAD') that we switched to Steinberg's Cubase which was still run with an Atari + 21" monitor. I only switched to Mac for the last Recoil LP.
From: Neil Oates
With the multitude of 'layers' that Depeche Mode's songs required, were all synth / sample parts recorded on separate tracks and if so, how many tracks did some of DM's 'bigger' songs require?
In the earlier days we would record 24 track with 2 (sometimes 3) non-conflicting parts on each track. When mixing, one could rely on automation to separate out each individual sound to it's own channel, with dedicated effect and so on. Later, we recorded with 48 tracks so that monitoring would be easier when working on the songs. We would also run parts live unless they needed to be recorded to free up a synth or something. Some of the more complicated Mode recordings included 'Master & Servant', 'Black Celebration', 'Clean' and 'I Feel You'.
Did you use effects units on each track or were 'built-in' keyboard effects sufficient?
It's only in more recent years that keyboards come with their own effects units built in. Usually, dedicated outboard effects work better and we used plenty of them. Most sounds would tend to have a particular effect of its own with the better quality reverb and delay units saved for the vocals.
Finally, would the whole band be present during much of the recording or was it limited to the 'essential' folk?
It changed over the years. In the earlier years everybody would be there with the result often being lots of chat and mucking around with little actual work being achieved. As time went on we all realised that less people in the control room equalled more work done. On the last few albums, it would only be those that were essential or specifically needed.
From: Dan Wellman
When in the studio recording the 'Violator' and 'SOFAD' albums, did you generally run the synth parts live by MIDI or did you commit things to a sampler or tape and then sync the tapes up with new parts as you recorded them?
We ran things live for a while until we were happy with the song structures. Then we recorded most of the parts to multitrack.
From: Pedro Picoto
I've noticed that you a high level of sibilance in your voice. On '101' it's very perceptive when you do the chorus with Mart. Do you have difficulty processing your voice or do you like it that way?
Is it you playing piano on 'St Jarna', 'Pimpf', 'Memphisto' and 'Sibeling'?
Yes, I think I played on all of those.
From: David Muhlenfeld
Some of the Mode tracks from 'Black Celebration' have six or eight little melodies all working together in a kind of techno-fugue (i.e. 'Here Is The House', 'Black Celebration'). Was Martin responsible for all of these little melodies or did you or Daniel Miller add some during the production phase? Or take a track like 'Enjoy the silence' - the single version was a LONG way from the Harmonium mix with just the pipe organ and Martin singing. Who added all of the melodies? Ultimately, where does one draw the line between songwriting and production?
I can't remember who did exactly what on each track but in the case of 'Black Celebration', some melodies came from the original demo, some came about in the studio. Actually, Dan and I often felt there were too many counter-melodies and not enough space in the music. With 'Enjoy', the Harmonium version is basically the original demo. The LP version came together in the studio. Go to Report -editorial / octoberfor more info.
I'm 'old school' when it comes to song writing. Lyrics + chord structure equals the song, everything else is arrangement and production. Not everyone would agree though. It's difficult to say with something like Recoil for example. I never sit down and 'write a song', they just evolve during the recording / programming process. Had we taken that approach with DM, then the publishing credits would have been different.
From: The Faith Healer
Joining the band full time with the making of 'Construction Time Again', did you have any qualms about stepping in with an 'accomplished' band and did you contribute as much to the album as you would have liked, being the 'new guy'? How quickly did the original members of DM accept you and the contributions you could make?
I had no problem getting involved - the others weren't particularly precious about the studio. The most protective person was actually Daniel Miller who very much controlled the studio direction at that time.
Did Depeche Mode retain the sounds that were used over all the past years prior to 'Ultra' ?
Most of the sounds are scattered around on various discs, DATs etc. They are also accessible from the original multitracks.
From: Dinesh Chandramouli
I read the August editorial and I found it very interesting. During the entire 'SOFAD' project, you were the one person that kept on working while the others were on holiday. Was this the case with the earlier albums and projects too and didn't the others ever want to help out?
It was actually during the making of 'Some Great Reward' that I finished the record while they went on holiday, not 'SOFAD'. During SOFAD, Fletch went home for personal reasons and during the 'Devotional' tour, I did a lot of work in the studio when people were on holiday or during periods of down-time between different legs.
Were you responsible for all the samples used in DM?
No I wasn't. There were many other people involved in DM's production over the years.
Can you give an example of where your voice can be heard on a DM release?
A lot of the backing vocals - 'Everything Counts' for example. You may find something useful in the editorial on the making of the singles.
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