VS-008: B.L. – ‘Waratah’

This project appears to have been first created on my birthday in 2017 whilst I was living in Copenhagen. I remember getting together with my Danish friends from the studio we shared out the back of Bolsjefabrikken in Østerbro for an afternoon session. Hence the working title, ‘The Gathering’. We took a bike ride to the supermarket for supplies and spent some hours chilling together until the early evening.

I’d met these guys through Malthe, AKA ‘Roger Jr.’ who was introduced to me after attending RDG’s ‘Low Pass’ night which was a weekly Wednesday bass music party at the music venue, Stengade, which is not too far from where I was living with Nadja in Nørrebro.

Someone (I can’t remember who it was) had suggested that Malthe might be a good person for me to meet, and they were right. This young Danish guy would bring me into his world which in turn expanded mine greatly.

Malthe was part of a crew called ‘Dubkultur’ (‘Dub Culture’). These guys were throwing some club events at Bolsjefabrikken which focused mostly on Dubstep with Reggae, Dub, UK steppers, Grime and Jungle seeping it’s way into the mix. The group also had a studio out back of the venue near the green room – which was very minimal when I first started going there but it grew considerably up until it was time for me to return to Australia.

After many hours spent there I would get to know Martin, Thomas, Jonas, David, Rasmus and others who would frequently hit the studio to hang out, listen to music, make beats and enjoy the freedom of that Ragnhildgade offered. Once an industrial complex, the area was now home to two underground venues, music studios, a recycled bike workshop, a cafe, a Muay Thai school and more. It was an exciting place.

This ‘Do It Together’ environment was very attractive to me. I became a member of the ‘Radiator Studio’ with Dubkultur, a member of the ‘Booking Group ‘at Bolsjefabrikken (which managed the events there), and I helped run various events there alongside Malthe, Martin and another good friend, Kasper under the ‘Bolsjebas’ and ‘Crossroads’ banners. Needless to say, I was difficult and deeply disappointing to leave, yet I am very grateful for my friendships and experiences that sound my time at Bolsjefabrikken with these guys; thanks to meeting Malthe.

Some members of Dubkultur Crew: Malthe, David, Thomas & Martin.

Originally, ‘The Gathering’ had melodica lines played by Martin which were a signature of the tune. However, because of the instrument being inherently imperfectly tuned, I decided to try other lead sounds for the track. The jazzy electric piano seemed to call for something to more smooth to sit nicely alongside Rhodes and additional guitar chords I’d added for extra colour and harmony.

An earlier bass patch was also eventually swapped for electric bass which I played then chopped to play on a sampler instrument. The initial modulated sine-wave synth bass was replaced with a traditional bass sound which takes a more ‘mature’ approach that gelled better with the aesthetic I was aiming for. I really was thinking what would benefit he track as a unique piece of music rather than trying to fit into a specific genre.

My ‘Music Buss’ was bounced and chopped to create some stabs which were then used to create pads with reverb and delays. A trick I learned from Amit via Audio Science Online tutorials. These were tucked into some spaces which help create interest along the way.

As I was working on the tune I imagined a scenario where a couple were coming together after a hard day at work, especially during this COVID climate when things are extra tough on everybody. I thought about them sitting and talking over a glass of wine and being grateful for each other’s company. This scene informed the arrangement and helped me to create a vision and direction for the tune.

I’d seen Noisia using Oeksound’s ‘Soothe2’ plugin so I downloaded a trial version – which expires tomorrow, just in the nick of time. Soothe2 was used to smooth the sound of the electric piano and guitars. It’s an expensive tool, yet I may buy the plugin in the future as it does seem to be useful for taming resonances in a quick and easy manner. I’ve also seen it used on vocals which could be useful down the track.

After listening to a lot of Dubstep this past momth, I’ve found myself wanting to squeeze a more volume from my masters, so I did some research. A few videos on YouTube suggested that using parallel compression, limiting and clipping would help me to gain the extra volume and density I wanted from my tracks. I bought SIR’s ‘StandardClip’ plugin which I put at the end of my ‘Drum Buss’ to clip the peaks of some of the percussion such as claps and bongo hits. This would allow me to push my limiter a little harder on the Master Buss.

I’ve also been using saturation plugins for some time (Decapitator, Saturn2, Trash2, etc) and I this time I also enlisted the ‘Exciter’ from Izotope Ozone to give my kick drum some character. The layered samples saw a lot of EQ, transient shaping, etc and has become a little dull. There’s something to be said about choosing a good sample from the beginning rather than building your own kick drums but it is rewarding to learn to make your own.

Overall, much was learned through the process of making and completing this project. Techniques I can carry with me to the next track which I think will be another older tune called ‘Angela Lansbury’. But more on that later.

Working on the concept for track had reminded me of the Australian film, ‘Lantana’ and perhaps Anthony LaPaglia and Kerry Armstrong might have been the type of couple I’d imagined in my scenario. I’d also remembered seeing the solo saxophonist playing on the steps at Northcote Town Hall on a balmy Summer’s night.

The ‘Waratah‘ is an iconic Australian flower and it’s deep red colour and unique form have a sensuality that compliments my inspiration for the piece. It also quite apt that we get our first real taste of warm weather today here in Melbourne. The perfect day to release this one.

I’d like to dedicate this track to my Dubkultur breddahs. It was super nice to celebrate my birthday with them at the studio that day. To feel a sense of belonging in a new country which at first was often a lonely place for me.

I hope you enjoy ‘Waratah’ and whatever imagery it conjures for you. It’s not so much a ‘single’ as another feather in cap and a means of learning how to be a better music producer, audio and mastering engineer. It was exciting to record guitar, bass and some shakers for this one and to create a strong vision for what it should be.

‘Waratah’ is available now via the Ved Sengen Bandcamp.

VS-001: B.L. – ‘Brazilian’

My younger sister, Amanda has seen a lot more of the world that I have. Unlike me, she has traveled throughout South America and has fond memories of her time there. Brazil is a place I can only imagine from what I’ve seen on TV. Rainforests, monkeys, iguanas, leopards, macaws, toucans… that type of stuff. A potentially unsettling environment that is both beautiful and intimidating, all at once.

It was the use of the ‘Small Percussion’ kit from Native Instruments Battery 3 that inspired the title of my tune, ‘Brazilian’ which I am proud to finally release today on Bandcamp. Mambo bells, woodblock, cuicas, agogo and some bird-like whistle samples found in folders on my hard-drive.

This track marks some ‘firsts’ for me. The first release on my Ved Sengen label, my first ever dubstep release and the first track I’ve put out since I was involved in the Grim Trinity/Intergalactic Spokesmen 12”EP way back in 2008. I started this project in 2012 so it’s release is a long time coming.

The main motivator of completing this project so many years later is a few good responses from others over the years. My friend and avid dubstep fan, Jordan once expressed an interest in cutting a ‘dub-plate’ of the track and it was also the first of my productions I played on a sound system to an audience. One of the audience members was Danish producer, 2000F who came up to me while it was playing at a Strøm Festival event in August 2015.

Nadja, my girlfriend at the time, strongly encouraged me to take a track along to a dub workshop and listening session with Sherwood & Pinch who were playing a live show at the festival later in the week. I also attended that event which included Andy Stott on the line-up; plus a talk with Hyperdub boss, Kode9, also from the UK.

KPH Volume

I arrived early at a venue called ‘KPH Volume‘ in Vesterbro on the Wednesday night with a couple of Tuborg Grøn cans in my bag and my tune on a USB to play on the sound system after the workshop.

I remember smoking a small joint on my own out the back of the venue alongside the Strøm Lydcykel to calm my nerves. Waiting around for the event to start, I reintroduced myself to Pinch after meeting him in Melbourne at a Heavy Innit!! event which I hosted with my friend Graeme some years ago. This was a good move as it gave me an opportunity to join in a conversation with Rob and his cohort, Adrian Sherwood before they did their workshop.

Adrian was quite friendly and the conversation was light and relaxed. It helped me to chill out about being there ‘alone’ and playing my track.

Eventually the workshop kicked off and we were shown how the guys ran their live dub-mixing set-up for their show. A Midas desk, some samplers, a laptop and a few effects boxes. It was great to see how they put their live show together.

After this was the listening session and I patiently waited my turn to hear my tune on the sound system. Being a newcomer who didn’t know any of the locals, nor speak or understand any Danish at the time, I was fairly timid.

It was getting close to the end when I noticed that my name had already been crossed out but my track hadn’t been played. I thought that maybe I would miss out, but let the DJ know what had happened. Finally, the last tune came up and it was ‘Brazilian’.

Some people had left the event by this time but that didn’t bother me. I was just excited to hear the track playing over the speakers.

Some people danced and seemed to get into the vibe which was a good feeling. Then when it was about two-thirds of the way through, Frederik came up to me and asked me if I’d produced the track. Naturally I said, ‘Yes’. He congratulated me and handed me his business card: ‘Frederik Birket-Smith, CEO of Strøm Festival’.

Sherwood & Pinch Workshop at Dubspot in the USA
2000F’s business card

Of course I was chuffed with the experience and biked home to Nørrebro with a smile on my face, arriving at the door to thank Nadja for encouraging me to take a track along to the session.

Later I would play this track alongside two other productions as part of a series of events called ‘Crossroads’ at Bolsjefabrikken that was curated by myself and my friend, Malthe (AKA Roger Jr.). Malthe would later invite me to join him on the Bas Under Buen Tour of Denmark in 2016. These are some of my fondest memories of Denmark and experiences that I am most grateful for.

How could I not want to finally release these tracks to celebrate my achievements?

This one may not be the greatest production I will ever make but we all start somewhere. The process of finishing a track is so different from starting one. You learn skills you don’t need at the beginning of a project. This is why I plan to complete a bunch of older works to gain the experience, build my confidence and speed the process in the future.

‘Brazilian’ is available now via the Ved Sengen Bandcamp and as a bonus, I’ve included a sample pack in WAV format from the project. You may like to use these in your own productions. The track will appear on streaming sites in the coming weeks.

Below is a playlist that guides you to the place that this track comes from and I’ve also included a video for 2000F’s ‘Blæst Igen’ (‘Blazed Again’) and his classic collaboration with J.Kamata, ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’.

BRAZILIAN’ ON SOUNDCLOUD
BRAZILIAN’ ON SPOTIFY
BRAZILIAN’ ON BANDCAMP

2000F ft. Højer Oye & Ranske Penge – ‘Blæst Igen’
2000F & J.Kamata – ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’