Anji and I are on the verge of completing a new track, called “Love Survives,” which has a bit of a Morcheeba feel. It’s good to get back into the studio again! We look forward to picking up some much needed software with the proceeds from the sales of the Love Spirals Downwards Live DAM and Payback earnings. We really appreciate all the support you’ve shown us on MP3.com!
April 2001, MacNETv2, Chris Volpe
Chris: Why the Mac platform and not Windows?
Ryan: Actually, we do have one Windows machine, a Compaq, that we use as the server for the studio and house. I’m interested in getting Mac OSX server one day, but I don’t have a spare Mac that I can use as a server right now. But back to your question, there are many reasons why we use Macs. The biggest one is that I enjoy working on them. When there is a problem, I can most often figure out what’s wrong and fix it myself, while PCs seem more complicated in that regard. I like the plug and play ease of use that Macs have. There’s nothing worse than trying for hours and days to get hardware working. Plus, Apple continues to create the most innovative products. If I had enough money, I’d go out today and buy the new flat panel G4 iMac for the office, an iBook for lighter work and playing games, a Titanium PowerBook for doing live shows, and a 1 ghz G4 to run a ton of audio plug ins in my studio. I can’t say that I want to rush out there and buy a copy of Windows XP.
Chris:: Do Macs enhance your creativity in any way?
Ryan: I don’t know if Macs make me more creative, but as far as computers go, they’re the least obtrusive in letting me get on with my creative work in the studio without being forced into thinking like a computer. You just point, click, drag, and don’t have to worry about anything else with regards to the computer. I see computers as a tool, a tool you use to get things done. I think Macs are by far the best platform for anyone who does music or graphics. Also for getting photos, mp3s, and video into and out of your computer, nothing can compete with Macs and all the new Apple software like iTunes, iMovie, and iPhoto. But if you’re a more nerdy C++ or ASP programmer, I’d say PCs are the way to go and a Mac wouldn’t be the right tool at all.
Chris:: Tell me some things about the new CD that you’d like the readers to know. How’s this recording different?
Ryan: This is the first time that I’ve had the recording quality that I’ve always wanted. The whole thing was recorded and mixed to 24 bit. In the past 4 or so years, the technology and cost have finally come together to allow truly great quality digital recordings. Still, you need to have the engineering and production skills, as well as good microphones and outboard gear, to take full advantage of it.
Anji: One of the most striking things about this album, for fans of the Lovespirals stuff Ryan and I did during 1999-2000, is that this is not an electronica album. We were doing drum ‘n’ bass club mixes when we first started collaborating, and that’s what we’ve been promoting online, and releasing on various compilations CDs. Our upcoming album, however, is guitar based listening music, with a very organic feel. I think some people will be surprised.
Chris:: Can you tell us anything interesting about how you used Macs to make it, and what software was involved?
Ryan: On “I Can’t See You”, the last song of our new album, there’s a brushed jazz drum kit that plays through the song. It sounds very real, and that’s because it was taken from a recording of a real performance. I ran the original recording — which was performed at a tempo too fast for my song — through Recycle, which sliced it up into smaller files. Then I sent those files to my sampler to playback in ProTools at my song’s correct tempo. This is a trick that electronic producers, particularly breakbeat ones, do often. I used it, instead, for a straight up bebop jazz song, and it worked perfectly. When you listen to the final outcome, you’d never guess that the drums were the result of so much technological manipulation.
Chris:: Can you please describe the process a typical song might go through from start to finish before it makes it onto a CD or the Web?
Anji: The way our dance tracks were written is completely different from how we wrote our album. The drum ‘n’ bass tunes were all sample and loop based, so we basically began with a break beat, worked up the rhythm sections, then added melodies, and finished them off with vocals. I wasn’t as involved in the songwriting process for those songs as I am now. I like making samples, so in several instances I found sounds for Ryan to work with, which he appreciated since that can be a really time consuming effort. I also gave writing suggestions and production assistance, but I was much more of a backseat driver then than I am now. I never really learned much about midi composing or Cubase, and that’s what he was using back then, in our old studio setup.
‘Oh So Long’ was the first song to break the old songwriting mold completely. That was written shortly after we set up our current studio, utilizing ProTools. Basically we were listening to some sax that our partner, Doron Orenstein, had recorded for us to use as sample food, looking for a good starting point. We started noticing certain bluesy passages that we liked, so we cut and pasted a few together, then let that loop play in ProTools, while Ryan started working out some chords on guitar. I was inspired to start singing along, so I found some lyrics I had written beforehand and joined in. The energy was really fantastic! We just kept jamming it until we had a clear verse and chorus defined. After that was settled, Ryan went into ProTools to lay down his basic guitar part and the sax. I’m not sure if the bass came next, or if we launched right into the vocal recording, but it all happened pretty fast. Then it was just a matter of filling in the song with percussion and additional guitar, including the solo work.
That song pretty much set a precedent for the rest of the album, as well as being the inspiration for us to continue to work with guitar. The whole feeling of writing the song together with guitar and vocals was very energizing for us. I had a whole huge backlog of lyric and vocal ideas stashed away so that any time I heard him strum a chord, I’d just kinda pop up and start singing. It became a bit of joke, really! He’d be practicing a new Jazz chord or mode then suddenly he’d hear me singing along, and be like ‘Oh no! Not again!’ I think we have half another album’s worth of demo ideas still left over.
Chris:: How long did the latest release take to produce?
Anji: The first song was written in July of 2001, and the last song was completed in January 2002. We did the bulk of the songwriting over the summer of 2001, then kinda slowed down a bit. Still, I guess it was all done in 6 months, which is amazing considering each of the 4 Love Spirals Downwards albums took Ryan about a year and a half to produce.
Chris:: Were the earlier Love Spirals Downwards recordings created with Macs too?
Ryan: No, they were recorded on analog tape recording gear and mixed down to DAT. The midi sequencing for flux was done on a Quadra 605 using Cubase, but the rest was recorded to analog and mixed down to DAT. I mastered flux on a Mac setup, at Robert Rich’s studio, which is where we also mastered the new album.
Chris:: You’re part of a digital music revolution, in a way, aren’t you?
Anji: Most definitely. It is rather fascinating to be at the head of a new trend in the music industry, to actually see the seeds of the future being planted, and to be able to watch those ideas grow and mature. Neither of us would ever have believed in the 80’s that we would one day have our very own 24 track digital recording studio, that’s for sure!
Chris:: What would things be like if you didn’t have digital music stuff at your disposal- what would you have to do to be able to do what you do now?
Anji: Whoa, I don’t even want to think about what a hassle it would have been for us to do our album without our current setup! All throughout the process we would come back to the thought that we have so much more control in the ProTools environment than either of us have had in any other studio setting. I had worked with ADAT back when that technology came out, and I thought that those were really cool, but compared to hard disc recording on a good system, they seem like behemoths!
CHRIS: How are Macs – and things like MP3.com – allowing you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do?
Anji: Our Macs have made it very easy for us to get involved in new online services like MP3.com; I create our MP3s with iTunes, after all. I love MP3s! I’m constantly finding new bands that I like on MP3.com and other services like BeSonic and IUMA. The media has really focused on the illegal MP3 trade, which is too bad, because there is also a thriving community of artists who freely share their music through that same format, as well as artists who actually make a little money selling their music that way. Lovespirals have been giving free MP3s away for about 2 years now.
Before the rise of MP3s, you were stuck using RealAudio, which isn’t nearly as nice sounding or user-friendly. RA seemed pretty cool at first, as a way to at least get the idea of the music across, but it was still pretty clunky. Ryan briefly started switching over to QuickTime files when Temporal was released, but now it’s all about mp3s.