Here we have a song called Noise Inside My Head by the band Assemblage 23 remixed by yours truly. This is a project I’ve wanted to do for some time and just recently decided to shoehorn it in to the schedule as a fun diversion. Tom Shear is the man behind A23′s music (see an exclusive interview here) and has generously posted stem files from a few of his songs on the band website to allow fellow producers and fans alike to take a stab at creating their own remix.
For those interested in the production process that went into the remix there’s more info below.
Studio Wormbone Remix:
Production notes about the making of the remix:
After downloading and quickly studying the song’s stem files (individual instrument tracks) I decided to approach the remix by rebuilding each separate instrument line from scratch. The song structure is a pretty straightforward verse/chorus/bridge pop tune, which is a tried-and-true formula. I elected to maintain the song’s existing shape for this project and concentrate on reverse engineering the notes and textures rather than re-molding the whole. I figured this would be a good learning experience since I’ve been enjoying A23′s music for some time, and dissecting and putting one of Tom’s songs under a microscope like this allowed for a deeper understanding of the music’s style.
After nearing completion on the remix I listened to the album version of the song as a comparison and realized that the original has a few more secondary synth melody lines that weren’t included with the stems. However I had already filled up the real estate that those synths would have occupied with additional tracks. There’s of course no reason for the remix to be a carbon copy of the original unless this version was meant purely as an academic exercise (which it wasn’t!).
The track breakdown in a nutshell:
These ended up being a combination of analog sounds from the Vermona DRM and Native Instruments’ Battery.
The kick is a multilayer of two analog sources to give it punch and a mid high acoustic sample for a sharper attack and some high end detail.
The snare is a layer of analog clap and two different versions of an acoustic snare with different processing on each (saturation, bit crush, reverb, etc). There’s also a randomly modulating Twisted Tools S-Layer hit that doubles the snare in a few sections. This was intended to help keep the drums organic sounding but the ‘humanize’ function in Battery did a nice job of providing subtle doses of this already.
The hi hat is a blend of two analog layers and one acoustic sample. There are subtly changing performance differences in each layer adding to the liveliness.
The deep reverb tom in the intro and bridge are from NI’s Kore 2 and run through UAD reverb and 1176 compression.
Cymbals are from Battery.
The entire kit also has some parallel compression via UAD’s Fairchild comp. This controls errant transients but more importantly in this application helps with overall color and glues all the parts together.
This is the Future Retro XS analog semi modular synth. I intended to get wild with modulation and experimented at length with different settings but ended up resolving to a simple single oscillator patch with a tight envelope. It was the most ballsy option in the context of the song. The third verse being only drums/bass/vox was wanting more variety so the bass patch there has a slight variation with more bite.
I was pleased to use this synth for a bass line for once – it’s so damned fun and easy to tweak that I usually can’t contain myself enough to limit it to bass’s supporting role. This saucy mistress loves nothing more than to take the spotlight!
These were surprisingly relegated to one plugin, NI FM8. It’s glassy gritty leads seemed perfectly suited to a song with this name. The main line got some different voicings and effect variations. In particular, the verses have a multiband distortion with hideous feedback via Ohmforce’s Ohmicide. When notes are sounding they’re politely distorted but in between notes the feedback screams.
The crunchy mallet solo sound was also FM8 but EQ’d with a sharp surgical spike at about 3Khz to make it cut to the front of the mix. This was rounded out and made a little friendlier with the Fairchild comp again.
Tom’s vocals are spot on when it comes to emotional delivery so I wasn’t inclined to muck about with them this time around. The stems were dry so I did wet them up a bit with a slight stereo delay and open their spacial dimension with some dark room reverb. The vox stems also seemed a tad dark and I heard a hint of clipping once or twice when solo’d. I don’t know if this was their true nature or if it was a byproduct of being translated into stem files. Either way the murkiness was easily remedied with a little UAD Pultec EQ shelving boost at 10K, and the clipping was unnoticeable in the context of the mix.
I’m partial to sound design, ain’t no two ways about it. Therefor I thoroughly enjoy this step in the production process. A project like this is ripe for integrating elements from the ever growing catalog of Studio Wormbone sound packs (*shameless plug*). This song got a few electro percussion loops and fills, a fair amount of transition FX, and some rhythmic atonal synth lines. Also, the crowning jewel of the remix in my humble opinion is the heinous sheet metal ripping torture sound at the end of the bridge. Noise inside my head indeed!