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Mix Analysis: On The Way To Luton (Audio)

Transcript
Hey guys, Matthew Weiss here, weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and advancedmixing.com.

This is going to be an in-the-dark analysis of the record, On the Way to Luton, by King Midas, mixed by Matthew Weiss! Hey, that’s me!

So this is a really effect heavy mix, and I want to point it out, because there’s been a bit of philosophy behind it. This record won a big award, it won what’s called a Spellman Award, which is the Norwegian equivalent of Grammy, and the whole album is just a brilliant album. The guy who produced it, Per Vigmostad, is an amazing producer. He’s got like, decades of experience, and he’s just got a brilliant musical ear, and then the overall take on what is Pop and what is Rock was just super experimental and indulgent, and the songs were really well written.

That’s really where the award came from, but I’d like to believe in some small ways, my mixing actually contributed, and this record is a record in particular where I feel like my mix decisions really improved the song overall.

So I want to show you — I’m going to play it for you and I’m going to break down a lot of the thought that was going through my head, because I want to encourage you guys as musicians and as engineers to think of the mixing arm of production as another stage for being musical, not simply a stage for fitting everything together and making kicks hit hard and BS like that.

So here we go.

[mix]

So the point of this record is to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s not supposed to be a friendly, warm, welcoming song, and a lot of records on this album are, this one is a real change of pace and divergence.

Now, when it was sent to me, it was sent to me — it’s very sparse. There’s basically an 808 kick, and 808 snare, there’s the main synth, and then there’s a pluck synth on top of it. There’s the vocals, and then in the chorus, there’s vocal choir, and a piano.

That’s really all that’s going on until the bridge, where a guitar shows up for a brief cameo appearance, and then leaves. That’s basically the whole thing.

So it was this very sparse record, and I was listening to it, and I was just like, “I don’t know what to do with this stuff!” So I decided to go crazy, basically.

So I’m going to start bringing down some things that are going on right from the intro.

[mix]

So the first thing is that there is very decided auto-panning on the little pluck. The “ping, ping, ping, ping.” That was originally just straight up the center as a single scalar line, and I used the SoundToys Pan Man, and I think it was like, a preset that I slightly adjusted to basically create this almost random movement to the pluck.

[mix]

So at the tail of that flute-y pad, that mellotron flute-y pad that’s caked in reverb, there’s this weird, wiggly echo.

[mix]

The way that I did that was with H-Delay. I usually, for my delays, I tend to use the SoundToys one as well, but in this one I used H-Delay, and I automated the speed of the delay, and when you start automating the speed to speed up or speed down on the H-Delay, it actually emulates what a real analog delay would do, and it starts changing the pitch.

So it’s ever so slightly being slowed down when you hear that wiggly thing happening. It’s actually being slightly adjusted the entire time. Like, over the course of only a few milliseconds that it’s oscillating back and forth, which creates this kind of wiggly pitch distortion of just a few cents, but then it becomes a much wider wiggle when we get to the very tail.

[mix]

You hear that? It was just something to make things feel weird and create this sense of distune that I felt — as it became discordant, it helped actually feel like the other meaning of the word discordant.

[mix]

So the 808 sound was also one of those things where it’s like, “You know, predictably, I could put this right in the middle and just make it ‘bum bum, bum bum, bum bum.’”

But I didn’t think that would be too interesting, and I also felt like the vocal is going to take the central action, and in a way, even though there’s not a lot of stuff going on, I’m going to have to make room for the vocal if I do that, and make these sounds big, so instead, I took the 808 kick and put it on the left, and I took the 808 snare and added a ton of bass to it. It was one of those open tom 808 sounds. It’s not a snare proper.

I added a ton of low end to that to kind of balance it because the piano also adds low end on the left side, so it just made the snare on the right really, really big and just created this dynamic between the two that otherwise wasn’t there by panning them apart.

[mix]

The vocal effect is really just a speakerphone convolution. I don’t remember which one off the top of my head, it was like, a walkie-talkie thing that’s been mildly adjusted to not have too much of that “shhhh” come in between the vocal phrases. But it was just, you know, one more thing to kind of create this sort of surreal, uncomfortable vibe going on.

[mix]

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And so, I changed the panning up too with the 808 and the 808 snare, and when it’s in the middle here, it’s just a little bit louder than it is in the verse, but you hear how much low end is in the snare. It’s basically a kick drum at this point.

[mix]

So the “bum, bum, bum,” the low end in that is actually artificial. I used low-ender on that line to create a sub, and so when you hear that low note, and you hear that sub push, that’s actually coming off of the voice.

[mix]

The only other thing going on with that vocal is I used the stock Digi Lo-Fi plug-in, AIR Lo-Fi to bit reduce the vocal a little bit, which gives it this slightly crunchy texture. Nothing else to it than that though.

[mix]

Now that transition is one of my prouder moments of this mix. The — those little pitch shifty voices were not there to begin with, but I wanted to make the last note of this verse in some way, shape, or form, walk the ear into the main chord of the choir.

So I took the last note, and I did a harmony constructed off of it using Melodyne, and that’s what you hear when it goes “Memory.”

[mix]

There’s a lower harmony actually, but you hear how well it actually blends with the chorus itself. It fits into the chord that lands on the down beat of the chorus.

[mix]

Obviously, there’s tons of reverb and tons of echoes and everything on everything as well, so there’s all of this ambience all over the record, and then we get to the bridge.

[mix]

So I had the piano for the bridge on a separate track completely. There’s no filters or anything on it anymore, and I actually had two reverbs on the piano. One is the Bosendorfer sound design reverb from Altiverb, and the other one is the Lex Room, I believe. Or Lex Hall.

So it’s — there’s an ambience around the piano, and then there’s a bigger ambience around the piano. So we have this extremely washy piano. Plus we’ve got all these delays and reverbs off of everything, like the drums and all of that kind of stuff, and then this guitar comes in and it’s like, “wouldn’t it be really cool if the guitar was just weirdly dry? Like, totally bizarrely dry.”

And I put it up there and I don’t believe I processed the guitar at all, actually. I maybe did a little bit of compression from like, the Waves MV-2? Now that I think about it. But I think that’s really it.

I think in the first draft I didn’t have anything. I think I just did that after a little tweakage.

[mix]

So anyway, I hope that you learned something from a lot of these techniques that I’m discussing here, but more than the techniques, I think that the take-away from this is that when you get a record that is very sparse and very reduced, there is kind of this gut reaction that’s kind of like, “well, gosh, isn’t this a little bit underproduced for a record? Doesn’t it feel like it’s maybe not even totally finished?”

There’s this sense of, “Well, what do I even do with this?”

My take on it is this: Don’t see that as a restriction, don’t see that as a limitation or a handicap, or something that the producer didn’t do right or whatever. See that as an opportunity to let the mix take the record into a new world.

I see it as a license to have fun. To start being creative and trying things, and throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, and you know, it might be totally weird, and I remember sending this to Per, and he got it back, and was like, “Dude, I’m going to have to listen to this for a little while, because it is so far deviated from the demo that it makes me uneasy.”

And I said, “Yeah, man, take your time with it,” and this is one of those things too, like, this goes to a testament of how good of a producer he is, a really good producer can separate themselves from a record. So even though this one was not really his original vision, I sort of went to town on it.

After awhile, he said, “You know, I’ve grown accustomed to it, and I’m okay with it. So I’m going to give it the stamp of approval, we’re going to go in this direction, and going in this direction, here’s my feedback and thoughts for revisions.”

So he got on board with what was a good idea. Now, there were also ideas that I did in the album and other places that he didn’t get onboard with, he felt, “You know, actually this is not working,” and ultimately as a mixer, I pride myself on being able to do this, I said, “You know, actually, you know what, you’re right. My idea for this isn’t as good.”

So being able to be humble, both as a producer and an engineer, and also to be creative and develop things creatively, all of those contribute to the success of a record, and this record was in fact very successful.

Alright guys, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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