#2 of a series of questions I was asked about our new song Motha Ungh Ungh. Please read the post below this for the 1st question.
What musical influences would you cite which led you to its outcome?
Many musical influences led to the track of “Motha”. The chord progression from Teddy Pendergast’s song ‘Close The Door” comes to mind as a song that used a similar chord progression but there are many more engrained in the harmonic grid of neurons in my head. Much Reggae music can be thought of in 1/2 time or double time and I think of Motha as being 43 BPM and 86 BPM at the same time. Imaginative sound programmers working with/for musical software and instrument companies have contributed so much and influenced me and so many others. For instance a sound like “Incoming” from NI maschine, which starts with a bending pitch and various modulations finally settling on a final pitch, when spread across a keyboard or pad controller, can spawn many compositional ideas.
As a song takes shape it is influenced and shaped by its own components. It sometimes literally seems to shape itself. When Mic sends a lyric idea or when he sends me a lyric and melody written to a track, that triggers new ideas for where to proceed with the song and it’s production.
Some of you may know that Mic Murphy and I (The System) have released an A+B sided single. I was asked a series of questions about the song Motha Ungh Ungh. I will attempt to answer them over the next few days.
1. Please describe the making of the new System single Mother Ungh Ungh i.e. process, equipment, chord stucture, sound evolution
The musical track for Motha Ungh Ungh started with an idea from a group of sounds I put together from the NI Maschine library. Some of them were already grouped into sets especially the percussion/drum sounds. it was originally programmed while “on the road” in a hotel room in NYC using a mac laptop, midi keyboard controller and the Maschine software and controller. I had just gotten fluent with the Maschine software and was determined to derive tracks for song ideas from it.
I wanted to use (as I have for much of my life)”abstract sounds that, combined, would end up being Rhythmic/ Harmonic and Melodic when put together but not particularly identifiable as drums bass keys or guitar. Of course what we ended up with is somewhat that. For instance, before we sent out an early version of the song to some mixers, who had comments, there was no hihat. There was only the beeping sine sound….but.. we added a hihat…oh well. With all my dreaming of escaping traditional approaches most of the time I give in to the idea of using every other finger on my hand on every other key and playing a 3 note chord….how boring 😉 sigh…just can’t escape convention. Anyway, it also came into my head that we could have a song that used a variation on the IV(4) chord V (5)chord going to VI (6)MAJOR instead of VI (6)minor that so many songs have had lately. The part of my brain that appreciates harmonic changes of color has never stopped being fascinated with this one in particular. It involves the ever present relationship between keys a minor third apart.
So, the verse just hangs out on the IV(4) and V(5) chord (we are in the key of C) but the bass notes every 2 or 4 bars(depending on how you are counting) play an “a to a f#”. this suggests “A min to F#7”. F#7 is the tritone substitution for C7 which is the V7 of IV(4) in the key of C. ….This must be sooo boring to some people. Sorry!!!!…but it is interesting to some…i hope.
The Pre Chorus changes to C minor. The chords are” C min,G min7,C min, and ends with a C major:ending with a brilliant little bass note lead in brought to you by Mic Murphy that suggests an E7sus (V7 in the Key of A).
The Chorus starts on the IV(4) chord of C major but resolves to A major at the end of each phrase, but a bass lick plays “d wah wah wah e c” and brings it back to C major each time.
Backing up a bit after Mic wrote the brilliant melody and lyrics and sent me a 2 mix I opened the maschine project in Logic and added other parts including the intro which is minor 3rd intervals ascending in major 3rds. We used the intro in the middle of the song (a half step up) under some killer stutter edits done by our friend and associate Tim Kvasnosky.
Some other sounds used on Motha were from Diva a great softsynth by U-He and the synth solo was from Razor by NI. The mighty synth tom fills are courtesy of Steve Wolf. He gave us a choice or 3 FX levels but we found that all 3 tracks full on worked great. Brad Fischer mixed at Canyon Reverb Studios.
Leave it to American Airlines to reopen my mind and/or introduce me to new “Old” music: ch1-Mozart ein kleine nacht-Debussy -La Fille au Cheveaux de Lin ch2 Ben Webster Stardust, Tal Farlow Autumn in New York ch3-Captain Beefheart-Flower Pot (any one ever hear his album “Trout Mask Replica”?). ch4-Kelly Clarkson-Dark Side. Ch5-Angela Bofill-Tonight I Give In, from the past: Eric Benet-Harriet Jones, from the present (along with many other gems of R+B). Ch7-Didn’t hurt to hear I Feel For You by Chaka Khan (written by Prince..I like his new song!) and remember the synths and the parts and Arif Mardin, the producer. The person(s) that picked these tracks did a great job. Much appreciated!! They reminded me how good a performance and song, along with its production, have to be in order to become a classic and how even seemingly obscure artists/music can be classics in their genre forever. Wow so many styles. Not quite enough time for one person to be good at each of them….but collectively we can do it all.
We are now renting Canyon Reverb Studio on a limited basis. It has a variety of vintage Keys and Synths as well as a pristine Steinway 9 foot concert grand. Vocal and instrumental recording gear includes a Telefunken 251 and other Neumann mics and Chandler/Neve/Avalon outboard. Fully outfitted with software synths,plugins and recording programs including Logic, Ableton and Protools. Contact info: rgvd @earthlink.net
I just saw a great article/interview in Electronic Musician Mag from a master of modern synthesis and sound design: Bassnectar. He gave some particularly great advise at the end of the article. My understanding was that one of the most effective ways of being sure your compositions and performances are the best they can be is to limit the amount of gear/samples/instruments you are using as your palette to a trusted few. Understand all the ins and outs of these and spend the vast majority of your time writing and or performing. I agree. Basically if you are spending too much of your time accumulating more and more gear, software and samples you might never get around to creating meaningful compositions or reaching your potential as a performer.
Here is a link to a list of “Musicradar’s idea of the top 20 softsynths. Choose 3 or 4 and try getting to know every detail. Diva is also great…as a matter of fact there are many others including the instruments within Logic, Ableton,PT,DP, etc
My faves from that list: Zebra 2, FXpansion DCAM synth Squad, Massive(which I have not mastered…hmm gonna take my own advice) Ace, Reactor (I like Razor within Reactor) …I do have most of them but there are a few I don’t have…I’m so curious.. .. gotta stick to my own advice..no new instruments until I know the ones I have!!
My Musical idol when I was 18-19 was tenor Saxaphonist Sonny Rollins who, legend has it, practiced 12 hours per day for years on the brooklyn bridge. He was always in the process of developing a new “Style” of improvisation. That is creating and making new musical patterns/riffs part of a new vocabulary. He succeeded over and over again. I memorized his solo’s and was obsessed with his stylistic changes He actually changed my life because I modeled my music and piano study habits on his legendary work ethic. (thank you Gary Harris for pointing out that Sonny Rollins is triple winner at Jazz Awards
Also, Omar: ‘I’m chuffed to bits over my MBE’ | The Voice Omar is one of the most uniquely talented musicians in the world today. He deserved this award from the Queen like no other. Check him out ! I was lucky to be able to work with him on 2 of his albums on RCA.
While I was in New York working with Mic on The System material a couple weeks ago we went to a NewYork Philharmonic rehearsal. Wow!! now that was awesome. We got to sit directly above the stage. Talk about stereo imaging,nothing can match the sound of a full orchestra bouncing around Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. To trigger some new ideas on what to do with that newly gained fluency with those soft synth instruments check out composer Erich Korngold Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra. He makes full use of the textural and special FX capabilities of the Orchestra. Leonidas Kavakos was the incredible violinist. Sometimes the best performances are at the rehearsal!!
Ok I admit this brings a smile to my face! Just saw this and had to post it.
From EM (Electronic Musician Mag portal?)
You EM guys never mention this duo, who really helped bring electro production to the mainstream in the early-mid 80s. It’s pretty clear that these guys helped open the gates for all synth production.
David Frank was more or less a one man band with an Oberheim DSX and DMX as well as a minimoog bass. Mic Murphy was the singer, although he was very much involved in the musical composition.
Very ahead of their time with their own hits like YOU ARE IN MY SYSTEM, DON’T DSTURB THIS GROOVE as well as sessions jobs on Chaka Khan’s I FEEL FOR YOU and Scritti Pollitti’s ABSOLUTE. The Pet Shop Boys and Madonna nearly started their careers with The System as their producers!
I found some guy had posted this at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/B000002IJR/ref=cm_rev_next/002-0182036-1033643?ie=latin1&customer-reviews.sort%5Fby=-SubmissionDate&n=5174&s=music&customer-reviews.start=11 :
“Not an overstatement. This is the ROAD manager from a “second tier” funk band (Kleeer). Michael Murphy was not even their manager! And that is not a well-connected major funk act (i.e. p-funk, commodores, earth, wind and fire, gap band, kool and the gang etc.) and the BACK-UP keyboardist, not even a full member of Kleeer; David Frank, was a little known session player who was only hired to play on the tour after playing a little on Kleeer’s previous album. David Frank a white guy trained in classical, with recitals as a child in Boston and playing in cover bands after high school moved to N.Y.C. to make it as a session musician. So how in the hell just because Michael “Mic” Murphy used to sing in church as a child can these guys meet on this Kleeer tour in 1983 and decide to make a band with no other members but the two of themselves and with only enough money between them for a 3-piece rack mounted electronic music unit called the Oberheim System how can this actually work?? FYI: The Oberheim System circa 1983 consisted of the DMX drum machine, the OBX keyboard, and a DSX sequencer to record your beats and keyboards tracks in. Well Dave had provided keyboard services to some guy a while earlier in exchange for free studio time so Dave and Mic took their oberheim system to the studio to finish a song Dave had started working on that he wanted his friend from the run-down warehouse where those aspiring for fame in New York’s entertainment industries had hung out and rehearsed. Affectionately called “The Music Building” this friend from the shabby old warehouse was named Madonna. Dave hoped now that she had just gotten a deal with Sire Records that he could write a song for her to record, and jumpstart his career as a songwriter. Well what Madonna heard didn’t fit into what they were working on for her album which was going to have a more “poppish” feel and his song called “It’s Passion” was more R&B oriented. So Dave recorded it with Murphy using the free studio time he had owed to him and Murphy took the studio tape the next morining after the allnight session to a duplication service to press a 12″ vinyl record of it. Mic figured he could take it to the D.J.’s at Danceteria and the Roxy to ask them to play it hoping that would create a “street-buzz” for their new “band”. The guy at the dupe service tells him: “Cool and why don’t you try Mirage Records the guy over there is looking to sign bands with a 12” club sound, we master a few of them Mirage club records here. Just drop the name Jerry Greenberg when you get over there.” So Mic takes it to this Greenburg guy and THAT SAME DAY after being up all night recording it they have a record contract. Well the song is a hit in the clubs so President of Mirage Jerry Greenburg fronts them the money to do an album, Greenburg has a distrubution deal with Atlantic Records, and the rest is as they say; history. The System go on to record incredibly inspired, smartly crafted, and exciting songs and albums for Mirage and Atlantic. Once successful and at the forefront of the Hi-Tech cutting edge R&B sound The System start to produce and work with other artists like Chaka Khan, Angela Bofill, Jeff Lorber, Robert Palmer, Phil Collins, Evelyn “Champange” King and others. Dave much later goes on to do some arrangements and session work for the Boy Bands in the 1990’s. He uses this opportunity to write a huge hit ballad for one of the bands; “The Hardest Thing” for 98 Degrees. He then continues to work in the very prosperous NEW POP milleu and composes and produces “Genie In the Bottle”, and “He Loves You Not” in his one of a kind inimitable “Funky Digital” keyboard style. Simply Incredible what The System makes you believe when the impossible is made real! The System will make you believe in yourself. Real “Love and Magic” is all up in their music. Buy every single thing they are associated with, you’ll get WAY more than your $10-15 bucks back out of it.”
Another great article here:
One of the Coolest Member
Joined: 20 Feb 2007
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 1:59 am (No subject)
Yes, I remember The System from the early 80’s. “You are In My System” was a great tune (covered by Uwe Schmidt on his Pop Artificielle album).
Any of you technobuffs care to comment on Frank’s somewhat pioneering use of the DSX sequencer and the Oberheim DMX? You have to admit, he helped bring forward the modern idea of the one man digital music machine.