Music Production – How To Skin A Cat
There are as many ways to approach music production than there are styles of music and because so many people are recording their own tracks these days a music producer has to have a very flexible approach to working. At least that’s what I’m finding here at Offbeat Music Productions.
A case in point was a record I made with singer Mark A.G. who came to the studio from Brighton with ideas and musical parts he had created on an app on his iPad which only cost around a fiver. The piano parts Mark wrote turned out to be good enough to stick with right through to the the final mix, like on the excellent track featured on the audio player here entitled Louder.
His parts survived as midi exports which were then re-triggered with a Native Instruments piano that I had installed as a third party plug in on my Logic Pro-X DAW.
Working on his ideas on his iPad was perfect for Mark who didn’t want to get bogged down with gear just to be able to get his musical ideas across in the studio. In fact, I often warn musicians and songwriters not to get unnecessarily involved in recording equipment unless there is a real calling for them to become recording engineers and producers. The danger is that they stop writing songs and start becoming technicians.
The Tyranny Of (Too Much) Choice
The ridiculous choices of soft synths and samples available in digital workstations now can actually paralyse the creative process in some cases. Back in the days of 8 track studios and 16 or even 24 track recording you really had to limit what went into the recordings and in some ways this was useful. It’s fun being able to chuck everything into a recording and recently I did a track with a songwriter that had 74 guitars in it, and somehow it worked! But it can be problematic and things have gone too far if there are so many elements in a song the listener can’t actually focus on anything.
Back in the days of 4 track Portastudios, like the Tascam and Fostex machines that made multi tracking affordable for the first time for songwriters, it was pointless to try and create finished recordings on these hissy, noisy cassette based machines which were best used as storyboards for songs. I should know, I tried!
My wife Kirsty & I spent four months in a cottage in the Isle Of Skye in the early 80’s trying to make an album on a Fostex machine. Recording a sync track on one track to run a drum machine and keyboard, recording audio on two channels, bouncing to another track while adding something ‘live’ on the go and then freeing up the original tracks and recording over them again. Further down the line it became obvious that the levels in the original bounce were not correct and of course we couldn’t go back as the bounces were destructive. After several attempts to recreate the tracks from scratch the project was abandoned.
This approach was a mistake, it would have been wiser to just keep bashing ideas out demos and focusing on songwriting at that stage. I should have just used the portastudio demos as storyboards for the songs and recorded them properly at a later stage but OCD had kicked in big time. Some of these tracks actually sounded pretty good as demos though and when we started our own studio in Edinburgh we reproduced some of the tracks using analogue and midi multi tracking technology to much better effect.
Another great example of doing a demo of ideas prior to getting involved in music production was with a vocalist and talented songwriter I worked with last year called Tawanda Muchemwa who works under there name Big Tee for his Firebrand Movement album which I had the great pleasure of producing.
He arrived on day one of the session with all of the musical parts sung straight into his mobile phone. The drums, the bass line, the backing vocals, the lead vocals were all there. Within two hours we had established the first song for the most part. I heard the drum parts he had sung in (boom-cha style) and recreated them using 808 drum samples. His voice hummed bass line was reinterpreted and virtually copied by me as a real bass guitar part.
He then listened one by one to his own multiple backing vocal ideas on his phone and sung them straight into the recording using a AKG Solid Tube mic which suited his voice perfectly. This proved something that I had known intuitively for a long time as a songwriter. If you hear a part first in your head then 9 times out of 10 it works! You can hear how this worked out in track two of the player on this page with the song Stuck In A Rut .
A few years back I worked with excellent singer Eddie Elliott who was on tour playing at Edinburgh’s Playhouse on the We Will Rock You tour. Tired of playing exactly the same show night after night the only way to keep his creative juices flowing was to come into the studio and write a song from scratch there and then. He had no idea what he was going to do before he arrived and he didn’t want to know either.
I put a Shure SM58 into his hands and he started singing melodies which formulated into words during the time it took for me to work out musical parts for the ideas he had in his head. The resulting track entitled Oh, which took a few sessions to achieve, can be heard on track 3 on the audio player. Unless you have the courage of your own convictions this can be a risky and potentially expensive way to work.
Of course this way of working doesn’t work for everyone and there are many so many ways to approach writing a song and giving vent to creative urges. As long as you achieve results there are no right and wrong ways of working.
Kirsty and I are working on a new album of songs now under our name Harmonic Overdrive and are employing a range of music production approaches to achieve a fresh but consistent result for each track which will be discussed in my next music production blog.
Offbeat started doing major Voice Over projects several years ago when we met Film Producer and Director Mark Cousins at a recording studio music event in which he was taking part with a friend.
Mark, who lives locally, approached us after the session and asked if we wanted to record his commentary for The Story Of Film an Odyssey for Film 4.
Stanley Kubrick Award
15 (x 1 hour) episodes later the film was released and achieved critical acclaim, including The Stanley Kubrick Award for best film in 2012 and a nomination for Best Documentary feature at Palm Springs awards in 2012. The audio was recorded first and the film was later synced to Marks commentary in post production at another studio.
Since then we’ve done several films with Mark, the most recent being Stockholm My Love in which we recorded audio parts with Neneh Cherry for Scandinavian TV in collaboration with BBC 1. He also brought in Ewan Bremner to add voice to Marks film What Is This Film Called Love.
All that opened the door for us to take on more and more projects including Russell Howard’s 2016 series of USA travels with my Mum for Sky 1. This involved Russell recording his voice to picture.
We’ve recorded the voice for several programmes for BBC Radio 4 for Loftus Media including a programme narrated by broadcaster Alan Little reminiscing about his travels to Sarajevo. And this year an educational programme for BBC Bitesize as well as for Edinburgh International Festival for their 2017 audio music section of their forthcoming program.
On a more controversial film, Alan Knights film London Calling on the subject of BBC Bias in the 2014 referendum. Alan also brought famous actor Brian Cox up the stairs to record the voice of cartoon character Duggy The Dug.
Recording an audio book with Scottish author Kirsty Logan, who narrated her debut novel The Gracekeepers, was a different kind of project. All nine hours of audio had to delivered with no bad takes so if a mistake was made by the voice artist, which of course is inevitable with any recording project, each new take had to be dropped in over the faulty take. The resulting audio we delivered to Audio Book Company Bolinda in Australia had to be faultless.
Recording voice over audio for ‘live theatre’ is also an area we have been involved in. Pamela Stevenson-Connolly came to Offbeat to record audio for hers and Arlene Philip’s dance hit show Brazouka with Brazilian dancer Dos Santos in 2015. The recording was used for large sections of the show at the Edinburgh Festival before touring the show.
Sometimes the client wants the audio delivered ‘wild’ which means the audio is left in record mode throughout the session and the client edits the recording themselves.
Recording just a single voice may seem an extremely simple job but it’s deceptively tricky as there can be no extraneous noise or interference at all in the recording. The sound has to be perfect. Even the creak of a chair can spoil the recording. Sometimes we are asked to edit the recording too and with multiple takes of a script, keeping track of the best ones and creating a flowing dialogue demands real concentration and organisation with no room for mistakes.
Using Skype is very common now. The client is more often than not in a different location from the narrator. We then feed Skype from the client through the mixer so that they can conduct the session remotely with the voice artist who is listening to their instructions on headphones. This is very effective and if required we can record the clients Skype conversation too if they need to refer to it when they are editing.
Finally location is also a factor and being bang in the centre of Edinburghs famous Royal Mile is an advantage despite the long climb up the Offbeat stairs.
The genius of production is in making sure that the range of frequencies that exist in the song are working together to create a focused sonic picture.
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. Antoine de Saint-Exubery
A common mistake is the misconception that adding more and more ideas to a song will make it better. But imagine a meal with too many ingredients or a drawing or painting with no space in it. With cluttered recordings no amount of mixing or mastering will help, especially if the midrange of a track is choka.
In the old days of analogue it was harder to over cook a track due to the limitation of the amount of available tracks. With digital recording and unlimited tracks and software instruments it’s just too easy to keep chucking stuff in.
Sometimes the best productions just have a few elements in them and the space around them can create ghost notes and unintended effects. Because there are just a few elements it becomes more important that each one sounds great as there’s nowhere to hide.
A lot of elements can exist together in a production if both the notes in the instruments are voiced well, and the frequencies of the instruments compliment each other. If it’s done right the track can still seem dynamic and spacious, but it requires real skill to juggle a lot of elements, like in orchestral arrangements.
Some experimentation is usually necessary to get to those special nuggets that belong in the track and there is a process of trying things out to hear if they work, but it’s dangerous to get too attached to all your ideas so try and bear this in mind when putting your production together. Keep only the essential parts and let your track breathe!
For several years now we have been providing a music production service for lyricists and singer/songwriters who require musical arrangements for their lyrics and song ideas. Every song is different so a fresh approach has to be taken every time. Below are four excerpts from a wide range of songs produced over the past year with notes on how each arrangement was created.
Evamore is a project by Sir Chris Evans who created an album of songs based on letters sent back from soldiers from WW1. The album was a huge undertaking which involved many session singers and musicians. On this particular song I worked out the arrangement based on a rough demo sent over my Chris. This production was done remotely as Chris is an extremely busy globetrotter and couldn’t attend the studio.
I played Acoustic Guitar, Bass and Percussion. Sir Chris played Electric Guitar. Lead vocals were by Steve Balsamo, Backing vocals by Brian Rice & Kirsty McKinna. The strings were orchestrated by Jon Cohen with Violin by Seonaid Aitken. The Harmonica was by Fraser Speirs.
Once the song was established Chris recorded his Guitar parts at home and drop-boxed them to me to slot into the recording,
Tony B is an amazing Nigerian gospel singer with a great ear for music. Tony has done a great job of tracking up his vocals and creating a huge choral effect for this song.
On the track he sang the melody line to me and from that we worked out the tempo and a beat. Then I added drums and a bass line. Tony has lots of ideas in his head and would occasionally hum parts to me, like the bass line, and even ideas for guitar parts although not being an instrumentalist I had to come up with the chords for the arrangement. We worked through lots of beats together for the production. On this track all instruments are played by me.
Imaginary Creatures is the brainchild of Scottish born lyricist David Scott. We are currently working on the third album.
David comes into the studio with music references which are a great way of establishing a song. We don’t directly copy the music but he will typically suggest ideas from records which are a good starting point. David has strong musical ideas and even the instruments arrangements are close to what he has in his head.
On this example the rhythm track and tempo was referenced from a record and the general guitar sound also. The track was then developed by bringing in session musicians Rich Anderson on keyboards and Keith More on the guitar solo. Drums were eventually replaced by Alex Harvey and Michael Shenker drummer Ted McKenna.
Norine Mindeyes is also from Nigeria but has lived in Scotland for quite some time. We have done three songs together. In this example she came into the studio with all the vocal melody parts sang into her mobile phone. I then recorded all the instrumental parts into our music software starting with the Clavinet and a rough rhythm guide. Over a period of time the song evolved into this fully fledged production.
Gavin Blackie is a talented singer and songwriter who recorded his debut album Laid Bare with me here at Offbeat. Gavin comes into the studio with a strong vocal melody and firm ideas of how he wants the track to go. He will suggest references for drum sounds and records that have inspired him. Although these are good starting points we are careful not to directly lift anything from an existing composition. These ideas are just the spark for musical parts that have to be unique for the composition we are creating. On this track all instruments are played by me with backing vocals by Kirsty McKinna.
I’ve have done many tracks and albums with lyricists and songwriters and have found a niche that not many studios or producers seem to specialise in. Understandable as initially it can be a bit nerve wracking sitting with a writer with lyrics and a blank page with no music. You will hear from the diverse range of styles above that there’s not many types of music we can’t undertake here at Offbeat,
This extremely talented singer is full of energy and charisma and you can easily while away your afternoon listening to his many stories about his career in the music business.
Skyler not only grew up in a musical family but was surrounded by and sung with so many well known superstars over the years.
Skyler is now currently working on a new single called Heal The World in which the music was brilliantly composed in Switzerland by Andreas Svarc (pictured left) a very talented musician and songwriter in his own right who produced and wrote the track with Styler. The vocals were recorded and produced at Offbeat Studios Edinburgh with Iain McKinna. The drums were played and recorded in Munich by Tobias Haas. (pictured below) Watch this space for more details including the release date.
There were some great moments in Skyler’s session as he was putting down his vocals, and being the perfectionist that he is, enhancing the track big style as he effortlessly sang his vocals. At one point the fantastic resonance of his voice started to chime with a cymbal from the drum kit – stopping the session until it was removed!
It was pure magic watching him work. He microscopically went through each line and note to get the result he wanted which paid off, achieving a fantastic result.
Heal The World is a track that really showcases the brilliance of Skyler’s effortless vocal talent and his awesome sweet vocal harmony’s which were layered up with the most amazing perfection. In addition his lyrical content is thought provoking – there are very few artist these days writing songs about global issues. There’s a wellspring of tracks bursting to come out from this extremely prolific artist and we can hardly wait to hear what his next tracks will be. His extraordinary talent is right up there with the big boys and he deserves all the success coming to him, he is a very talented and true star who will be making a big noise this year. Over the Summer he will be touring with Sly And The Family Stone in America which he loves to do, singing backing vocals, also offering a great platform as publicity for his own music.
Having toured with The Commodores replacing Lionel Ritchie as Lead Vocalist for their live shows in 31 different countries, as well as touring with Sly Stone, he also played a really important role in encouraging Sly back to the world stage between 2003 – 2007.
He sang with Celine Dion on the title track from Titanic on the album version which earned him the Grammy award with the song My Heart Will Go On. as well as working with Whitney Houston on the song I’m Every Woman for the block buster hit movie The Body Guard which was movie of the year in (1992).
He also worked with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davies Jr on the film “Tap” with a song A Smile Like Yours with Greg Kinnear and Disneyland Hercules. Not forgetting the James Bond 007 Licence To Kill, Big Bully with Rick Moranis and Tom Arnold, and Ghostdad. The list of stars are endless Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Sting, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Kenny G, he is very much in demand as his credits with famous celebrity singers are too many to mention here.
Skyler’s love of music stems from his childhood as his Mum, Aunt and GrandMa were Gospel singers in the Baptist Churches of Oakland, so he grew up singing from the age of 7 as well as meeting hosts of great stars as a child. His aunt, Elsie Davis, was the first black woman to hire entertainment for San Francisco’s Presidio Army base and she performed with such greats as Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra.
In his teens Skyler benefitted from the mentorship of two uncles, Capus Hope, who managed Jazz Band, Donald Byrd & The Blackbirds and Arif Khaitib (right) who promoted Ike & Tina Turner. They instilled a valuable understanding of business acumen, professionalism and timeliness in the young man which stood him in good stead along his journey through the woefully unpredictable and fickle world of the Music Industry. His Mum and his two aunties were both in the music business so he grew up singing from the age of 7 as well as meeting a host of great stars as a child.
Skyler learned the ins and outs of the entertainment industry due to his very great talent of observation, and while he hung around all these great artists back stage at their live shows he realised that actually there was more to the music business than just having a great voice and so learned how to organise everything to do with putting on a live show, and then started offering his services to all the talented singers and musicians around at the time in the San Francisco Bay Area. His unique education in life has added depth and colour to his harmonies, making the tracks sound unique and special, which has given him the edge to really stand out vocally.
He also started Solutions Now Radio with S. Denise Newton a weekly internet radio show in America highlighting and discussing solutions of the most pressing issues of today, especially addressing issues of social consciousness, which encouraged him to bring out his song I Survived, reaching out to all the woman fighting breast cancer.
The most impressive and wonderful talent of Skyler apart from his effortless singing are his inspiring lyrics. He chooses topics close to his heart bringing the attention of current global and environmental problems. He inspires the positive and is a breath of fresh air as his lyrics uplift you to a higher place, reminding us that we can rise above the negative issues of today by listening to humanitarian heart felt music.
You really must check out his single This Is A Calling which gave me goose bumps when I first heard it. What a track. The ease of his vocal performance had me spellbound it was so great to watch, such a natural performer.
Skyler has just recently sang on one of Iain’s songs Something’s Wrong, which will be completed in the not too distant future.
Read another great article about Styler Jett!
2015 was another amazing year at Offbeat. 2016 is lining up to be outstanding as it gets off to a great start with Ross Munro’s single Gravel Path (from his ground breaking album Twisted Traditions -Greentrax Records) reaching no1 in the Celtic Radio Charts. The album was produced here at the Offbeat Studio.
The BBC/Swedish movie Stockholm My Love starring Neneh Cherry will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival before being aired on BBC TV. All the commentary for Neneh’s voice in the film was recorded here in Edinburgh for the film which is directed by Mark Cousins.
In 2014 and 15 Offbeat produced an album for Sir Chris Evans entitled Lest We Forget. The album is based on letters written back from the front line by soldiers who never returned. The songs were put together by Sir Chris who also plays Lead Guitar on thew album. It feature vocals by Brian Rice, Steve Balsamo, Aubrey Parsons, Darren Wharton, Ruth Notman & Seonaid Aitken.
The album has been passed on legendary music producer Youth who has the task of inviting well known artists on to the album to make sure it achieves maximum publicity.
Imaginary Creatures second album Danse Macabre was released in 2015 and this year we start work on the third album working with the projects brainchild and lyricist.
Offbeat are about to embark on a debut album for African singer Anthony Obi. He has a inspired voice and we very much look forward to working with him.
Singer and songwriter Norine Mindeyes is about to release her uplifting and truly majestic debut single United. Offbeat producer Iain McKinna and Norine have been working for a couple of years now on songs which will be reeled over the year. Notably Tell Me & Living On A Bridge.
Who knows what else will come our way over the year. On Wednesday we work with Skyler Jett, completing vocals which were recorded in Switzerland. Skylar famously accompanied Celine Dion on the movie’s title track Titanic. He then replaced Lionel Ritchie as Lead Singer with The Commodores.
Gavin and Offbeat Producer Iain McKinna co-wrote the track and it features on his recently released album Laid Bare which is available on iTunes.
Gavin performed the track ‘live’ at his launch gig at Edinburgh’s Church Hill Theatre to a packed audience in November 2015.
The track will be released as a single in early 2016 but meanwhile you can hear the entire track here
About 5 years ago, after winning Edinburgh’s Got Talent, singer Gavin Blackie approached Offbeat needing help getting music together for his self penned songs. Between then and now Gavin and Offbeat producer Iain McKinna have explored various writing styles before coming up with a great blend of Electro Pop, Rock and R&B flavours that make up his fantastic new debut album Laid Bare.
Iain says ” When I first started working with Gav we got immediate results but we have had to go through a process of experimentation to find out what did and didn’t work. Once we hit on the formula some of the songs that initially didn’t suit his style translated really well to the electro format that finally made it onto the album
Gav and Iain then applied the formula to the rest of the album which came together really well once they had worked out what suited his voice and style best. Offbeat’s Kirsty McKinna played Electric Violin and sang Backing Vocals on the album.
On November 7th Gavin performed the album and some of his favourite songs by other artists at a sold out launch gig at Edinburgh’s Church Hill Theatre. It was an assured and confident performance which established him as a serious artist. He will be performing on STV Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge show on Monday 23rd November.
The album Laid Bare by Gavin Blackie is available on iTunes. Spotify and all main online stores. Buy it now on iTunes. Listen to Like A Blackbird to get a flavour of what’s on this amazing album.
We started off 2015 with the continuation of the production of Imaginary Creatures rock album entitled Danse Macabre. The album is now finally complete after 18 months and is available for sale and download.
David started off many years ago originally writing fiction and by using his creative writing skills he discovered that he could write lyrics which started seriously from 1995 to 2000 where he had a fertile period writing many lyrics for his own amusement. This culminated several years later and gave him the inspiration to write his first album under the name Imaginary Creatures entitled The Butterfly’s Dream.
The first album was a fantastic learning curve, it fired David up which gave him the ambition and confidence to start writing the follow up Danse Macabre. These albums would never have come to fruit if Offbeat producer Iain McKinna had not been involved, he worked David’s ideas into an end product and contributes his own musical ideas and influences to the music.
David says, “Well, I really enjoy my time working at Offbeat. Iain and Kirsty are great to work with, and we usually manage to have a good laugh as well as getting quality work done. What could be better?”
David adds. “When I came into Offbeat I had no idea how to make an album, so that was very much a learning experience for me. So now with that experience under my belt (and with Iain also having the experience of what it is I am trying to do) we have been able to make this one a bit more cohesive. The first one had some good stuff on it but it was a bit uneven, it seemed like a random collection of tracks. This is more like a proper album!”
David has a unique style of writing about topics which he feels very strongly about that evoke a response from the profound to the trivial,”It tends to be story’s or abstract ideas, as there are plenty of issues in the world so there is no shortage of material”
And not being a musician doesn’t stop him expressing own musical ideas. He spends time listening to all his favourite albums giving him the many ideas to add into his tracks with an array of influences. This album is so exciting as Iain and David have managed to get some amazingly talented players on it. Like Drummer Ted McKenna of SAHB whos spectacular drumming throughout has given the whole album the right energy and weight to really showcase David’s very talented writing skills, with the addition of Iain’s production skills and who happens to also be playing Bass, Guitars & Lead Vocals on this 70s influenced Rock album. Guitarist Keith More and Blue Oyster Cult’s Joe Bouchard both have contributed spectacular guitar parts, and sax players John Burgess & Kenny Tomlinson have added performances to two tracks a piece.
David says “I started seriously writing lyrics in the mid 90s. That’s not counting the stuff I did as a teenager, which thankfully no-one will ever see! I had also written a fair amount of fiction, so I came to it with experience in creative writing when I started. Then from 1995 to about 2000 I had a very fertile period where I wrote tons and tons of lyrics. I just wrote for my own amusement, at that time I had no idea of actually doing anything with them. Then when I decided I wanted to start recording some of this stuff, I had a ready-made back catalogue that was fairly substantial, and it seemed to me that a good proportion of them still stood up with little or no re-working. So about half of the first album and all of the second come from that slush pile.
Not being a musician myself, I don’t have any musical ideas of my own, everything I do comes from stuff I have listened to. When I was a teenager, all these great albums were coming out by people like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin that are now great classics, but then they were brand new, and it was a very exciting time. So I have loads of influences that come through. On the new album, one track has a sort of cool jazzy vibe, one is a heavy slow blues, there is a jumping little rock’n’roll number, I’ve even attempted a Supertramp-style prog opus led by classical piano and strings”.
I asked David how he managed to get Joe Bouchard on this record, “I just asked him! About three years ago, when I was looking for a way to make something happen, I emailed him and sent him some lyrics. He was quite encouraging about the material and in fact ended up using one of them as the basis of a track entitled “Everybody Goes Insane” on the last Blue Coupe album, ‘Million Miles More’. So I got a writing credit on that album, which was nice. So we kept in touch, and when I was preparing this album there was a rocky track that I wanted a slide guitar lead for. So I asked Joe if he would do it and he said yes. I’ve always been a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan, so having Joe play on one of my songs is amazing to me”.
Producer Iain also enjoys working on David’s albums. “It’s fairly specialised working with a lyricist and interpreting ideas which are in peoples head, which I’m doing more and more of these days”, says Iain.”When things work out it’s a real buzz. David is always very clear on his brief which makes things easier. Of course, I add my own influences to the tracks, like on the excellent song Babylon on which things really came together early on in the project. At that point I felt this album was going to be great”.
Danse Macabre by Imaginary Creatures is available on Itunes – Amazon mp3. Spotify, Birnam Online CDShop
Catalogue No IMAGC002CD
We are always being asked who we have worked with over the years. We have finally put together a slide show which feature a selection of projects we’ve been involved with.
Well all his hard work has paid off as the hot news is that after an introduction by us at Offbeat he has just signed a recording licensing contract with Greentrax Records, who will be able to distribute the album worldwide to all of Ross’s many fans.
And so Ross came to Offbeat Studios as he had worked with Iain McKinna before on a very successful series of albums called Spirit Of The Glen for Universal Music Group and Decca Records which were historic in the making, combining a whole orchestra with the sound of The Royal Scots Dragoon Pipes & Drums. It became a no1 hit album in the Classical charts and won a coveted Classical Brit Award for best album in 2009. It was produced brilliantly by Classical genius Jon Cohen. Iain at Offbeat recorded the pipes and drums for it while Jon Cohen arranged all the music and following the initial recording went to Prague to record and produce the Czech National Orchestra.
Ross adds “When it came to recording this solo album I did a search on Recording Studios in Edinburgh and Offbeat was the first to come up in my search, When I opened the webpage and was confronted with a picture of Iain, I thought it was too spooky a coincidence to ignore, especially after working with Iain on the Spirit of the Glen Trilogy whilst with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards”.
“The idea started of as a personal project as I was only looking for a product I could sell at weddings and other small events that I may have been booked on. It was after Iain had listened to the demo tracks that he recommended that I looked at going commercial as he thought I had a very sell-able product”.
Twisted Tradition by Ross Munro will be released on Greentrax on 1st July 2015
THE PRODUCERS BLOG
Well since our last Offbeat blog but we have been very busy here at our Edinburgh recording studio. These last two years have been far and away our busiest in our 23 year history with a great combination of original music production and voice commentaries. As usual the range of styles is mind boggling and has made for a very interesting period for the studio for both Kirsty Anderson (the studio manager) and myself. We hope you enjoy the blog and snippets of music we have been granted permission to post too.
GAVIN BLACKIE – LAID BARE (album)
In the past couple of months we’ve picked up the pace with Gavin Blackie’s debut album LaId Bare and I am is now mixing six of the tracks he co-wrote with Gavin for the album.The album was started back in 2013 but was on hold for most of last year as Gavin was busy gigging and writing new material for the project.
Gavin comes up with great lyrics. melodies and ideas for music and I interpret this into music and songs that are really sounding great. Gav’s unique vocal abilities really shine on these songs. Kirsty Anderson also features on vocals and violin.
We first got together after he won Edinburgh’s Got Talent back in 2010 and have been writing together ever since.
KIRSTY LOGAN – THE GRACEKEEPERS (audio book)
We recently completed an audio book for Australian company Bolinda.com with author Kirsty Logan who narrated her amazing award winning novel The Gracekeepers here at our Edinburgh recording studio.
The recording lasts just over nine hours and amazingly we sent it over to the company for final edits without a single mistake in the recording- by either Kirsty Logan, who did an amazing job of the narration, or myself who recorded and compiled all the audio over an intensive session lasting three days.
The book is about a circus boat in a flooded world. North and her bear live on the Circus Excalibur, floating between the scattered archipelagoes that are all that remains of the land. (read this review)
DAVID ELL – WELCOME TO THE BALL (album)
The David Ell album Welcome To The Ball is now completed and mastered. David recorded and produced it in his home studio in Linlithgow using Cubase and I mixed and mastered the album here in Edinburgh on Logic Pro X at Offbeat.
It’s a great album of Alternative Rock songs with all the music played by David apart from a little Bass here and there by myself. The release date for the album has been set for……….. and will be released on Davids own label….., some of the songs will be accompanied by videos which are currently in production.
David and I first worked together this way on a selection of his songs a few years back. This current album will soon be released.
ROSS MUNRO – TWISTED TRADITION (album)
Former Royal Scot’s Dragoon Pipe Major Ross Munro’s album Twisted Tradition is also completed and mastered. It features a selection of fantastic tunes, some of which were written by Ross, and some traditional tunes. As the title suggests it’s pipe music with a twist.
On this album Ross also plays most of the instruments and also showcases his amazing arrangement skills. I played Bass on a few tracks, Drums on one and guitar on another.
We are currently negotiating a licensing deal for the album and hope to be able to announce a label and release date very soon. Iain & Ross worked together on the Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of album from 2007-2010. Ross will be promoting the album with live performances both here in the UK and the US when the album is released.
SIR CHRIS EVANS – LEST WE FORGET (album)
This album is based on poignant and emotional letters written back home from soldiers in World War 1 who never returned. Sir Chris Evans is an accomplished songwriter and guitarist who has put this album of songs together, produced by me and featuring some great musicians and singers.
Including Steve Balsamo (vocals) , Brian Rice (vocals) Seonaid Aitken (vocals & violin) Jon Cohen (Strings) Ted McKenna (Drums) Ruth Notman (vocals), Ross Munro (pipes and whistle), Kirsty Anderson(vocals), Aubrey Parsons (vocals). I play Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Keyboards.
More musicians and singers are still to contribute to the album which is scheduled for completion in early Autumn 2015. What makes this album very challenging is that we require many different vocalists for the album as almost every song requires a different singing style. Sometimes we have to try out several singers for a song before deciding which works best.
IMAGINARY CREATURES – DANSE MACABRE (album)
This is the second album I’ve co-written with lyricist David Scott. It has a 70s rock feel and features performances by Ted McKenna (drums), Keith More (guitar), Rich Anderson on keyboards, Joe Bouchard (guitar) Kirsty Anderson and Alexis Anderson (backing vocals), Luis Albornoz-Parra on Synths, John Burgess (soprano sax and clarinet), Kenny Tomlinson (tenor and baritone sax) and me on Bass, Keys and Guitar. David sings backing vocals on a few tracks too.
The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was an extensive collection of songs which worked well to varying degrees but this project feels much more like a album and we are both very pleased and excited about how it’s turning out. The recording of the album is now complete and mixing is about to begin. David comes up with the musical ideas for each song and I interpret them musically for him, something I’m doing more and more these days for both lyricists and singers.
MARK AG – LIGHTING THE WAY HOME (album)
Brighton based Mark AG wrote most of this album using an iPad and then came into Offbeat where I produced it last year. It has now been mastered but Mark decided to release two singles from the album prior to releasing the whole album.
Mark and I have been working together now for a few years when Mark initially came to our Edinburgh recording studio from Brighton to master songs from his first album entitled 3am Sleepwalkers.
The latest single “A Beautiful Flower…what if?”. is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud and more. It features Kenny Tomlinson on Sax. Offbeat’s Kirsty Anderson also shows her versatility on this album, providing backing vocals on a couple of tracks and electric violin on one. Mark plays Piano and I contribute, Bass, Drums and Electric Guitar throughout.
JABJAB – (album)
Back in the 70s gigging band Huddersfield based band JabJab recorded many songs and gigs which for reasons of timing didn’t actually ever get released. The recordings were subsequently lost and were just recently found by their Hammond organist Rob Whittington. I took the master tapes into Pierhouse studio in Edinburgh where expert audio engineer Pete Haigh had to actually physically bake the tapes as a precautionary measure to avoid shedding of them having been stored for so long. The baking method makes sure the oxide on the tapes sticks to the plastic backing long enough for the tapes to be played back and transferred.
The recovered recordings were then transferred to digital and mastered by me here at Offbeat. The story of Jabjab is currently being made into a documentary which will tell the whole story of the baked tapes etc so I don’t want to elaborate too much on things just yet. As soon as the film is released we will feature it in a future blog. The band are performing a reunion gig in July in Huddersfield. For more details visit the website
As well as all the above we have recorded several audio commentaries for the Royal London website, Mastered a song called She by Renaud Cmela, and produced a song by songwriter Stewart Morrison entitled Time I Wasn’t Here.
BBC Radio 4
We recently had the pleasure of recording a program for BBC Radio 4 with respected journalist Alan Little. Alan was reminiscing on his Sarajevo experiences on a program produced for BBC producer Hilary Dunn by Loftus Media.
David Scott is a 70’s Rock influenced lyricist who came to Offbeat as he was looking for somewhere to record the many songs he had written over the years. The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was a collaboration with Offbeat producer Iain McKinna which took 18 months to record. It featured a mixture of very talented musicians, the aim of it being to showcase his lyrics and songwriting skills.
David is now back at Offbeat recording his next album The Dance Macabre which includes the awesome drummer Ted McKenna (pictured right) giving the album improved dynamics and quality. To record Ted’s drums they went to Heartbeat Studio just outside Edinburgh which is run by the lovely Dave Valentine with talented engineer Ed Logan. Ted’s kit is rather large and we needed a bigger space to get the sound that was required for this album. Ted was the drummer for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (for all of there 9 albums) and Tear Gas, Michael Schenker Group, Rory Gallagher’s Taste and The Party Boys. He has drummed on four tracks so far and we are planning to go back to Heartbeat at the end of the month to record his drums on the rest of the album. Other guests on the album are synth player Luis Albornoz-Parra, guitarists Keith More and ex Blue Oyster Cult founding member slide guitarists Joe Bouchard.
Offbeat has had a long association with Heartbeat Studio’s as a place to record music projects. Iain and I first worked there in 1984 with singer, producer Chris Harley (aka Chris Rainbow) mixing an album of ours under the name Zed. We also recorded Spirit Of The Glen, a trilogy of albums for Universal Music there as well as many other projects over the years.
Here’s an excerpt of the song I Must Join from The Butterfly’s Dream. It features Luis on Analogue Synths and Iain on Vocals, Guitars Bass and Drums.
You just never know who is going to walk through the door at “Offbeat studios” and to our surprise in walked a very nice Indian man called Dr Avinash Bansode (pictured), he wanted to record a Mindfulness CD. He is based in Edinburgh but runs mindfulness courses all over the country for people who want to learn about being mindful, which is in the form of some very peaceful meditations that can enhance your life and help you deal with you’re everyday hassles and stress’s of life. Most people don’t really have the time for these things but this particular set of CD’s are designed specifically for the “Busy Person” and is a great tool to have for your life. I really enjoyed doing the editing for this project which involved putting together five x 30 minute audio files from the narration he recorded here at the studio.
Quite a few years ago now Iain produced an album for Gospel singer Christine Robbin. It was through Christine that Norine was made aware of Offbeat. Most of the material for Norine is actually written in the studio from melodies that Norine creates and it and evolves over time into some pretty exciting productions. As with a lot of collaborations with singers and lyricists Iain interprets the melodies into musical parts, sometime using references provided.
This is a very pretty specialised approach to music production which Iain has developed working with many vocalists and lyricists over the years. It’s what makes Offbeat unique and keeps us very busy working with artists from all over the World.
Here’s a short clip from her excellent song United
We are very busy here working on the recording and production of an album with a World War 1 theme which we can’t say too much about at this stage. It’s a huge project with lots of collaborators, details to follow in a future blog.
Earlier this week we received a Voice Over booking from The Shaftesbury Theatre in London for the highly acclaimed show Brazouka which is currently showing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival venue The Assemble Halls for the duration.
It was fantastic to meet the Australian Sound Designer Derek Wilson who recorded all the spoken parts and announcements for the show.
The lovely Pamela Stephenson Connolly, who is producing the show, and other members of the cast came into the studio the day before the opening of the show – which was written and produced by Pamela and Harley Medcalfe as well as director, writer and co-producer Arlene Phillips. All three have an obvious passion for dance which was amazing to experience .
Brazouka tells the story of the very brilliant Lambasouk dancer Braz Dos Santos (who is pictured here with Pamela after recording his bits) check out this link to discover more about this amazing new dance craze if you are at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Comedienne Josie Long (pictured right) was also in the studio this week recording a voice over for the Open University. It was commissioned by Damn Fine Media who are based in London, Josie is in Edinburgh performing her comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was a delight to record and had no complaints about climbing our 95 steps and was hardly puffed out at all… they don’t call it the High Street for nothing.
Other companies in the studio this week were World Topping PR Company Bell-Pottinger, Zigzag Advertising from Australia and Royal London (Scottish Life), all doing various Voice Overs for which the studio is fast becoming a favourite venue.
WOW, it’s been a fantastic year so far for OFFBEAT RECORDING STUDIOS with lots of fantastic new talent and interesting projects – the outcome being seven albums of varying styles. from Dance, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk and even World.
J.A Connor’s composition OPEN YOUR MIND has reached Number One in the Broadjam World Chart. Vocals by Jim, instruments and production by Iain McKinna and backing vocals by me. Jim previously had a no1 in the Celtic music charts with another Offbeat production of his song MYSTERIOUS LADY.
The second album for Imaginary Creatures entitled The Dance Macabre is now well underway. Lyricist David Scott has his ideas interpreted, co-written and produced by Offbeat’s Iain McKinna. Ex Blue Oyster Cult member Joe Bouchard will be guesting on Slide Guitar on this album. Joe covered one of David’s songs from his first album called EVERYBODY GOES INSANE. The album will also feature mega guitarist Keith More (credits include Joe Satriani, McCartney, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Michael Shenker band).
Professor Sir Chris Evans has written an amazing album of World War 1 songs for this years centenary. Iain is producing and supporting guitarist Chris musically on the album which will feature Ross Munro, Brian Rice and various other singers and musicians still to be decided. Chris is a leading light in Live Sciences with a great passion for music. He has a lovely guitar style and is a very talented and prolific songwriter. The album which features 15 songs will be completed by November. Here he is at the launch of his Live Sciences hub just last week with his friend Theo Paphitis… more to follow in a special blog about Chris and this great project.
Ross Munro first worked with Iain when he was pipe major for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on The Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of albums for Decca Records. The first album reached NUMBER ONE in the UK Classical Charts and the second album Journey achieved a CLASSICAL BRIT AWARD for best album in 2009. Ross is now in the studio recording his amazing new solo album which will be called Twisted Tradition. The sound of his haunting pipes which he has blended in with a whistle on some tracks is truly special, adding to his unique and uplifting sound.
Recently OFFBEAT worked with Hip Hop artist Izz Juvey and edited and mastered a single version of his song MOMENT OF BLACK OUT. Izz, aged 24 and born in Gambia, brought out a music video of M.O.B which was released on March 30th 2014 and released by Uprisin Records. Izz has a positive message to his music wanting to, he says “inspire the troubled youths of today entrapped in social injustice” The timing of his rapping is brilliantly executed, drawing you into the video and with the arty visuals of Edinburgh I certainly felt compelled to watch it over and over! Iain has just finished recording his follow up single Starin At The Mirror. Juvey is busy at the moment organising his future gigs, so its onwards and upwards for this inspiring and very talented young artist. I have recently interviewed him and this will be published in one of my future blogs. Meanwhile check out the video!
Gavin Blackie (pictured right) who won Edinburgh’s Got Talent in 2012 is a fantastic, charismatic and unique singer currently working on his new album Laid Bare at OFFBEAT which he is very excited about, It’s true pop with a twist with some very high energy dance tracks and some moving pop ballads . His vocal range is stunning, adding the right hooks and melodys. He writes and sings mainly about the pleasures and traumas of love but with really catchy choruses you find your self singing them again and again. Gavin and Iain have co-written this album which is due for completion later this year.
Mark AG another truly talented singer,and musician came all the way from Brighton to record with OFFBEAT, he recorded his album Lighting The Way Back Home in stages over a period of six months. The album contain songs about love and various emotions in the style of easy listening rock which Mark wrote on Piano using his Ipad!. The album has been completed just this week and is now ready for release… more to follow in a blog upon release of the record. Here’s a clip from the excellent song Louder which will soon be released as a single. It featores mark on Piano and Iain on Guitar, Bass & drums
David Ell approached his album Welcome To The Ball in a different way by recording all the backing and vocals in his home studio, and what a talent. His 3 dimensional and very underground rock style production hooks you in to each track… blending in the haunting vocals… such a great singer too! He came to OFFBEAT to have Iain mix and master his album which enhanced each track adding depth and quality to the overall sound that makes it a killer record you just want to play again and again. He is also in the process of planning future solo gigs where he is creating video backdrops for each track, this will not only make it really exciting to watch but a show not to be missed. I’m about to arrange an interview with David so watch this space! here is an excerpt from one of the tracks on the album entitled Reach.
Rich Anderson – Extraordinary Keyboard player and MD has been involved with OFFBEAT for many years. He Is currently on tour as MD for the musical DIRTY DANCING in UK and is booked into the studio in August to lay down some pre- recorded parts for the show with various backing singers
Steven Lambert, an American who current lives and gigs in Perth Australia is another ‘remote’ client. He asked us to put together a Hendrix backing track with guitar played by Keith More and Bass and Drums by Iain. Steve has been gigging around South East Asia for the past 20 years having played in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam doing mainly solo gigs but also with various groups as a backing musician for some regional acts travelling through the area.
Other artists who have been in the studio this year include Nigerian born R&B singer Norine Babs. Singer songwriter Duncan McIntosh who we met at The Voice showcase held at our studio a few months back, Stewart Morrison, Lesley Young & John McKay Clements from Montreal, Rapper RP, Dance and Pop singer Renaud Cmela, Robert Maitland , Hip Hop artist Skinz, Pop Singer Songwriter & Drummer Brian Rice, Jazz Singer Jess Abrams, Hollywood actor Brian Cox, Neil Oliver & BBC producer Samantha Heeler.
If you have a songs, lyrics, instruments, vocals or even backing tracks to record or needing produced just pick up that phone and call us NOW on 0131 556 4882.
A hugely successful evening of amazing singing talent at the Edinburgh showcase took place at the studio last night for series 4 of the Voice UK later in the year.
We had seventeen unique acts in the Offbeat studio ranging from opera to jazz to pop, rock and soul. Thanks to Rich Anderson and Dave Valentine for their superb recommendations and our Kirsty did a great job of looking after the singers prior to their slots.
BBC and Voice Producer Samantha Heeler (pictured right) put everyone at ease and coaxed great performances from everyone and was lovely to work with.
Sam said afterwards, “Thanks to Offbeat for bringing along some great talent. I really enjoyed tonight and the standard of singing was incredible. Everyone did themselves proud. It was a fantastic showcase to be involved in and the Offbeat studio is a hidden gem!”
My son, Producer Paul McKinna aka Vigilante talks about how he put together his mega trilogy of hip hop albums with producer Spytec based on his favourite movies. To get in touch with Paul about making beats for your tracks Contact Us.
“I started making Hip Hop beats when I teamed up with Profisee to form Great Ezcape, in Edinburgh Scotland, around 2004 with the later additions of Nik (The Manufacturer) PT, Ema J, and Simba. We released a couple of E.P.’s, did some shows, got some radio play, but after a couple of years started going in different directions so we parted ways to work on other projects. But that’s another story…
After Great Ezcape went on hiatus, I wanted to do a solo project I could move forward with at my own pace to keep my chops. So I decided to give myself a challenge, in fact the biggest challenge I could think of; I was going to remix the entire Bullitt soundtrack to Busta Rhymes acapella’s as a free promotional album. The Bullitt soundtrack had always been like Holy Ground to me in the past, being my favorite composer, Lalo Schifrin, my favorite soundtrack of my favorite film, starring no less than my favorite actor, Steve McQueen, and as such I never would sample it because I didn’t feel I was capable of doing it justice, being that I’d placed it on such a high pedestal. But now I felt I had the chops to handle it and was race ready. Going with all Busta Rhymes was not a hard decision, as again it seemed like the biggest challenge and I loved the idea of hearing his flow over my beats. There’s 16 tracks on the Bullitt soundtrack and I only had 3 Busta Rhymes acapella’s so after remixing the Bullitt Theme to Busta’s Woo Ha! to test the waters, I put my good friend & collaborator Brian White aka Spytec on the case, who did online searches, posted threads on hip hop forums, and harassed DJ’s till my “dream of 16” was complete. Meanwhile I had been steadily working on getting all these acapella’s in time & writing beats for them before figuring out how the Bullitt soundtrack was going to fit in to all of this. After many hours of chopping, tweaking, mixing, testing in nightclubs at 4am after hours, I finally finished what I still consider my masterpiece. So Bri knocked up some artwork with a nice nod to the Bullitt original soundtrack artwork.
So at some point during all this Bram at Black Lantern Music offered to release it on they’re site http://www.blacklanternmusic.com, and I did a launch with Spytec in Edinburgh at The Green Room. After that, I got a video guru I know, Ollie Elliott, to edit the car chase from Bullitt to my remix of the chase music and then we had a video. All in, the first release was pretty lackluster, mainly because I was scared to promote it for copyright issues, even though it was only ever intended as a “passion project” and to showcase what I can do.
Meanwhile, I was itching to keep the momentum I had gained and had enjoyed doing it so much I decided to follow it up with a sequel, and figured I’d continue with the Lalo Schifrin theme because really, who else would I sample for an entire album? This time I really wanted a challenge, as I was going to do this next one as a joint effort between Spytec and myself, seeing as he’d proven to be so resourceful with the first one considering I couldn’t have done it without him and because he’d done a couple of remixes himself that blew my mind so this one would be “Spytec & Vigilante Presents” as to the previous “Vigilante Presents”. This is the biggest misconception/confusion created by us, being that some sites (including Discgs and Black Lantern) list the first one as Spytec & Vigilante, in anticipation of the 2nd one, where the artwork only says Vigilante. This time we chose Cool Hand Luke, an 18 track soundtrack , and unlike the Bullitt soundtrack, which is a Hip Hop producers dream, filled with brass, flutes, and strings, Cool Hand Luke was full of banjo’s, acoustic guitars accompanying the brass, flutes, and strings, keeping with the films “Deep South” setting but making finding Hip Hop worthy samples in every track almost impossible in some cases but by filter and by delay, we made it Hip Hop worthy, dammit! In choosing the emcee on this one, I wanted to go with my favorite emcee lyrically, feeling in my mind I’d successfully already conquered the king of flow, even if no one knew about it. I suggested Talib Kweli to Bri (aka Spytec) and he agreed before disappearing for a month to track down 18 plus Talib Kweli acapella’s which proved to be not an easy mission. In the end he was successful although we had to settle for a couple of D.I.Y. aca’s where the instrumental had been layered on top of the original with the phase reversed, cancelling out the track, leaving just the vocal & a bit of hihat, and headphone spill (yes, it works). Meanwhile Bri followed the same theme with the artwork and before we knew it, we were balls deep in banjo’s. This one we dubbed “Cool Hand Luke vs Kweli”.
By this point I had taken suffering for my art to a new level, having just spent the last 3 months on the first remix album, and now working full time on the second unpaid project. Having split the workload between us, I was actually sleeping on Bri’s couch now, with my computer set up in his living room while he had his set up in his bedroom. We’d be working on 2 remixes at a time as we totally vibe’d off each others creative energy. About halfway through it, we were getting banjo fever and knew there was only one cure and it wasn’t more cowbell; we needed a third album to complete the trilogy and give us a fresh burst of creative energy. This time we went with the ever amazing (and unfortunately, ever sampled) Enter The Dragon soundtrack, a great contrast to the cool San Francisco sounds of Bullitt and the Southern Country vibes from Cool Hand Luke. The other key factor in choosing Enter The Dragon was it was only a 10 track soundtrack so we figured we could knock it out in between troubleshooting the 2nd one. Now Bri came up with the plan of writing this one with Nas acapella’s so Enter The Dragon vs Nas was born, and we had work to do.
At around this time, life altering events brought on mainly by me focusing only on the tasks at hand and ignoring the rest of life lead to me deciding to move to Canada so the pressure was on to get the trilogy finished. Finally everything pretty much came together in time for my departure, apart from Bri’s last track on the Cool Hand Luke vs Kweli album. Ollie also did 2 follow up video edits of the other 2 movies.
After that, I moved to Canada, promptly put all things music on hold while I sorted out life in another country and things fell apart from there. I lost contact with Bri, as he’s seemingly vanished into thin air, as I haven’t heard from him in over 2 years. As a result, eventually I put my remixes from the Cool hand Luke vs Kweli & Enter The Dragon vs Nas albums up alongside the Bullitt vs Busta remixes for free download on soundcloud. If/when Bri surfaces, we’ll hopefully add his mixes to the equation too. Anyways, that’s the story of the trilogy that almost killed me”.
IMAGINARY CREATURES – THE BUTTERFLY’S DREAM. A slow burning studio project.
Since August 2012 and for most of 2013, lyricist David Scott was in the studio every Wednesday between 2pm and 6pm, working on his debut album The Butterfly’s Dream for his project Imaginary Creatures.
In early January 2014 we put the finishing touches to the tracks and sent it off to be manufactured for it’s current release on David’s label. The album, which is over an hour in length, consists of 14 original classic rock songs. In the studio, David approached each song with a strong vision in his head regarding influences and instrumentation and it was my job to interpret this for him. The album is available from Itunes for £9.99
Normally I take a supporting role with artists in the studio, but in this case David, who is principally a lyricist, doesn’t play any instruments and the only practical way forward was for me to play most of the parts as well as singing lead vocals. Whenever possible we invited guests to play on the album though and their contributions added lots of variety to the sound.
Offbeat Kirsty engineered the album with me and contributed Backing Vocals on several tracks as well as Electric Violin on Haunted.
Phenomenal Lead Guitarist Keith More guests on Hells Heart & Bad For Me (Keith’s credits include: Joe Satriani, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, The Michael Shenker band).
Annie McCaig sings backing vocals on opening track Before The Night Comes & Ten Years (her recording credits include –Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Level 42).
Fraser Speirs (credits: Paulo Nutini, Carole Kidd, Tam White) played his amazing Harmonica on two songs, Bad Train & Ten Years.
Rod Clements. (former member of Lindisfarne), plays Electric & Acoustic Slide Guitar on Bad For Me, Bad Train & Everybody Goes Insane which has already been covered by Blue Coupe, in the States. The band was formed by Blue Oyster Cult guitarist, vocalist Joe Bouchard). Joe heard a sneak preview of our version and said “Love the new version of Everybody Goes Insane. It’s way different from the Blue coupe version but it is a great take. Love the acoustic and slide and harmonies“
For those with the patience and the time, working on an album over an extended period can produce amazing results. I first worked this way with multi- instrumentalist and Singer/ Songwriter John McNairn on his excellent album of contemporary arrangements of classic Border ballads – Borderland – back in the late 90’s. John used to visit the studio for an hour and a half every Thursday and 18 months later we found we had a great album on our hands. Recording in short sessions and taking the result home to review can be a very effective way to evolve a production, and to avoid wasting any studio time for the artist.
The Butterfly’s Dream and Borderland can’t really be compared as they are so different musically, but they were both fairly ambitious projects which required many sessions with diverse approaches to the production of each track.
Another advantage of recording over a longer period of time is funding of albums for self funded projects. Paying for the production over time and for shorter sessions is much more manageable and affordable with a big budget result.
As a songwriter/lyricist, Brighton based Mark Greenock aka (Mark A.G.) has been involved in several bands and solo projects. He first contacted Offbeat a couple of years ago as he was considering doing some more session singing. He also had some songs that had been written and recorded with others in the past and wanted to have them re-mastered and polished up. The intention was to put them on an album to showcase his lyrics and vocals. He was also going to record a few covers to put on a showreel for his session projects. Although he lived in London at the time, Mark had spoken to several studios both there and in Scotland and was really impressed with the initial service he got here at Offbeat.
Mark says “I visited the Offbeat studio on the High Street in Edinburgh and was immediately impressed by the welcome I got and the very friendly, relaxed atmosphere in the studio. Iain and I got chatting and I noticed straight away that we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things. He told me about some of the recording/production work and other musical projects the studio was involved in and I decided very quickly I would complete the project at Offbeat”.
Over a few sessions in 2012, Mark recorded a few cover versions and included two of them (Snow Patrol –Eyes Open and Roachford – Only To Be With You) on his debut album 3am Sleepwalkers which was later released on iTunes/Amazon/CDBaby and others. Offbeat also re-mastered the other original songs and some of these were also used for the album. Although Mark had by now returned to London we were able to use Dropbox to send tracks to and from each other.
The album was well received and Mark was interviewed by Laura Piper at Scottish Television about it. He decided to send any profits from the album to a children’s hospice charity. Mark had made up his mind, at this point, to record some more tracks at Offbeat in 2013 but due to being ill and requiring surgery he had to postpone this for a while. Once he was better, he contacted me and we had a long chat about recording a brand new album from scratch.
Mark is first and foremost a lyricist and singer. He had already built up a large collection of lyrics over the years but had recently been writing music and lyrics for some new songs. These songs have some really good strong melodies and arrangements and he really wanted to get them all on an album. I explained that Offbeat could provide the full musical service of production, assisting with musical arrangement, instrumentation, recording and mixing. This was an exciting piece of news for Mark as he had been wanting to record more songs in Edinburgh.
Mark says “It’s my home town so it’s a labour of love for me and I really liked the way Iain and I had worked on previous sessions. I booked a series of two day sessions towards the end of 2013 to start recording the tracks for my second album ‘Lighting The Way Home’. I currently live in the South of England but I travel to Edinburgh to record my songs as I have always been very impressed with the service I get at Offbeat. From the very first phone call to the final mix you really feel like a valued customer and leave there as a friend. The atmosphere in the studio is professional yet relaxed and informal and this makes for a fantastic working environment. It’s also in such a unique location and this adds to the attraction of booking time there. Iain and Kirsty are great to work with and nothing is too much trouble. They will work on a track/part of a track until we are all 100 % satisfied with it. They offer constructive production ideas and lots of cups of tea! I have worked in a lot of studios and this is definitely my favourite place to record.”
The album is now well underway and is an exciting mix of eclectic styles and tracks which Mark has been working on for a while now. The songs cover a variety of subject matter including triumph over adversity, the value of friendships and following your goal in life whatever it may be. There is also a wry observation about love and all that comes with it. Due to health issues, which he has now thankfully fully recovered from, Mark had a pretty tough year in 2013 and he initially dreaded that he would end up writing a lot of depressing tracks!
Mark explains “Thankfully I don’t tend to do that and instead I wrote some songs that were a bit more positive. I think it’s important to give people songs that they can identify with. I genuinely think that everyone secretly wants a song they can listen to and say “that could have been written about me”. Even the title track itself ‘Lighting The Way Home’ is not necessarily about going home or even a place you call home, It’s more about the feeling you get when you hear a song, see someone, remember an event or even just dream about it. That feeling you get that makes you feel like you’re at home wherever that may be. I hope the whole album gives people a bit of that”.
Mark’s first step was to complete the songs he had been working on to a demo stage. He used the Garageband app on iPad to record Piano/Keyboard, Vocals, Bass and Drums. Once these demo tracks were recorded he sent them via Dropbox to me with song notes and lyric sheets so that I could have a listen to them prior to the recording sessions.
During the initial sessions, we firstly recorded drums and a guide vocal/initial keyboard tracks then worked on the other instrumentation. During each step of the track we fully discussed ideas and arrangements and tried various things out until we were both happy with the sound. Once the instruments were recorded we recorded the vocals and then mixed each track.
Whilst recording the song ‘Louder’ I asked Mark if he could use the piano track from Garageband but due it not being midi compatible he used another app, Music Studio 2 along with a Line 6 Mobile Midi Piano to record the piano tracks later that day and then sent them as a midi file to me via Dropbox. I was then able to lay his piano tracks straight onto the mix for editing.
During one of the December 2013 sessions Mark asked Offbeat Kirsty to play on one of the songs ‘The Problem With Love’. Kirsty played some haunting and truly beautiful Electric Violin. It added a whole new dimension to the song and he is very pleased with it.
Each track, so far, has been recorded in two days. We have both loved every minute of it. At the time of writing this blog, more sessions have been booked and Mark hope to release the album ‘Lighting The Way Home’ around Spring of 2014.
Since starting Offbeat we’ve been involved in some great projects and last year was one of our busiest and most interesting yet.
70’s Reggae band Jab Jab recorded a lot of songs back in the day and through their keyboard player and family friend Rob Whittington (we share the same niece, Jess McKinna). I had the priveleged job of transferring their old 1/4” tapes, cassettes and assorted studio and live recordings into digital and re-mastering a double album amazing tracks. Some of the tracks hadn’t been heard for over 30 years! I went into Pierhouse Studios in Edinburgh where boffin and studio genius Pete Haigh baked the tapes. This was because a few of them were very old and were shedding. Playing them like the risks permanent damage- the baking process melds the tape back together so that they can be safely played. Pete then transferred them onto digital for me. They all played at different speeds so we rescued the material through a selection of Pete’s Tape Recorders.
There was about 3 hours of material to master. Here’s an excerpt from a personal favourite.
Last past year I produced and provided the backing track for a single for LA and Kuala Lumpar based singer Khylune. His video of the song Shut Up & Dance has had over 150.000 Youtube hits since it’s release in February. He was in Malaysia at the time of putting the track together and I worked on the production after hearing a demo of the song which was co-written with Award Winning US Nashville based songwriter CJ Watson, author of “The Everything Songwriting Book” and “Essential Songwriting”. Khy went into the studio in Kuala Lumpar to lay down his vocals and the sent them back go Scotland for me to mix.When asked for material for my blog last year Khy informed me that his foster Dad was the late Artie Mogul, the man who discovered Bob Dylan and owner of United Artists Records. Read my blog on Khylune for more information on this.
Closer to home Americana vocalist Jim Connor has been exporting his songs to the States from Scotland. I provide all the musical backing and production for Jim who I’ve been working with now for several years – Jim has a strong and distinctive vocal style which has a very broad appeal.
Jim works on demos of his songs at his home in Cumbernauld and sends them through on Dropbox for me to work on here at the Offbeat studio. Once the tracks are ready he visits the studio to lay down his vocals.
In 2013 we had a no1 on Celtic Music Radio and Broadjam with his compositions Mysterious Lady and Drift Away. Here’s a clip from our latest unreleased recording of his uplifting song Open Your Mind
Singer, Drummer and Songwriter Brian Rice and I have also worked on a couple of his songs this year. Brian, who originally comes from Northern Ireland and now lives in Aberfoyle, has an amazing voice and is a talented composer and musician who collaborates with songwriters Worldwide.
I first met Brian about 8 years ago when he visited the studio with his songwriting partner Clive at the time to mix and master a single they had wrote together.
I love the song we produced together entitled Waiting For Me To Fall and hope to work on more tracks with him in 2014. To read more about my collaboration with Brian and to hear the full version of the song Click HERE
Stewart Morrison has been coming to the studio now for 18 months, recording a selection of his own compositions in which Kirsty Anderson and I contribute musical parts and vocals for his varied songwriting styles. Here’s a clip of his great song You Were The One.
Stewart comes into the studio with his songs in his head and we interpret them into full productions and definitive versions of his ideas.
A few years back we held a 50th birthday party experience at which we met Film Producer Mark Cousins. We then went on to record commentary for four of his films, the most successful being The Story Of Film An Odyssey which continues to gather International acclaim and success.
IN 2013 Mark was back to record his voice for The Story Of Children & Film . As well as this we recorded Neil Oliver for Coast Australia and Hollywood actor Brian Cox who was the voice of Duggy The Dug who’s animated films have done a great job of promoting the Yes vote for the forthcoming Independence campaign. The project was for Newsnet Scotland and was produced by Independent Film Director Alan Knight.
Here’s one of a series of videos in which Duggy The Dug espouses convincing arguments for the case for voting Yes to Independence
We also recorded a sign language to audio version of Skint for AC2.com as well as several audio projects for Gavin Brogan from Scottish Life.
David Hyslop has been writing song and having them produced at other studios until he decided to give Offbeat a go with his excellent song Hollow Rain. Not wanting to influence my production of the track, David decided not to attend any of the sessions and gave me a wide remit for re-arranging the song.
Initially he provided a rough demo and I worked from that. David says of his Offbeat experience “Working with Iain on my song was a great experience – there is a relaxed and friendly vibe at the Offbeat studio, and I always welcomed Iain’s constructive and valuable input into the song which really helped to bring out the best in the material. Highly recommended!”
David came in to the studio at the very end to work with Kirsty on the verses to make sure his vocal ideas were incorporated into the final mix. The result is an evocative and uplifting song which has evolved into this recording that everyone involved in the team is proud of. Here’s a short section of the song.
2013 ended with more recordings for the Kings Theatre panto Peter Pan. I’ve been working with the team now for 7 years through Rich Anderson MD. Allan Stewart (pictured with me -left) who famously plays Widow Twanky, has also been in the studio recording tracks for his own projects.
Ongoing projects for 2014 are Imaginary Creatures –70’s Classic Rock album of original compositions by Lyricist & Songwriter David Scott entitled The Butterfly’s Dream which is due for release in Spring.
Also talented vocalist & Songwriter Mark Greenock comes to the studio all the way from Brighton to record his second album Lighting The Way Home.
Singer Songwriter & Multi Instrumentalist David Ell is in the process of recording his third album at his home studio in Linlithgow. I am helping David mix and master the album as well as creating backing tracks for his live set.
Renaud Cmela is currently recording at the studio on a song we started a while back entitled Starting Over
Also embarking on an album of songs is super talented Vocalist & Songwriter Gavin Blackie. More about this, Imaginary Creatures, David Ell and Mark Greenock and Renaud Cmela in future articles… watch this space 🙂