Other promising accidents followed M.I.A. and Taylor in from the streets, where they recorded the voices of children they’d asked to sing hooks, hairdressers they pulled out of a barbershop, and a group of disbanded Cricket players. “We were just there to collect ideas”, says Taylor, “but the songs would progress as we’d stumble across something, or something would jump out on us”.
Don’t Say Workflow
Taylor works at least as hard preparing for these sonic opportunities as he does looking for them by regularly aggregating a library of samples templates, and programmed channel strips in Logic. “I try to spend an hour or so a day just making up patches and having some fun with the ES1 or some other synth, trying to make up my own new sounds as well as weird drum kits”, he says. “When it comes time to actually write the music, I have a lot of things there that I already know are going to be kind of exciting”.
And while daily preparation is key to his work, Taylor stops short of embracing anything like a standard workflow. “What I try not to do is fall into any particular pattern”, he says. “Logic has such a broad array of plug-ins and instruments for manipulating sounds in all sorts of directions that I try to just mix it up all the time and always start from a new idea”.
To achieve the fresh assimilated sound of Kala, Taylor used Logic’s host plug-ins to process, tune, compress, and EQ overdubbed vocal samples and multilayered drums, bringing an electronic feel even to the sounds of the indigenous voices and instruments.
When interesting accidents failed to materialise, there was no shortage of purposeful creativity. M.I.A was regular contributor of new beats and ideas. “She programs on a little Roland drum machine with an internal sequencer”, says Taylor. And as co-producer, she was an unerring guide to what was working best. “If you get lost going round for an hour listening to a beat loop, you can turn around and look at her and she’ll give you an honest judgment. She’s really important in the studio”.
Perhaps the most interesting Kala-related accident occurred months after its release when the single, “Paper Planes”, with the unforgettable sonic hook of 4 gunshots and a ringing cash register, was featured in the trailer for the 2008 hit film Pineapple Express. The song caught serious air, climbing to number 5 on the iTunes hit list.
“That was an original idea that Diplo did with her, based on a Clash song”, says Taylor. “And it’s a good example of how Logic can work in a slightly different way, allowing us to mix everything really quickly and right on the spot”.
Taylor explains that after a writing session in New York, co-producer Diplo and M.I.A. joined him in London to mix the song, when they decided they needed some of the samples replayed. So even as they were using the Web to send certain beats and parts to be replayed in the studio in New York, the musicians were recording them and sending them back. Taylor dropped them “straight into Logic”, and finished the mix in London.
“In about six hours we took the whole thing from being a demo on a loop to having the new drum sounds and all new guitar and bass”, he says. “That was all in Logic”.
Taylor says that the main result of recent successes like “Paper Planes” is more choice about what he gets to work on, including projects with Tricky and Missy Elliott. Recently he and M.I.A. released a new version of “Boys”, another single from Kala with an interesting twist. “Jay-Z has done a verse on that”, says Taylor. “It’s a pretty big thing for us”.
Ignoring rampant industry pessimism, Taylor sees more big things, and many interesting accidents, ahead. “All you read is about how badly the music business is doing”, he says. “But for people just coming through who are more interested in the creative side than the straight up business side, music at the moment is as exciting as it’s been in our lifetime. No doom and gloom here”.