Extreme Editing in Logic Pro
After three months of recording in Glasgow, the band moved to Carey’s London studio, where they recorded the vocals and where Carey edited all of the audio files in Logic Pro.
“Logic was key because we’d recorded so much stuff that I needed to have a really good way of sifting through and organizing it, and on a system that’s naturally musically oriented rather than technically oriented,” says Carey. “In fact, there’s something about working in Logic that, even when you’re finishing off a track, it makes you feel like you’re writing.”
But it was the efficiencies inherent in Logic Pro that helped Carey’s edit most. “Because some of the songs were over an hour long in their original recorded forms, we had an awful lot of cutting to do. We also had the idea of editing together sections from different takes of a track recorded in different locations. It gave us a different acoustic texture, like cutting different scenes together in a film. So it was a real advantage that I could work so quickly in Logic.”
Carey says that Logic Pro's plug-ins proved as useful in establishing the final sound of the tracks on Tonight as its editing interface had been in cutting them. “My favorite plug-in is Distortion," says Carey. "I distort everything only a tiny bit, but it pushes sounds really far forward away from speakers towards the listener. That allowed me to get really close, punchy sounds that sound louder than they really are.
“I also use Compressor a lot; it's kind of invisible in that it will control the level perfectly without making it sound as if anything’s been done to it.” Carey says that nearly every back vocal on both albums has some level of distortion and compression applied.
Carey also favors Ultrabeat, Logic’s drum machine/sampler. “I use sounds that I’ve made myself, but I make my sounds differently,” he says. “I’ll record a few minutes of audio on a drum kit and walk around the studio just kind of hitting things, like the floorboards in a corner of the Glasgow studio to make a bass noise. I feed that up through various output compressors, save those clips to audio files, then drop them into Ultrabeat’s drag and drop. It takes me about five minutes to completely create a new drum machine, so it’s really very fast."
What Carey doesn't find in the studio floorboards he often pulls directly from a Logic plug-in, but always with a twist. “I use kick and snare from the Ultrabeat drum and bass kit. Also the EXS drum kit is quite good. But if I'm trying to make a dub record, and I call up the dub kit, I'll be in trouble because it would sound like generic dub. So quite often I’ll just go to the drum kits in Ultrabeat and pull up the most inappropriate one."
Carey used Delay Designer to achieve sounds unavailable in the studio or anywhere else. “Delay Designer is absolutely amazing because it’s from another world. It’s not emulating anything that has been done by analog tape. For Blood, a dub (remix) of Tonight that I produced, I was able to just import all the multi-tracks into Logic and use Delay Designer to change the placement of the taps. It let me play along to a track and tap where I wanted a delay. It’s sort of an unnatural sound, but it’s brilliant.”
Pressing to find the distinctive sound he and the band had committed to, Carey brought the experimental MO from the recording studio into all levels of the mix. “If you’re making a record you should try your best to make one that doesn’t sound like anything that’s been made before. So my instinct is always to try to abuse things and see what happens.”
Carey worked his creative abuse almost exclusively in Logic, patching in Logic vocoders to make weird noises and pushing the plug-ins as far as he could take them. “Sometimes I’ll find that the Logic plug-ins work particularly well for me at the extremes of their inputs and outputs, so, for instance, I’ll take the gain up really high and then use the Flanger or Chorus on something that’s been completely overdriven.”
Entirely happy with the results of the sonic explorations on Tonight, Kapranos is leveraging Logic Pro even more comprehensively as he writes songs for the next album.
“If you listen to music from the early to mid-80s, you’ll hear Fairlights or the Linn drum for the first time. Go back a few years and you’ll hear the first Wurlitzer, the first Moogs. Even the way the Beatles used 4-tracks playing backwards. It was always the available technology that allowed musicians to create a sound that nobody had heard before. So it’s important for a musician who wants to keep from being retrogressive to look at what’s available. In the future, people are going to look back and say that’s when music changed in that decade.”