The degree to which critics and fans were transported by British-Sri Lankan rapper Maya “M.I.A”. Arulpragasm’s last album, Kala, seems directly proportional to how far she and producer Dave “Switch” Taylor travelled to record and produce it.
India, Australia, Jamaica and Trinidad were just some of the stops on an equatorial tour that allowed M.I.A. and Taylor to capture open-air, off-the-street vocals, instrumentals and serendipitous “noise” into Taylor’s mic’d MacBook Pro.
While still on the road, then later in his home studio, Taylor produced most of the songs for Kala entirely in Logic Pro, running Logic’s host plug-ins and virtual instruments on the same well-travelled laptop. “Pretty much everything on Kala was done within Logic”, says Taylor.
And judging by critical reception, pretty much everything was done right. Kala — Rolling Stone magazine’s 2007 Album of the Year — doesn’t so much rock our world as re-mix our sonic expectations of it, brightly fusing the sounds of Western house and third-world music even as M.I.A.’s playful but pointed lyrics explore some of the darker possibilities of cultural fusion.
“Sometimes it felt strange being in places where we were hardly getting electricity”, says M.I.A. “But Dave is so advanced on Logic that we were getting results that would take certain musicians a lot of time, money and organisation to achieve. Other producers would come to our makeshift ‘studio’ and be like ‘How did you do that?’ and all the time we were just pushing for everything we could get out of Logic — and bending the manual rules. It was exciting”.
Although it was clear to Taylor that the sun could never set on M.I.A.’s sonic ambitions for Kala, he knew he was as road-ready as any producer could be to handle a global sampling tour. Besides showing considerable Logic chops producing for his own label “Dubsided” and for a growing list of major mainstream artists, Taylor travels internationally year-round to perform for dancing-room-only club crowds as “dirty house” DJ Switch.
Extreme audio mobility is a job requirement for a working DJ; not so much for a studio producer. But because Taylor’s carry-on sized Logic kit works so well for him on the road, he uses it as well in his studio. “It’s not a lot of gear, actually”, says Taylor. “A MacBook Pro, Logic, the Apogee Duet and a set of Adam S3A monitors. Pretty much the same kind of minimal set up I’ve had for the last eight years”.
The minimal kit draws double takes when clients visit his studio — currently in L.A., where he moved recently from England — or when he brings it to work in their space. “I walk into a studio for, say, a new band, and there’s this amazing mixing desk in a huge room, and I say to them, ‘OK, cool, here’s a stereo pair, can you just plug me into the channel and, oh, yeah, take a few hours off.’ I think it surprises people that I really just don’t do anything outside of Logic”.
If Logic’s transportability was critical for recording Kala globally, its pliability was key in creatively producing the album. “Logic’s flexibility leads to sonic creativity”, says Taylor. “When you can try so many combinations of reverb, compression, EQ, with perhaps some wacky effects, then just literally pick them up and put them somewhere that in a hardware world would just be so impractical, things that aren’t supposed to happen, happen. And that creates some pretty interesting accidents”.
Taylor stayed especially alert for sonic accidents, as when he recorded 22 tribal drummers at the studio of noted Bollywood music producer A. R. Rahman in Chennai, India. “The Indian beats that sounded so intricate to us were their standard thing”, he says. “But it was such a foreign musical language that if we’d give them something simple to play, like a 4/4 rhythm, they’d be completely confused. Still, we got interesting results, even finding accidental loops when someone dropped their drumstick. It’s having an open mind”.