Saturday, 15 December 2012

Dedications to the Greats!

For our next release we have lovingly covered two stone cold classic, soulful, Hip Hop tracks... We had heard Benjamin James Smith cover one of our favourite bands and friends of NNS, Crazy P. After we had finished The Movedrill Projects with Ben, we suggested that he do a couple of covers for us, and below the endeavours of his work...

This will be released on Monday 28th January 2013, you can pre-order HERE via Bandcamp

B.J. Smith 'Dedications to the Greats' [NUNS002] Sampler by NuNorthernSoul

Rather then us ramble on about this, we asked Ben to give us his reasoning and thoughts... enjoy the read!

[BJ Smith]
How this project came to be.
This cover versions project began when Paul and I were asked by Crazy P to do a Smith & Mudd remix of one of their tracks from their 2008 release Stop, Space, Return. For one reason or another Paul and I couldn't get together and the deadline was fast approaching. I had just finished watching the film on music legend Johnny Cash "Walk The Line" and had to sit down and work on an Ad pitch for Robinsons - the brief was quirky acoustic. Halfway through the often thankless task of composing a pitch for a sync company, I slid me and my guitar at speed across the room on my wheelie chair, away from the studio and towards the kitchen, strumming as I went. I was consciously channeling the Johnny Cash style in a bid to remember what I love about music, where things begin for me, escape the "work" brain by going into my own private virtual Sun Records Studio and make a cup of tea.

This was when a penny dropped somewhere in my brain when the various jobs and extra curricular activities collided together in my mind. It's moments like these (normally but not reliably when one is making a cup of tea) that magic can happen.

I knew CP's song Fascination very well having been privalleged to early pre-album completion versions, and suddenly it jumped into my brain as I was strumming Cash style in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. Danni's lyric "You've been looking ... in the right place" lept out of my throat and sat perfectly over the opened chord rhythm guitar part I was playing, so I got straight on to Danni for an accurate copy of her lyrics and dashed into the studio to set up a mic ready for a one take wonder. 

Rather apologetically I email CP my re-imagination, knowing that they were waiting for a Smith & Mudd remix and would not be expecting my Cash cover. I held my breath sure that I would here the belly laughs all the way from Nottingham. Thankfully and surprisingly they loved it and 2020recordings released my version of Fascination coupled with CP's original, all packaged up in a pseudo Sun Records format.

I am still threatening to cover all of their album in this Johnny Cash style, but for now that project is on the shelf for another day as NuNorthern Soul approached me with the interesting challenge of picking classic Hip Hop tracks for re-imagination. Only this time I decided to be more true to my own sound (whatever that may be) - I suppose a sort of blend of legends: Terry Callier, JJ Cale, Charlie Byrd, Nick Drake and more contemporary artist like the Stone Roses and Talking Heads.

In fact I have almost completed a Terry Callier cover in homage to the great man and his influence upon me, that blends a Roses indie vocal delivery with the rootsy folk picking patterns of Callier. This should be out early next year on NuNorthern Soul.

Big love and respect to NuNorthern Soul for all your support and kindness.
[BJ Smith] 
Trade secrets: A possible process I sometimes go through when deconstructing a song. 

  1. Begin with scribing out the lyrics and getting into the story. 
  1. Then listen to and focus on the melody lines and hooks from the original to find the essence of the "song".
  1. Before a new concrete vocal line has been worked out, pick up the guitar or get in front of a piano to find the "song", by strumming/playing out a structure and listening for picking patterns or new chords that allow the "song" to breath.
  1. Then spend several days playing around with the 
  2. deconstructed song, working out an introduction and ending, finding a comfortable meter to deliver the lyrics (when dealing with Rap this can be a real challenge), till it all feels natural - like the lyrics and the guitar/piano belong together. Your aiming for an "unplugged" version.
  1. Once an unplugged version comes to life it's time to record a "guide" track like they used to do in olden times - a one take wonder of vocals and guitar/piano.
  1. After an atomspheric guide track full of character has been recorded, it's time to add layers of live instrumentation as if a "band" has turned up to develop the "song": live drums, live bass, live keyboards etc 
  1. Once all the parts have been recorded and some dynamic shape (louds and quiets) developed, it is time to tweak the arrangement, get in to the mixing and add production sparkle.
  1. Job done - turn around 2/3weeks!

No comments:

Post a comment