I guess this song is somehow inspired by Depeche Mode’s Blasphemous Rumours, at least when it comes to the mood. It started out with a loop of the metallic noises in the intro, and just grew from there. I think it’s all made using the Roland D-20. By this time we knew this synth inside and out, using our favourite samples over and over again, but also pitching them a lot to make them sound fresh.
Songwriting-wise I think the best part is the middle-8, where Måns takes the melody up some steps to raise the intensity. It creates a nice turning point for the song.
This song messed up our CDs. The Nuclear Princess was our first demo mastered on DAT and burned on CD-R, a brand new technology at the time. Jonas’ brother Johan worked as a sound engineer at a theatre where they had a CD-R burner. It worked at 1x speed and the discs cost $30 a piece! The track numbers were created automatically on the first sound detected after a few seconds of silence, which worked OK in most cases. But the silence after the first metallic sound on Separated Bodies was long enough to trigger a new track number. So on our CDs Separated Bodies were both track 7 and 8 :)
I don’t know why we named this song DKW, but at the time me and my brother actually owned a DKW car. It used to belong to my grandfather, and for a long time we kept it, thinking that we should fix it up. But since I didn’t get a driver’s license (until I was 30) we eventually sold it to a collector. It was really good-looking, had a 2-stroke engine pumping out 38 hp, and three gears. Our grandfather (a retired fireman) used to drive us all across Småland in it, and I can still remember the smell of the oily gasoline, and the distinctive sound of the indicators. Unfortunately it lacked tiny details such as seat belts.
Anyhoo, I think this song started with the resonant pad sound (from the Juno 106) playing the E to C chords in the chorus. The verse is a bit bluesy, and the other 106 synth bass actually has som filter automation (programmed via sysex I think). The drums were sampled into the Roland S-330, and I think the kick drum came from hitting a sofa by hand. The voice doing the weather report on CNN was not sampled as much as recorded straight to tape. The lead in the (instrumental) chorus is actually the same sound as in Nowadays (B24 Echo Pan from the Roland D-20) but with a more resonant filter setting.
As we already have mentioned many times, Art Fact often has a very minimalistic sound and production. Mostly this was only due to our incompetence, but in this case there was actually a plan to keep the track sparse. For once we didn’t try to sound heavy and powerful, and I think the result is kind of nice. And luckily Måns made the title a little less random by adding the final lines:
Follow me away / My car will take us there.
Someone made a video for this track as a school project, with some footage from a gig at a classic Stockholm venue called Tre Backar. In this version we had added the classic Funky Drummer loop, but sampled from Sinéad O’Connor’s brilliant song I Am Stretched On Your Grave. This was before REX-loops and warp markers, and I remember that we had to offline-stretch the sample in percent to fit DKW’s tempo, which was like mad science to us. The good old days were not that good actually!
This track was recorded just after Nowadays, but for some reason didn’t end up on the following cassette The Nuclear Princess. Maybe we didn’t like it enough? And listening to it now, it is not one of our best efforts by far.
As I remember it this track was more of a collaborative work. Someone came up with the main riff for the intro and verse, and then we finished it together, Måns writing the lyrics as usual (continuing the religious topics of Nowadays). To me the song is an indication of us focusing more and more on mood and production as opposed to melody and pop structure. To put it bluntly: the idea behind this song is that you can tune the kick drum! (Which in some other cases can be more than enough, just see the Classic Albums series on how Peter Gabriel came up with Don’t Give Up.)
It is also an indication of the gloominess that was to dominate The Nuclear Princess: low tempos, static bass drones, vocal lines that closely follows the chords etc. I think this was our attempt to sound harder and more mature, but the result was not so successful. Round about this time we began struggling with some form of writer’s block. We started questioning what we did a lot more, and the songs didn’t come as easily as before.
The song still has some nice features though. The glitchy sounds in the intro and bridge came through the discovery of aliasing in the Roland D-20 when playing loops pitched up a few octaves. Also it switches from 6/8 to 4/4 for the outtro, which is pretty cool. We might have been influenced by the Nitzer Ebb track “Godhead” which sort of does the opposite. I do remember we didn’t know how to set the D-20 sequencer to 6/8, so we recorded it to a 4/4 beat and quantized our performances to 8th note triplets instead. Same shit, different names :)
We have arrived at the last track on what was probably our best effort, our cassette demo “Nowadays”. And it’s a treat, because this song is one of my favorites. From its slow, sweeping sound over the intro through the strong chorus this is a very good showcase of what made Art Fact good.
The lyrics for this song came to be when I was watching the news on TV. I can’t remember exactly what it was that got me thinking about it, but something was so grueling that I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. Nothing to deep here, but a couple of nice phrases came out of this, especially the title, “Please turn my face away” which I still think is great.
Anders had written and produced the whole song on the Roland D-20, and I think we just completed it with a new bass sound from the Yamaha V-50. The breathing sounds in the extremely short “break” was just me and a microphone.
I think what really makes this song for me is the wonderful intro which sets the mood instantly. Once the drums start, we also have a nice little melody from the D-20 going on. The verse is a little boring, but every time we come back to the chorus, the song really opens up and becomes larger and better.
This is a straight forward pop tune, whose simplicity should really make it more suited on In Fact rather than Nowadays. As far as I can remember, I wrote the music for this at home on the Roland D-20, but we finished it during a week-long session at Pianobaren, the youth centre at Måns’ and Olle’s school.
During this period I would often bring “complete” songs to Måns, and then it was up to him to find a melody and write the lyrics. This backwards approach worked quite well for us for a while (and also for The Smiths I might add, with no other comparison), but in some cases such as this you can somehow tell that the music was written in advance. It follows a pretty rigid verse/chorus structure, and the middle-8 seems almost pasted in place.
Still, I like the groove and the bass sound in the intro. Måns’ breathing was sampled into Olle’s Amiga 500 computer, and live-triggered when we recorded the D-20 to tape. You can hear the Reverse program from the Alesis Microverb on the breathing once the drums kick in. I wish I had one of those now, or if Alesis could remake them as Rack Extensions for Reason.
Apart from the intro, I also like the chords and melody in the chorus but I would have liked if we had added some drum fills and more synths to make the chorus more powerful. Once again our minimalist approach was less due to aesthetics than to our lacking production skills.
And last but not least, I think the opening line…
Haven’t slept for a hundred years
I hope my eyes won’t close for good
…is really great, especially coming from some 16-year-olds!
Yes, it’s time once again to pick up the “song a week” theme here at artfact.se. Before the summer, we ended with a track in the middle of our cassette “Nowadays” and so we go back to 1991 and continue where we left off.
“The Initial Merge” is a very nice “in between”-track, that if I remember correctly was made by Jonas and Anders. Over time, it has become one of my favorites from Art Fact, as it is timeless. We used it as a link track between two songs with very different style and tempo, and as such it works great.
It is an instrumental track, using all Roland D-20 (I think), and has a very slow, suggestive tone which always makes me think of the Depeche Mode track “Oberkorn: It’s a small town”. I don’t think that was the idea at the time though.
This song was written and recorded during the session at Pianobaren, together with Mind Controller. Listening to Welcome To Boredom now, I think the anecdote about Måns coming up with a line for Mind Controller based on my vague description was actually about “Feeling like saying / yes when they say no” from Welcome To Boredom. My memory is good but short.
Once again Art Fact sound a bit bluesy. Both in the chord changes, and in some blue notes in the melody. The main riff is quite efficient, and the rhythm change in the chorus makes the song move along despite its low tempo.
The choir in the middle 8 was most certainly inspired by Pimpf, but instead of sounding really powerful, our D-20 version sounds more like Donald Duck. Still, it was the best we could do at the time. When the drums kick in afterwards they sound quite powerful, and that’s my favourite part of this song.
To summerize, the title says it all. In our quest to sound harder and less poppy, we started to sound more dull and boring. We drifted more into low tempos, pitched-down drums and low-energy songs. We also wanted to sound more “professional” with a fuller sound, but didn’t know how. The one-note-pad in this song is a typical example of this.
Here is maybe the first track on “Nowadays” which is hinting to what is to become of Art Fact later. This song should be great, in fact it has a wonderful intro, hook, bridge and chorus. But there is something in the sound and most of all, my own vocals, which make it slightly stale and boring. I’m not sure what happened, but for me some of the energy we had is lost in this track.
But let’s talk about the song now. Anders made this track pretty much on his own on his trusty Roland D-20. The sound in the intro is also D-20, even though it sounds nothing like it. By this time, we were getting pretty good at creaming everything possible out of that machine, and this track is probably the best example of what wizardry we could make the very limited workstation perform. Apart from the very stale snare drum, most of the sounds are great and sound more analogue than should really be possible with the D-20.
We’ve got backing vocals on this track as well! Olle was invited to the microphone to enhance some of the lines, something we really should have done more often! The lyrics are not great, and I’m not sure we even had any idea behind them. It probably just sounded cool.
As a pop song, this track has great composition and balance between the verse and the chorus. I have to say that between Anders and me, we actually had some good songwriting going on. We should have just kept our youthful ignorance and never tried to sound “heavier” or “tougher”.
This was one of the first tracks written for the Nowadays cassette, and we were so happy with it that it set the tone and the title for the rest of the songs.
Earlier, when recorded In Fact, we all listened mostly to more melodic and softer synth music like Erasure and Howard Jones. Round about this time (1990 or so) our biggest influence was Music For The Masses, and Måns and Jonas listened more and more to Front 242. We wanted to change our sound, to sound harder and heavier. Especially we wanted to replicate the big drum sound from Music For The Masses.
I remember coming up with the bassline at home on the Roland D-20. It’s in F#, a key which has a very distinct sound (just like How Soon Is Now, with no other comparison). I also pitched some drum sounds down to make them sound more like Music For The Masses, and was quite pleased with the result. But after listening to the bassline for about 200 times (like you always do when writing songs using a sequencer) I still had no idea how to continue. It didn’t sound like the bassline wanted to go anywhere, harmonically. Finally I just tried playing the same bassline but two keys up, in G#. Wow, that sounded cool! Ok, so back to F#. And then, lets try two keys down, in E. Wow that’s also cool!
Without really knowing it, I had stumbled upon a technique quite often used by more minimal synth bands like D.A.F. (which we rarely listened to at the time). These bands used early and more primitive sequencers that often could just remember a single 16 step pattern. But they had a transpose knob, so that you could move the pattern up or down in key to create some variation. The sequencer in my D-20 could remember an almost infinite amount of notes, but I ended up using the same limitation, because it sounded good.
I think the other guys were around when we wrote the chorus and break. The key moment was when we found the sound and notes for the repeating melody in the chorus. It sounds like three notes played in a row, but is actually some VCA modulation (if I remember correctly). When that piece of the puzzle was added, we were euphoric! It sounded ten times better than anything we had done before, and almost as good as Depeche Mode themselves (to our not so trained producer ears). To top it off we more or less copied the live break from Master And Servant, using some metallic samples. We were ecstatic! Oh, and then Måns came up with a melody and wrote some lyrics ;)
I still like this song, even though I now have to admit it doesn’t really sound as impressive as Music For The Masses at all. A nice detail that we didn’t think about at the time is that all three parts (verse, chorus and break) have their own distinct rhythm pattern, that also go well together. I think this is needed in a song that is not so varied harmonically.
I’m glad it was my turn to write this week, because this is probably my favourite track of all Art Fact songs.
Listening to it now on SoundCloud, it’s easy to see that even though the track clocks in at 4:06, the actual song part is only about 2 minutes. It starts of with a 1:30 long intro, and ends with 30 seconds of synth sounds. No wonder we never got a record deal! Per Gessle would be ashamed of us.
I remember that the intro was a different piece of music, that we discovered could work as an intro for Man In Armour if we tweaked the last chord. Since it was another sequence on the D-20, and there was no way of merging sequences, we first recorded the intro on track 1&2 on the Fostex X-26 portastudio. Then we loaded the Man In Armour sequence, armed track 3&4 and listened back to the intro. Then Måns pressed the Start button for the D-20 sequencer just at the right moment. I think we had to try a few times before we got it right. Track 1&2 were then used for the vocals, which required some (not so exact) tweaking of levels, pan and reverb settings during mixdown. Everything was not better in the good ol’ days!
The chord sequence was very much inspired by Depeche Mode’s Behind The Wheel. It uses the same formula of 3 harmonic chords, and then a fourth that is slightly off. I think the whole song was written by Måns by himself. The only thing I remember adding is the metallic touch to the snare. The bass sound used the D-20 pizzicato sample, and the melody in the middle 8 sounds a bit like a clarinet. These two more acoustic sounds are then contrasted by the gated drums and the resonant synth in the outtro.
What I like about this song is mainly the driving rhythm, Måns’ lyrics, and the few seconds just after the first chorus. At this point an extra bar combined with a slight change in the vocal rhythm shifts my whole perception of where beat 1 in the chord sequence is, which is a bit like a magic trick. I don’t know if we did it on purpose, but it still fools me every time.
Although one of our favourite songs, it did not end up on the vinyl record. We didn’t want to argue with the guys at Dödsdans’ selection, and keeping it off the record also opens up the possibility of releasing it separately somehow in the future.