Here is at least something which sounds a lot more like a classic synth pop song on this cassette! We were working so hard to make ourselves sound “harder”, but here we have a nice tune that we managed to squeak through anyway.
We’ve got an unidentified synth doing the bass line, it could be the trusty ole Juno-106, but it doesn’t sound like it. The Juno is definitely there though in the pads. Also, the S-330 sampler is working hard again with both sound effects and drum patches.
For once, we also made the second verse something else than a cut-and-paste of verse one, at least in the soundsphere. We’ve got a nice arpeggio which sounds like another Juno-106, adding some texture and movement to the song there.
The vocals are nothing to be happy about today, I sound totally crappy, and without emotion. This was definitely by design, but it was one of those choices we made back then that I wish I could go back and change. We wanted to be cool, but ended up taking away a lot of the “soul” in our music that had made Art Fact what was different.
Lyrics are forgettable as well. The “blocked by fear” line is ripped off from the Front 242 song “Gripped By Fear”. Oh well.
I remember coming upp with the riff for this song, just noodling around on one of our two Juno 106s in our studio (a.k.a Jonas’ brother’s bedroom). It was one of those moments where you know that one little idea will last for a whole song.
The title was probably set when saving the sequence in the computer, long before any lyrics were written. I have a vague notion it was inspired by the Twice A Man album (and live show) Driftwood, that at least I was very into at the moment.
Besides this there are the usual suspects: Roland Alpha Juno 1 on bass, Roland R8 on drums, and the Roland S-330 playing some noise probably sampled from TV. Altogether a minimalistic yet powerful soundscape. The overall feeling is very gloomy, including Måns’ vocals and lyrics (“The sky is so grey” etc). A bit like the February weather here in Stockholm at the moment actually!
My favourite part of this song is the bell “solo” towards the end. I think it was played live and improvised by Måns. It’s a nice mix of being almost sequenced, but with some variations that stick out. Is there an arpeggiator with some randomness? Would be great.
Leading off the “B-side” of the cassette we have the track which gave its name to our compilation vinyl released by Dödsdans Rekords a couple of years ago. I don’t know why the nice guys at the label decided on that name, but I quite like the title actually. Somehow it lends a nice atmosphere to the song, and it goes well with the sound.
We start off a bassline I don’t remember which synth it cam from. It doesn’t actually sound like any of our regular sounds, but it might have been the Roland Juno-1, since we were using that a lot during this time. During our The Nuclear Princess era we experimented a lot with sampling, and the intro has a submarine sonar sample going during the bass line. Then we immediately go into the beat and the very narrow pad, again I don’t really know what synth that is.
During the verse, I can hear a weird reverse-pad that is most definately a Juno-106. And we’ve got a slow verse which finishes in a hilarious turn which I know Anders hates and I am fond of. :) We only had one effect unit to use for the vocals, an Alesis Microverb. Since we really wanted the reverb in the chorus to be as large as possible, but we wanted a shorter reverb during the verse, we had to manually switch the effect during mastering, which makes the reverb “die” at the end of the first verse and start over in the chorus. It sounds weird, but somehow I think it just adds to the relative minimalism of the track.
During the break we take an actual break, and listen to sea gulls. Yep. That’s the kind of stuff we were into. I don’t remember why, or how, but the sea gulls are all alone on this track for a good 15 seconds and I guess we wanted to make the listener feel something. Do you?
All in all, not a very memorable song, and I think it could have been a lot better. The bass line is very nice, and the vocals are pretty good, but the drum beats are too monotonous and boring.
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 is, as Anders just told me, possibly the “best production” we ever did. This song has a long build, from the slow intro all the way to the massive end, complete with choirs, strings and all.
I wrote the song based on an idea of singing around just one note for the whole song, and then branching out towards the end. I think it “opens up” the song in a nice way when you finally get to that sweet moment where the chords change.
The lyrics are OK too, I can picture myself as a teenager in my room trying to go to sleep but finding my head too full of thoughts, listening to the cars outside my window and the TV my parents had on in the living room. The ending is almost like a prayer, a plea for help with “sleep”, this mythical figure.
Nice build, nice tune, nice lyrics. We used our full arsenal at the time – I hear our Ensoniq EPS in the strings and the choir, I hear the Roland S-330 in the samples, I hear the Roland Juno 106 in the bass pad, I hear the Roland Juno-1 in the bassline and some of the other sounds.
Is this the best song from “The Nuclear Princess” then? Possibly so. I still like it today, and there are not many songs from TNP I can listen to without shaking my head. :)
Oh, we are well into the nineties now. This is the first track on this demo that really departs from the classic Art Fact formula in that it doesn’t have anything resembling a catchy tune, or even a chorus. It’s more a collection of “cool” sounds resulting from the fact that we now had samplers to work with.
In the intro we have a pitched-down breathing sound, a coin rolling to a stop on a glass surface, and another breathing sound. Add a couple of more samples and a lonely Juno-106 droning on, and that’s almost the whole track.
I remember that we wanted to have the vocals recorded over a phone line, and this being before cell phones I walked to a payphone nearby and called the house where the boys played the song over the phone and held a microphone to their end while I tried to sing in the phone booth. This ended up not working at all, so in the end we just treated the vocals with EQ to make it sound “phone-like”.
All in all, I guess this is a pretty boring track, and it’s certainly nothing we ever considered playing live or submitting to compilations, etc. Around this time we started having more ideas about what we should sound like rather than focus on writing great songs. This was a mistake, but we were so caught up in wanting to be cool. Too bad.
This songs starts off with what I think is two Roland Juno 106s, one playing a little arpeggio and the other a fat drone bass. I remember that the bass patch was A33, the same we used on Building and possibly other tracks as well. We had a note taped to the synth’s front panel called “Det Holy Sounds” with a list of patches that were never to be overwritten, and A33 was the holiest of them all. Besides the 106s I think there is an Roland R8 drum machine (playing what might be the crappiest drum fill EVER as the verse starts), and the Alpha Juno 1 playing the blobby bass.
Although the second track on the cassette, I think this was one of the later songs written. My memory is shaky here, but I think this was written by Måns on piano first, when we were all suffering from some form of writer’s block, and only later dressed in electronic sounds. At least it sounds that way; there is no element in it I remember as the starting point besides the chord sequence and melody.
The chord sequence in the verse is actually one of the few highlights of the song when I listen to it now. It starts off pretty basic, but the last chord in every second turnaround breaks away from the norm. With the arpeggio synth maintaining it’s notes there is a nice effect. Another highlight is that we actually have some harmony vocals! Even though (or maybe because of) Måns, Olle and Jonas, singing a lot in boy choirs we rarely used this.
Otherwise I think this is a typical example of us forcing our song ideas into low tempos and heavy sounds. If we were to produce it today I think we would be better at recognizing it as the pop sense in the chords, and creating more contrast between verse and chorus. And raising the tempo a few bpms ;)
All right, with last week’s depressing “Wasted Minds” we are done with our cassette Nowadays and move on to our last “real” demo, “The Nuclear Princess”.
I don’t remember how much time passed between finishing “Nowadays” and starting on the songs for this demo. Something that is obvious right from the start is that we had a bunch of new equipment. We had started working more on a regular basis out of Jonas’ home where his brother had a studio set up with more stuff for us to borrow.
On this first track from TNP, we are using almost the full battery of new equipment. We have a slightly-out-of-tune (we didn’t hear that it was sour until after mastering) Roland Alpha Juno-1 playing a whining pad in the intro, and we were also using a Roland S-330 sampler, together with an Ensoniq EPS and our trusty Roland Juno 106.
We were also using a computer with sequencer software for the first time. A version of Opcode Vision made it easier for us to make our songs more complexed and layered, but it also made it easier for us to get bogged down into details.
The opening track then. “A New Book” continues on the anti-religion theme from “Nowadays” with lyrics condemning people following the letter of the bible. I don’t know why we chose this song as the opener, but it kind of sets the tone for the whole demo and new sound of Art Fact. Slower, darker and supposedly deeper. At least that’s what we thought at the time.
This song is not one of my favorites, but it’s not the worst either. It has a couple of nice melodies and cool reverse sampled speeches. My vocals are OK, doing the job but void of most of the emotion present on our earlier songs. This was very much the idea at the time, but now I think that was a bad choice. We had more of a unique sound going on when we had my “blues-y” vocals on top of the electronic sounds than when we tried hard to sound more like every other Swedish synth act at the time.