'Hurt' in the Style of Hugh Padgham
My most recent project has been to re-envision a song in the style of another producer as if they had been the one to produce the track originally. The brief was open ended and I was able to choose the producer and song to be reproduced. From the get-go I was certain on my producer of choice being Hugh Padgham (Phil Collins, Genesis, The Police) as I've always loved the larger than life 80s sound and he and Collins' conception of 'gated reverb' which really impacted popular music at that time and has continued to do so.
I wanted to tackle a song in the style of Collins' early 80s tracks In the Air Tonight and I Don't Care Anymore. I've always loved Collins' darker tracks and wanted to pick a cover song that would suit that mood. I eventually settled on Hurt by Nine Inch Nails as the song has a similar build and emotional weight as In the Air Tonight.
The project being open ended meant that I had a lot of creative freedom and was able to explore production techniques I have always wanted to. The key to satisfying this sort of brief is using the ability to be creative to your advantage but staying within the overarching constraints of the project. Having the freedom to choose the details of the project allows you to tailor it to your own strengths and provide a really well refined end result or choose something that will test your skills and force you to adapt and grow as a producer.
I knew that the fundamental part of making this project succeed was getting the drum sound right and I am happy with the results and feel I was able to get reasonably close to Collins' sound with the resources available to me. I was particularly happy with the sound of the snare and feel it is one of the key selling points of the overall result. I felt I was unable to achieve the same bright tonality of the drums in Phil Collins track's but recognise that comes down to the choice of drum kit and not something necessarily achievable in the mixing stage.
I tried to include authentic sounds the early 80s era, hence the inclusion of a virtual Prophet V synth by Arturia and the Roland CR76 electronic drum samples. I also took inspiration from a few tracks from The Police for the chorus guitar sounds.
I feel like I could have gone further with the intensity of the 'gated reverb' slap-back effect on the vocals. When I processed the vocals I predominately did it in isolation from the mix and now listening back to it feel that the effect is diminished slightly in the context of the rest of the song. I should have processed the vocals within the mix and compensated for the reverb being slightly dampened by everything else going on musically.
Many of the things that I wish I could change came down to running out of time before submitting to the client. I am pleased with the result however I feel (as always) if I had a little more time I could have refined the mix a little more. It is inherent in working to a deadline that eventually you need to deliver the product even if it isn't to your complete satisfaction.
I definitely plan to revisit the mix if given the opportunity. There are a few things like the vocal processing that I would like to go back and fix/refine. I would also like to go back and dirt up the track even more with more characteristics of tape recording. The tracks I used as inspiration just have this added sparkle to them which I assume is the unique harmonic qualities of recording to tape. I think it could make my track a lot more vibrant and authentic if I was able to run it through a tape machine or a really good tape emulation.
In addition to this project I've begun work the short film, The Lovers, organising the on set recording. Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the shoot days but arranged with a colleague to cover for each other and I did location audio for his film Tell the Trees. I am preparing to begin work on the soundtrack for The Lovers upon receiving the rough cut by researching the example tracks the director has provided and beginning to develop musical ideas in the same vein. I have recruited a composer I worked with on a previous film OK Home, but intend to executively oversee the production of the soundtrack and provide significant creative input.
Developing music for a client in a different creative stream can sometimes be difficult but often (in my experience) they are quite understanding and willing to learn about what you have to do to get to the final product. In my experience clients have understood any constraints upon explanation. It is important to keep open conversation and feedback to ensure you can both get the best out of each other. Creative individuals, from an field, are often not too dissimilar, just have knowledge focused in a different areas. On a collaborative project, the aim is to use everyone unique skills to a achieve the goal, so working together, communication and understanding everyone's roles is crucial.
As an audio producer, I have a unique but rewarding job. I define myself as someone of takes an idea and enhances it or envisions it in a musical or sound design context. An audio producer can often have a lot of creative freedom in their work and are able to express their own ideas or interpretations of the source idea/s through the music or sounds.
It is a fun a creative experience working with so many other creative individuals on a range of differing projects. From sound for film, to music production, to developing my personal projects, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning, adapting and building my skillset for the future. I am confident the culmination of the experience and skills will continue to produce products I am really proud of and can use to demonstrate my abilities to future clients.