The Disco Antenna project is a collaboration with my friend Jimmy Aaron that's been in the works since 2009. If you've been following this blog you'll have heard Jimmy’s distinctive vocal contributions to my Gary Numan cover songs, and his programming talents on a remix of The Mechanicals. For this project we decided to choose a proper name for ourselves. This is our debut e.p., 'Side A,' released on New Year's Day 2015. It's a tribute to the disco epics of the past, drawing inspiration from the earliest proto-disco to late 80's electro and the dawn of digital sampling. As the title suggests, it represents the first 'side' of an eventual full album.
1. Love Is Never Cold. When I revisited There To Remind Me (track 2) to prep it for release, I added an arpeggio that we both thought could be expanded upon. I combined it with elements from the other two songs, added some new strings and percussion and this is the result. It was by far the quickest and easiest track we've done: three days to flesh out the basics, two more days to add Jimmy's vocals and finishing touches. By comparison, tracks 2 & 3 are two of the most labour-intensive songs I've ever worked on. I liken Love Is Never Cold to an overture. Its laid-back groove is a perfect intro to the set.
2. There To Remind Me. This is the first Disco Antenna track Jimmy and I worked on. We even released an early version half-heartedly back in 2010. It began with a vocal demo Jimmy had made, with a backing track created in Synapse Orion. I thought the song had potential, and my initial intention was to polish up the production and add a few ideas that had jumped out at me. It quickly ballooned into a longer and more complex creature. I picked-and-chose from Jimmy’s original synth parts, and added all the disco clichés I could think of. Perhaps I pushed the limits of good taste, but it was all done with sincerity.
I relied heavily on Orchestra Silver for the strings. It samples real orchestral instruments and allows you to play them via MIDI. I favour layering at least two stringed instruments per patch, such as a viola and violin or violin and cello combo. On this track I had some fun with the pitch wheel to give the violin stabs a more human touch. On the outro I used some synthesized strings from the Yamaha TG-33.
Jimmy's drums, a kit based on the Roland TR-505, were augmented with some percussion from TR-707 and Alesis SR-16. The vocal samples were manipulated with the Akai S1000 (before it was retired from the studio). Bass guitar (both played and sampled), Lounge Lizard electric piano, and Novation K-Station round the track out.
3. I Need You. This started with a complete backing track, carefully crafted by Jimmy in Orion and inspired by Giorgio Moroder’s distinct brand of arpeggio-laden synth programming. It took me to another dimension when I started layering my own parts over the top. I really felt like I was tapping into something magical. Because I was working to a rigid backing track you may find the song-structure a little unconventional. It threw me quite a few surprises. We recorded the bulk of this one circa 2013, then it lay dormant until I finished my album Radioatomic.
Orchestra Silver was again called upon for string duty. By this time I had acquired the Roland HS-60, so a lot of the synth parts were done with that. The electric piano was recorded hastily using an old stand-by patch I created on the K-Station, with the view that I'd redo it later with Lounge Lizard. But we both liked it so much that I kept it in. A funky little VST called Ticky Clav was used for the clavinet parts. Sampling duty was taken over by Shortcircuit Sampler. Additional percussion came once again from the Alesis SR-16,
and a tambourine recorded in-studio.
4. Side A (Suite) [bonus track] is a continuous-mix of all three tracks. Even though the tracks are designed to blend seamlessly, not every media player takes this into account, so we decided to provide this bonus track so the listener can hear the e.p. as intended.
I asked Jimmy if he had anything to contribute to this post, and he provided this short-but-sweet message for our listeners:
"Enjoy the beat, enjoy the music! May it bring back fond memories, and let you make new ones, with 'Disco Antenna'. XOXOXO."
Stay tuned for more video and mixes from us in coming weeks!