Post by John Freriks
Programmer, guitarist, geneticist
I was digging through my backup hard drive, and came across some of the original project files for songs off our last 2 releases. So just for fun, I’m going to walk through the parts and give you an inside look at how our tracks come together.
We’ll start with Intentions. Everyone seems to like this track. No two songs are written the same way for us – Sometimes Jai has a melody and lyrics that I build soundscapes around; sometimes I’ll have the backing tracks 90% done before she starts putting words to them; sometimes we just jam until it sounds good (or it doesn’t, we drink heavily, and then quit in dejection.)
Intentions was written over a two week period, which is ridiculously fast for us. We’ll often tinker with a song for months on end (Kali, for instance, took 9 months to complete) so having a track come together so quickly and the results being as good as they were very welcome. We had just recorded three songs for the Parity EP and weren’t happy with one of them. We needed a third track to put out the EP. It turned out to be one of our most popular songs.
Jai came to me with a recording of her playing piano and singing the first verse. I started with an arpeggiated bass to follow along with the chord progression (Am-F-G-F) – the part started as an arp preset in reFX Nexus, but as the song grew I transcribed the arpeggiator pattern onto a Virus bass patch so I would have more control over certain sections (this is a very common trick I use.)
Nothing can fill out or wash out a mix like strings. For the into I was going for big and brooding – The string line harmonized with the bass pretty well, but to keep the build up from being too repetitive I ended up cutting the bass out of the first few measures.
The plinky lead sound is a pair of Virus patches – one is a fuller sound, the other gives the high end some distortion- The verse was MIDI notes drawn onto Logic’s piano roll. The chorus was actually a part that was cut from Whispers and I had always wanted to reuse it somewhere – and it just happened to fit Intentions! The sound is tinny on it’s own, but works in the mix.
The intro noises were fun to make. The voice is from the last interview with Lee Harvey Oswald before he was shot – It has nothing to do with the song and I’m not making any statement about whether I think he killed JFK or not. His voice on the lo fi recording sounded cool, and it sounded even better after is was run through a huge reverb and Audio Damage‘s Dr. Device . The other sound is some generic pad run through Audio Damage’s Replicant plugin, then 100% wet through Logic’s Space Designer reverb.
Guitar – For those of you who don’t know Dan Clark, you should. In addition to his band The Dark Clan, he’s been in Null Device and is currently in Stromkern. He’s recorded and produced Chemlab, Ego Likeness, The Gothsicles, and Caustic among others. And us, of course. What does this have to do with guitar? Well, Dan’s the best guitar player I’ve ever met. Dan uses DragonForce songs as warmup exercises. I should also mention he’s probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Anyways, guitar – I’m a hack on it, so playing in front of Dan was equal parts terror and inspiration. He can hear when you’re gripping the neck too tightly and pulling the strings slightly sharp. He knows if you’re holding the pick wrong for the amount of attack a certain part needs. And he’ll hear this through while the entire mix is playing through his headphones. It’s nuts.
All the parts were played on a Schecter Hellraiser tuned to D Standard, and were recorded through Dan’s Peavy 5150 and Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier. If I recall correctly, the verses and solo were on the 5150 and the chorus was the Triple Rec. For the verse I mirrored the low string part, and Dan wrote out a harmony line for me to play over it. I’m glad he did – the harmony moves between consonance and dissonance and ups the tension of the verse.
The solo (the first I ever wrote no less) is in the A double harmonic scale – I didn’t know this when I was writing it, I just liked the middle eastern feel of the jump between the minor 2nd and major 3rd. It’s double tracked, and you can hear when I fell off time with myself. Dan wrote me in a harmony line and the high notes at the end – more ideas I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but are the little extra touches that give a song it’s edge.
Put those all together along with a good beat and some creative flourishes from a ridiculously talented producer, and you’ve got one hell of a track.
Click the download button to grab the instrumental version