Doctors pay people involved in experiments. Why not musicians?

One lesson I’ve learnt from the roughly 5 years that I’ve now been doing this Amateur At Play thing is never agree to do a remix on the grounds that someone is “experimenting” with the idea. They won’t release them.

I can say that with absolute confidence. A few years ago, there was a contestant on a reality TV show who subsequently got on with releasing an album. Her record label mentioned that they wanted to “experiment” with remixes. Apparently, it wasn’t something they had done before, but the artist was very keen to get some done.

Call me naive, by all means. Frankly, I was. I contacted them to express an interest and was contacted by a representative from the label. They sent me a free copy of the album, which was terribly nice of them. I chose two tunes I was interested in reworking. They sent the parts for both and I got to work.

Respecting the copyright of the records means I cannot share them with you, but I can vouch that I did a seriously good job on both. It’s frustrating that I can’t name the singer here, because her vocals are absolutely incredible – easily some of the best I’ve ever worked with. This made the job easier. I sent off my premasters to the label.

I never heard anything back. Follow-up emails asking for updates went totally unanswered. As far as I can tell, not one remix of anything from the album has been released. Talk about a waste of time for everyone involved.

Lesson of the day? Make sure you’re getting paid. That way, even if your remix never sees the light of day, st least you have something to show for your time!

I should go make some records…

I sometimes get asked what the most frustrating aspect of being a music producer is. For me, the answer is pretty easy. It’s the fact there’s loads of other stuff you have to do which stops you from actually making music – a music producer is meant to produce music, are they not?

Running social media can take a lot of time if you’re not careful. I have to plan this quite regimentally, if I’m honest. I tend to write posts on my website in bulk. I can still make time to write something more spontaneous if need be, but that helps ease the pressure on this front. Releases don’t promote themselves and nor does anything else.

I don’t spend much time label shopping for my demos, which saves more of it. Knowing when to finish a post also saves time. So on that note, see you later!

STOP TRYING TO MAKE YOUR MUSIC PERFECT!!!

Sorry for the clickbait sort of headline, but it’s how I feel. It’s true, for starters. There’s far too much temptation to aim to get everything perfect these days, especially with all the technology available. I should know – it’s happened to me a few times.

But don’t! I’ve started working recently on 2-step garage records, which you’ll be seeing from me later in the year – I’ll write more about that in another post. One thing I’ve noticed is that trying to make everything sound perfect and correct doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work when that regular 4/4 beat is taken away!

You see those vocal chops, for example? Stick them so they come in a little early or a little late. You might end up with a pleasant surprise. You see those hats, snares, shakers and other drum elements? The next time, try to quantize fewer elements or even none at all. Somehow, it all starts to sound more human.

And humans aren’t perfect. So why the heck should music be? You also get things done quicker – stop treating it like rocket science and start treating it like something fun!

Behind The Record – Don’t Give Up

So, what’s the story behind this one? Well, I came across this one on a search for remix contests. I rarely bother actually entering any of these, but I do occasionally look around to see if there’s anything decent around. And I really liked this one.

So I downloaded the vocal stems and did my remix. I upped the tempo to 126bpm, as I thought that the original tempo was too slow for what I wanted to do with it. I also decided very quickly that I wasn’t doing one of my dubs here. Labels that are unfamiliar with my work are often not immediately receptive to them – so a vocal mix it was going to be.

The drums came together really quickly. The snares were literally the result of looking through various one shot samples I have, and the rest come from the usual sources too.

Strings with a phaser effect thrown on and the modified electric piano come from the Roland JV-1080. As for the bassline which a few people have asked me about? It’s basically two square wave oscillators modified to hollow out the sound. I don’t remember the finer details, but I’ll get back to you on that one!

And now you know how I made it, the least you can do is buy it or stream it. You’ve got plenty of options for doing so…


There’s some extended reading involved for this one! How did I win the remix contest involved in producing this one? Part one and part two are here.

Confidence booster – the IQ Musique and Phie Claire effect?

Even someone like me has moments when they wonder whether something is going to be well received by people. I had such a moment a few months ago just after I’d finished a remix for IQ Musique and Phie Claire.

Here’s a clip before I continue.

Nice, eh?

Anyway, during 2020, I actually had quite a few times like this. I released music and it just didn’t seem to be hitting the mark in the way it normally did. Had I lost my touch? Was it the big bad Covid’s fault? I don’t know, but something just didn’t seem right to me.

Anyway, I accepted this remix project and I also accepted time was short. My wife was due to go in for a C-section to the hospital and I had to get this done before that. The prospect of trying to get this done afterwards – with two toddlers, a baby and a wife recovering after surgery – was not a pleasant thought!

You can read the full story behind the record here. But the short version is I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated as a result. I wasn’t especially happy with this dub, but dare not have said anything.

When it came out in January, it was extremely well received, much to the surprise of mainly myself. I even got a very kind message from Phie Claire herself telling me that she loved what I’d done with the song. Opinion amongst singers about dubs are mixed, so this was very nice to receive.

And when I checked on Traxsource and saw it was my most popular release….

…I was frankly over the moon. “Good Good Bad” is a track I still have a lot of time for, but I used to wonder if anything would knock it from the top slot. It had been there for around a year.

What got me into making music?

It’s been a while since I’ve shared this story, and I know it’s not on this site yet. So I thought I’d tell you all about it.

Ultimately, the reason I’m doing is it 95 North. I was interested in production for many years, but I only took the plunge to actually do it in 2015. I spent years being intimidated by the fact I knew next to nothing about it. I knew nothing about DAWs and my knowledge of music theory was virtually zero.

All I had going in my favour was what I’d acquired from years of listening to music. I could usually spot pretty quickly what sounded right and what sounded wrong.

Back in 2015, I started compiling tracks for a 95 North tribute mix. There were several records that I simply couldn’t get hold of, so I reached out to the 95 North page directly to see if they could help. Richard Payton replied and was incredibly helpful. I ended up doing three mixes, including six hours of music.

The experience encouraged me to throw caution to the wind and start. I got a copy of Cockos Reaper, downloaded a couple of very basic VSTs, a few old sample packs with mostly one shot sounds and started trying to work out how to create something. If I got stuck, I watched a YouTube tutorial to help me out.

It’ll be six years of doing it in a few months from now, and I’m still doing it and hope to be for a long time.

Behind The Record – I Know Which Category I’m In (Out February 15th)

On Tuesday night, I revealed what was behind the record “Bring On The Love”, off the forthcoming EP of the same name. Tonight, I shall reveal more about the other side, “I Know Which Category I’m In”.

Some years ago, I started work on an album. The project started well, but soon ran into problems. I won’t bore you with the details here, but the results was the album was never finished. I wasn’t happy with it and decided not to release it.

My track with Richelle Hicks, “Emotions (I Hear Voices)” was one of those records. This is another one. In case you’re wondering about the lyrics, they actually come from a post that I put up on my Facebook page a long time ago. I just lifted the words, put them straight into an online voice synthesiser and put them into the song. That’s literally it.

The bassline comes from the TAL Uno-62 VST, which is what I use for most bass elements on my records. The three chords that make the main chord progression is a simple three chord loop where all the notes have been flipped to play in reverse. There’s not much else to this one.

In a way, I was trying to say that I don’t feel I fit into any categories in more ways than one. I’m not normally one for such grandiose statements, but such was the mood I was in when I originally made this!

And now you know how I made it, you can go and buy it!

Snobbery, bad. Recycling old posts, good.

My Facebook memories felt the need to remind me of this post from two years ago this morning. I thought I’d stick it up here on the blog, as I think it’s still very relevant today.

This is the photo it showed me.

Let’s get one thing out of the way here. I mean no disrespect towards Point Blank Music School with this. From what I know about them, they do what they do extremely well.

That said, I can’t help but get a distinctly off-putting whiff of snobbery off posts like this. Who the hell cares what someone else’s studio looks like? I know I don’t. I care a damn sight more about whether their music sounds any good. An observation I’ve noticed many times over the years is that studio snobs like this who obsess over everyone else never seem to get anything done.

Worrying about what everyone else is doing never gets you ahead…