Week 1 Collaborating with Kai Eckhardt… What Would YOU Do???
The inspiration for a series on collaboration came from this first session with Kai Eckhardt. Kai is an extraordinarily gifted bass player and one of the most creative people in the music business.
However, even when you think you have a session ‘under control’ with the finest musicians on the planet you, as the producer, could be finding yourself up S**t Creek.
You’ve always got to keep your mantra on:
Know When to
I’ll set the stage and am curious about your thoughts on handling the same situation.
Kai was hired by the record label Valence Records, to remix a song from
the new album called The Valence Project. Kai was a contributor on that
record and I was the producer. Kai thought it would be fun to come to OTR Studios and work with me involved. I said, of course!
We had the stem mixes from the sessions. The OTR staff thought this would be an easy 5-hour
session and would contribute their time. Kai allowed for 5 hours out of his
schedule to complete this remix.
The first idea is the hardest part when you have an empty slate. Tempo? Song structure?
Chord alterations? Etc. You try out some concepts and finally an
idea clicks. Kai experimented with the melodic bass patterns while listening
to the stem mixes but decided he preferred to start with a simple rhythm track
which he created on a drum machine. We suggested grabbing a few loops
from the stems to enhance the drums, but Kai felt he was inspired to play the
He started with a “bottom’s up” approach to building his tracks – first with a synth
bass, then experimenting with his fretless. He had a concept of taking a
12 beat phrase where each track would have him perform a juxtaposed rhythm
pattern. One track subdividing into 6, then 4, then 3, then 2, etc.
He is incredible to listen to as he built the tracks.
On the multitrack we’ve provided you can hear the parts as he laid them down called Mix #1Major. Those tracks play together nicely in a major key and were
first performed. If you import the session, you can choose various tracks on and off ideas, then add your own parts.
We were 4 hours into the session with 1-hour left when Mix #1 Major tracks were completed. Kai had performed enough parts at this point and I suggested we grab a vocal
sample from the original stems. Then, I could feel my responsibilities to
the label were met.
Listening to the stems, Kai realized the song was in a minor key and was not happy. I
thought it could be very interesting to try to remix the song in a major
key! Since Kai was the artist, his decision would win.
My assistants that day, Patrick O’Connor and Rudie, began to wonder if we would ever grab
something from the stems, but smartly didn’t say anything at the session.
I was wondering the same thing, so I had ‘Prepare Contingencies’ in my
head. After Kai would lay down the parts, my plan was to grab the vocals
and put a remix together.
It was Kai’s choice to lay down new tracks with one hour left. He wanted to lay down a wholenew set of bass parts in a minor key to more resemble the song to be
remixed. We were recording to 2″ tape, as I like to do (it sounds
INCREDIBLE, as you know). We began to run into time issues and the
session would go over the limit soon.
Kai’s parts kept getting
better and more interesting. It would be like stopping a great singer and
shutting down the power before a great gig ended if we stopped now. Kai wanted
to continue, so what could I do? We continued.
tracks tape has its own limitations or we may have been there all night.
Kai played his last track to complete the set and I told him I’d figure out a
way to turn this into a remix, even though we hadn’t used one part from the
stems. The next set of track for you to check out is called Mix #1
Minor. Check out this tracks as you did with Mix #1 Major and see
what you come up with.
We were now at the
end of a very long day. My assistants were tired and it was late. We
decided we’d come and work out the remix issues on this another day when we’re
fresh. Kai went home feeling good. He played some wonderful music
in those hours.
When Kai left,
Patrick and Rudie asked me how I was going to add the stems to these tracks and
create the remix. This would require redigitizing and at least another day of
work…. time we didn’t have and more painful with no budget. L
Kai was paid, but I
didn’t have a remix to present to Valence Records. I knew I had to talk
to the head of the label in the morning and had to come up with a plan.
What would YOU
A. Cry to the
label that they just spend money for something that was not complete?
B. Stop Kai in
his creative process half way through the session and question what he was
doing which also puts a BIG cramp on the vibe, creativity and future
C. Take it in the gut
and just put the time in to do the remix?
D. Or come up with a
solution that is win win win?
I’ve done all of the
above and always look to Solution D first and settle with C, if I have to.
When you’re looking
for a win win win, it’s best to take a break and sleep on any decisions before
you have to make that call to the label. Have the solution BEFORE you
make the call or be prepared for your reputation to sink to the bottom of the
sea. Aspiring engineers and producers take note… if you want to get
into the music business; it’s less about knowing all the gear and much more
about solving problems.
In Part 2, I’ll let
you know what happened. Meanwhile, take your best guesses with
and let me know what
you would have done. Free to grab a few loops or do your own remix with
these tracks. The files are 44.1/16 and should sound incredible.
One note, Kai’s
tracks are for personal use only. If you do end up with a hit on your
hands, and want to use his name, please contact me directly. I’m sure you
can write an album based on these tracks alone. Hmmmm, not a bad idea.
I’m curious if anyone
else has found themselves in a similar situation. Tell us your horror
story in a comment below.
If you want to know
more about Kai, OTR Studios, The Valence Project, Valence Records, me or the
others mentioned in my series, go to Marenco Media and click on the information you need.
Thanks for reading
the blog, and remember…
* stem mix — when a
final mix is complete, we often create stem mixes meaning, adding a pop tone to
the front of the multitrack and laying back parts or stems of stereo events
with efx. For instance, all drum parts in stereo with efx and volume
changes, all bass parts, all background vocals, etc. You can get as
detailed as you need. Stem mixes allow you to make quick changes to a
final mix by lining up all the tracks with the pop tone and making alterations