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Production Journal Final Major

Recording

Toby Newton
Leper Messiah
JUNE 2015

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Production Journal

Overview
My client for this project is simply myself, as I prefer to have complete control over the
creative process where possible ; thus giving me complete freedom to experiment
without anyone else trying to push my work in other directions based on their own
musical tastes and interests. My target genre for this body of work would probably be
best described as dark electronic shoegaze, but also draws inspiration from no-wave,
industrial and goth/alternative styles. Leper Messiahs intended audience consists mainly
of a mix of people from my generation and that of my parents ; with precendets in the
marketplace being acts such as Depeche Mode and The Cure who have a broad, crossgenerational fanbase. Other precedents include Swans - who recently played their
biggest ever UK headline show despite having been active since 1982 - and Wire, who
released a new studio album last month and also curated the successful DRiLL Festival in
Brighton last year. All of these acts have influenced Leper Messiahs sound to some
extent, and as such I am aiming to attract some of their audiences without sounding too
much like any of them.
Leper Messiah has social media profiles on Twitter, Tumblr and SoundCloud.
The music which is to make up the Leper Messiahs output will consist of a combination
of audio and MIDI instruments, with the exact proportion of each in a given track likely to
depend on the availability of a given instrument and the desired sound to be added to
the track. With the recorded audio likely to consist simply of synthesisers, drum
machines and vocals ; and given that all the recordings will be made by myself ; there is
no need for any setting up of microphones etc. for multi-track recording everything will
be D.I.d one instrument at a time. In terms of production I will take the same approach
as I usually do, which is somewhat akin to the early production style of Brian Eno in that I
simply treat any additional effects added to a sound as helping to create an entirely new
sound as opposed to adding to the original. This will likely also be paired with my
tendency to err towards a somewhat psychedelic overall feel to my production ; which is
in stark contrast to the rather simple, naked production which is currently becoming
increasingly common. Given the amount of audio recording which is likely to be involved
and the layering of instruments within each track, I am aiming to record five or six
finished tracks by the conclusion of the project.

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Production Journal

This is my cover artwork for this project:

Toby Newton

Production Journal

TRACK 1 - Home
http://soundcloud.com/lepmesmusic/home
Home acts as the signature Leper Messiah track. Instrumentation consists mainly of
audio recordings; with these coming from the Korg Poly-800, Yamaha PortaSound PS-3
and Mattel Synsonics Drums. A custom sound from Logics ES-2 synth is also featured,
and the vocals were recorded on a vintage Alba dynamic tape-recorder microphone. The
drums were programmed on the Synsonics Drums prior to recording, but were not looped
in Logic. The other audio recordings were not looped either, but were played in live as
opposed to being pre-programmed. Still Life by The Horrors is a good example of the
music which inspired Home, although inspiration for the lyrical style came from tracks
such as The Figurehead from The Cures 1982 album, Pornography.
The key to achieving the psychedelic sound I was looking for is in the effects. The
delayed reverb on the drums and the heavily-effected reversed keys (originally the Piano
preset on the Yamaha PS-3) lend a spacious feel to the track; giving it a depth that as a
listener allows you to get lost in the sound and encourages you to explore the layers of
instruments. The key to the sound of this track is certainly the Korg Poly-800. It appears
in numerous roles; providing both the soaring pad and the melody during the chorus and
also the detuned arpeggio in the outro. The huge sound of the pad particularly helps give
the chorus added depth and punch. Structurally Home is straightforward, with an intro,
alternating verses and chori and an outro. There is no bridge section, and the chords in
the chori are simply the major variants of the minor chords which make up the verses.
This gives the track a dirge structure in a similar vain to many of the tracks from Echo
and The Bunnymens second album, Heaven Up Here and adds to its hypnotic qualities.
Another key element of the sound comes from the mastering process. With a 0m/s tape
delay added into the signal chain after compression and EQ, there is a noticeable
character added to the track. With no audible delay it simply adds analogue-sounding
saturation and warmth to the track, although this comes at the expense of some higher
frequencies. On the whole I am happy with Home as a track. It fits neatly into the genre
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Production Journal
which I intended it to be and I am extremely happy with the mix. The only problem is
that in certain places the vocals flicker due to the noise gate which I applied to them in
order to remove the background hiss from the microphone. Unfortunately I was unable to
lower the gate threshold without allowing the background noise through, but luckily I
dont think the result is particularly detrimental to the quality of the track.

Track 2 Casualties
http://soundcloud.com/lepmesmusic/casualties
Showing quite a departure from the laid back (albeit dark) sound of Home, Casualties
acts as the inspiration for the title of track 3, the E.P. as a whole, and the cover artwork.
It contains the lowest amount of audio recordings of all the tracks featured on the E.P.
only the drums and vocals. The instrumentation here is far more minimal then on Home;
with the Mattel Synsonics drums again providing the rhythm section, vocals (run through
Logics built-in vocoder, which is controlled via MIDI), spoken-word samples, and Logics
EXS24 and EFM1 synths making up the entire track. While I didnt really have a particular
inspiration track in this case, there are certain ingredients which I have taken from
other artists pieces.
The most obvious of these is the choir sound which makes up the bulk of the piece. This
is Logics standard EXS sample instrument, but tuned down an octave to slow down the
samples and with pitch slowly and subtly modulated by a lag-processed sample & hold
waveform, as well as being run through a bandpass filter. This gives it a rather Tronesque sound; a reference to Kraftwerks classic track, Radio-Activity. This is poignant
because the samples used in Casualties are taken from an unbroadcast public
information film designed to instruct the public on what to do in the event of a nuclear
attack during the Cold War. The use of a vocoder in the chorus can also be seen as a
reference to Kraftwerk, although in the context of this track it is also a cue to the more
industrial stylings of early Cabaret Voltaire. The heavily-distorted FM bass sound (run
through two different types of distortion in series) is a nod to The Human Leagues 1980
album, Travelogue; in particular the sound heard in the intro to The Black Hit of Space.
As with the rest of Leper Messiahs work, the music is simple. In this case there are no
chord changes at all between the verses and chori, and again there is no bridge section.
During the mixing and mastering process I once again applied a 0m/s tape delay to the
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Production Journal
master track in order to add warmth and saturation. Before this in the signal chain there
is also an EQ which is set up to boost the frequencies at the far ends of the audio
spectrum. This is a common feature in my recordings both as Leper Messiah and
otherwise, and is largely due to my appreciation of the production work of Martin
Hannett; in particular on the 1981 album Always Now by Section 25. Im very happy with
the outcome of Casualties, although I would imagine that with more practice my skills at
programming the vocoder could be improved in order to make the lyrics somewhat
clearer whilst maintaining the distinctive vintage Kraftwerk sound.

Track 3 Protect And Survive


http://soundcloud.com/lepmesmusic/protect-and-survive
Returning to the Horrors-inspired sound of Home, the E.P.s title track is once again
dominated by audio recordings. The Yamaha PS-3, Korg Poly-800 and vintage Alba
microphone all make a return; joined this time by the DbReq Stylophone 350S. The
Synsonics Drums does not appear here as the PS-3 provides the rhythm. In this case the
only MIDI track is the melody, which is played on Logics ES E Ensemble Synth to back
add extra depth to the 350S. Whilst Still Life can once again be considered the
inspiration track for the music, the lyrics this time are inspired by numerous early
electronic artists such as John Foxx, Gary Numan and Ceramic Hello, whose dystopian
vignettes of the post-industrial future made a huge impression on me in my early
adolescence. While Protect And Survive is rather less psychedelic than Home, it is still a
sonic feast of multi-tracked instruments with multiple layers for the listener to explore.
Probably the most distinctive sound heard in this track is the main track in the melody. It
is sourced from the Stylophone 350S; using its re-iteration stylus in conjunction with its
photo-sensor controlling its wah wah function. This is one of my favourite sounds on the
350S, as it is fairly far-removed from the whiny, nasal sound of the standard Stylophone
whilst still retaining its distinctive character. The 350S is also featured as a bass synth;
using one of its preset volume envelopes to create a punchy, fuzzy bass sound. Of
course, even a Stylophone with the extra functionality of the 350S is unlikely to create a
particularly full-sounding track, so once again the Korg Poly-800 is employed to provide a

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Production Journal
pad and secondary bass line, and the melody during the chorus is bulked out by the ES
E.
Continuing in the same vein as the previous two tracks, Protect And Survive follows a
dirge structure; although its reduced duration in comparison with Home means that it
avoids feeling repetitive despite of lacking Homes chord changes. This is the only track
which doesnt feature Logics tape delay emulation in the master track signal chain, as I
found that it compromised the timbral qualities of the PS-3s drum sounds. This is
probably the track I am least satisfied with over all, as I couldnt quite get the final mix
right. After numerous attempts I elected to simply go for the best I could do and keep it
on the E.P. as I like it as a piece. In all honesty I doubt a non-musician would be able to
find any particular fault with the mix, but to me it is something of a disappointment.

Track 4 Geisterbahnhfe
http://soundcloud.com/lepmesmusic/geisterbahnhofe
Geisterbahnhfe is by far the most experimental of the tracks I have produced as Leper
Messiah; having little in the way of discernible tonal content. It is comprised of only three
instrument tracks; two of which are audio recordings. The backbone of the track is the
Dirty Electronics Mute Synth II, which provides the atonal sequence. The other audio
track is the vocals, which were once again recorded using the vintage Alba microphone.
The only MIDI element is the heavily-effected percussion which ends up sounding simply
like washes of distortion.
In this case the best example of an inspiration track that I can think of is Photophobia
from Cabaret Voltaires 1979 debut album; Mix-Up. However; while that track still has a
basis at least somewhere close to conventional music (albeit only in the bassline that
appears some way into the track), Geisterbahnhfe pays no attention to standard
melodic or harmonic structure at all and is instead essentially an industrial soundscape
and spoken-word piece. The lyrics themselves are actually rather more grounded in
reality than the Cabs; dealing as they do with the subject of mental illness. The abrasive
sounds (including deliberate microphone feedback) are intentionally prohibitive, as they
create a feeling of wanting to escape from the noise in much the same way as someone
suffering from mental illness wants to escape from inside their own mind.

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Production Journal
With no chords, melody, harmony, rhythm section or easily recognisable structure,
Geisterbahnhfe is the most stripped-back piece featured on the E.P. in spite of the huge
amount of production added to each track. The mixing and mastering process was the
same as on the other tracks, but with less use of EQ on the master track in order to
prevent clipping caused by the huge low-end provided by the MSII. On the whole Im
happy with the track, although I will admit that theres not much chance of many other
people wanting to listen to it. That however is part of what Leper Messiah is. Its not for
everyone because I wouldnt want Leper Messiah to become a huge commercial success.
Its music as art, and art shouldnt be about commercial gain.

Protect And Survive E.P. Evaluation


From the outset of this project I was always clear that Leper Messiah as an entity was not
going to be a commercial product. The aim was always to do something interesting
rather than something that could potentially sell tens of thousands of copies, and to this
end I think I succeeded. In terms of the musical aspect, there is a range of material on
the E.P. which covers numerous genres and potential markets while still sounding
relatively cohesive. While there was no deliberate attempt on my part to make the music
commercial, Home and Protect And Survive do have the potential to be modestly
successful in a similar market to The Horrors and other similar acts. In terms of
marketing the remixes that I created and wrote about separately would likely not be a
particularly effective tool as they fall outside the realm of what Leper Messiah went on to
become stylistically and as such do not represent the content of the E.P. In fact, the
method I would use to monetise Leper Messiahs music would probably serve better in a
secondary role as a marketing tool. The idea would be to issue the E.P. as a double-7
flexi disc package, although this would require Home to be truncated as the maximum
length per side is six minutes. Despite the reduction in fidelity compared to other media
and the inherent unreliability of the format, I think the novelty of translucent coloured

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Production Journal
(probably yellow or orange to match the artwork) flexi discs would be enough to help sell
them if they were priced correctly.

Toby Newton