Photo credit: Marie Staggat
What began as a challenge to fight creative stagnation, soon grew into a fully-fledged audio-visual project for Belgian DJ, producer, and live artist, Biesmans. Setting himself the goal of making three tracks per week for a month, he re-scored ‘80s pop culture moments – including films, TV shows, and games, resulting in a brilliant 12-track work encompassing electro, synth wave, indie, disco, and beyond.
Biesmans’s ‘Trains, Planes & Automobiles’ is out now on Watergate Records. To celebrate the release, we asked him to break down the production process behind his three favorite album tracks, and here is the result:
Track # 1 – ‘Another World’
‘This was 100% inspired by Miami sunshine, shiny car chases and rollerblading next to the beach. In other words “Miami Vice”! Honestly, It felt so natural that it couldn’t question it. The rolling bass and chords (= sun) shiny synths (= cars) and the sexy lead (= the rollerblading girls).’
The arpeggio bass line is a classic mixture of saw & square coming from the Behringer Model D. I love these types of basses because they carry the rhythm and make the whole thing groove like hell!
The beats are coming mainly from samples I’ve layered (the kick is a mix of a 707 with the low end of a 909 to make it a bit fatter). The snare is actually sampled from a timeless classic I will not reveal and tops/percussion are coming from my personal sample library as well as from the TR8-s
Also, one important groove element is coming from the Moog Grandmother. I’ve just arpeggiated some noise and added a phaser on it the make it more interesting.
Well, the Roland Juno 106 is the key machine in here. The top melody as well as the chords are both coming from the Juno and have that signature Chorus/106 sound. That smooth and sexy lead in the middle part is a simple sawtooth riff on the Korg Monologue. The Roland JX8P is also used towards the end (that reverberating pad sound).
The vocoder is simply the standard vocoder from Ableton. I’ve used the Oberheim SEM Plugin from Arturia as carrier.
Track #2 – ‘Do You Read Me?’
‘This track came to life on a day where I had zero inspiration. This was somewhere in week 3 and I really needed to push myself. After being daily in the studio like this, you get moments where it gets rough so I decided to also document the fact that I didn’t have inspiration. To get out of this “hole” I used very simple and effective techniques. Keeping it really simple is the main concept. ‘
Sampled vocals / noise
The track kicks off with a sample from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 ‘A Space Odyssey’. The add more space-like drone sounds I’ve messed around and recorded noises with the Reaktor software from Native Instruments.
Nothing surprising here as it is the good old Behringer Model D making the noise here. However, to add a bit of a different touch, I’ve decided to layer the bass (only in the top frequencies) with the ARP2600 software from Arturia. This gives the bass a bit more definition and makes it groove better.
Two machines take over here. The TR8-s provides the kick and snare (one) and a very tiny hat to set the basic beat. The toms and add-on tops and snare (two) are coming from my little Boss DR220A. I’ve sampled this little machine years ago and it’s still my secret weapon. In this pack, I’ve also sampled its little brother Boss DR220E (but that one came from a friend)
Starting of with an arpeggio pattern coming from the VST version of my Model D (the Arturia Minimoog Plugin) and adding another arpeggio pattern with the Moog Grandmother and adding some chorus on this mono synth to make it wider and stereo.
The lead is provided by the Juno 106 with lots of reverb and a making the oscillator detune to achieve a “natural” sounding sound. The pad sounds in the breakdown are coming from the OBX plugin (again Arturia).
Track # 3 – ‘Trains, Planes & Automobiles’
Originally, I made this one in the very end because I felt I could still use a very feel-good dance/club track. I first made the music and knew I wanted a dancing video so I searched for some dance movies but it just didn’t work until I stumbled upon the dancing scene of “The Breakfast Club”. Musically I really got inspired by a classic Miami 80’s feel-good track.
No surprises here, again the Model D does the job. I simply love these basic raw bass sounds to make groovy lines with. The way the envelopes work, make it a perfect machine for these rhythmical basses.
A mixture of samples and machines. The kick really is a sample I’ve layered and layered again over the years. Not really sure where it comes from but with layering, I can always re-invent the sound a bit. The snare is also the product of layering the Yamaha RY30 and TR 707 (clap & Snare) (coming from the TR8s). The percussive laser sounds are coming from the Moog Grandmother. Using lots of modulation on it so they never sound exactly the same.
Also here I’ve worked hybrid. I love to mix up my VST’s with my hardware but usually love the “Vintage” VST sounds from Arturia. In this case, I’ve used the DX7 clone to create that little intro melody. Another clone used here is the SEM (Arturia) to add a mid-low texture type of sound. Working together with the bass but not taking its place.
Chords are coming from the Juno 106 and the lead sound on the climax drop is played on the Roland JX8P
The vocal chops are also coming from a singing line which I’ve layered out on the Ableton sampler so I could tune it and play it like a regular synth and catch that ‘80s vibe.
Listen to Biesmans’s ‘Trains, Planes & Autmobiles’ below and grab your copy here.