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DJ Revolution on producing "The DJ" featuring KRS-One

August 12, 2008
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DJ Revolution (left) and KRS-One

DJ Revolution, a trickster DJ/producer who has demonstrated his skills at previous Remix Hotel events, is releasing his new album, King of the Decks, September 16 on Duck Down Records. If you''re lucky to get an invite, you might see DJ Revolution spinning with DJ Premier for his record release party in NYC or with Jazzy Jeff for his party in L.A. If not, check out other tour dates on his MySpace: Myspace.com/djrevolution.

Below, Rev gives a blow-by-blow on the process of producing one of his new album''s hottest tracks, “The DJ,” featuring KRS-One.

ALL ABOUT EQ
“I do all of my production, including sampling, replaying a sample and final mixes in Apple Logic Studio,” Rev says. “Normally, I run at least six to 10 tracks of the EXS24 sampler in every session. This is what I used to chop up this particular track and also where I have all my basic ‘go to'' drum sounds laid out in kits I''ve made personally. The sample itself is really musical but needed a lot of “beefing up” in the mix. The strings and piano melody had some light drums behind them, so I EQ''d it all properly. Since I had multiple instances of the same samples loaded on different tracks, I EQ''d them differently. When I wanted to keep the main sample with the strings running and then run a piece of that sample that had the same music and an added piano part, I wanted to isolate only the piano so I could run them simultaneously and not make a mess when the were overlapping. I rolled off the low end of the piano part track around 200 Hz and brightened up the high mids so it stood out. For a more precise isolation, I used the Waves Renaissance 4-band EQ. But for the main sample that runs throughout the track, I boosted the low mids around 190 Hz to give the drums in the sample some punch and really kicked up the high mids to bring out those strings. For that, I just used Logic''s Fat EQ. Then, squashing it with a compressor made a big difference. That also brought out the “grime.” I actually have two copies of this record and used the copy that crackled more—the other one was too clean.

“Once I was happy with how the basic sample was sounding, I could go on building from there. Getting it right was simple because unless I need to really isolate and tweak certain frequencies, I just use the basic Fat EQ that comes with the program. I think most of the basic plugs that come with Logic get the job done well without hogging huge amounts of RAM and processor power. Waves plug-ins then get stacked on tracks and busses for my other staples like the Renaissance stuff or bigger reverbs.

“I wanted to give myself as many sequence patterns as possible to distract from the repetitive nature of the melody. In order to do that, I had to set up three or four different tracks with the same sample parts loaded up but all EQ''d and filtered differently. For instance, one track had the sample set to filter everything out but this low-register horn section that was only one beat long, which I played to sound like a loop. I used that in the bridge/chorus. Another track I set up to make the high-register piano stand out when the drums dropped.

“It''s funny because even though I liked that there is a timpani in the sample, it was annoying the shit out of me at first. If I compressed it a lot to try and even it out, it took up too much room in the mix. If I laid back a little bit, the rest of the sample kind of drowned it out. EQing everything for the timpani affected too many other elements in the music. I ended up just cutting back a little on the compression and playing a roll with really fat timpani drum from my gigantic EXS24 library over it. Somehow, that extra layer that I could play with independently of the other music in the sample balanced it out when I laid in the rest of the drums and the big bass sound.

“The only other outboard gear I use to mix is my Mackie 24x8 console. My friend put it best, though: ‘It''s just a really big talk-back button.'' I just use it as a giant patch bay. I dumped my MPC and Triton keyboard years ago. I use my ridiculously large sample library and collection of virtual synths/drum modules to do everything now.

“As for mixing down, what I really trust is testing the mixes in the car, on the laptop and in the cheap-ass iPhone headset. That''s where it counts. I know my room and get shit crackin'' in there with ease. It also sounds great in a big studio. But the world listens to MP3s, and I need to make sure its sounds big on some small shit.”

KRS-ONE IN THE STUDIO

“As soon as I heard the sample, I knew I had to make this track with KRS or not make it at all. In ''95 or ''96 he did a record called ‘The MC.'' This sample had a similar melody, so I knew I had to make “The DJ” with him. As a matter of fact, I didn''t even do any production on the track until I got in contact with him, and he told me his was interested. I have known him for some time, so getting a hold of him wasn''t that difficult. I got to work on the track and sent it over to him, and at the same time I talked to his assistant to set up a session at my spot.

“What happened when he came through later that week was possibly one of the biggest highlights of my career. KRS sat across from me in my studio and interviewed me about the things I wanted to express in this record. We just talked, and while were talking, he was jotting down notes on some pieces of paper I had given him. Basically, he got me going, and as I rambled on about everything from digital DJing to the way most DJs on the radio or in clubs don''t really have the basic required skills to call themselves DJs, he wrote down what he needed. Somewhere into the conversation he started asking me to sum up all the things I had into phrases he used as the ‘tenets'' of being a DJ.

“After almost an hour he said, ‘I think I got what I need. You can just let me be for a while, and I''ll let you know when I''m done.'' It was amazing for me to be interviewed by one of the greatest talents in hip-hop history and then have the result of that be put into a rhyme he wrote right on the spot in front of me. Then witnessing his recording process was another story in and of itself. The funniest thing is when he was getting set up in the booth, I checked out some of the notes he was writing while we talked. Most of the major words or phrases that he used as the basis for putting all of that shit together were written in graffiti. It was incredible. And every hip-hop producer wishes they got a chance to work with this dude. Getting DJ Premier to talk shit on the first chorus was a no-brainer. I felt like it needed energy coming out of KRS''s first verse and not scratching like I did with the second chorus. Primo wanted more time to talk between the verses, but I asked him to cut it to 8 bars. Premier is a good friend, and I really appreciated him adding some icing on the cake for me. People''s reaction when they recognize his voice on the track is priceless! ‘Is that Primo?'' I Love it.

“For KRS'' vocals, I used a Rode NT2 mic that I refuse to give up. Still sounds great with the right person after a long time. After getting them recorded, I stacked a Waves DeEsser, A Renaissance 4-band EQ and a Renaissance Compressor. It''s what I''m most comfortable with and again its not too much tweaking. I feel like if you have to mess with the vocals too much, then they got recorded wrong in the first place. I had some light delay and reverb on KRS main tracks, as well. He did two background tracks and laid down a crazy bridge that I might decide to put on a remix or a version for the special edition DVD.”

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