Photo: Courtesy Jupiter Rising
Though Jupiter Rising's latest release, The Quiet Hype (Chime, 2009), was recorded mainly at House of Blues Studio in Encino, Calif., producer, arranger, vocalist, and instrumentalist Spenser Nezey developed the songs for the project in his Digidesign Pro Tools LE-based home studio. “I'd have the whole arrangement done before I went in the studio,” he says. “I'd have the hooks mostly done, and the vibe. Most of the instruments that we had on there [the ones recorded in his studio] we usually kept.”
Besides Nezey, Jupiter Rising's other principal is vocalist Jessie Payo. Nezey describes the group's material as “electro-rock/electro-pop with hints and elements of hip-hop.” He says it's “very organic, but still has elements of club, and [also] lots of live instruments.” However you classify it, it's extremely catchy. The song “L.A. Girls,” which features a speeded-up Nezey vocal in the intro (“Prada bags, Gucci shoes…”), was recently used in the MTV show The Hills.
In Nezey's home setup, he runs Pro Tools LE on an Apple Mac Pro quad-core computer and uses an Mbox 2 audio interface. His keyboards include a Korg Triton extreme, a MicroKorg, a Roland Fantom X8, a '73 Fender Rhodes, and a Clavinet. Among his virtual instruments are Native Instruments' Pro-53, MOTU's Mach Five, and Applied Acoustics' Ultra Analog VA-1.
When he was constructing the tracks for The Quiet Hype, Nezey would typically start with drum parts. He credits his methods to techniques he learned by observing others. “I had some good teachers to watch from, [including] Jason Villaroman, who was an engineer for will.i.am.”
Nezey also had a chance to work with will.i.am directly. “Will doesn't use an MPC [to build beats], it's just amazing. I saw how he did it; he just basically takes samples — he finds a library of kicks, snares, hats, or whatever — and he does it by hand, just plugging it into the grid. I learned how to do that, so I've been making my beats like that. And it's kind of cool, you can go anywhere you want to. I don't need an MPC; I don't need anything. I'm like, ‘Give me a microphone and Pro Tools, and I can make you a beat.’”
Nezey actually does start many of his drum parts by recording a multipart, beatboxed rhythm. “Then I'll layer the kicks and snares and everything on top,” he says. After that, it's melody parts and basslines. “Usually, after I put the drums down, I start with some sort of riff to build on top of.”
Many of the tracks he recorded at home ended up on the album. “I keep all my MIDI tracks,” he says. “And some of the ones that I like, I'll print it right away. And then with some of the stuff, it's not necessarily about the sound but [rather] about what I played, so we'll keep the MIDI and go in [the studio] and we'll find better sounds.”
The vocals were mainly cut at House of Blues Studio, and many were tracked with a Sony C800, a high-end tube mic. “It's awesome, just great sounds,” says Nezey of the mic.
Most of the songs on the CD were mixed at Pacifique Studios in North Hollywood by Nezey's friend Greg Ogan, who had also been heavily involved in the earlier phases of the production. Additional mixes were done by Peter Mokran (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston), but Nezey wanted Ogan to do the bulk of it due to his familiarity with the project. “I just wanted to keep everything really organic,” says Nezey. “He knows all the intricate parts and what needs to be brought out because he was there from day one.”
Home base: Los Angeles
Sequencer of choice: Digidesign Pro Tools LE
Go-to keyboard: Korg Triton Extreme