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Sweet Soul Music

8/1/2002

Motown artist Remy Shand resists the “neosoul” label that is often associated with his music. Shand, who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, learned to craft songs in large part by listening to his father's collection of vinyl records. “I grew up on Miles Davis and a lot of jazz fusion, as well as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder,” Shand says. “The one model I had to put those [styles] together was Steely Dan. I'm into that idea of perfection. It's weird to be put into this whole neosoul category, because I didn't make a hip-hop record.”

The Way I Feel is a collection of silky-smooth, in-the-pocket R&B tracks that would sound right at home on vinyl. Shand had full control of the project as performer, engineer, and producer: “I basically did everything on the record but master it,” he says. “I've always studied the great producers and the way that orchestration goes hand in hand with engineering.”

Shand's studio is located in a condominium bedroom, and he recorded acoustic drums in the basement of a house. “I liked working in my own environment,” he says. “I ended up recording half the record before I was signed just to show [the label] that I could deliver a disciplined product. They helped me buy gear for my studio.”

Shand credits his father with sparking his interest in recording. “I was around his home-recording setup,” he says. “He had this 4-track Tascam 244. I started fooling around with multitracking.” Shand's father advised him to master 4-track recording before investing in more elaborate tools. “I spent five or six years working on a 4-track, making it sound like a 24-track studio. Once I moved on to other kinds of recording equipment, it was easy.”

Shand recorded album tracks through a Roland VM-C7200 digital mixer to a Roland VS-880 and three VSR-880s, using their built-in effects “as well as an Ampex 16-track 2-inch machine. I used the best of both worlds,” he says. A vintage Echoplex and a spring-reverb unit supplied additional effects. He warmed up vocal tracks with a pair of Avalon Design VT-737 preamps and used both high-end and low-end microphones. “I had some mics that I bought at thrift stores, some Neumann mics, and an AKG kick-drum mic,” he says.

Shand believes that “drum tracks can change the essence of a recording. It's a matter of finding all the right components for a track.” Besides recording live drum tracks to tape, he also gathered samples into his Akai S5000 sampler. “I used old beatbox samples. I took sounds from a Roland R-70 drum machine and a Rhythm Ace — one of those archaic drum machines with big bossa-nova push buttons.”

Genuine vintage keyboards highlight the album. “I used a Fender Rhodes and a Wurlitzer,” Shand says. “I have a Hohner Clavinet Model C and a D6. I have this Realistic [Concertmate] MG-1. It's a Radio Shack Moog.” He also played a Hammond B-3, Korg CX-3, and Roland JP-8000. “For the strings, I used the [InVision Interactive] Mike Pinder Mellotron sample CD-ROM.”

By design, the album's mixes resemble those of 1970s soul classics. “I mixed on [Yamaha] NS-10s and Tannoy speakers, but mostly, I used this set of home speakers,” Shand says. “I grew up listening to records on these speakers.” He still favors analog sounds over digital. “It's unpredictable what's going to sound warm and what's going to push that tape's envelope,” he says. “My heart's yearning for those old 4-track tapes.”

For more information, contact Motown Records; Web www.motown.com or www.remyshand.com.

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