“There's a lot of love and shame mixed together in this project,” says the Soft Pink Truth's Drew Daniel. One-half of electronic duo Matmos and a member of Björk's band (along with his boyfriend, MC Schmidt), Daniel was urged to do the Soft Pink Truth as a side project. “I played a concert, a Matmos show, with Matthew Herbert in Paris, and he said, ‘I'd love it if you'd try a house record,’” Daniel says. But with his fetish for itchy, ticky beats, the house thump wouldn't be an easy feat.
“It was very much an attempt to be house music,” Daniel says. “It's just that it turned out that I don't really know how to make house music, so I wound up making something else instead. I think the result is parasitic on real house music. It's sort of like making a soup and realizing halfway through, I shouldn't have added those green vegetables; now, it's a strange color.”
Straight ahead four-on-the-floor house music, the Soft Pink Truth is not. But the tongue-in-cheek collage of R&B vocal samples and bass-synth grooves on Do You Party? (Soundslike, 2003) are goofy dancefloor perfection. It's a pointing-and-winking-at-your-friends kind of dance record. Still, the Matmos style of puréed samples is prevalent. “It's so sliced, edited and curated; the [sample] theft is so microscopic even though it's really extensive,” Daniel admits. “Instead of a really big obvious pimple on your nose, it's like bacteria through your whole body.”
R&B singer Kelly Price and rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were subjected to Daniel's chopping tactics, as were lots of unknown wannabe stars. “It was finding abject examples of attempts at popular music,” he says. “The real hunting ground for sample sources was the promo bin of the radio station where I worked, CD-R demos of people who wanted to be the next Destiny's Child but weren't quite together enough for it to sound so-called correct.”
Daniel sequences in MOTU's Digital Performer, mixes out of his E-mu E6400 and Roland W-30 samplers with a Mackie board and sends the finished mix to DAT. He got creative with the 20 seconds of sample time on his W-30 (which he calls “the MC Hammer sampler”) for the b-boy, disco-house flavor of “Gender Studies.” “To give it that weird on-the-fly filter-house effect, I would have a loop of MIDI triggering a tiny snippet of a disco guitar line, and then I just kept altering the start and end points constantly,” Daniel says. “So it stays in time, but it keeps things kind of wrong, too.”
Another theme on Do You Party? comes from Daniel's Korg MS2000 and Roland SH-101 synths, which he used for squelchy bass lines and melodies. But the most time-consuming aspect of his recording process was collecting and treating the slivers of vocal samples by those B-level R&B singers. “It's amazing what the human ear can do to get a lot of meaning out of a tiny little snippet,” he says. “Often, I'll use no more than .4 seconds of a source. I'll drag the length of the loop so it's a bit wrong, copy that, take the same pattern, drag it a little more, copy it, pitch it up an octave, copy it, drag it a little more, pitch it down two octaves, and, suddenly, instead of just one looping phrase, which would get very tiresome, you have this sort of family that's like the solar system. Like, maybe Pluto only comes around every nine years and Mars comes around every five years. You get unusual relationships.”
Although today's software programs make producing tracks easy, Daniel avoids that trap. “If you pervert your own ways of working, you can figure out something that's unique,” he suggests. “If anybody should be getting the credit on records now, it should be, like, ‘Drew Daniel and Mark of the Unicorn present …’ A lot of programs are so strong fresh out of the box that they almost don't need you. It's like a lava lamp: You turn it on, and it just goes.”