The March issue of Electronic Musician featured a profile on Neneh Cherry’s Blank Project. Here, Cherry shares additional details on the studio sessions.
BY KEN MICALLEF
The music is very loose…
It was recorded as it sounds. [Producer Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden] worked with each track getting the right sound. Personally I had a few bits that bothered me that I can still hear, but I have distanced myself from those. I am always looking for my mistakes. We all do that. A lot of the time when we were recording, two tracks were done as one take.
Could you see each other in the studio?
We could see each other. Ben had synths in the middle of the church, [drummer Tom Page] was in a small room, and I had a kind of hut. I had weird Bedouin carpets they'd taken from the floor to isolate my hut. We could all see each other. I wasn't totally covered; I could see out. I had partitions around me. So did Tom.
Did you overdub at all?
We did takes over where we didn't all agree. We couldn't edit or add vocals cause the timing was set. We did do some overdubs on vocals. I resang a couple bits. But the songs are more or less full takes.
Do you like the modern recording technology?
It's great for us cause we have always liked to work at home. You go to a studio to do specific things. But then I think being able to setup with the quality you have today, you can be anywhere. A lot of people think the machines are terrible, and the organic-ness of the old school will die. I think it's the best of all worlds now, someone will always want to do things in a new way. Why be scared of it? Embrace it and use it.
“Naked” sounds entirely programmed, then the drums kick in sounds like Four Tet.
Kieran and Tom spent a lot of time working on the electronic sounds. There was always some thought put into the sound of it; Kieran is very astute, he is always tweaking and balancing.
“Weightless” sounds like a study in frustration.
The song in itself is seeking to find that click in your head, like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. It's that place where we all look to go in different ways, whether going out or blitzing out or having a good run. That's what we are looking for in that song, that kind of relief.
The whole process of “Weightless” was developed in three states, the original vibe, then we'd make music to it and play with it, and then get the vocals done. The subject matter was so emotionally raw, it's like the music was too correct and modern. So I gave the wav files to these guys and went to the rehearsals with a more primitive direction to undo some of that.
How did you like working with Four Tet?
He had great intuition and would tell the guys what he thought down to one song, while they were playing it he muted all the keys, from that point on, so when they came back we never unmuted the keyboards, that's the opening track with vocals and drums. He did it while they were tracking; he said, “it doesn't need that, so why use it?”
Do you have a favorite mic?
I have some amazing AKG old tube mics we bought it from the BBC. It has to warm up. But it's not get for everything. Sometimes because of my voice, we use quite rugged mics, but I just sing.
What songs changed from when you first brought them into the studio?
“Out of the Black” changed a lot. When we first played through it, Kieran thought it sounded like the Chemical Brothers. I became allergic to the bigness of it. So we broke it down, and struggled with it. It was hard for it to feel right. My vocals didn't work. The sound they created was big, and I felt really small, so we met in the middle. I can't remember exactly how we changed what we did. It became more sensitive and not so bombastic. It has both lightness and melancholy.