Francis Preve wrote the book on remixing — literally. He's the author of the Remixer's Bible, 248 pages of creative tips for taking songs to the next level through artful electronic manipulation. But Preve doesn't just preach; he's an accomplished producer himself, with six Billboard Top 10 remixes last year alone.
Through his writing at Keyboard, BeatPortal, and more, Francis has shared countless tips on music production, and this interview was no exception. We started with remixing basics and quickly moved to listening tips, percussion secrets, and gear — you won't believe how little equipment he uses to work his musical magic. I recorded far too much material for one episode, so stay tuned to the RSS feed for more. (DMI 01-04-2008: 40 minutes 56 seconds)
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Because Francis and I live in different states, we did the interview by
Skype, but used the classic "two-ender" trick to get better audio
quality: Each of us recorded simultaneously into our computers
at higher resolution. Later, Francis sent me his side of the
conversation as an MP3, and I synced it up with mine. He recorded into Ableton
Live with a Blue
Snowball mic; I recorded into Ecamm Call Recorder with my trusty
Call Recorder captured both sides of the conversation (the
direct signal from my mic plus the low-quality Skype signal from
Francis) to two tracks of a QuickTime file. I then used QuickTime Pro
to export the recordings into a mono WAV file of my voice and a stereo
WAV file with my voice in one channel and Francis's Skype signal in the
other. I loaded the two WAVs plus Francis's direct MP3 recording into
three tracks in Ableton Live and slid Francis's track around until it
lined up with his Skype signal. (See Figure 1.)
Annoyingly, the MP3 track didn't maintain sync over the duration of the recording. By several minutes in, there was a noticeable echo when I played it against the reference track. As an experiment, I used Live's Warp feature to time-stretch the MP3 by a tenth of a BPM, and it locked up reasonably well. That saved me from having to snip out silent bits every minute or so to maintain sync.
Another challenge was that some of Francis's Skype audio leaked into my side of the call. I don't know if that was headphone bleed or crosstalk in the Call Recorder software, but it added a distracting reverberation to his voice. In the past, I've manually silenced the parts of my track where I'm not speaking to hide such background noises. But this time I was traveling with my Windows laptop and didn't have my normal high-powered audio editor, BIAS Peak. So I applied a gate effect with Izotope Ozone instead, and it silenced the background noise nicely. By taking Live out of snap-to-grid mode, I was able to edit the remainder of the audio, snipping out ums and P-pops, though I missed Peak's crossfading option at edit points.
Because I was on the road, I recorded my voiceover with the Logitech headset mic as well, then chopped out the false starts in Live. Next, I imported it, the music examples, and the background music into a new Ableton Live session, enhanced the vocals with Ozone, and rendered the mix as a new WAV file. Finally, I converted the WAV mix to an MP3 in iTunes, where I added cover art.
The Digital Media Insider theme music came together in Live as well. The opening sound effect is a compressed mouth noise spliced onto a tone cluster I generated in Native Instruments Reaktor. The main groove is from Steinberg Xphraze. (Jim Aikin turned me on to both virtual instruments in his article "My Five Favorite Soft Synths.") The piano is from the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which I discovered when we interviewed Gary Garritan.
The theme also features a few percussion samples dredged from my hard drive. Altogether, it took just six tracks. Effects processing was courtesy of Live's default plugins and Freeverb.