LAYERS: Uncovering The Perilous Powers Of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen's "Danger"
I could start this off by saying how we should marvel at the wonders of collaboration unbound by geography, enabled by the internet, but at this point it’s been going on for so long that we shouldn’t be surprised, should we? Sure, it’s a fairly novel thing to have instrumentalists jamming and writing songs via Skype, but when it comes to the modern instruments of music production, the plethora of software that has replaced every kid’s first guitar, passing files back and forth online is standard practice.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a clear sign that distant collaborations are no gimmick, no novelty, but merely facilitation of musicians from different cultures. There’s NOTE, the Cleveland-raised, San-Diego-residing MC whose mastery of the mic and lack of conventional boundaries make him the perfect counterpart to Simon Muschinsky, producer and keys player for Danish electro-pop band When Saints Go Machine.
Based in the US and Denmark, respectively, NOTE and Muschinsky struck an ideal balance, a sound embodied in their debut release Semiconductor, out on Proximal Records. Their disjointed, cyborg sound is exemplified in “Danger,” a dense, synth-heavy track that forms around NOTE’s raw verses. Let’s tear this thing open and talk to the artists about what’s inside.
Simon: I made the instrumental for “Danger” in late 2007 on my old PC, running Logic. It’s always different how I start my productions. On “Danger,” I started with the drums. Browsing through my sample library, I found a sample that sounded like a bunch of people clapping, snapping, and yelling. All the claps, snaps and “wuuh” sounds are from that sample. Sometimes I just like to use some random samples as drums, so I took some sound effects and a 10 minute long sample I had of someone playing a modular synth, plus some other sounds in my library, and made the beat in Logic’s arrange window.
For the bass I used my Waldorf Microwave XT. It actually consists of three different sounds from the Microwave. One very bassy and sawtooth-like sound, another one that sounds more evolving and almost like a talking robot, and a third one which is the very high frequency one. I always like to sculpt my sounds in such a way that I feel like they each end up having their own personality and unique character. I remember I really wanted the high frequency bass sound to sound like a very angry and hissing robotic cat.
I played this on my Sequential Circuits Six-Trak and added a flanger and some delay.
For this sound I used the pling synth and put it on a separate audio channel with a huge amount of effects. I can’t remember the exact effect chain, but I think i had about 15 effects on the track, at least three compressors, two reverbs and Logic’s EVOC plugin which I think makes a nice robotic flanger type of sound. I bounced the sound and it ended up being a really nice pad sound.
The outro wasn’t a part of the beat when I gave it to NOTE in the first place. But when I got the vocals and started mixing the track, I felt like it needed an outro. At first I wanted to make an outro for fun that sounded like something you would find on a corny Backstreet Boys song, but it actually ended up sounding really cool, and my perspective on the outro changed while composing it.
I recorded the drums running through my Kaoss Pad 3 and fooled around with the FX. I ended up with a 10 minute take of drums with Kaoss Pad effects on and chopped up the stuff that I liked and combined it with the original drums.
Here, I did the same thing as the outro drums.
For most of the vocal effects, I ran NOTE’s voice through the Kaoss Pad like I did with the drums and synths and cut everything up into bits that I liked. For the vocals at 1:00, I used an old school flanger pedal.
A capella Vocal track
NOTE: First, let me start by saying that I have always said that “Danger” is the most difficult song I’ve ever written. I’m very proud of making some comprehensive gangsta shit out of a beat as crazy as this. Simon really put me to the test. OK, so the first time I heard the beat, in my mind it sounded like some sort of countdown/rescue sequence that went wrong—like some folks were in danger. I envisioned “Red Lights” flashing while people were trying to escape something. In the verse parts, the beat was very ill in the sense that it is a stop and go pattern, but it also has a double-time groove to it. So I wanted to write verses that flowed well, but still obeyed the cadence of the drums. The hook was written solely to follow what Simon did with that lead synth in those parts. I wanted the word “Danger” to hit on the explosive sounding kicks in the hook. I think it turned out alright!
Put it all together, and here’s what you get. “Danger” by The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.