Keeping it Simple With Reason
We met up with Niklas Olovsson from the song writing and production duo Machopsycho to ask about their use of Reason in their work. Machopsycho is based in Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast, but Niklas was in Stockholm to speak at the Producers Seminar in November 2006 and also came by and visited the Propellerheadquarters.
Machopsycho has had a good run of hit productions in the last couple of years, working with artists like Pink, Jessica Simpson, Dirtie Blonde and others.
When did you first hear about Reason and started using it in your productions?
I can't really remember when I heard about it the first time, but I remember that everybody was telling me I had to work with Reason because it is such a great tool. Then I was sort of introduced to Reason and I believe it took me ten or fifteen minutes and I was hooked, because of the simplicity and the element of surprise I often get when working with Reason. It's so natural and usable and you don't have to be a computer nerd to use it. We started using it early in 2003 and from that point it has been the key software for all our productions.
So did you see Reason like something that you could right away use in your productions because you felt connected with the groove?
Definitely! Working with Redrum and with rex loops underneath means you get a very natural flow and never ever have to quantize. You just focus on the feel of the groove until you get it right.
What is your main instrument and what do you play?
I've been playing guitar and bass since I was 15 or something, and I won't tell you how old I am now. My main instrument is the bass. I'm a very groove oriented guy, brought up on fusion and funk in my family, so it kind of sits in my heart and my brain and my fingers to stay connected with the drummer and well... put my focus on the groove.
You used Reason extensively on the Pink album - I'm not dead - you have been working on.
Yes. We use Reason a lot on all our tracks. The song Stupid Girls for instance started off as a simple groove in Reason that immediately connected with the baseline and the hook. It was all done in Reason.
I remember when we were done with it and we sent it to the studio in Los Angeles and they went through the roof when they heard it. They asked us to send the whole session immediately and we did, using iChat. We had the iSight camera on so we could see when the transfer was done and hear it playing from Los Angeles. They added the vocals, some live drums and guitar. 14 hours later they called and yelled "It's a smash! It's going to be the first single!".
How many devices did you use on that song?
Oh, it's like eight. It's nothing really. It's just that all we did was totally connected, musically. Keep it simple!
Do you have any favorite features in Reason that factor into your production technique a lot?
Yes. The Redrum. That's where we always start with the kick and the snare, the clap and the hihat. Those are the most important things. For an average listener it may be just a kick and a snare, but to a producer it's extremely important they they work together, both sound wise and groove wise.
Is that how you start your song writing? With the drums?
Not as a songwriter, but as a producer. The song writing usually starts with an acoustic guitar.
Do you use a lot of third party ReFills in your productions?
We do have a lot of ReFills, but there's a lot of good stuff in the factory sound bank that's sometimes overlooked.
Do you use the Orkester soundbank?
Oh yes. We use it a lot for string arrangements. What we usually do is to stay away from the full orchestra type patches and start for example with a cello, and then add maybe a violin to build the string arrangement instrument by instrument.
When you produce and write songs, where do you look for inspiration?
A lot of stuff naturally, but most of all listening to music. All the time. New stuff, old stuff, radio, MTV, fill up my iPod and go for a run.
Do you have any tips when it comes to workflow that you think would help other Reason users?
When writing songs, it's important to finish them. I find it helpful to stay with one song structure and work to perfect the elements within that instead to trying to be clever all the time. There is always a time to be clever later on in the process. Keep it very simple from the start and focus on getting intro, verse, chorus and middle eight done and the work is almost done.
If it doesn't work, start a new one and you can work on it until it sounds the way you want to. It's also important to know when to stop working on something so you don't fix something that isn't broken. If you like it, keep it. If you don't, throw it away.
For me, it's important to force myself to be creative. I come to the studio in the morning, make coffee and get going. You can't sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. It's like wanting to be drunk without drinking or something.
So I would imagine you must have hundreds of Reason files with song ideas on your hard drive.
I used to, but I found it frustrating to have all those grooves around. What I do now is that every two weeks I listen to them. If they are good I put them in a folder named 'Continue Working on' and if I don't like them, I'll trash them. I remember one time I had like 450 reason documents in the song folder. I trashed everything!
So finally, being a successful songwriter and producer, do you have any tips for Reason users out there who are looking to get their careers started?
Work, work, work and love it. Have that musical flame in your chest and be creative. And most of all: Finish stuff and deliver. Nobody is going to call you and ask if you have something "almost done" on your hard drive. Finish stuff and work with people. Don't be secret about what you do. Work with other songwriters, work with your neighbor if you hear them singing in the laundry room. Be open for collaboration and don't be afraid.
Published: December 2006
MachoPsycho are Niklas Olovson and Robin Lynch from Gothenburg, Sweden. Signed to New York based management Stealth Entertainment, they have remixed Jessica Simpson, CO-written and produced Pink's first single Stupid Girls and collaborated with Billy Mann, Dirtie Blonde and Natalie Imbruglia. To name a few.
Machopsycho has been kind enough to send us a few Reason patches of theirs, for us to share with you. Listen carefully and you might be able to spot what hit songs they were used in.
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