In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, Simian Mobile Disco revealed their favourite samples to include in their production process.
With their new album ‘Unpatterns’ set to be released shortly (album stream), this is what the UK duo had to confess;
Roland 808 Kick Drum
It was both hip-hop and house, it formed and invented a lot of club music. People recreate that sound to this day, but when you hear a real 808 doing it, you can still tell. It’s an analogue machine, which means a new sound is generated every time it’s played, every one is different. You can’t deny that the machine does bring up a nostalgic feeling, it’s instantly there, but there’s still a million ways you can use it and make a really modern record with it. Interference, a track from our new album, is just the 808, some reverb and, er, that’s pretty much it. Of all the effects on the machine, the kick drum is probably the star. It’s subby and bassy and in many tracks, hip-hop especially, it’s the whole bottom end. It’s just one of those classic sounds you can’t get away from.
We enjoy the physical element to making music. We come from a guitar background, we’re used to shoving quarter-inch jacks into everything, but nowadays much electronic music is just about wiping your finger around a trackpad. The performance element, the thrill of creating something that’s a one-off, is what we want. And with classic electronic equipment you get that. Every element of the thing is physical. A twip is a good example of this. It’s the noise you hear in Kraftwerk, the “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch” that’s like the sound of the future coming from the past. Essentially it’s just avery short envelope [the term for the shape of a sound – Technical Ed] where the sound goes from high to low very quickly and there’s a filter being boinked from the top to the bottom. It’s basically like a high hat, just with more … er, twip.
We’re not sure if anyone else uses the term “zong” or whether it’s just us. It is true though that quite often we’ll be recording something and say to each other, “It could do with a bit more Zong on that.” The zong is basically a sound repeated over and over and if you do it really quickly, it has a percussive element to it and you can tune it into the track. To be factish about it, what we call zong is, in academic circles, called Karplus Strong Synthesis. People use it for physical modelling sounds, it’s loads of maths. Sometimes we read books on this sort of stuff then think of a silly name for it to make us feel better. For us, the classic zong would be in electro. Old-school electro, though, not in the modern banger sense, stuff from around the time of Afrika Bambaataa, like Jonzun Crew. They made odd tracks about going into space, but everything they did was put through a zong. You can put a twip into a zong, by the way, it’ll blow your tiny little mind.
We’ve got a little piece of sheet metal off Ebay. It’s got contact mics on it and you can make really great reverb off it. A Spring reverb is so called because, basically, it was reverb made by a spring. You’d send a sound down it, the spring would wobble and you’d capture the effect at the other end. We love it, it always reminds us Delia Derbyshire, the homemade sounds of the Radiophonic workshop. It’s also, of course, an effect used extensively in dub reggae. A lot of those dub records, when you look at the room they recorded it in, it was absolutely tiny, a tiny little room a simple little desk, a spring and a fader. Done.
The Lately Bass
Most of the music we grew up loving came from the US. Detroit techno, Chicago house. Lately we’ve been seeing America’s appetite for dance music explode again, but sadly it’s all this 135bpm stuff with a Rihanna a cappella over the top. Some people would probably still associate us with some of the acts that have at least inspired some of these big, horrible tunes. But to be honest we’ve spent most of our time recently running in the opposite direction as far as possible. The Lately Bass is a sound we love though. It’s a percussive, short, bumpy little bass sound that is all over early house music. It’s a preset on the Yamaha TX91Z and if you want to make your own you can pick one up for about £40. It’s a really distinctive sound, but it fits really easily into tracks, it never gets in the way of the kick drum.