Making “The Push” | Track-by-Track

My solo album "The Push" is finally live and available on all popular online music distribution and streaming services!

For those of you who are interested I'm gonna to go through how each of the songs got made and which instruments I used on them. Prepare for some nerdy insights!

The Inception

Making "The Push" started in the spring of 2017. The first song that came to be was "Woodshed" which was originally conceived as the background music for the Rheingold Music short "Handmade in Germany". I have wanted to work on this tune with Relaén drummer Leon Raum from the start, so naturally, I was super happy that he was down.

While preparing the tune for the session, it quickly turned into a full-fledged song and that I thought could be the basis of some kind of solo record - at the time I didn't really have a clear concept for that yet, though.

Over the years, I've tried making solo albums time and time again. However, I always struggled with the self-imposed burden of wanting to please other musicians with what I create. I think that this mindset might've been ingrained in me throughout my time in music college. Thus, I never ended up with material that I felt could represent my personality nor was able to tell the stories I had on my mind.

The actual spark that ignited my wish to create a full album happened some time in the late Summer of that year. Until then, making beats has always been a fun pastime for me but I mostly did it to build up my own repertoire as a producer. I suddenly realized, however, that this way of making music allowed me to create music without any hesitations or inhibitions.

...from then, it took about half a year till all the material for "The Push" was completed and another month until it was fully mixed and mastered. Freeing myself of all my inhibitions truly was like breaking free from a self-imposed prison.

The Tools

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The Tracks

01 / Commute

My time in Boston studying at Berklee has changed my life forever. The daily subway ride from Everett (where I lived at the time) to downtown Boston is something I regularly get nostalgic about. The feeling of traveling into a city I adore with the purpose of growing as a musicians and person is something that has stuck with me ever since.

This is the feeling I wanted to capture in this song - it transports the listener into the little world of this record while referencing a lot of the themes and sounds that reoccur throughout the album. One example for it is the heavy use of the kalimba which is prominently featured in the first (this one) and last song ("Twice") on this album.

This was the song that sparked my desire to make a full album, so using it as the opener to "The Push" was only fitting.

Gear facts:
The main bass on this song is the Flexx Basses Peter 4 plugged into the Rheingold BP2 preamp. For the solo in the middle, I played my Gabriella S6 C. 

02 / Woodshed
(feat. Leon Raum)

This tune is based off of a solo bass composition I came up with a while ago. While I was working on the "Handmade in Germany" campaign for Rheingold Music, I figured that a more acoustic version of this tune would make for a cool musical accompaniment for a video that is all about showcasing craftsmanship.

This tune invokes imagery of craftsmanship and practice which is why I chose "Woodshed" as the title. Among musicians, the "shed" has become the common term for any kind of practicing environment and it's certainly where I spent most of my time while was attending college.

After adding a B-section and working out additional bass parts, I decided to enlist Leon Raum, drummer for the amazing Neo-Soul group Relaén, to play drums on it. On the day of playing in Bielefeld with Natalia Mateo in the spring of '17, I brought my recording gear with me and we recorded the drums for this tune in Leon's basement.

I recorded the solo spontaneously while playing around with amp models on my Antelope Audio interface and the first take ended up on the final version.

Percussion facts:
Pretty much all percussion on this tune consists of objects I had lying around in the studio. The woodblock-like sound is me hitting a DI-Box with a drumstick; The little "dinging" sound on the right is a small metal thermos; The complementary rhythm to the latter has been "played" on a glass water bottle; The more subdued, typical 12/8 that can be heard on the right side during quieter passages has been created by tapping a bass string with a my nails.

Gear facts:
The acoustic bass you can hear on "Woodshed" is a no-name model that I strung with Pyramid Black Nylon strings and recorded with a Neumann TLM 103 microphone to achieve an upright-like tone.

The lead bass in the A-section is the Flexx Basses Jacob 4. Chords and the solo have been played on the Gabriella S6 C. For the latter, I have used a guitar amp model and cabinet running on my Antelope Audio "Zen Tour" interface. I sadly haven't saved the sound as a preset or I would've provided more detail.

03 / Basement Meditation
(feat. Leon Raum)

After having finished recording drums for "Woodshed", Leon and I decided to simply jam around for a bit while the recording gear was still set up... And one of the grooves we played was the one that I ended up turning into the first half of "Basement Meditation".

The second half of the song turns almost fully electronic with a mix of hand-played percussion, real-world samples and vintage synths and drum machines. It was certainly heavily influenced by Jean Michel Jarre who was one of my first true musical heroes.

Gear facts:
I used the Flexx Basses Peter 4 bass and Rheingold BP2 for the low-end, and played the auto-wah cords in the B-section on the Gabriella S6-C.

04 / Let Me Go (ReWork)
[feat. Ella O'Brien-Coker, Olive Yahh & Gregor Lener]

"Let Me Go" is a song I wrote for my former band "bliss." back in 2013. Ella, who was the band's vocalist at the time, wrote the lyrics and vocal melody and I still absolutely adore what she came up with for this song.

I originally recorded "Let Me Go" for my first single "Let Me Go // Oblivion" which was released in August of 2015. For my first solo album, I wanted to reimagine this song somewhat and shed a whole new light on it. Thus, I grabbed the vocal, horn, and piano tracks from the original and crafted a whole new instrumental around them which was influenced by artists like "N.E.R.D." and the "New Orleans Bounce" movement.

"Let Me Go" is about being fed up with false promises and lack of commitment. It's an ode to moving forward and making things happen - which was only fitting in the context of this album.

Gear facts:
I used the Paul Lairat Stega bass exclusively on this one. During the verses, I sent the bass to an Aux channel where I inserted a short room reverb and a good amount of distortion which served to widen the bass in the stereo panorama and give it more mass in the overall sonic context.

05 / Longing

This is the only track on this album that exclusively features bass and percussion. The title "Longing" is par for the course as this song is dedicated to my wonderful fiancée Sarah who, at the time of writing this, is living 4600 miles away. Naturally, longing to be with each other is something to be felt every day in a relationship like ours.

Percussion facts:
As mentioned before, the percussion on this track consists mostly of everyday objects: The "shaker" sound is me rubbing across the back of the kalimba; The bass drum is me banging on a leather drummer's stool with a bass drum beater; The clicks are me knocking on a metal DI-Box with a pencil; The Snare drum has been done by strumming the strings of my bass.

Gear facts:
I exclusively played my Paul Lairat Gabriella S6 C bass on this track. For the chords, low bass, and middle section, I ran the Gabriella through the Rheingold BP2. For the melody and solo parts, I used the internal preamp.

06 / Tape Machine (Interlude)

This short little ditty marks the middle of the album and could be seen as a sort of transition into the more melancholic side of "The Push". The heavy use of rhythmic tape delay and palm muted single-note arpeggios create a very EDM-like soundscape and highlights how the bass can be utilised in this musical context. I played all of it on my Paul Lairat Stega bass.

07 / Nocturne for the Sleepless

From 2015 to 2017, a lot of my time was spent on trains and planes which inspired this tune. During a long train ride at night, the idea of a "Nocturne for the Sleepless" came to me and I started writing the melody and bass line for this song right there on the train. Later, I felt that a Hip-Hop- / Trap-inspired beat would help to express the feeling I was trying to convey in this song: Having a restless mind, missing someone, doubting oneself, yet being dedicated to pursue one's goals in life.

Gear facts:
I played the melody on my Gabriella S6 C bass and used the Stega for the low-end. I also used MaxxBass to extend the low harmonics of the bass part - a sound which I really grew to like because it's somewhere between the clean sound and using an octaver.

08 / Oblivion (ReWork)
[feat. Ella O'Brien-Coker]

Like "Let Me Go", "Oblivion" was also a song on my first single which I wrote together with Ella. For this song, I didn't necessarily set out to rework it entirely, but rather to increase it's emotional impact and the ever-increasing crescendo leading up to the final chorus. "Oblivion" brilliantly puts into words the self-doubt and worries I dealt with in the last 2 years which were full of emotional ups and downs.

Gear facts:
Most parts have where played on my Paul Lairat Stega bass. In the interlude between 1st chorus and 3rd verse, I doubled Ella's melody on the Flexx Basses Peter 4.

You might have noticed, that the bass in the final chorus is pretty heavily distorted. I actually created this sound by feeding the bass into an Aux channel that features chorus and phase distortion on the inserts followed by a severe low-cut filter so ass to not cause any phase issues from the low mids downwards.

09 / Limbo

Being stuck in a loop that seems to go on forever - waiting to be with someone far away. These emotions where what inspired me to create "Limbo" one late night.

While playing around with my old loop station, I discovered a chord loop with multiple pitch-shifted bass parts on it and thought that it might sound good in reverse. Thus, hit the "reverse" button,  brought it into Logic, and began to craft this little tune around it.

I just picked up my Gabriella bass and poured my heart out playing two takes of soloing over it. The second one is the one that ended up on the record.

Gear facts:
All parts of the loop as well as the low bass part were played on the Paul Lairat Stega bass. For soloing, as I mentioned above, I played my Gabriella.

10 / Twice
(feat. Ella O'Brien-Coker)

Ella and I have wanted to make a cover of this "Little Dragon" song for ages and I figured it'd be perfect for this album. To me, "Twice" was the perfect choice for closing the album by bringing together many of the elements I weaved into the songs leading up to it.

The solo, once again, was meant to be raw - in fact, the second take ended up on the album.

Gear facts:
The chords and solo have been played on my Gabriella bass, the Stega served up the low-end. I used the bass' own volume knob for all the swells.

In Closing

So that's it. I hope that some of all this info was interesting to you and maybe even lets you to listen to the songs from a different point of view. Thank you so much for reading this and supporting me and my creative endeavors. I sincerely hope you can find yourself in some of my music and that it can even liven up your day if you ever happen to need it.

Love,

-Chris