Now in their 17th year of collaboration, Craig Smith and Graeme Clark talk us through the making of their latest album.
Craig Smith and Graeme Clark (The Revenge) team up for their third full-length album as 6th Borough Project, combining elements of instrumental hip-hop with disco and house influences to great effect. Find Your Rhythm is a mesmeric album that above all else demonstrates the pair’s mastery of grooves.
We asked the duo to talk us through the album, track by track.
Craig: In my spare time I’m always knocking out hip-hop beats for fun. I have literally hundreds of ideas on the hard drive – this was one of these. There is a slightly trippy, off-kilter vibe to this which I dig. Simple Hammond B3 and Rhodes keys with a loopy military-style beat. After some prudent editing of the arrangement, this seemed like the perfect curtain raiser to the project. This was done, like all my beats on the album, on Maschine Studio and flipped over onto Graeme’s setup for overdubs and mixdown.
Craig: On my first draft of this, the focus was very much on the vocal tone, subs and rhythmic aspects of the track, with the drum programming being a lot more full-on. When I sent it to Graeme to work on I thought he would be adding some more tones from the Moog Voyager and Dave Smith Prophet-6 (which he did), but he also reworked a string melody I had previously discarded and added a piano loop and bass tone and the track took on a whole different feel. One of my favourites sonically on the LP.
Graeme: Craig had sent over this great beat with almost a disco/funk vibe to it. It would have been easy to stick a disco loop underneath it but I thought it would be more interesting to do something more electronic and trippy underneath. I used the Moog Voyager for the bassline and the Dave Smith Prophet-6 for the lead line and beefed up the undercarriage on the drums to give it some punch. The last bit was throwing a few vocal snippets on there for a more R&B feel.
Graeme: I had been sitting on this loop for a few years and was initially gonna use it for my first solo album but it never felt quite done. I reworked it a bit without wanting to overdo it and sent it to Craig and he thought it would fit in the mix of other stuff on the album. We did a bit of back and forth just trying to nail the finished version but it’s pretty close to its initial incarnation – a short beefed-up funk jam.
One Way Out
Graeme: This was another idea I’d went back and forward on for a couple of years. It never felt quite right although I liked the vibe. Again, I was keen to not try and add too much stuff into the mix on it and not just put a 4/4 kick on it for the sake of it as it sounded pretty original to me as it was. Craig dug the idea and we worked on the breakdown a bit to get it sounding a bit more soulful against the more electronic undercarriage.
In Memory of…
Craig: Those strings! A real emotional edge to what is in essence a very basic track with few elements. Again I already had the basic drums and rhythm track which I really liked but couldn’t find a melody to go with that. Like ‘Release’, Graeme resurrected a previous idea with the strings and it worked out a treat. Nice ending to the first part of the package.
Graeme: This one was almost left on the shelf but I’m glad we worked it in there. Craig did the initial foundation for this and I always loved the rawness of the beat. I added some of the Prophet-6 and a stab we had used in our track ‘The Soul Part II’ to give it a more electronic feel. I used a beat from the Roland TR-606 layered over the initial beat to pick it up a bit and grabbed a short jazz sample for the breakdown.
Right Next Time
Graeme: This was a track I’d filed away in a dark place and uncovered near to compiling the album. I’d sent a basic idea to Craig after doing a jam with the Roland TR-909 underneath the main beat loop. We went back and forward on getting the arrangement right as there’s not a lot going on so it was vital to get that spot on. It’s got a kinda modern disco feel and we were lacking something in that area for the final package so I think it fitted pretty nicely in there.
Graeme: Craig had done the initial beat and bassline on this one and it just had something strong there that I was determined to make something of. I jammed the Roland TR-8 over the initial drum loop and tightened up the bottom end and added the ‘whoop’ sound on top from the Moog Voyager plus some whooshes over the top. I really liked the bendy thing on the cowbell which I think I did on Ableton by just doing a jam with some modulation; it’s like an extra hook in the track.
Graeme: I think I’d just got the Dave Smith Prophet-6 and was messing about with chords and came up with those first. Then I just jammed the extra top line live and left it unquantised. The bassline I wanted to keep simple as there’s a lot of melody and chord stuff going on. I used the TR-8 for doing a jam for the main beat and Craig sent over some extra beats to give it a more organic feel, which I think sets it off.
Find Your Rhythm
Craig: The initial idea for this was much more four-to-the-floor but we pulled back on the drums in the original idea to let the beat build and let the pads and synths really breathe. This let the whole track really grow and with Paul Joseph’s hypnotic vocal the track just builds and builds. Definitely a lesson in less is more.
Back Where It All Began
Craig: Another one where we played around with the half-time/double-time rhythm aspect which lets you be a little more interesting in your arranging, even with the most basic groove. We used the main sample with a filter envelope and added some of the Dave Smith Prophet-6 for the mutating chords over the top. It was a good way to have a flavour of some of our slo-mo jams to close the album.