Frankfurt house mainstay Reboot talks us through the making of his new album, featuring a mixture of field recordings, drum machines, synths and a recipe for a Peruvian chicken dish.
“The general idea for a new album has grown on me for quite a while,” says Frank Heinrich when asked to explain the genesis of his new album, aLIVE. “I started collecting sketches and ideas, field recordings or grooves that I wanted to use and started playing around with them. This was around two years ago. Back then there was no theme for the album.”
Out now on Get Physical, the end result of these early sessions is a cohesively realised body of work tied together by a simple concept: life. As Heinrich explains: “aLIVE stands for reminiscences to the beauty of life in all aspects. The connecting links between everything in existence and the progress we make through them. How everything is connected and we are just a tiny part of it. It is about life itself – how being alive makes us feel. aLIVE is a good word to describe the biggest treasure we have. And we sometimes tend to forget to be grateful for it.”
We asked him to talk us through the making of the album, track by track.
All Live Is Good
The opening track of the album was inspired by the famous speech of Mahatma Gandhi recorded in Kingsley Hall, London in 1931. I love his idea that there is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything, that you can feel it though you do not see it. For me personally, it is the connection between everything in existence. For the creative part of the album, you can find this connection in using natural recordings in combination with synthetic sound engineering, for example.
The basic mood is set by a field recording that I did at a local forest using the Olympus LS-P2 recorder. It is a tool that I have been using for many years to add a natural component to a song. The recording was then run through phaser, reverb and equaliser programs on the Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer 4000 to make it more spacious and moving. I did the same with the speech that was used.
For the basslines, I used a combination of a Moog Voyager sine-wave oscillator that gets triggered by the Manikin Schrittmacher and a louder Dave Smith Pro-2 bass sound, played on the keys. By using the basslines in a different tempo, it sounds very relaxed but still driving. The drums are a combination of Elektron Machinedrum, Roland TR-8 and the MFB Schlagzwerg that I ran through different compression (like the UAD Shadow Hills Compressor, or the Fairchild Legacy) and added partial reverbs to the top layers.
Are You Losing My Mind?
For me, this track is a reminiscence of the fine line between silence and madness. The moments when everything around you is going cuckoo but you still have a smile on your lips and feel rather calm inside. When I first heard the vocals I had exactly this feeling. The vocal sounds rather calm to me, but the words are about losing your mind. So the idea was to mix up the calm elements with some funky lunatic sounds and let the vocals trip out by morphing and distorting them.
The blubbering synth line was generated with the Vermona Perfourmer mk2 and then run through a Strymon Big Sky reverb processor. I recorded the reverb modulations on a separate channel and then mixed them into the original, using extreme stereo widening. I also recorded several percussion and hi-hat loops from the Korg ESX and the Elektron Machinedrum, to send them through different filter modulations on the UAD Moog multi-mode filter and an AKG BX-20 spring reverb for a constant movement during the whole track.
On the vocals, I used three different parts like a canon. To make the main vocal part warm and present I used the chorus of the Eventide Ultra Harmonizer and a Precision K-Stereo Ambience Recovery effect. For the other ones I used the Fatso Analog Tape Simulator and several filters to add some dirt. The morphing effect was generated with the Ultra Harmonizer’s pitch shifting programs.
This track also has its roots in the combination of two very different feelings. On the one hand you have the very laid-back, dub-inspired synth theme and pads that transport a feeling of silence and relaxation and on the other the crackling and more hectic drum programming. The main inspiration for the sound aesthetic came from some mid-90s records that I had recently heard again.
To me the main theme is the dubby synth line, which was sculpted with the Elektron Analog 4 synth. After recording, I sent it through the Roland Space Echo and the Strymon Big Sky Reverb to add more modulation and make it sound more alive. The little arpeggiator patterns are triggering different sounds from the Access Virus TI synthesiser that are running through an LFO triggering the panning. Doing this, the track gains stereo width and the reverbs add some depth to the mix.
For the drums and percussion I used a combination of Elektron Machinedrum, Korg ESX and TR-8. The snare drums have been doubled and run through an overdriven API Vision Channel Strip to get the extra crunch. That deep bass tom comes from the Access Virus TI and uses a side-chain compression with the kick drum to keep it clean. In general I always use side-chaining and mono busses for kicks and deep basses.
Just Hang On
This was one of the first tracks that I made for the album and it is one of my personal favourites. It reminds me of these moments when we have the chance to just stop for a moment and enjoy presence. During the break, the silence breaks up for a while and when the beat comes back, I feel some sort of energy boost that simply makes me smile.
The pads and strings are made the Elektron Octatrack, using time-stretched one-shot samples. On most of the sounds in this song, I used a bitcrushing effect to add a little bit of filth and dirt. The wobbling acid sounds in the background are generated with a modular system, using a self-oscillating Borg Filter, some sub-harmonic generators, ADSR envelope and a spring reverb module.
On the vocals, I again used the Strymon Big Sky with a choral reverb setting, stereo widening and the bitcrusher. The Dreadbox Erebus delivers the bassline. On the bass I also used the Big Sky and the Eventide Timefactory to add some bottom end to make the sub area sound more spacious. An important step to avoid ruining the mix was the radical use of EQs to cut the frequencies below 40 Hz.
Jazz has always been a big inspiration and influence on my music, so I wanted to have a track on the album that plays with the shuffles and grooves that are so typical for it. Once again the idea of bringing different components and feelings together played an important role. There is this beach feeling, coming from live recorded seagulls, and the laid-back organs at the end of the track that kind of compete with the stronger basslines in the middle of the song. A picture, that clearly reminds me of places like Ibiza during a daytime party.
To twist up the field recordings, I time-stretched the whole recording by 800% and used a texture algorithm to make it more atmospheric. The same on the radio interference, which was also recorded with the Olympus LS-P2. For the rides, rimshots and snare I used the Roland TD-25K V-Drum module and played them via Akai pads. The percussion comes from a Roland Integra-7 Super Natural Sound module, that for me comes pretty close to a live recording regarding the quality of the sound.
The organs are played on the Dave Smith Pro-2 and run through a chorus program on the Eventide Ultra Harmonizer. The melodic bassline comes from the Moog Sub 37, whilst the punchy one was moulded on the Korg MS-20.
Pollo Al Sillao
The process of making music always reminds me of cooking, and I love both equally. Making music is like throwing lots of different ingredients into a big boiling pot and waiting for the result. That describes pretty well what happened with this track.
In this case, the ingredients were these: a weird acidic synth line from the Moog Voyager (triggered by a Doepfer Dark Time step sequencer and run through a Lexicon 224 digital reverb), a recording of me beating a flower vase with a pencil (which I sent through the Cooper Time Cube mk2) and a recipe for Pollo al Sillao that I found on YouTube during my travels.
Chop it all up, mix well, boil it and serve hot.
This one was one of the last tracks for the album that I finished. The people that helped me work on this album had the feeling that the album should definitely contain another club track, and so did I.
When I was searching for inspiration on this one, I started listening again to the very first house music records. It became clear that I wanted to make a track that speaks about the influence that Chicago house music had on me. I heard a track that used this type of beatboxing scats and a typical Chicago sax hook line and it blew me away, so I decided to rebuild this idea with my own resources and approach.
For the bassline, I used a vocal sample, transposed, time-stretched and then used the Moog multi-mode filter with LFOs to modulate it. The saxophone sound comes from the Roland Integra-7 and goes through a UAD MXR flanger plugin. For the scats, I cut different vocal samples, equipped them to a drum rack and played them on Akai pads. Most of the drums are coming from the Korg ESX. The red tube version of this sampler delivers a very warm and old-school sound that I wanted to use on this one.
This song is clearly inspired by ‘Changes’ from Tears for Fears. For me personally it is even more about the theme than about the track itself. Changes are an imminent part of life and especially in the last years this has become more and more important for myself. One cycle ends and another begins. Also the track carries a very positive vibe, an energy that makes me happy and thankful, so I wanted to adapt this feeling.
For the main hook line I layered different types of marimbas, kalimba, blafon and other mallets that are coming from the Access Virus TI and replayed the idea with changing the groove and notation. The synthesiser arpeggiator during the big break is a combination of the Doepfer Dark Time and random CV changes that trigger the Dave Smith Pro-2.
For the percussion and drums, I used the sequencer of the Elektron Octatrack with natural percussion samples like cajons, shakers and claves. The other drums are mostly from the Machinedrum. The little vocal snippets were made using the Exhale plugin by Output – it’s a great tool to create talking synths and little vocal shots.
Many song ideas on the album are based on certain feelings and how they can change all of a sudden. When I made ‘Indigo Moods’, I was thinking about the moment when your thoughts are kind of flurry and you can’t really get an order into them. There’s some sort of tension and melancholia at first and at one point there is a structure shining through the mess and it shows you a way to something positive.
The micro-percussions, clicks and bleeps are a mixture of field recordings like a Japanese wind chime, scratches or hits on different surfaces and sounds from the garden. The other percussive sounds are coming from the modular system, going through random noise generators on the Eventide Ultra Harmonizer. The choral elements are a combination of Exhale, Waves Morphoder and the shimmer setting on the Strymon Big Sky.
For the piano I used the Kontakt library of Alicia Keys. To me this is one of the best sounding piano libraries that I have heard so far. The organs are coming from a Nord Lead 2.
For A Shadow To Dance With
This was one of the tracks that happened really fast. The main theme of the track was produced on an airplane somewhere over Europe. The sun was going down and the sky looked like it was on fire. I tried to memorise that picture when I went to the studio to finish it. Usually my productions contain a lot of different little elements and things happening in the background, but for this one I didn’t feel any urge to do that. I wanted to keep the picture pretty clear and without too many distractions.
The main hook is a combination of different mallets from Ableton’s Operator and arpeggiators with random fills on the same scale. At the studio, I ran it through the Strymon Timelive and Big Sky to have it more spacious. The pads in the background are mainly using the same arpeggiator settings but with a little different scaling and have been generated with the Access Virus TI and the Elektron Analog 4.
The drums are from the Korg ESX and the Electron Machinedrum. The group went though an extreme ratio setting of the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor to glue all the sounds together and let them talk to each other. The shakers are live, recorded from a Fame egg shaker with an AKG Perception 820 microphone. The clave was just two wooden sticks recorded the same way.
Whilst The Others Dream
This song was the first one I made when I bought the Dave Smith Pro-2 and also one of the earliest ones that was finished for the album. The main inspiration for putting a track like this together was an image I had in mind from a very early morning bike ride. Everything was very peaceful and quiet, the people still asleep. It is a song about transition, waking up slowly and starting to move around. To me it felt very peaceful, so I tried to capture this impression at the studio.
The main hook was played on the Pro-2 and put through the reverb insert of the Access Virus TI. The field recordings were made at a coffee house and after a rain shower at my garden and put through a shimmering reverb on the Strymon Big Sky. The delay modulations are made with the Native Instrument Absynth effect plugin.
For the drums, I used the TR-8 and once again the Elektron Machinedrum. The Machinedrum can get you these super silky and soft hi-hats that never grow old on me. For the acid hook I used the Roland TB-3 and ran it through the compression and tape saturation of the Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer.
Piece Of Cake
Finishing the album was not really easy and it was only possible because of the great support, input and motivation from all the people that worked on the project around me.
For this song, I used a recording that I made at a small river in my neighbourhood. The swirling insects dancing around the water and everything being in motion gave me the image that I wanted to reassemble at the studio. Sometimes the things around us seem to be happening randomly and too fast, but at the end there is a connection between all these little dots.
To get this sound, I mainly used the Access Virus TI with its great arpeggiator. To modify the hook and keep it vibrant, I added some random MIDI note fills on Ableton. For the little insect sounds I sculpted a high square sound arpeggio with long portamentos, resonance and high-pass filters that got triggered by the LFOs and run through different reverbs and delays. The solo played synth is made with the Nord Lead 2.