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Redlight talks us through the making of his new album X Colour, sharing a few insights into his production process.
Hugh Pescod has been active in various strands of dance music for well over a decade, first as a drum’n’bass producer under his alias DJ Clipz, then shifting towards house and garage as Redlight, scoring huge crossover hits such as ‘Lost In Your Love’ and ‘Get Out My Head’ along the way.
Redlight’s debut album, X Colour, is out now on his own Lobster Boy imprint. As he explains to us: “X Colour is ten scenes to a film, ten different colours and palettes.” The album came together over a long recording process, with most of the beats and vocals tracked through Neve and SSL desks in various studios around the world. When asked about key bits of outboard gear, Redlight draws for the big guns, citing his Eventide Harmonizer, SSL Bus Compressor and Neve Tape Emulator as the most important elements in creating the sound of the LP.
We asked him to talk us through the album, track by track.
This originally came about as a short, dark piece of music with no beat for the album trailer visual. It was never meant for the album, but then I really liked how it set the mood. I wanted it all twisted up like scrap metal, like a title sequence, with distorted synths and vocal drops.
I made this track with my friend Harry on vocals. I wanted to make a track that was monotoned for the club sound systems as well as the laptop, but mainly I was after a repeat vocal that talked about throwaway culture – things that sound good and things that have no reason to be next to each other, apart from sounding rough around the edges.
This track came about from writing the vocal first, then finding the right person to say it. I got a friend of a friend to pop by and do it for a couple of hundred quid. He didn’t want to be credited on the record as he was in the middle of another deal, so we’ve kept it anonymous. Once I had the right recording, I realised it didn’t fit the original beat anymore, so I created a new landscape around the vocal. It’s probably the most club-focused track on the album and I’ll usually start my sets with it. I’m pleased it made the record too because it’s a nod to the harder club music I’ve grown up with, but still has a message relevant to the bigger picture of the album.
I was lucky enough to be able to get a feature with Billie Black, who’s a new vocalist with a decent vibe. I’d recently had a baby and wanted to make a track with a positive, happy message. I kept the beat 4×4 and added lots of stereo percussion. Every album needs a track that has a happy mood to keep the flow moving.
This track had many stages of creation. The first stage was going to New York, where I did a couple of sessions with Mobb Deep. They laid down some sick vocals over hip-hop beats I’d made and after I came back over to London and listened to the stems, I thought, ‘Ok, I’ve got an absolute legend here spitting out flames – how can I present this in a way you never thought you’d hear him?’. So, I made ‘Lion Jungle’. I had the vocal already on my computer from another session I’d done and just slotted everything together, just with a fresh beat underneath it.
Again this track had gone through a few stages. Firstly, I’d tried a few different singers on it but the results just weren’t catching right. A few were too commercial for me, whereas ‘Threshold’ in my head is a homage to 90s Bristol, so I wanted to give it that slant but also make it more punchy. I found a vocalist called Melisa Whiskey, who has a really powerful voice, and we wrote the lyrics with her, making sure the message was still quite vague and open to interpretation. The next step was re-recording the synth strings with live strings, so we went to Air-Edel Studios and recorded it with a 12-piece orchestra. It took a long time to mix this record the way I wanted it and get everything moving in the right way.
This Roses Gabor vocal had been on my computer for a minute and I knew I was gonna use it for the album, but I just needed to have some time to get the beat how I wanted it. For me, this whole project beat wise has been about really wide percussion and heavy kick drums that have been run through tape machines with the top end rolled off. Everything has been run through different desks, outboard, tape simulators and compressors. That’s how I work really. This track has been squeezed through everything.
Check out our analysis of the bassline from ‘Metronome’ in our tutorial on legato playing styles.
I made the beat and then went to New York to link up with Jenna Andrews, who I think has an amazing voice. I wrote the top line with her and rolled out the beat just how I wanted it. I’ve always been such a fan of R&B and have always made stuff that references it, as well as making sure I play some in my DJ sets, so for me I needed to make this track for the album. Once I had the vocals cut, I just started fucking with the reverbs to get it how I wanted it all to sound and give it maximum feeling.
This one – again I was in New York and met up with ASTR. It was real early one winter morning and I had to walk through some really deep snow to get to a little studio in the bottom of someone’s yard in Brooklyn. I wrote the top line with them, recorded some of the vocals in a cupboard, came back to London, rewrote the track underneath the vocal, caught a vibe, then went back out to New York and re-recorded the vocals in a proper studio. Then I came back to London and mixed it. Simples.
Another New York link up on this one, this time with Andrea Martin – someone I’ve got mad respect for. The track she did with Switch back in the day [‘I Still Love You’] is a stone cold classic, so I was hyped to be working with her. We wrote a couple of proper decent tracks, but the vocal on ‘W.T.L’ really stood out for me, so I came back to London and beefed up the production to make it cold as possible for the winter. It had real strings played on it, and although I’m really proud of the whole album, this one is definitely a percy!
I wanted to make an instrumental track for the last song and this was perfect for that. It took a while to get the sounds right, but the end results fitted correct.
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