We got producer Tim Green to talk us through his latest EP, ‘Vacation To Life’, released on Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream label.
DJ and producer Tim Green has released music on Cocoon, Get Physical, and Mobilee, he’s remixed Paul McCartney, had two BBC1 Essential Mixes and played at fabric, Burning Man and Panorama Bar. He’s a producer who puts a lot of thought and consideration into his music, releasing detailed and emotive club records that sit neatly in-between house and techno. He dropped his three-track ‘Vacation To Life’ at the end of March, so we thought this would be a great time to chat with Tim about his creative process.
Vacation To Life
For the title and lead song on the EP, I wanted to create something especially aimed towards the dance floor. But equally, something that has a lot of detail and musicality to give the song a lot of emotion, plus elements that whilst even listening at home or on headphones will reveal many intricacies.
I think this kind of sentiment is really where my head is at now when writing music, which in turn explains why I am exploring a new sound for myself and venturing on a new path right now, especially by joining the All Day I Dream family and label. I think it doesn’t have to be a choice between expressing emotion and more musicality or being a dance floor track – it can work both ways!
So having this in mind I remember starting to work solely on the beat first. Which isn’t always how I start, but I wanted a solid foundation beat for the dance floor to begin with, so I’m inspired to then start the musical ideas rolling. The mixture of congas and tablas in the beat was the catalyst as they instantly denoted a couple of keys I could start writing in. I then started throwing musical ideas down. Instantly I found a great arpeggio bell-like sample that worked perfectly with the beat, it’s the glockenspiel loop you hear in the first breakdown.
From here I knew I wanted to add stringed instruments to fit the mood. I found some lovely harp samples, which I cut up into different chords and sounds, which I then transposed and put on a sampler. It created a very organic sounding harp, but was actually completely programmed into something new. This created a hook which although very small, it’s something that people always talk about and notice it instantly, especially for example when a DJ starts mixing this song in; those harp sounds always seem to float above everything else.
After this, I added the bassline which came really easily and as I wanted it to drive the song for the dance floor I kept it simple but effective. I then could imagine hearing piano chords on top. The chords were easy to work out also, as I wanted the piano chords to change the key of the song and bring the song into a new place. Which is why they are so effective I think, as they really shift the feeling of the song into a more uplifting and progressing-type feel. Similarly, when the piano chords disappear, it goes back to being in one key and has the reverse effect.
It was only after all these main elements and a basic structure of the song were in place that I then started to find the vocal hook and lead synth line. So two of the main elements I actually wrote quite late in the song, which in all honesty was because I couldn’t quite hear in my head what I wanted the song to do. Finally though once I found these lovely vocal samples (imported from an old song of mine I never released), everything made sense.
The structure was easy to make, and the lead synth line was born. Played on the Prophet 6, through my Strymon BlueSky Reverb pedal, it came from me playing several different melodies just freeform and improvised. Then I took my favourite parts and made a more solid melody that could repeat over eight bars, but where I could really make the performance around the filter on the synth and the controls on the reverb pedal. This stuff I always record live from start to finish. It’s frustrating because if you screw up, you have start again. But it’s better because you perfect the performance, so in the end I know I’ve got the best take.
I wrote this song a long time ago, actually for myself to play at Burning Man 2018. I wrote the start of it at home in the UK. Then I finished most of it on my laptop whilst in San Fransisco. Then finally on the way travelling to Burning Man from San Fransisco I polished it off, or at least to a playable version. It’s amazing now, the power of laptops, as I can finish songs like this on the road. It’s lovely to do it in different surroundings and environments as well, as it always brings me fresh inspiration and perspectives, which can massively help with an unfinished song.
This track though is a really simple song with very few parts. Actually, this whole song is completely in the box if I remember correctly, no outboard equipment used. It started with a few percussion sounds and drums from another unfinished song of mine. Which contained the prominent conga-like percussion hits, and drum fills, which you hear throughout. Musically the first part was just the low synth pad you hear in the background from the first bar which was from Reaktor. Its heavily filtered and I think I only open the filter slightly in places to help build the structure. But it sounds like a choir to me, which was the catalyst for the song really.
I then worked out the main synth line hook which happens towards the end of the song, just for the last breakdown. It’s what I call the pay-off synth as the whole song is very peaceful, just bubbling along, until the end when this hook gives you what you have been patiently waiting for! But it’s just a plugin synth, coming from Alchemy, a plugin exclusive to the Logic Pro software. It has a lovely arpeggiated feel to it, but a descending one.
Then after this, the track was simple really, just all about structure. I layered a vocal sample on top of the pad, kinda like a choir-meets-vocal synth sound. Hard to explain, but it had nice movement in it which I purposefully let play out of time with my tempo so it feels more natural. Again I filtered this quite heavily, only opening the filter up at certain moments. The bassline is coming from the Alchemy Arp Synth also, again through different filtering, I reveal the bassline more when the whole synth melody plays on the last breakdown.
‘Cedar’ is all about the groove and long drawn out atmosphere. It was actually a really tricky track to get right and went through many different versions until I was happy. Mainly the drums and placement of the percussion. But it started with the bassline, which is basically the melody for the most part of the track. Sometimes I like a lot of space in music, which I wanted from this bassline: just a few notes, with nice pauses in between – less is more so to speak. It’s a combination of the Reaktor plug-in playing the low sub notes, then some conga like percussion tuned to play the higher notes of the bassline. It stays in one key for the most part, until the strings come in.
The strings are from a lovely Spitfire Audio Kontakt sample library by Ólafur Arnald, it’s the String Chamber library. I use this in several different instances within the track but all different variations. The first one is completely filtered to just a notch / small frequency range but heavily washed out with reverb. It’s the breath-like and FX-like sounds you hear from the start of the track, that swell in and out in volume. The second one is heavily filtered, creating a warm pad-like instrument, which plays mainly in the first breakdown/build up. The third one is the solo violin melody. This is completely played straight with no effects, but I’ve also compressed it with my outboard compressor, the Monster Compressor to get its dynamics sounding good.
Finally, the big set of strings at the end for the final breakdown are basically several versions of the Solo violin, again grouped and sent to my outboard compressor. These strings have such a lovely raw and real quality to them, I love so many of the Spitfire Audio Libraries. They just know how to record things so well that it translates perfectly into the song. No need to process it or sculpt it to the extreme.
Later on in the track is the very melancholic and dreamy synth lead. It’s a blend of my Prophet 6 and a Piano patch by Native Instruments called Una Corda. It also has a very special plugin which quickly detunes the pitch in places to sound like its being played through an old tape machine. But in an extreme way, so its more of an effect than just a ‘tape emulation’ plugin for a fake ‘analog’ sound.
Follow Tim on Facebook.
You can buy ‘Vacation To Life’ here.