Ben explains the process he used to create the rest of the track, focussing on the baseline: “It took about four hours to make the demo and do a small arrangement. All the beats were done in Battery then bussed to a Fatso. I sometimes use the LA-2A on the beats as well. I used Reason as a sampler for all my sounds and effects – the vocal that sounds like a cow is my voice resampled into NN-XT. The bassline for me came from my early experiences of rave music and hip hop. That to me is a hip-hop bassline. That’s the sort of vibe it was on. The whole track’s got a 90s hip-hop feel like something like ‘Juice’ by Eric B & Rakim. I think that’s where the bass came from.”
To me it's a hip-hop bassline. The whole track’s got a 90s hip-hop feel.
“I use Rob Papen’s Subboombass plugin for most of my bass sounds,” Ben continues. “It’s really fucking simple – just two oscillators – but it’s got a very full sound. The bass on ‘Jack’ is basically just a square wave with the cutoff down to about half way, but it’s distorted to fuck in the plugin.”
As for the bass melody itself, Ben describes it as “a really simple minor pattern – just an octave jump from A to A with a D# in it”:
The use of the flattened 5th (the D#, highlighted in red) is unusual, but Ben claims that he turns to his music theory training as little as possible when working on house: “When I’m writing this music I never use music theory to work stuff out. I think with dance music it’s usually best to unlearn all the shit you know, otherwise you make it too musical and it’s not original enough. Simplicity is important. There’s no real sense of music theory going on in ‘Jack’, even with stuff like the eight tricks [turnaround variations]. It’s more about what feels right.”
I think with dance music it’s usually best to unlearn all the shit you know, otherwise you make it too musical.
So, given that he’s classically trained, does he find himself writing more complicated stuff and then taking it back out? “All the time! I think subtractive ways of working in dance music are key. You learn that the simplicity of a line will stick in people’s heads much better than a chord progression will. In other tracks I do use a lot of minor 7s and major 7s when I’m going into an outro or a second breakdown. I’ve just done a Jamie Jones remix and one for Maya Jane Coles which create a bit more emotion that way, but it’s usually about a raw bass then something a bit more musical as well.”
Mix and mastering
Having been spurred on by VonStroke’s response to the track, Ben headed back into the studio to finish the arrangement – incorporating a snare roll which Claude had added in his edit – and finish mixing the track. “I mix as I go along as best I can, but it can take up to a week for me to do the final mixdown of a track because I send everything out to hardware and back in. I stick a lot of synth parts through the 1073 to warm them up a bit, there’s a lot of resampling, and I think compression is so important as well. With this one I kind of just wanted to get it done so it was a bit quicker, going in and out and refreshing my ears just trying to get a really big sound on it. It probably took me two days to mix.”
For mastering, Ben turned to our old friend Matt Colton at Alchemy. “He’s wicked – I started using him when he was at Air. George FitzGerald recommended him to me. He did a great job on it. If I want something more lairy I use Stuart Hawkes at Metropolis because he cuts so fucking loud, but they’re different engineers and Matt keeps that musicality which can sometimes get lost at mastering.”