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Matt's Mood

Matt Bianco

Article from One Two Testing, June 1985

can synths do the samba

Paul Colbert takes a Sambatical with the three Biancos. Jon Blackmore takes a camera with three lenses.

Basia Trzetrzelewska, Danny White, Mark Reilly

Until recently they'd written everything on four-track, actually — two Portastudios and one Fostex — but just lately they'd changed over to the Fostex A-8s and matching desks... one each. No, the end product wasn't that much different, it just makes life easier, more alternatives at the end of the day because you don't have to commit yourself on bounce downs. But you have to remember they're still demos, aren't they, not the real thing.

For Danny it's the chord and bass ideas on the piano that come together first, then he or Mark collaborate with Basia, but no, Basia wouldn't think of turning up to the studio with nothing prepared. She'd work out the harmonies at home, unless it was something really simple, then put them down on her own four- or eight-track, to see how they worked. When she goes to the studio she has the parts written down, just to remind myself so they don't waste time.

Training? Well when she lived in Poland she worked with an all-girl band, six of us, and we all sang and that was really the best school, but before that there had been piano lessons for six years, singing lessons for maybe two years, but then she'd been very ill with her throat and given it up for a while.

The boys just approach her with an idea, like that time they wanted her to come up with a scat part for 16 bars, so she thought of one line which was like a tune, and wrote it on paper, and divided it into bars, and under every bar I wrote the chord played at that moment and you harmonise with the tune according to the chord, don't you? Though sometimes if you have a 'musical' ear you may decide it doesn't sound 'right', even if it's 'correct'. Funny, isn't it?

But then Danny says that you always have a keyboard by your side in the studio, don't you Basia? And yes, she does, just to check things.

The bass lines, yes that's a Minimoog, one of the last, bought it from the London Rock Shop they did, after Moog stopped making them. They're really not sure of the settings, but you don't have to worry with a Minimoog, do you, it sounds so good without any fiddling around. Lots of people do think the bass lines are like a double bass, and that they're sequenced, but they're always proud to say we never sequence anything, well, we can't understand it anyway. The band is not very much into tricks, is what Basia says, and they have got some DX7s and they have used a bit of Emulator on the last album, mind you, it did belong to Peter Collins who produced three of the tracks. He samples everything. Really. He even sampled their Gem organ which they bought for £15. We haven't used that much recently. It blew up, in fact, so old, and when we opened the back there was mould and cobwebs inside, cost £150 to get fixed.

Anyway, there was this line Peter Collins had sampled from Jerry Hey, the trumpet player, while he'd been working with him on an album, and they used that but, no, they didn't play it like a trumpet, it was just another sound, and if we got another synth outside of the DX7 it would be something like a Jupiter 8 — for the variety. Do you know anyone who makes up new cartridges for the DX7? Syco? That's good.

Danny is a piano player, born and bred. Feels better with them. Finds the DX7's touch sensitivity a bit of an irritation, to be honest, not enough like a piano, so it's just another sort of action to have to learn in the end.

When songs are being worked out he likes to stretch himself, learn a new chord, do something he hasn't done before. Verses and bass lines are often doubled on the bottom end of the piano, gives them that sort of 60's spy film/Mission Impossible sound.

The tracks will have some sort of a drumbox on them, Linn, maybe just the bass drum and for that live feel, well, that's a matter of putting lots of percussion on and we get people in, like Geraldo D'arbilly who used to play with Blue Rondo. He's got six different shakers, there's this one from Brazil, this one from Cuba, there's this thing that's like a drum with a stick attached to the skin and it's quite a difficult thing to master because you can play it in tune, if you know how, makes a sort of laughing/breathing sound, and there's a thing called a Birenbell which is like the bow of a bow and arrow except it's fixed to this half-round bit which is like a coconut shell but isn't and you push that against your stomach and hit the bow with a stick.

Those rhythms? When they were with Blue Rondo there were a couple of Brazilian guys who introduced them to sambas and stuff, we just like it... samba... latin... jazz. They tend to use a lot of that double bass drum thing, that's samba.

What they learnt from Peter Collins was, well, that producing isn't that difficult, it isn't something weird and wonderful. There weren't any regrets producing the album on their own, well niggly things, nothing major, if you're writing and producing as well, you're very close to it, of course, and there's a couple of tracks that songwise... that's why it's good there's not just one person doing it, we've got each other to bounce off. Of course, the engineer was really good, Phil Harding, that's why they used Marquee Studios, really, because Phil was there, and they had a piano which was all right, well, a bit chunky, really, not very sensitive.

And then there was Basia's vocals, not so much the vocals, actually, though Phil did find this incredible microphone that no-one knew the name of but apparently cost £2,000 and you stood six foot away from it, but it sounded as if you were right up close, no it was mainly monitoring, because she needs the sound just so in her headphones, different from lots of other vocalists. There has to be always reverb when she records, and the vocals should be a little bit further away, in the distance, they can't be dry, because if they're very close, you don't really hear them when you sing, or Basia doesn't, it's a very strange feeling, she can't explain, but it has to be special in headphones, toppy with the bass taken off. And when she double tracks, some people don't want to hear the first track, but she has to, always quiet, and distant.

And the people around them are for that live feel, because they prefer that, solos, not sequencers, and if it sounds like they've all been given a lot of freedom, that's right, they were, and they reacted well to it, and then it was a case of choosing from two or three solos, the best one, or maybe cutting between them, and Ronnie Ross who played the saxophone, he was good. Basia and Danny used to be in a band with two of his sons who are now one half of the Immaculate Fools, that's how they knew him, which was convenient, but he was good as well. The bass synth and the baritone sax in tandem on 'Matt's Mood', that was a nice effect.

Danny's own piano solos need a handful of takes, Basia says one or two, you do it straight off, don't you? Do I? There are a few drop-ins maybe, and occasionally the tape is slowed down, but that lightening run in 'Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed', that was real, and played twice on piano and synth, oh no, no sequencing, like they said. They were thinking about triggering an off-beat organ chord in a digital delay line, but it got too complicated and it was easier to walk over and play it yourself. Maybe you can be a bit too perfectionist about things.

Next step. Writing more material, at the moment, then the album, maybe in the Marquee, although there's some talk about Munich. More equipment too, maybe, but they're not so sure, perhaps a harmoniser would be nice, but they probably wouldn't use it, though Danny's a bit tired of his Accessit reverb and envies Mark's digital Yamaha R-1000. Yes, it's been good to talk about the music for a change. Usually interviewers are only interested in how many girlfriends they have. You know how it is.

More with this artist

Previous Article in this issue

Ensoniq Mirage

Next article in this issue

Studio DIY

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Jun 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter


Matt Bianco



Interview by Paul Colbert

Previous article in this issue:

> Ensoniq Mirage

Next article in this issue:

> Studio DIY

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