This chapter is the first in a series of posts across the blog which looks in detail at all the separate steps taken to create the ’10th Anniversary Edition’ for my final project, and this is a 2 part post focusing in particular on the analysis and study of the original compilation from 1999 in preparation for the remake.
PLAYING THE ORIGINAL ALBUM AGAIN
Obviously one of the most important steps I had to undertake in order to begin the project was to actually dig up the original Euphoria compilation from the depths of my CD collection and give it an intensive listen.
This may be a fairly obvious step, and pretty much a no brainer, but surprisingly there was a lot more invested in this particular task than you might imagine, it was not just a case of listening to it once through and then jumping straight into the project – I wanted to actually make a note of certain elements and feelings when listening to the album and “shelve” them ready for when I got into laying the foundations for the mix.
The analysis took place in my basement in Manchester on an extremely rainy weekend back in December of 2008, and I set out on listening to both discs of the compilation all the way through on the Friday night, and then a disc each on the Saturday and the Sunday.
The reason for splitting the task over 3 days and listening to the album twice was because the Friday evening was going to be my very first listen again in over 5 years and I wanted to observe my thoughts and feelings on the album as a whole, with no pre determined ideas on how I thought it would sound practically 10 years on from its initial release. I wanted the evening to be about being a customer, being an observer and a trance fan and enjoying the album at face value, switching off my knowledge as a producer and a DJ, and saving the more technical knowledge and thoughts for later.
Once I had made these initial observations, the following day would be spent looking into what I observed and structure these ideas into what I would focus on within each disc during the separate plays later during the Saturday and Sunday night.
On a side note this plan reminded me of my school days when my English Literature teacher taught us to ‘double read’ – once for pleasure and once for facts.
I felt that by dividing the experience into separate parts like this, I would be analysing the album from the two separate angles that influence me when buying music in the first place:
1) does the artists musical or technical ability impress me?
2) do I actually enjoy the music regardless of the artists ability?
There are many other factors that influence people to buy music, and it is a huge topic for another time and place, not to mention beyond the scope of this particular blog, but I would say my own musical nirvana would be to produce music that is perceived by people as merging both of the above factors.
GETTING UNDER THE SKIN OF THE ALBUM
A concept I always wanted to incorporate when planning the project was the notion of ‘getting under the skin’, where you do everything you can to get as close to or become the target you are studying. It is very similar to ‘method acting’ which is a technique used by actors to enhance their ability when performing scenes and portraying characters.
The thought process behind method acting is that you recall a past experience and then immerse yourself within that emotion, enabling you to channel those feelings when performing a scene, helping you become more ‘in the zone’ and thus giving a more believable and personal performance.
Obviously I had no intention of bringing the compilation to the stage or the screen, but I still wanted to bring certain aspects of the technique into my project, as I felt this would help me achieve my goal of getting in the zone ready for the remake.
THE WEEKEND HAS LANDED
When the Friday night finally arrived, I made a point of turning off all the lights and opening the windows in my basement, so I was in practical darkness with just the glow of the streetlights and the sounds of the rain, traffic and Friday night revellers as company.
The decision to sit in darkness was because turning off one of your senses automatically makes your other senses more attuned, and I aimed to have my entire focus on the album when I played it, so I spent the next 3 hours slowly working through an 8 pack of Carlsberg Export and listening to the album for the first time in a long time.
The reason for having the windows open during this whole exercise was linked in with what I mentioned previously about method acting (or in my case ‘method mixing’)
I was listening to the rain fall outside and the sounds of the traffic and imagining that it was not 2008, it was 1998. The rain falling was 1998 rain, the distant sounds of the revellers were 1998 revellers, and I was trying to pull myself into that state of mind of what it was like back when the album was first mixed, and combine that angle into my listening experience.
This technique helped me understand the message of the original album a lot clearer, and supported my ability to soak up the actual album and the point and vibe of what it was trying to get across. I was listening to the album from the point of view as a journey, and what I thought that journey was about and the imagery that it was invoking. I likened this experience as trying to tell someone a story from a film you have recently seen, as although you know the story, depending on how much information you’re supplying to the listener, they could perceive the story in a very different way.
This Friday night was all about this concept, understanding what the story was about, and highlighting what content I had available to work with in which to tell the story, and use the following evenings to focus upon the technical aspects and how I would be able to shape those individual elements to re tell the story as an anniversary edition.
The following morning I made notes on the previous nights listening experience, making a point of not listening to the album again to jog my memory, but to try and remember in a similar fashion to recalling a previous nights gig.
This discipline enabled me to keep a distance from being too technical within my notes, and also enabled me to get into the mindset of an average listener. It also contributed to my attempts at reigniting my passion for the compilation ready for the in-depth analysis of the discs over the following 2 nights and focus on first impressions, as the forthcoming plays were going to be directed on the technical aspects and how I would improve these ‘first impressions’ for other people.
The Saturday and Sunday evenings were approached in a very different manner to the Friday, gone was all the lights off and beer drinking – I was approaching these exercises not as a consumer or a fan this time around, I was looking under the hood and examining the technical aspects of the album utilising my DJ, music and production knowledge.
To do this effectively I set a much more work like atmosphere, by replacing the darkness with the lights on, and switching the alcohol to coffee and having the album meta data playing through my PC monitor so I could analyse as much information from the compilation as possible.
Part 2 of this post will follow, and focuses in detail on how and what I would improve, remove and alter.