For fans of SF-based label Dirtybird, Ardalan is a name that needs no introduction. His new album, Mr. Good, is a testament to his prowess as an artist and producer. The album weaves in and out of his signature house and techno funk, with a few surprises that showcase his talent in the studio. In this edition of How It Was Made, he breaks down the tools and process behind the creation of his new album, showcasing some amazing synths in his collection.
Words and photos by Ardalan
I Can’t Wait
"I Can’t Wait" is the quickest track I've ever finished. I made it right after "Mr.Good," which took 4 months! I really wanted the chords to zap the soul as if they were a bass line or a kick. Usually, when the bass or a big kick hits, people go crazy. So, I set the goal to make the chords have the same effect. It’s rare when you can get a melody to have that same effect, but I think it really achieved that on an emotional level. I used Black Corporations' Deckard Dreams which is an 8 voice analog beauty. The chords are crisp and they literally shine through the track. Another one of my favorite elements is the kick, which was made in Reason and processed through Ableton.
The hook stands out the most to me in this song. It actually has a funny story behind it; I had been working on this album for months (maybe even years) and I was at this point where I just didn’t know if I could finish it so I wrote: “I don’t know what I can do.” Then my girlfriend who was really over waiting for me to finish this album so we could watch Game of Thrones together would just come in my studio and yell “I can’t wait any longer.” These two phrases gave me the inspiration I needed. We ended up just recording those lines for fun and I really liked it. She really hates hearing her own voice, so I had to convince her to let me use it.
Osci feat Claire George
"Osci" has all sorts of analog fun. I used the Juno 106 for that Rhodes like chords during the breakdown and the Avalon Bassline for the sequenced melody that comes in the second half of the song. The main bass line was made with U-He REPRO 1 which is a software synthesizer. I think Repro is one of the best plug-ins to emulate snappy bass tones. I used the Roland TR8S & Reason 10 for the drums and percussion. The kick was made with the Pioneer DJS 1000.
"Orange Dreams" was one of the earlier songs I wrote a few years back. I really wanted to revisit it for the album. It’s actually all made in the DAW. I used U-He DIVA on the melody and bass line. I use this really amazing GUI skin in DIVA called “VOLTA” which makes DIVA look exactly look like the classic synths it mirrors. That way, I can experiment more instead of using presets. It also allows me to achieve getting analog satisfaction while on the road! All the drums were made with Reason 5 then rewired into Ableton for post-processing.
Mr.Good Feat Party Patty
"Mr.Good" was one of the craziest tracks I have ever worked on. I wanted it to bang and be funky while also having a rock-n-roll vibe. I really wanted it to sound fun! I almost lost my mind working on it because I could see how much potential it had, but I almost ruined it numerous times for dwelling on it and working on it too long. 4 months later, I finally had something that I was proud of.
The drums were mostly made with the SP 1200 and post-processed in Ableton. I used Fab-filter Saturn to boost the kick and layered other drum sounds from Reason's REDRUM. "Mr.Good" has over 80 tracks on the mix. I used the software synth Arturia’s Pigments on the guitar like sounds, which come in before the drop. I also used some of the weirder sounds which come from the Minimoog Model D. I had the Model D go through a BOSS distortion then through the BOSS DD7 delay pedal. I almost made it sound like an old messed up electric guitar. The Deckard's Dream was used on those guitar slide-like sounds that come in at 3:21 and then again on the final drop. I really love those sounds!
"Zombie Village" was mostly recorded through hardware. I used the Juno 106 for the bassline. The kick drum + the trippy drums were also recorded with SP1200 and then post-processed in Ableton. The weird fx bits were made on the Minimoog Model D.
I had a lot of fun making "Zombie Village." I wanted it to be super weird and stripped down. One night my girlfriend came home late (and a little tipsy) and I asked her what I should name it. She just said “Zombie Village” and walked away, which was cool but weird. Turns out that was the bar she was getting at before coming home.
Believe it or not but for the giant ass kick, I used the DM-1 app on my iPhone 6. I put it through an MS20M Filter and it just annihilated my whole apartment! I love experimenting with using different ways of achieving the sound I want. For me, experimentation is everything and "Mr.Bad" was exactly that. Everything was made digitally on this track except the bass that drops in the middle of the track. That was the Model D through Fab-filter’s Saturn. The weird synth lead was made with Reason's Subtractor, which I have been using since I first started making music. The midwest techno / Daniel Bell signature hi-hats were made with the DM 1 on my iPhone as well. I also used the Native Instruments Reaktor 6 for the synthetic tom-like drum sounds. I love Reaktor as it has so many weird sequencers within it.
Strength Feat Erica Dee
I was jamming on the DJS 1000 and then I had the idea of running a 909 with an 808 kick drum through the MS20 filter. It turned it into the biggest kick drum sound ever. I also used a Syncussion SY-1M Clone on the synth line and for some of the white noise as well.
I made "Warped Soul" all digital with Ableton and Reason 5. All the bleepity bloops and crazy trippy synths were made with Subtractor. I made the drums with Redrum and Kong from Reason, then rewired them all into Ableton. This was one of the first tracks I finished from the album. I’m a huge fan of Reason because I can use it as a modular synth and mess around with the digital cables and connect them to different sequencers.
I made "Baba Cosmo" with the new Ableton 10 Wavetable synth. The basslines that sound like a fart noise were all made with Wavetable as well. The Middle-Eastern dreamy melody was created using the Juno 106 which is pure magic and I just love how it sits in the mix. The bass after the drop was made with the MS20M. The drums were made with Reason.
Lifted Feat Claire George:
"Lifted" was my first stab at making a non house/techno track. I had the goal to make a track for the album that wasn’t 4/4. I used pretty much everything analog except the bassline which was made with UHE’s Bazille. I’m a huge fan of UHE soft synth. The drums were all samples made from the SP 1200. You can really hear how punchy they are. When I made this track, I realized I could also turn it into a Drum n Bass track from the half time BPM and really just went for it. "Lifted" is a great example of letting go of rules and creating something without thinking. I wasn’t even planning to put any vocals.