Working with or alongside one of your favorite artists is a dream come true no matter what level you're at in your career. For DNB artist DJ Phantasy, after a great club night in Birmingham, he and renowned artist TC got to work on a track that will be a part of his forthcoming album out later this month. We invited him to break the process down for us, and below, DJ Phantasy walks us through the inception of the track, as well as the tools used in the process.
Words by DJ Phantasy
I was DJing in Birmingham, the crowd was all jumping around loving the vibes, and around 10 minutes towards the end of my set, I turned around and spotted one of my favorite DJ’s standing behind me, Tom Caswell aka TC. We said hello, gave each other that "shake hands hug" type thing you do when you see other artists out and about and I carried on closing my set out.
As I was playing the last few tracks I started thinking, “I want to do a track with TC for my album” and was wondering how I could bring it up with him about doing something together for the project.
As I took out my headphones and he plugged his in he said something along the lines of, “Hey, maybe we should do a collab or something?” I replied, “yes defo, I’ll bell you Monday to chat about it”.
Look at that, I was there thinking about how I can ask him about doing a track and he said it to me… It was meant to be, right?
Monday morning I called him and told him about the album project and that I wanted to do a track with him for it. He said he was up for it and it wasn't long before I was on the M4 to Bristol to link him in the studio.
As soon as we sat down in front of the screen, we just instantly started vibing. Tom is a master in the studio, he just does things with ease. All the best producers make it look easy when they're in the flow. Top producers like Macky Gee and Martin Ikin are a pleasure to work with and TC is definitely one of them.
Tom starts playing with me these sounds he has made. If you weren't aware, he makes loads of presets for all sorts of VST’s and whilst he is going through them I’m like “yes, that one, save that, oh wait, that one… nah, let's use that one, actually, let's use them both” haha. There were sooo many sounds to choose from but first, we needed to get our drums in.
We wanted the drums to be bouncy, something that would go off in a festival and that would have you sitting up when you heard it in the car or on the radio. We played about with a few different patterns and left them both on the project next to each other to see which suited our bass sound the best. I think if you get a good drop to start with, everything else falls into place and it wasn't long before we had a draft which had our heads bouncing up and down.
The bass came really quick because we just had so many sounds to choose from, I mean like, we could have easily had a different sound for each note haha. We used sounds from SERUM and MASSIVE to help create the bass and its layers. After getting the sounds right, we got a nice groove going then we went to the intro to start working on a layout.
One of the VST’s we used for the intro was ANA 2, a great synth with so many great sounds. Then we opened up NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KONTAKT, an absolute beast of a plugin and one with so many sounds and endless possibilities. We had mountains to choose from and the vibes were instantly flowing.
I knew I wanted to get a vocalist in and I’d been following this amazing singer called Cammie Robinson. I told Tom I thought her voice was perfect for something I would be working on for the album so I made contact with her, sent the first draft and she came back within days with a vocal idea. Cammie hit the nail on the head straight away and captured the vibe we were looking for. I played it to Tom and he thought the same, so I got back in contact with Cammie and asked her to finish it off and send it over.
For the second session, I was back up the M4 to tidy up the track. Finessing all those little edits at the end of the bars, we made changes to the track as we tested it out.
During this session, we talked about the way we wanted the track to go now we had a vocal. We needed to keep the vibes right and make sure people would sing it back until that big drop came in. We played around some more with the drop pattern and got something we were happy with.
On the drive home I played the track about 20 times, making mental notes of things I could hear to try and make it better. But, I knew the real test would be when I was playing it out at festivals across the world. Macky is always telling me off for playing tracks that hadn’t been finished but I wanted to get that real reaction from people out there enjoying the music and capture that vibe. I'm not afraid to admit, the response had my hair on my arms standing up so many times when I saw people enjoying the track, so I caught loads of video clips to show TC later on.
I'm so proud of the track and seeing people singing along to it from just a few little video clips I've posted on my socials, the private messages from people asking what the track is called, it's an amazing feeling. I'm proud of the whole project and appreciate all the people who've helped bring this together, being three generations deep in this industry, I can wait for you to hear the full album, Generations.