Over the past few years, Desert Hearts has become one of California's top labels for funky, jacking house music, and has been a launching point for many of the region's finest artists. One such artist is Morpei, whose sophomore release 'Churchadelic' is a shining example of the Desert Hearts ethos. We invited Morpei to break down the track for another installment of How It Was Made, and below, he walks us through the track's creation, highlighting his process and tools he used.
Words and photos by Morpei
This song was initially finished in March 2019, once it was done I knew Desert Hearts was going to be the perfect home for it! The track was started at a hotel on one of my last tours, so most of the track was made “in the box” using Ableton Live, plug-ins and samples. When I got back to my studio in Los Angeles, I was able to add some hardware sounds to spice things up giving us the final product that you can hear now.
Everything started when I searched “preachers going off” (lol) on Google and came across a live recording of a church with the vocals you can hear in the track. The timing, pitch, and organ stabs instantly filled my head with ideas, so I grabbed my headphones, opened Ableton and started working on it. Most of the time I like to start my tracks with the drums but sometimes you have to “shoot the arrow and paint the target around it” which is what I did on this occasion; build the rest of the track around the main idea.
After getting the usable pieces from the recording together I followed by opening Ableton’s Analog Instrument to create a bassline that sounded cohesive with the pitch and tonality of the recording. Most of the time, you don’t need fancy plug-ins to achieve the sound you need. I started with a very basic sine wave and recorded the performance over a metronome. I knew at the time that the bass needed more body in the low mid and mid ranges, but because I was on tour away from my studio I couldn’t get my hardware recorded to solve this.
Then I opened one of my favourite Synth plug-ins: Blue 2 by Rob Papen.
Found some really cool sounding organs and used a single chord rising in volume and intensity on both build-ups. Once I finished recording this section I had to leave my hotel and forgot about the project until I randomly opened it back in my studio months later.
When I opened the project back in my studio, I noticed and remembered that the bass was missing a lot of presence, so I grabbed my Korg Volca Bass and added another layer to the sound. I used the same note pattern as the original bass using one saw oscillator from the Korg. Then turned down the cutoff of the instrument giving my bass the low mid and mid-range presence that was missing while adding some analog flavor at the same time.
I then grouped the two bass channels together, leveled both of their volumes, and processed the group channel using nothing but Ableton’s Glue compressor, Ableton’s Drum Buss, and Waves Puigtec EQP1A equalizer. Waves EQP1A was able to boost my sub frequencies and add some simulated analog distortion giving my sound a little bit more presence as I intended. Then added some crunch and drive with Ableton’s Drum Buss at 30% wet. This helped me mold the body of the bass better in order to make it sit where I wanted.
For the drums I used two things; samples using the sampler instrument on Ableton and the Yamaha RX17 from the ’80s. Even though my Yamaha is very old, its built-in agogos, rimshots, and rides were perfect for some parts of the track. I recorded its sounds into an audio channel and moved the single hits to a sampler. This gave me the ability to manipulate the sounds of the RX-17 better and achieve what I intended for the track.
For the drums I used two things; samples using the sampler instrument on Ableton and the Yamaha RX17 from the 80’s. Even though my Yamaha is very old, its built in agogos, rimshots and rides were perfect for some parts of the track. I recorded its sounds into an audio channel and moved the single hits to a sampler. This gave me the ability to manipulate the sounds of the RX-17 better and achieve what I intended for the track.
Finally, I had to mix the drums and one of my favorite EQs for that is Waves SSL EQ. There’s just something about this parametric EQ that makes my drums sound crisp with the slightest knob turns, while its simulated analog distortion helps some sounds to stand out in the mix.
Morpei's Churchadelic EP is available now. Grab it here.