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How It Was Made: Ash - White Desert [Cercle Records]

Go behind the scenes of Ash's ode to the great Egyptian desert
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Cercle has become synonymous with high-quality DJ sets in breathtaking locations. Their imprint of the same name aims to capture the magic with releases from new and established artists from across the globe. Recently, Ash's 'White Desert' was released with an amazing video to go along with it. As a live artist, his unique approach to making music is very apparent from the moment you press play. We caught up with him to learn more about how the track was made, and we've included the video of him performing it in front of the mighty pyramids. 

Studio

The environment or the studio where I work definitely affects my creative process. This is where I created 'White Desert'. It took me days to work on an acceptable cable management system, I hate seeing cables and get tangled in them! To me, composing has to be very instant; creative ideas need to be recorded instantly before you lose them, and that’s how it was with White Desert, just coming up with one idea after the other. Every piece of equipment has to be available and ready to be used (without having to untie tangled cables… hence the almost perfect cable management here!).

Studio

Studio

Arturia Mini V3

Arturia Mini V3 is my favourite synth. For White Desert I just started with one of the first presets “Agape”, I played the 4 main chords and built everything else around them. I used Mini V3 for almost all the electronic sounds in this track: the arps, lead, bass, pads, and fills. I don’t have a hardware synth, I just never got the opportunity to buy one or even try one when I was growing up in Egypt, so I had to rely on software synths only. The Arturia synths were always the first and most I used. They shaped a lot of my early productions.

Arturia Mini V3

Arturia Mini V3

Guitar & Drumstick (and a bunch of effects)

Thinking of the desert and the strong ‘sandy wind’ I’d call it in Egypt, I wanted to have a running sound throughout the track that sounds similar to the sandy wind you hear when you’re alone in the middle of the desert. I didn’t want to just take a sample of this sound and use it, or I didn’t actually want this specific sound in the track, instead, I wanted something that would give the same feeling. I thought of how I could recreate something with a “sandy” texture while being melodic and running. I looked at the guitar and had the drumstick next to me, and I thought: what if I add a bunch of reverb and delay and start hitting the highest string with the drumstick? It sounded just like what I had in mind. That’s what you hear starting at 52 seconds and running throughout the entire track.

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Guitar & Drumstick (and a bunch of effects)

Guitar & Drumstick (and a bunch of effects)

Saxophone

Real instruments are super important in my production. The saxophone in White Desert is an important part of the track. It wasn’t actually in the first demo of the track, the part where the saxophone comes only had a big build-up with arpeggiators. Then I started working on the live version, I played it, and while rehearsing the live performance I picked up the Saxophone and played this solo in that break/buildup. I happened to be recording the rehearsal because I wanted to show a friend of mine, so it also recorded this saxophone solo. The solo you hear in the record is the recording of the first time I played it during this rehearsal, I didn’t want to re-record it, it sounded good. Sometimes, the first take, the first idea, a solo, a random idea, can change an entire track.

Saxophone

Saxophone

Guitar and Bow

This was just me having fun and it turned out to be cool. I always wanted to learn the violin, cello, or any bowed instruments but I never did, unfortunately. When I got this guitar, I thought that, since it doesn’t have a body, I could definitely use it like a Cello with a bow. I just bought a bow and since then whenever I want a bowed sound, that’s what I do. In the live performance with Cercle, I play this towards the end of the track.

Guitar and Bow

Guitar and Bow

Guitar: YAMAHA SLG200N

This is my favourite guitar ever and definitely an important part of the track. I don’t think you’ll ever find a single track from me that doesn’t involve a guitar at some point. I love playing middle-eastern melodies on this guitar, it sounds so unique. Making a track for the White Desert of Egypt, definitely needed a middle eastern guitar melody in it. 

Guitar: YAMAHA SLG200N

Guitar: YAMAHA SLG200N

Grab your copy of White Desert here

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