Workin’ The Coalmine

 

March 20, 2012 | Author: Greg Phillips

 

Around 43 seconds into 360’s Falling and Flying album, the beats kick in along with the brash, dynamic melody. Although it’s a co-production with Styalz Fuego, it bears all the familiar hallmarks of ARIA award winning producer M-Phazes (aka Mark Landon). It’s the same with the tracks on M-Phazes new album Phazed Out, a collection of remixes of tracks from the Coalmine Records catalogue. Seek out the original versions of “The Raw” or “All Out” and compare them with the Phazed Out versions. They’ve been invigorated with M-Phazes signature bold sounds and taken in a completely new direction.

 

For a producer, that’s what it is all about, making your mark, stamping your sound and making a difference. “When it comes to remixing and I’m talking for myself here … I do like to take a track in a totally new direction,'” said M-Phazes . “I don’t really see the point of remixing something and it sounds the same. Especially if I’m remixing hip hop tracks to other hip hop tracks. I want to take it in a whole new direction, whether it’s the feel of the beat or whether it’s dark … I can make it a little less dark or whatever.”

 

Like any creative pursuit, you’ve got to have a starting point. With the Phazed Out project, it was firstly listening to the original track, then getting his hands on the isolated vocal takes. “There are a few different ways of going about it,” said Mark of the process. “For myself, I either go through records and listen to samples while vocals are playing and see if it matches or  I have a melody in my head. I put the vocals in the session and start with a melody or some form of music idea rather than drums.  Drums usually come last. Thats a very rough, loose sort of description. Sometimes drums can come first, so it sort of depends on the circumstance.”

 

More and more the hip hop genre is turning to live instrumentation in addition to samples. For the Phazed Out album, Mark employed the services of Shaun Windsor, a multi-instrumentalist who added bass, guitar, violin and flute, while Damian Smith contributed keys. I wondered how specific a brief Mark gave them in regard to the parts they played. “Shaun is also a producer and he’s quite good with knowing what the track needs. Sometimes I’ll be specific with my instructions, but usually it’s just the chord progression or the type of bass it needs.  Shaun is really good with that stuff and he’s got a  good ear. He’s not the kind of session muso that you have to guide every step of the way and Damian is the same.”

 

M-Phazes has copped some flack for the inclusion on Phazed Out of the track “The Raw,” on which Saigon raps ‘on an average night, I’m likely to stab a faggot with a knife.’ “I’m just mixing the track,” he says in his defence. “It’s for the listeners to interpret it. If they’re offended by it, then so be it, but  it’s not like I got in the studio and said hey, Saigon can you rap about stabbing faggots.  Hip Hop is straying a little bit away from that, but its still entertainment  If you put a homophobic serial killer into a movie, no one’s gonna make a fuss about it and these guys are just acting … it’s just entertainment.”

 

Despite creating some amazing world class productions, M-Phazes current studio set up resides in his living room, while he seeks out a site and gear to furnish his own facility. Mark’s main tool of trade is Steinberg’s recording, editing and arranging software product Cubase. “An old friend of mine from Melbourne who’s a producer, introduced me to Nuendo, which is similar to Cubase but more catered towards video.  So I was interested in learning that kind of program, so he showed me a few tricks.  So when I got home, I just stuck with it. I mean the thing is, I don’t think it’s the equipment you use, I think it’s the persistence of using that equipment.  I didn’t want to jump from this to that and be half good at things, I’d rather just stick to one thing.” M-Phazes uses Cubase in conjunction with Reason. “I don’t really use Reason as a main work station. I rout the instruments inside Reason and use the Cubase. I’m still a bit iffy about Reason. I’d like to get more into it.  Cubase will always be my main production centre piece but I’m definitely experimenting a lot more now with distortion effects and bits of guitar plug-ins.  That’s the sort of thing you should do if you want to get different sounds.  You could fail multiple times, you could try all day not get a different sound, and then one of the sounds hits you and it is incredible. I encourage any producer to do that, look for new sounds.”

 

One of the tracks on Phazed Out where Mark’s production really shines through is “Underground Railroad,” which features a host of folks including Famoso, Termanology, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Phantasm, Chubb Rock, Sadat X & DJ Dutchmaster. The signature M-Phazes big beats combine with the fattest of horns to make a grand musical statement. Mark admits however, that the original source attributed to much of the track’s largesse. “The horns were actually off a record that a friend lent me. I think even the drums are off that same record. I may have laid some fatter drums on it but the best ones are usually straight up off the record.”

 

Like many producers, Mark suffers the curse of finding it difficult to listen to music for pure enjoyment sake. When your career depends on ripping songs apart and re-piecing them, it’s not easy to accept someone else’s musical ideas as a whole. His ears also tend to gravitate automatically to the beat rather than bass or melody. “Oh, always the beat,” he said of the sound he zeroes in on.   “Obviously with the beat, that includes the melody too but the lyrics always come secondary.  I’d love to be able to listen to the song as a whole and not dissect it but that comes from being a producer.  You dissect a track in your head because it might be a little off.  It won’t put me off the track but it will bug me whenever I hear it.”

 

In the mainstream music world, an artist can take another’s song and make it their own by performing a ripping cover but even that has a finality about it. Within the hip hop genre however, a track seems to be more of a living breathing entity. Some of the tracks M-Phazes tackles on Phazed Out were tracks already possessing his mixing credit and the possibility of another producer taking on the remixed mix is always on the cards too. “With a hip hop track, in  the back there might be a sample of a  country track running or a rock track or a soul track.  You may want to play some synth and it will still be hip hop  It’s a bit difficult to do that with something like straight rock or R& B music. I think that’s where the flexibility lies and also because the lack of melody in most hip hop songs. I suppose with a chorus,  it leaves a lot of room to breath. I think remixing  something with a melody on it is a lot more challenging.  It’s nice to remix hip hop, where you can focus on the beat and making sure it matches the vocals and not worry too much about the melody.”

 
 

Phillips, Greg “M-Phazes-Workin’ The Coalmine” Mar 20, 2012
http://www.australianmusician.com.au/home/1293-m-phazes-workin-the-coalmine, Apr. 01, 2012

1 Replies to "Workin’ The Coalmine"
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