In case you have been in Ibiza any time within the late 90s, the possibilities are that you’d have spent a part of your night/morning dancing to music produced by Nick Bracegirdle – aka Chicane.
Songs like Offshore, Sunstroke and Saltwater beamed out from each seashore bar, sound system and lodge balcony, a blissed-out soundtrack of Balearic beats and addictive hooks.
These have been excessive occasions for dance music. The superclubs have been doing brisk enterprise, music-making expertise was turning into inexpensive and trance was about to overcome Europe. For the subsequent 5 or 6 years, the charts have been full of high quality tunes like Three Drives On A Vinyl’s Greece 2000, Vitality 52’s Café del Mar and Binary Finary’s 1998. And Offshore, in fact!
Some individuals even started speaking of a 3rd summer time of affection. Hyperbole? Exaggeration? The medication speaking? Presumably. However few individuals would disagree that trance music left an indelible impression on dance music. As Ferry Corsten identified after we interviewed him in 2020, “You choose any massive competition from the final 20 years and also you’ll discover a trance stage”.
“The curse for any artist who has a modicum of success with a specific style is that you’re anticipated to remain throughout the confines of that style for the remainder of your life,” says Bracegirdle with a wry smile. “And I get that. I perceive it. If I play a dwell present, individuals wish to hear Offshore. However that is my twenty sixth 12 months as a working musician. I’ve performed rock, pop, ambient. My final album, All the things We Had To Go away Behind [released last year], was primary on the dance charts in 18 nations.
“Certainly, nobody desires to stay to the identical script without end. Life is about change… let’s embrace it.” After a number of years dwelling within the French Alps – he’s a eager snowboarder – Bracegirdle is again within the UK, overlooking the blue-ish water of the English Channel from his home on the Isle of Wight.
“It’s ironic that I’ve ended up again right here,” he explains, “as a result of that is the place I first found digital music, approach again after I was 11 years outdated. It was a college tenting journey to Appuldurcombe Park [near Wroxall on the Isle of Wight] and I keep in mind working previous my mate’s tent and listening to this unusual sound. A form of area music. It was Jean Michel Jarre’s Magnetic Fields and I used to be captivated. Axel F, all of the New Romantic stuff within the charts. I used to be having music classes and am – form of – classically educated, however I knew there after which that this was the music I used to be going to make. It was my sound.”
It’s at all times attention-grabbing to speak to classically educated producers who’re making dance music. Does all that compositional knowhow assist or hinder in terms of banging out membership tunes?
NB: “Properly, it was a bit bizarre for me as a result of I’m additionally dyslexic. I’ve received good pitch and I sat by all the teachings and discovered about melody and chord progressions and what have you ever, however when it got here to sight-reading, I used to be fucked! I keep in mind sitting down for one examination and after about 20 seconds the tutor took the music away and mentioned, ‘Thanks very a lot. Subsequent, please.’ Has it helped?
“Sure, undoubtedly. It’s made me a greater participant and a greater listener. However the entire dyslexia factor appears to have altered my approach considerably. I used to be working in a studio some years in the past and the producer mentioned, ‘You play very oddly. All your chords are uncommon shapes.’ Was it the dyslexia that did that? Who is aware of, however I’ve ended up with a really particular approach of taking part in and I’m very grateful for that.”
Has your entire studio moved from the Alps to the Isle of Wight?
NB: “Not likely. The present setup is fairly fundamental. Sure, I’ve received the all-singing, all-dancing Mac working Logic and some plugins, however the best way I’m working nowadays is sort of… ugly.”
NB: “The one factor I actually care about is the music. I’m not concerned with trying to find perfection within the closing combine. I like to listen to a little bit of grime and garbage floating about. There’s one bass sound I’ve received and it’s been used on God-knows what number of completely different songs, pitched about and stretched in every single place. Similar with pads and atmospheres. I’d hear one chord that I like from a music I’m engaged on, take that, stretch it out to half a minute, re-pitch it. All of it provides to the texture of a music. My studio isn’t a pristine setting creating extremely polished merchandise.
“If I feel again to how I made Offshore, it was blended on a Technics hi-fi amp and a pair of standard hi-fi store audio system. All of the analogue gear used to drift out and in of tune. It was noisy. Personally, I feel we have to step away from this concept of what’s proper and improper within the studio. In case you’ve provide you with a very good music, who cares how you place it collectively?
“There’s a monitor on one other new album I’m engaged on that’s received over 200 tracks. Nearly 20 completely different bits of audio layered on high of one another for the intro. Large reverbs in every single place. However my ears inform me it sounds OK and I belief them.
“If that album does get launched subsequent 12 months, it’ll be the seventh album, remix album or compilation in three years. I didn’t benefit from the lockdown, however it did wonders for my work fee.”
Sarcastically, given what we first began speaking about, the present launch is a remodeling of arguably your most well-known album, the 1997 debut, Far From The Maddening Crowds. Aren’t you at risk of ignoring your personal recommendation… embracing change, not sticking to the identical script?
NB: “I suppose it began with lockdown. For a few years now, I’ve taken a backseat within the studio. I labored with an engineer and producer, and I took extra of a writing function. However the pandemic meant that I misplaced my engineer. I used to be caught within the studio by myself. Clearly, I had a good concept of how all the things labored, but when I used to be going to make any respectable music, I needed to get on board with all of the software program – particularly Logic, which is my essential platform.
“The primary three months have been terrible. It was hell. I knew what I wished to do however didn’t know how you can do it. There have been occasions after I got here very near smashing the shit out of the studio in frustration. All I wish to do is automate this factor right here… it shouldn’t take two days!
“Ultimately, in fact, issues began to fall into place. I used to be again on the desk, getting my palms soiled. And it appeared to fully change the best way I labored, to not point out the pace at which I labored. I felt impressed. I felt that I used to be turning into a greater producer and, subsequently, a greater author. Have you ever seen that documentary about Dre and Jimmy Iovine, The Defiant Ones? Life was like that. I had an absolute ardour for being within the studio and making music, and for a lot of the two years of the pandemic, I labored like fuck!
“So far as this present album goes and remodeling all these early songs… I feel it was a query of confidence. I’ve revisited the previous a few occasions over time, however I’ve by no means been fully pleased with the outcomes. In case you’re not cautious, what you find yourself doing is taking the principle hooks from the unique music and surrounding them with a bunch of up to date loops and synth sounds. What’s the phrase I’m in search of, right here? ‘Contrived’.
“The opposite downside was that Far From The Maddening Crowds is a type of albums that persons are obsessed with. It’s received plenty of loyal followers. It’s a must to be very cautious if you begin messing round with one thing that folks love. Even earlier than I began, I used to be imagining all of the groans. ‘Oh no! What’s he performed that for?’
“However that interval of getting caught in with Logic and simply writing-writing-writing appeared to open the artistic door. A part of it was me discovering my approach round all the brand new software program that’s on the market – blimey, I can do that and this and automate that! – however there was one thing else that simply clicked and made me assume it was potential to discover a sound that labored. Discover a approach ahead… Ha ha! The humorous factor is that I discovered a approach ahead by going again listening to all of the stuff that I used to be listening to again in 1997, when the album was first launched. I produced and blended this album as if I used to be mixing an album in that period.”
You went again to analogue? All the things going by your outdated Spirit desk?
NB: “No. How can I clarify this? I form of got here up with the thought after I began work on Offshore. That’s the music everybody remembers and it’s the one I used to be most cautious with. As quickly as I began pulling out the hooks and in search of new breaks, it appeared like a pastiche. ‘Right here’s the well-known hook; let’s replace it with all the newest software program.’
“So, I attempted to recollect what was going by my head after I first wrote Offshore. What was I listening to? Think about it’s 1996… what’s truly occurring within the golf equipment? Over the subsequent couple of weeks, I began digging out all the things I might consider from that period. Tin Tin Out, Means Out West, all of the early trance stuff. And I attempted to make an outdated sounding album. I don’t imply the expertise; I imply the inspiration and the ambiance. How did these late-90s tunes work? How did they make you progress? How ‘massive’ did all the things really feel? The groove, the bassline, the pads, the reverbs. Easy stuff, like what was happening with the hats.
“One of many greatest issues nowadays is how straightforward it’s to get caught up within the seek for the proper sound. You’ll be able to scroll by actually lots of and lots of of various presets and drum samples, in search of one thing that the music doesn’t want. You’re trying on the market within the massive huge world otherwise you’re trying inside the pc, however you actually must be trying inside your self. In your personal head. Does it sound good to you? Do your
ears prefer it?
“With that in thoughts, I attempted to make this a easy album. I used present expertise, however I didn’t wish to get misplaced in it. I wished the brand new variations to protect the integrity of the unique songs, but in addition hold them up to the mark with what’s potential in a contemporary studio. It’s a cliché, however I used to be attempting to maintain one foot prior to now and one sooner or later.”
There’s undoubtedly a sure ‘really feel’ to the album. The nice and cozy, tender, cinematic wash of sound that characterised the Balearic/trance heyday.
NB: “I’m blissful to say that most individuals appear to agree with you. I hope I’ve performed justice to the album.”
Is there any analogue on there?
NB: “Clearly, a lot of the unique sounds have been generated by analogue gear. My outdated, crappy Casio synth… the S750 sampler, which continues to be plumbed into the studio! Not that it ever will get switched on. And I did find yourself pulling in plenty of analogue samples; chunks of audio and what have you ever. In case you take heed to the opening monitor, Early, there’s a little bit of a Vangelis theme happening there. All performed earlier than he sadly went upstairs.
“What a expertise! Certainly one of my nice regrets is that I received the possibility to work with him within the early days and it by no means occurred. It was simply after all of it went psychological with Offshore, and I used to be being whisked world wide. Each area within the diary… bang-bang-bang. Anyway, phrase came to visit that he was concerned with performing some form of collaboration. Implausible! On the time, his studio was on a ship, off the shore of some Greek island. It sounded fucking incredible!
“In fact, I used to be caught up within the euphoria of getting a little bit of success and I saved getting instructed that there was no approach I might spend two weeks floating about on a ship with Vangelis. Hindsight is a superb factor, isn’t it.”
Are you able to shortly discuss us by the present setup?
NB: “It’s not what you’d name ‘intensive’. There’s the Mac and Logic, the Valhalla reverbs, in fact. The one factor you may’t skimp on is reverbs. Low-cost reverbs are high-quality in the event that they’re simply sitting within the background, however if you wish to create that massive sense of area, you want one thing respectable.
“I’ve additionally been sucked into the world of the Roland plugins. Unsurprising, actually, as a result of they sound superb. And the Arturia synths. My God, that Arturia ARP is… nicely, it’s rattling near the actual factor. The modelling has received so good now that, until you’re a type of individuals who’s received an actual hard-on for issues continuously going out of tune, I can’t see any motive to not go digital.
“I assume that’s one of many quirks of the music enterprise, nowadays. Within the studio, we’re all having fun with ourselves. Numerous new producers coming alongside… a lot of music. However the enterprise aspect of issues is in a whole fucking mess. The underside line is that I don’t assume streaming will final. It’s not working. My final album had 250 million streams, however that ain’t a lot. There are too many musicians that may’t make a dwelling.
“We’ve already seen Snoop and Dying Row take their music off of streaming. They’re saying that if you wish to take heed to this, come to us. Will that be the long run? Will individuals make an effort to go to each web site of each artist they wish to take heed to? Or will or not it’s one thing like NFTs?
“We now have seen plenty of change in how we devour music during the last 70-odd years. From vinyl to CD to obtain to streaming. Let’s hope evolution does its job and finds one thing new or we may very well be in actual bother!”
Chicane’s Far From The Madding Crowd (Evolution Mixes) is out now.