Ash Ash Ash Ash Ash Ash

New Song Synopsis: Return Of White Rabbit

A brief (ok maybe not so brief!) history of how R.O.W.R. came to be.

Here's the first in a series of posts we're gonna make on the songs we've recorded or are working on at the moment. Of course we're not gonna let you hear them yet, apart from the odd studio video clip, but hopefully these posts will whet your appetite for what's coming next year. So without much ado we'll begin with...

White Rabbit decided it was time to return from wherever he's been!

Return Of White Rabbit: R.O.W.R. is one of those songs that when you first hear it you'll think, where the hell did that come from? Listening to the final mix I'm still shocked and surprised by how different it sounds and how great it turned out. Like the epic T.O.T.I.  it was built up, assembled and experimented with from a very basic idea, over quite a long period of time. This is the story of how it came to be...

I was in the studio one afternoon putting down bass with Claudius on another track, I think it might have been Command , and from out of nowhere this stupid bass line just popped into my head. It was kinda hypnotic with these 4 to the floor stabs breaking it up randomly. It was also kinda dumb sounding but funny too, Claudius was laughing, waving imaginary glow sticks in the air and I couldn't stop playing it. Big C quickly recorded a loop of it, I tend to forget ideas very quickly, and then we got back to what we were supposed to be doing. Afterwards I was back playing this bass line and getting kinda obsessed by it. That night, on my usual walk to the subway down 6th Avenue, this tune was repetitively racing round my head. I realized I was walking in time to it, but with a bit of a bounce in my step and a slightly worrying grin spread across my face. I began to hear the synth line from the Dr. Who theme music, as well as an Iron Maiden riff from Phantom Of The Opera  playing on top of the bass. I thought there might be something there to investigate!

The next day I was back in the studio and found myself trying to work out what to do with this bass riff, where to take it? I began to try the Dr. Who idea and, not being the most skilled at working out tabs, came up with something sounding completely different that worked better, a simple run that gave the original line a natural end of section feel. I had three parts now, so again I got Mittens (Mittendorfer) to hit record, but this time I had a basic pattern looping the 3 bits together, sweet! This was also the last night that Rick was gonna be in town, so if I was gonna get him to lay down any drums he needed to do it that night. It was late, Rick had just done a load of takes for Nouvelle Adventures and Space Shot , but I got him in the live room to just fuck about and play whatever came to him over the loop we'd recorded earlier. After about 15-20 minutes of the computer running we had plenty to work with. That night, as Rick and I headed home, the verse melody popped into my head, like an apparition it was just there, who or where were these notions coming from?

Over the next few weeks the drums were cut up in pro-tools and sequenced into different beats that would be used in various sections. I rerecorded the bass with Claudius, getting the coolest distortion mix I think we've nailed to date, then with Tim we worked out a song structure, cutting and pasting the drum parts to where they worked best. We now had the backbone of a song and it was time for Tim to add guitar magic. He layed down loads of different guitar parts and riffs, everything from Thriller  style muted chugging, spiky fender riffs, not unlike something Alex Kapranos might belt out, to big ringing chorus chords straight out of the Abba rule book. The overall sound of the guitars is more clashy, using amp gain rather than heavily distorted sounds. Again all these parts were then tried and tested in all the different sections, in very combination possible, until we had it nailed. Doing so we were also able to edit the overall song structure as we went along, beginning around 7 minutes it is now currently about 5:30.

With the guitars in the bag we then got into synths and sequencing. Tim is the master at this stuff, and he spent some long nights on the computer going through banks and banks of sounds, laying down loads of ideas on the computer. We then spent a day going through all the parts, trying them out in the different sections and making certain sounds key features, there's a great chorus line, a verse part we dubbed Knight Rider, some oscillation parts and a 80's style synth section that kinda reminds me of The Final Countdown, awesome! There's also some uber-cool drum machine samples and big 80's handclaps to add to the disco flavor.

Now that the music was essentially finished it was time to approach the vocals. Over the past weeks the chorus melody had come to me, again when walking home at night, it's probably a good time to contemplate what you've been working on over a long walk home... anyway. The melody reminded me vaguely of Beats International, even though it sounds nothing like them. It's weird that, but once it popped into my head I couldn't stop whistling it, hopefully a good omen! So that I'd not forget it I had to make up some lyrics on the spot, just being able to repeat a few lines should be enough. I remember waiting on the subway forever and the lyric, "Is this the end of the line my friend?"  (notice the relation to the location) came to me. From that I was able to scribble down a few more lines to remember it all. There's nothing worse than waking up in the morning an not remembering a 'genius' idea you had the night before. I had a verse and chorus melody and some initial lyrics to show to Tim.

A few days later we sat down one afternoon and went through the melody and lyrics. I'm totally self conscious about singing, I really hate hearing my voice so, even though I've know Tim since I was 11, I still get weird-ed out about singing in front of him. After I managed to get something resembling the melody out of my vocal processors it was good to know he thought it was good and catchy. It then only took about an hour finalizing the lyrics, I had a few pages of options and they really needed to be objectively looked at, ordered and to pick out the best lines. Tim made a few changes and it was over to him to sing it. Once he had sang and comp-ed (compiled the different takes) the vocals you could really tell that it was sounding special. The vocals are doubled with an octave which is a cool effect and makes it not instantly recognizable as Tim's voice. The verses are soft and almost whispery which then take off in the choruses and bridge.

Now it was time to think of backing vocals. After having fun doing gang vocals on Ichiban  we thought it would be a good idea to reassemble a posse. We were able to get our friends Eric and James from Levy round and after a quick briefing we were all in a circle shouting down a mic. This really was the icing on the cake and added a cool party vibe to the chorus along with some Time Warp  style 'whaos' building into the choruses. After listening back  we decided the tracking was complete and ready for mixing.

Eric, James, Tim and dmh (off camera) doing gang vocals to the bridge!

The beauty of not recording an album all at once means we get to mix and finish individual songs as we go along. Within a few days of finishing recording we were mixing. Claudius is a pretty amazing engineer, armed with all the studio tools that he and Tim have accumulated, there's nothing he can't accomplish in our studio that he could in a $2000 a day place. After a day off working away in the lab like a mad scientist the mix was finished and ready to approve. We then came in the following afternoon, made our final tweaks, added some sonic booms to the bridge and hey presto it's finished. We then emailed out mp3's to Tav and Rick (if he's at home) and awaited their response. Tav (aka. The Reaper ) emailed back a rather excited and very enthusiastic response which was nice, he seems to think it's a hit. Let's hope he can follow up the Ting-Tings recent success and get us back in the charts next year.

6th Ave. at night

To summarize R.O.W.R.  is pretty much as far out into the dance field as we've ventured, more so than Shockwave , as previously mentioned by jedisteve. When Pete the human beatbox heard it he said it was like something out of the 80's mixed with something from 2012, which can't be bad! I dunno if Return Of White Rabbit  will be the final title, but I like it, it sounds like an old Kung Fu movie title. Hopefully when it's released it can make a big splash on dance floors of indie clubs everywhere. Until then I'll try not to jinx it and just keep my fingers crossed that the force will be with it!

Added on 24 August 2008 by dmh