Behind The Groove EP2: Native Cruise
Up next on Behind The Groove is Stoke based beat maker Native Cruise. As a firm favourite of ours at Halcyon, we chatted to Native Cruise back in 2019 just before the drop of his Skyrider EP on Byrd Out. Since then he's gone on to create balearic and italo tinged melodies on the likes of Australia's Planet Trip and Germany's Blaq Numbers, adding to his impressive repertoire of productions on the likes of YAM, No Bad Days and Fruit Merchant.
For this episode we dive into his 'Human Nature EP' on Slam City Jams, dissecting the production of the title track 'Human Nature'. 'Human Nature' is a track suited to dancing on the beach late at night, utilising gorgeous ringing bells and balearic tinged melodies which are interweaved with hypnotic vocal calls.
Listen to the track we are going to deconstruct here:
Welcome back! We last spoke in 2019. Since then the world has got weird. How has this impacted Native Cruise?
"Recently I’ve not been motivated because of what’s going on, so I’ve taken a little bit of a break. With clubs not being open, there’s not much inspiration. I kind of envy people that can make sounds that sound like they're inspired from where they've been but they've just been in the same house. I wish I could do that, but I like to take in everything that’s around me. I suppose it’s a difficult time to be creative! Hopefully, this year will be a little bit better."
You’ve still been fairly active. Is there any plans for 2021?
"You’re right! Recently, I’ve brought out a few tracks on some compilations; two on Blaq Numbers who are based in Germany and one on Planet Trip. This year I've not really got too much planned, but I've been working on an EP with Munir - from Indonesia, who's also released on No Bad Days and Dopeness Galore. We've been working on something for about three years now. Hopefully that'll be out soon! Musically, I'm looking into different genres at the moment and looking at maybe even starting a new project or alias. Something more leftfield than Native Cruise.
Nice one. What’s in store for the new alias then?
"I'm working with this label called GODDEZZ, who are based in London. They're taking it in the direction that I kind of want to keep this new project in. I think it's more electronica facing, if that makes sense. I'm not going to completely move on from making Native Cruise, but it's a breath of fresh air to be honest. The music of Native Cruise is summery in a sense and it's not what's going on right now."
What are your influences at the moment?
"The Native Cruise project has always been inspired by nature. With Human Nature, I was listening to a lot of Belgium new beat at the time; heavy snares and drums - almost industrial drums. It's in there a little bit, but not too much. I've always been interested in balearic and ambient music as well."
The Production of Human Nature
Studio set up
"At the time when I when I wrote this, I was heavily using the Roland JV-1080. I also have a Yamaha DX7, a Roland D-50 and a Casio CZ3000. Honestly, I’ve not used any of them in about a year. I’m slowly cutting back on the hardware because I’ve gotten used to working with soft synths in Ableton. Most recently I've been using the Korg plugins that emulate the old Korg synths."
Where did the name Human Nature come from?
"To be honest, I think this one was maybe like a mixture of two presets that were used in the track A little bit cliche!"
How long did it take to get from the initial idea to the finished product?
"From starting it to being pre-mastered, it was probably about two months. But about a month in it was pretty much there."
What was the idea that kicked off the tune?
"Normally it depends on what I'm feeling at the time. Sometimes I'll start off with a melody if I've got something in my head or if I'm playing with different synths. Sometimes I'll start with the drums. This time I started off with the drums and specifically the kick."
At this point in the interview, Mitch started taking us through the Ableton project for Human Nature. As per the Behind The Groove style, what followed is organised into sections focusing on each element. Grab a coffee, kick back and as Mitch said above, we start with the kick...
"For the drums I’ll either take drum samples I’ve ripped from records, or I’ve got a mega collection of vintage drum loops and drum sounds."
"The kick is sampled from an old disco vinyl. It sounded pretty full as a whole so I didn’t layer it with anything else."
"For the processing, I’ve used the SSL compressor from Waves set to mono. I normally just use presets and wind them in a bit as they can sometimes sound a bit harsh out of the box. It didn't really need that much compression anyway, just something to tighten up the lower end a bit because it's from an old song."
"From there I normally go straight onto the hats. I know a lot of people go to the clap or the snare, but I like to get a groove out of the hats first and see where the drums go from there. I’ve used loads of little cuts from various samples and there’s a tambourine sound from Roland R-5."
"As for mixing, the hats are grouped into a drum rack on one track and are side chained to the kick. I’m using the subtle glue preset from the SSL compressor - I tend to use this on all my hats. It’s got a really slow attack and fast release so I normally dial that back a bit. To add a bit of interest, I’ve dropped a notch filter on there and the frequency of the notch is being subtly automated with a noise LFO. Tone-wise, the way they sounded didn’t need much changing. I think if you’re spending a lot of time trying to mix them into the song, they’re not meant to be there."
"Creating the percussion patterns is normally chaos! It’s trial and error of creating random patterns and seeing what works. Once I’ve got a good 4 bar pattern I’ll take that and create variations that I can play with throughout the arrangement. I’ve dropped one of the MPC grooves onto the drums to give them some swing."
"The focus within the percussion is on the 909 cowbell. It’s straight up front and down the middle. To keep it interesting it changes pitch every 8 bars. Then there’s various other small sounds further back and panned around it, all glued together by the subtle glue preset again. I’ve grouped the small vocal breath with the percussion too. I don’t really class sounds like that as anything else and I don’t want to process it on it’s own."
"This is made of two elements, a snare and a clap. Both are sampled and are quite heavy. There’s also a softer clap with a fair amount of reverb and delay that only hits in between the snare to fill the space."
Mixing the drums
"There’s not a tonne of mixing going on. I’m using Softube saturation to beef them up and glue them together. Then I’ve got Waves Trueverb on there too. It’s just a preset with a fairly short reverb but I’ve turned the direct and early references off so none of the original sound is coming through. There is a bit of EQ happening too with the Waves RS56. Again, it’s a preset but dialed down. There’s just a bunch of small 0.5 DB bumps and cuts. Then of course, I’ve got the subtle glue compression on there as well."
"The bass is just a plucky finger bass. It’s coupled with a funky guitar sound that has the lower end cut out. In terms of processing I’ve cut the bass where the kick drum is coming through and boosted the highs. I’ve also got a chain splitting the low and high frequencies with a chorus and a delay on the high split. The chorus is the OSL chorus which was free when I got it and I think it was modeled on the Juno chorus. It gives it a bit of a different sound to the lower end and widens it a little bit. For compression I’ve got a preset from the Waves dbx-160 on there, just slightly dialed down. It’s great for kick and bass."
"All of the melodic elements for this one were done using the Roland JV-1080, including the bass. For the majority of them I’m just tweaking presets because I find the interface hard to navigate! I’m not a great keys player either so when I’m coming up with ideas I usually just do it on the computer keyboard and then draw it in."
"There’s not much processing, just some mid-side EQ. The mid curve is slightly different to the side curve which makes it sound a little bit more interesting and sometimes gives the impression of a wider stereo image."
"There’s two main melodies throughout the track. This first one that comes in around 1:15 is really the main focus of the track but the process is the almost the same as the vocal pluck. The filter that I use to bring the part in is the Sonalksis Creative Filter. The interface is so simple and it sounds really good with a high resonance."
"The second melody comes in around 2:40. I didn’t want it to take too much away from the first melody so I’ve got the Waves H-Delay on there as an insert but turned up to 100% wet to push the sound back. I felt the sound needed livening up a bit too, so I’ve used that notch-filter LFO trick I used for the hats."
"The intent here was to fill in the melodic gaps of the main synth. If you listen carefully it almost follows the funky guitar pattern that’s coupled with the bass. For effects I’ve just got a couple of simple delays and an auto pan with the amount set to around 68% to widen the sound."
"There's three pads in the track. The first is just a classic choir sound. I’ve got it doubled up with the same sound but pitched up an octave to fill it out a bit. The processing for this is actually the same as the vocal pluck - a bit of mid-side EQing coupled with the Sonalksis."
"Out of the two others, the more present one is a string preset from the Roland. There’s not too much going on here. It’s a pretty simple melody. The second one is much deeper. It pretty much only plays one note throughout and it’s main job is to give the track a “bed” or atmosphere. For both parts I’m using some of the same tricks used from before; the notch-filter LFO and the Sonalksis."
"This was the hardest part of the track for me. I really wanted some vocals in but finding some that actually fit was difficult. They're taken from the Russian version of a video game. There was something about it that had a really nice tone."
"There’s obviously some pretty heavy processing. I’ve had to transpose it down 1 semitone to fit the key. For some reason on certain elements using Waves SoundShifter sounds a lot clearer than using Ableton’s stock transpose algorithms. I’m cutting out the lows at around 500HZ and there’s a H-delay on there but as the vocal part comes to an end I’m automating the feedback and mix to add interest. The sample had quite a lot of noise so I’ve stuck a gate on there to clean that up and added an auto pan for a bit of width too."
"All of the foley sounds were taken from a video game. Video games are great because the samples are really high quality. You can’t really hear them at all in the final product but I think they’re still adding some extra texture to the track."
Sends & Bussing
"If you’ve got your side chained elements set to the kick track, then when the kick comes out, the side chain stops. To counter this I have a separate side chain track that follows the same pattern as the kick, going all the way through the track. Then if it breaks, it sounds like the groove still goes on and the volume doesn’t bump up."
"In this track I’ve got around 7 sends but only 3 are regularly used. Most of the melodic parts go to the send with the OSL chorus on. The chorus is set to 100% wet and I normally bring it up til it makes the part sound a little bit more present and wide."
"There’s two really long reverbs that have been in my Ableton template forever. One’s Little Plate from Soundtoys and the other is Trueverb again. They sound a little different so it means when I’m applying the reverb to the melodic parts its not just the same reverb each time. It also makes it easy just to try out a couple reverbs quickly."
"I normally start an 4 or 8 bar loop. Once I’m happy with that I’ll copy it across for the entire track and delete part where appropriate i.e. just have the drums playing first. Once I’ve got the structure in place it’s about keeping it interesting. You’ve already heard the whole song 1 minute in so how can I keep you there for an extra 3 or 4? For instance, at pivotal moments in the track, when the drums come back in I give them a 1 DB boost so you can really feel them. Or I’ll add little effects here and there. Little stuff like that."
That's a wrap for episode 2. Big shout and thanks to Mitch for showing us round his Ableton project. You can grab yourself a copy of the Human Nature EP just here ->
Keep an eye out for more content coming from Behind The Groove, we've got some wicked guests lined up.
Native Cruise socials/links: