Behind The Groove Remix Edition - Johannes Albert
Introducing 'Behind The Groove Remix Edition' with the incredible Johannes Albert. Hailing from Berlin, Johannes is the label head of both Frank Music and Fine which he co-runs with Tilman. With an expressive career which spans over 20 years, Johannes has explored many crevices of the electronic scene from acid to techno, deep house, boogie and more. This time he calls to his love of italo, joining London based label Midnight People with his take on Alberto Melloni's 'Dandelion'.
Launching the listener into an intergalactic kingdom, his remix utilities a rugged acid line which drives the track straight through the cosmos, fantastic synths which call to Italo disco influences and a hugeee kick. Accordingly, we were absolutely delighted to find out the processes he uses when remixing.
Listen to the track we deconstruct here:
Hey Johannes firstly, how have you been and what are you currently up to?
"I’m great thanks! I'm working on some releases on my label Frank Music and doing some music as well. Usually I do office work in the morning and the afternoon means studio time. I'm actually selling a part of my record collection these days so I feel I am always connected to music."
I’ve followed you for quite a few years now and am used to your deep, groovy, disco inspired productions. Is the focus on Italo more of a recent thing and what drew you to the genre?
"Well it was always there I think. I've been involved in dance music for more than 20 years so I've had the pleasure to enjoy various genres. It's about time to explore further territories when it comes to production. What drew me there? Oof, tracks like “Spacer Woman” or “Hypnotic Tango”. The big ones! Yazoo, Gazebo, Kano, The Flirts… You know I was a DJ for a decade before I got into production. I was always interested in good dance music as a whole."
How did you get involved with Midnight People and doing the Dandelion remix for Liam?
"I got a request from Liam and the rest is history!"
What can we expect from you in the near future?
"A ton of remixes, a non-stop-frank-music-power-hit-mix and more original music. As always from tunes ranging from italo basslines to 130 BPM bangers, it’s all in there."
The Production of Dandelion (Johannes Albert Remix)
What’s your current studio setup?
"I use Ableton Live, a bunch of software synths (U-He, Arturia, Korg, etc), a bunch of hardware synths (Roland Alpha Juno, Korg Minilogue, Novation Bass Station, etc) and of course, samples!"
"My main weapon though is the sound of my tiny studio room. It is well balanced and I love my speakers (Adam A7X plus subwoofer). I used to work at home for many years but ever since I got this sound optimised room it opened up a new universe for me. First of all, I can go loud. And I mean loud. I make club music so I need to feel it in every bone. Second, I avoid mistakes. The classic bass / kick issues are mostly gone and I don’t “over do” it. When I record a good pad and I like that pad that’s about it. Sometimes all that layering is too much and now I get the feeling I really hear what I do which is not the case at home. Still, music is about a vibe and a feeling and not about perfection. Though having a good sounding studio room helps getting your musical ideas together."
Moving on to focus on the track in more detail. How do you approach remixes i.e. what’s your workflow and how does it compare to creating your own productions?
"For me it’s easier to do a remix than working on my own music. Imagine being a writer - it’s always harder to fill a blank page. When doing remixes there is never a blank page. Usually I take one stem and go from there. Here I've started with that main melodic line - a stem from Alberto's track. After that the drums, the bassline and the 303 on top of that."
What was the most challenging aspect of production for this tune, if any?
"Finding the balance between the original and my rework was tough i.e. working a “sweet spot” between Alberto’s original track and my version. The long and winding road of remixing huh? Sometimes I would only use one or two stems of the original, here I used a lot so I tried to squeeze in my own ideas too with the 303 and 707 drums."
Johannes has kindly taken us through each element of the track. As per Behind The Groove style, we've organised it into sections following each element and just as Johannes said above, the first thing to be taken from the main track was the main synth line in his remix...
Main synth line
"This is the main element taken from the original track. I didn't change much - just used Ableton's 3 Band EQ to cut the bass a little and then I added some ValhallaRoom Reverb through a send."
"There are two kicks. There's a fat, great sampled 909 kick and I also added Alberto’s original but just the higher frequencies. It sounds quite clicky in solo but in combination with the 909 it’s perfect. An old production technique!"
"To make it sit well with the bass I've used some sidechaining and cut the frequencies of the Bass where the Kick is most prominent. Honestly, I use sidechain a lot. If any doubt listen to a Thomas Bangalter record. You want to make your production fat and sound good in the club? Put that sidechain on. My good old friend Moritz told me how to use it one day and I was so impressed. It's a total game changer and really easy to use. Even if you use a small kick drum without punch, just add some sidechain compression on the other elements and the groove will improve straightaway."
Clap, Snare, Hats and Percussion
"All the drums are samples! I used a lot of Alberto’s original drums plus some 707 such as the snare, clap & tambourine. My mate Iron Curtis lent me his 707 which is actually right in front of me although I still went for the Ableton 707. If there is any processing on the drums it's done on the single channels, and not the group.
I've changed the snare to a 707 clap because honestly, it just felt right. I've also got the main four to the floor hat centered, whilst the 16th note hats and percussion are panned left and right respectively. I do this in almost every production. It's a really simple trick to give a bit more width to the stereo field.
"This is Alberto's bass. I've added some compression, the Waves Vitamin EQ and a filter you can hear in the breaks. It's also sidechained to the kick."
"The plugin for this is the AudioRealism ABL3. I've been using it for many years. Trust me, it IS the real thing! Melodically this part is quite simple but that’s what makes it effective." "Like other parts, I've got it panning side to side. This is a “trick” I do all the time. The Auto Pan effect in Ableton adds more to the stereo picture of the whole track and it helps to give something all producers covet - more room in the mix. Sometimes instead of harmony changes or more instruments I do things like this to maintain the groove with the side effect of making it a tiny bit more interesting."
"The strings came out of my beloved Alpha Juno. Roland for the win! They come in at the first breakdown and I've got them panning from left to right to add a little bit of interest. There's not too much processing but I have got the audio sent to a send channel with Valhalla Room Reverb on it. Valhalla is my tip for anything reverb!"
Effects / Transitions
"The song is scattered with loads of effects that happen between sections to help the transitions. For this remix I used samples mostly; some crashes, EFX and the likes. The internet is full of that stuff - free and paid downloads. Of course you can always make your own but I don’t have time for this shit."
"To make them more effective you should work with the drums and effects. Snare/clap rolls are very effective to introduce a break or a change. When you add reverb on this very part it gets even stronger. A crash or reversed crash with some delay on the end is a classic. In this case doubled the 707 claps and snares. It was a lot of copy and paste actually but it does the trick every time. At around 4:05 you can hear this great little breakdown sound. This was really simple, just some percussion from Alberto's original plus some delay."
"My setup is really simple. I usually use two return tracks for reverb and delay. The rest is done separately for each channel."
"I usually do a bit of “live” arrangement - just playing around until it sounds about right. I hit the record button for about 5 minutes and go from there. The age old technique of copying a loop across the entire track and taking things out is good too."
"Honestly, arrangement is the easy part for me. I always go for the club / DJ version. I think this is my strength. If you want your music to be played you do it the way people go nuts. Yeah, it might sound like a cheap formula but I haven’t found a better one so far. I do a bit of build up, and then a bigger break letting the main element/lead/melody in. Let it drop and go on for a while then reduce it and have a little break again. After that you hit it full on then reduce it again until you end with the beat."
That's a wrap for our first Behind the Groove Remix Edition. A big shout to Johannes for providing us with an in-depth look into his processes. The Dandelion EP drops tomorrow on the 5th March. You can cop yourself a copy via the Midnight People Bandcamp.
Johannes Albert socials/links: