Thursday, February 21, 2008



The process... the process...I was wanting to do a cover of this song for a long time. Maybe this reflects my ironic attitude towards pop music, my general disgust for Paul McCartney, the tweeness of the 'message' of the song and the actual and unavoidable fact that it has a very catchy melody and is, as German's say, an ear-worm.

So how do I start this: First I run to my tried and trusty keyboard (a rather hissy Yamaha PSS-780, I have been in possession of this particular model for 15 years now). I play the original track in order to find out the chord pattern after which I flick with pleasure through the preset rhythms and chord/bass/fill-ins. On finding the suitable preset (tropical), I record the rhythm/chord combination into the built in sequencer. This allows me to practice playing the melody for recording. I choose one of my favourite organ sounds and attempt to play the 'song' melody over the top of the chords. There are, of course and as usual, a lot of mistakes but these I leave. I am a firm believer in showing the working process in all it's faults and flaws and this applies, I think, especially to me as I am not a trained piano player (but I am a trained accordion player so I know how to get around a keyboard - albeit vertically rather than horizontally...). It also gives the music that special something.

The song is now recorded on the keyboards sequencer but now I want to process the overall sound further, perhaps remove the high-frequency hiss that emits from the aging machine, perhaps add vocals, perhaps add some effects.

I record the music onto a mono track in logic. Then the thought occurs: Do I really want to sing this song? How can I possibly embody the two powerful and politically charged voices of Paul and Stevie in one wavery Scottish whimper? I decide against adding vocals. The melody is already there as hum-catcher and everyone will recognize the original. Another thought strikes me: perhaps it is even too recognizable in it's current form. I try out a few plug in effects to see what happens, Ohmboyz psychedelic delays and pitches which just create a big mess, then a logic step filter which creates a more interesting effect...

Has it ever happened to you (as it regularly does to me) that you just can't get the rhythm of the song that's currently being played? Somehow you know it's wrong because everyone is dancing on a different beat to you but you just can't understand where the beat starts and which note is on the 'one'. Inadvertently I have managed to create a dumbfoundingly confusing piece of music that, still somehow recognizable as Ebony and Ivory, can never be sung along to, can probably not be danced to (not with much comfort at least) but still seems to have a consistent rhythm, yet one so disturbing that you'd probably rather switch it off than spend time trying to figure it out, waiting for the eureka-moment of rhythm-comprehension. Even the irritating age-hiss has turned into a redeeming feature.

I am happy and bounce.