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In-depth Feature:  Producer Interview: Michael Gray - The Weekend
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Gear
Michael Gray is a busy man. One half of the top remix team Full Intention - whose credits grace releases from artists (George Michael, Jennifer Lopez, Sugababes to name a few) who need a special something when it comes to dance-floor action. His current solo release is winging it's way up the charts that count in the UK, is one of the buzz tracks of the moment and has received much interest from superstar Djs and tv producers alike. An enviable position you may think - and you're damn right!

Tipped by many to achieve the hallowed crossover status that means pop chart success, with DJ's scrambling to get their hands on the limited white label promotional pressings that have been circulating prior to it's release.

We caught up with it's creator Michael Gray on the eve of the release of The Weekend.

Mike Gray Gearlist
Computer:
Cubase VST, G4 Mac, MOTU 2408, 2x Tascam IF- DA8 timepieces, MOTU midi timepiece. 2x Samsung 17" LCD screens.
About to change to Cubase SX and G5!

Sampler:
Akai S3000
Synthesizers:
Moog Voyager, Studio Electronics SE1X, Korg Prophecy, Juno 106, Oberhiem Matrix1000, Vintage keys, Yamaha TX81Z, JV1080 with 60/70’s card, Korg Trinity.
Drum machines:
Now all Plug ins: Stylus, LM4 mk2
Favoured software instruments
Waldorf PPG, Pro53, Trilogy, CS80, JX16
Desk:
2 x TLA Audio tube tracker (valve) desks. (One inputs, the other outputs, but are chained together)
Monitors:
Alesis Monitor ones, Yamaha NS10’s, JBL 4408’s, JBL Control SB-5 (Sub)
Outboard:
Urei 1178 Stereo compressor, Summit audio EQP- 200B Valve stereo EQ, Lexicon 224 X Reverb, Electrix stereo filter factory, Neuman U87 mic.

SS: So The Weekend has created quite a buzz and it's looking good, what's the magic ingredient?
MG: For me it’s the nagging moog synth line and the chorus vocals.

SS: Could you talk us through the instrumentation, bass, pads and other elements?
MG: Bass: Trilogy
Synth: Mini Moog V,
Pad: - wide sawtooth detuned a blend of JV1080 Rhodes and Pro53 Synth.

SS: The beats are very solid, are you one of those people who tweaks them endlessly or gets the vibe and goes with it and what elements go to make up The Weekend drum track? The kick is particularly meaty.
MG: Thanks, I tend to concentrate on the drums first, if they’re rocking then it spurs me on to produce better. I don’t have a set drum kit; I tend to chop and change depending on my mood for each song. For weekend the kick was sampled from a record about a year ago, but was eq’d heavily and compressed via the Dynasone plug in compressor. I normally have to go back and re-tweak after the bass has gone down, to make sure it still cuts. The snares, hats and tambourine are also treated via the Dynasone which if set right can make them smack. A small amount of short reverb was used via a Cubase plug in.

SS: The 12" mix works really well and sounds exactly the right length, how did you approach the radio edit?
MG: It was easy as it contained the standard 16 bar verses a chorus with no adlibs (didn’t want that diva style). I gave the record company (Eye) and The radio pluggers (Anglo) 3 different intros to choose from.

SS: A lot of people prefer to use good old hardware drum machines rather than work only in software for beats - whats your approach?
MG: I use both methods. I used to have a Roland 909 and AKAI 2000 drum machine, but now find I can program the main Kicks, snares, claps etc with audio files and internal drums machines via midi for everything else. If I hear a good loop though, I will sample it, hence I do not have a problem with anybody sampling my drums.

SS: Lovely vocal sound, you obviously have a great vocalist in Shena, was there a special signal path/mic etc?
MG: Thanks, I always use the path of: U87 mic – Urei compressor (not set to heavy) – TLA valve desk – Cubase VST (set at 24 bit)

SS: Do you think it is necessary to do a final mix somewhere posh, or are we now, even with a laptop and headphones, able to create releasable material?
MG: No need to go anywhere else for mix down these days so long as your room has been acoustically checked and decked out by a good professional company. All my levels are done on the final mix in the computer.
I will check it on all 3 sets of speakers, and my 2nd studio – my car!
I normally check on my ipod too.

SS: You're invited to an analog jam session - what one synth or drum machine would you take?
MG: I don’t do Jam’s but if I did then my Moog Voyager (Signed by Bob Moog himself!)

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • Mike Gray - remix discography
  • Mike Gray - production discography

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