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Alesso explains the making of Years
His single, Years rocketed up the UK charts making him another 20-something Swede to satisfy the UK appetite for epic, anthemic, dance music.
"I'm in love with melodies and chord progressions, that's very much my thing."
We caught up with Alesso while he was on a brief visit to London and asked him about the production process behind Years and what's next for the rising superstar DJ.
Tell us about the making of Years
"The track started almost a year ago when I was in LA. I'm in love with melodies and chord progressions, that's very much my thing. I'll come up with melodies in my head and hum them into my cell phone. That's what happened with the main piano hook in Years.
"Then when I had the melody, I had to decide how I was going to make the record. I've never done a piano-based record before."
So did you try different synths before landing on the piano?
"Yeah, I mean I tried many different sounds and listened to other music to try and decide what direction this melody should take. Originally, Years had a lot more rock-style drums in the beginning of the track, but I changed it to just have the breaks-sound in the middle. I felt it was 2012 and needed to have more of a modern sound. But it is certainly influenced by more of a classic rock sound in parts, but still has those big Alesso synths and melodies too."
What were you using for the Piano sound?
"At first I was just using Logic's own piano sound in the EXS sampler but I noticed that for the really clear, still realistic sound I wanted I needed to change it. I really like the Pianoteq plug-in for this because you can really manipulate the piano sound really well. For dance music you have to have a really upfront and immediate sound, but I didn't want to lose the 'real' sound of the piano. You have to lose a certain amount of subtly but retain the 'real' sound of the piano."
What about the sounds for the drums?
"I use a lot of the NI stuff the Kontakt kits for the drum break. I tweak everything a lot though. I can't remember all the sound sources but for processing my main love are the Waves plug-ins, I use them all the time."
How was it adding the vocal?
"I had an idea for a vocal and the theme of Years. I pitched it to Matthew Koma and he nailed it. We just worked using Dropbox, Sendspace, whatever… As long as we got the files sent."
"I think you make more musical tracks when you work at a lower volume – at least, I do."
Do you produce all in-the-box?
"Yeah mostly. With Years I produced it on the road and in various studios along the way. I mix a lot with headphones actually, the Sennheiser HD-25's. I listen to so much music in the HD-25s I know how it should sound, plus I use the laptop speakers a lot for checking mixes. I think you should be able to hear everything in the mix that is important through the laptop speakers."
What are your preferred monitors?
"My studio is being redone at the moment so I might change monitors but right now I love the Adam monitors I have. I don't like to work too loud or on very big speakers. For me, when I use big speakers I start making much more stripped back and simple tracks. I think you make more musical tracks when you work at a lower volume – at least I find I do. Having both is great."
Any new bits of tech that you're looking to try?
"I've seen Seb [Ingrosso] and Dirty South use the UAD plugins but I haven't had chance to check UAD out yet. I always need to be 100% certain on something before I make the move to it, because I already have my way of working."
"Everyone works different, but I find tweaking the individual sounds and channels much more effective than trying to stack plug-ins up on the master."
How was the collaboration with Sebastian Ingrosso for Calling?
"Yeah it was great, it was the first collaboration for me and I think it turned out really good. We will work together more for sure. We're good friends and you really learn from each other when you are in the studio together."
What's coming up for you?
Well, Alesso is sort of two parts now, both the club sound and the radio sound, some crossover into both like Years did. The new record is called Clash and is an instrumental. It's an interesting record that starts a bit more aggressive but ends up very beautiful. It has that festival vibe, but you can still hear it's an Alesso record.
Any final production tips?
"Everyone works different, but I find tweaking the individual sounds and channels much more effective than trying to stack plug-ins up on the master. Your track might not be as loud, but if you get the balance right here it seems to really make things easier with the master. I love the Sonnox Limiter and the Waves stuff for the master if I use anything.