It was the ‘difficult second album’,” chuckles deep house maestro, Fred Everything. He can laugh now, but that phrase was a spine shiverer, back in the day. “It was a miracle that it even came out,” he adds. “That’s why it’s called Light of Day, because we never thought it’d see it!”
Thankfully it did. A combination of label whip-cracking, over-reaching ambition, and sheer perseverance saw to that. After his well-received 2000 debut, Fred wanted to up his game and start recording musicians. He was an artist now. Better act like one. “That first album was all samples,” he says. “Now I wanted to create my own.”
There was a steep learning curve, though. He’d never recorded anyone. “I didn’t even know how to communicate with them to get what I wanted,” he says. “It wasn’t easy at all.” But, the trick to doing it, is doing it. As Fred can attest. “There was a lot of experimenting,” he says. “And working with new people in new ways forces you to get better.”
Slowly he got more comfortable with recording everyone from virtuoso flamenco guitarists to imposing reggae vocalists (and their mildly excessive entourages). Not to mention taking that odd slice of crushing criticism from the top brass at the 20:20 Vision label, who would be putting the thing out.
“A lot of the original tracks just weren’t right,” says Fred. “I would be spending money on getting a guitarist or something like that, and then present them to the label. [Founder] Ralph Lawson was being a little bit more difficult with the material that I was showing him, but it did push me to try harder, and ultimately make better music.”
After four years of fine-tuning, the released LP would rack up ‘Album of the Year’ gongs, with some reviewers even gushing that it had all the makings of a classic dance album.
“Everyone needs a difficult second album,” concludes Fred. “I mean, we’re talking about it nearly 20 years later, so I’m happy…now [laughs]”.
“For this album I was using some Event 20/20 and Yamaha NS10 monitor speakers. Then an Emu ESi32 synth, which you can hear on tracks like Elevate. It had amazing filters. And then the mixing console was a Soundcraft Ghost 32. I had a AKG Solidtube mic and an old Focusrite Platinum Penta unit. A budget preamp with compressor presets!
“There was also some Fender Rhodes piano in there, some Roland Juno-106, some SH-101, a Roland RS-5, and Korg MS2000.
“Software-wise I would have been using Native Instruments’ Spektral Delay, TC’s Mercury plugin for bass bits, GRM Tools, and Steinberg’s Cubase SX. I used ACID for one track. Oh, and the Lounge Lizard EP-4 plugin for synth piano stuff.
“Some drums came from the Akai MPC-2000, and a little Space Echo for the dub styles on Close To You. Then a bit of the Waldorf D-Pole plugin and the classic Orange Vocoder to round it out.”
Track by track with Fred Everything
“This is the intro of the album, using my friend Rise Ashen’s acapella from the title track. I remember these were the early days of using more computer technology and my first DAW that had audio. That was Cubase SX. I was previously on Cubase Atari. The guy who came to install my internet at my house was a fan of electronic music, so we became friends and he brought me two CDs full of ‘free’ plugins and VST instruments. I used NI Spektral Delay on this one.”
Light of Day feat. Rise Ashen
“I brought in my friend Rise Ashen [Eric Vani] from Ottawa to sing on this one. He brought his bass so we also recorded the bass on this.
“There was definitely a Latin influence to this. Drums would’ve been mostly my EMU ESI-32, and a lot of keyboard sounds came from the Roland RS-5. A kind of poor man’s Motif or Triton with lots of Rhodes, organs, strings and fake synths sounds. I think I also used some of the drum kits on it. When Eric left, I looped two bars from our session and started the house version which featured on the 12” of this.”
“This might be the only sample-based track of the album. It was extremely simple and came together quickly. I actually used ACID for this one, which I never used to use. I have a feeling I may have finished this in Cubase SX, after.
“Even today, if I start something in Ableton, I usually finish and mix it in Logic. I think the drums came from Brass Construction, maybe? I don’t want to jinx myself by revealing the main sample, but it’s an orchestral jazz record from one of my favourite producers ever. The spoken word bit comes from a jazz documentary by Ken Burns.”
For Your Pleasure feat. Karl The Voice
“I used to spend a lot of time in France, especially Paris, and made a lot of friends there. They were the golden years for French deep house with Gregory, Jabre, DJ Deep... labels like Basenotic, Basic… And it was the early days of making music on the road. I bought my first laptop, an old Toshiba which was quite thick, and I installed Reason on it. I wrote a lot of sketches on it. One of them was the basis for this track.
“My friend Stephane took me to La Plage Studio to meet up with Karl The Voice, and we recorded this vocal. Looking back, the backing track is definitely influenced by tracks like Charles Webster’s (as Presence) Better Day.
“This one still gets mentioned to me whenever people say, ‘I like your early stuff!’”
Close To You feat. Judah Singer
“I definitely feel like an imposter for this one, but I always loved dub and reggae without knowing enough about the culture. This is something that changed lately as I read books and have been digging deeper in the history of this music.
“I’d met Judah Singer (actually he called himself Singer Judah) from St-Vincent, but living in Montreal, through my friends from the street art collective HVW8. The first time I met him and recorded with him was very intimidating. He showed up late with a lot of friends and a spliff stuck in his beard and a look that said, ‘Who are you and what do you want from me?’. But, the truth is, he was a very warm-hearted man and we got to know each other.
“The real work had started after they left. I probably spent months on little details for this one. I’m pretty sure I used a Space Echo for some of the effects on it. I had the RE-150 then. I also played the melodica on it and there are a few vocal cameos by me there as well (the gated ‘ahhhh’ in the back).
“A few local musicians also played on it. There was Dylan Kell-Kirkman on bass, Luc Lemire on sax and Cécile Doo-Kingué on guitar. I remember recording Cécile through a Moogerfooger Phaser. These had such a nice distortion to them. The synth bits were probably either Juno 106 or SH-101. And I can hear some of that Waldorf D-Pole plugin and Orange Vocoder.”
Find Your Way feat. Rise Ashen
“Another one that’s featuring Rise Ashen, going through the very recognisable Orange Vocoder and GRM Tools, which I was using a lot. He also brought his balalaika instrument that you can hear on it. I think that this one was mostly done in-the-box.
“There was a very nice LinnDrum plugin that I think was only available on PC, and the TC Mercury plugin for the bass. An emulation of the SH-101. This one was inspired by one of my B-sides, Here (Now). I was probably listening to a lot of Metro Area then too! Rob Mello remixed that one.”
Elevate feat. The New Mastersounds
“The original would most likely have been a Reason sketch too. A little reminiscent of the remix that I’d done for Jaffa back then. A simple, breaky affair. Ralph Lawson suggested that we should be using this funk band from Leeds he knew called The New Mastersounds. They basically replayed most of the instruments live and then I adapted it to the original song.
“We never got to meet, but I ended up remixing one of their tracks in exchange, featuring a then-unknown Corinne Bailey Rae. The Rhodes chords probably came from my E-mu ESi32. I loved the filters on this unit. Maurice Fulton did an incredible mix of this tune on the Remix 12” too.”
“I used to play at Back to Basics at The Mint in Leeds. One time, I had a white label of Basement Jaxx’s Rendez-Vu. I did a quick beat mix in, then that drop, and boom… to this day one of my favourite DJ moments. It gave me the idea to do a Flamenco house tune. Although this one doesn’t come close to Rendez-Vu on the dancefloor.
“It was a very problematic tune to make. I don’t know how many guitarists I recorded before I finally got a take I liked. Again, one of those imposter moments. What was I even doing recording flamenco guitar? Christian Legault was the one who came correct on it and Luc Lemire did a small sax bit. There was a male vocal chant I recorded, but decided to go with poetry from a movie.”
That Thang feat. DJ Heather
“DJ Heather was a friend and DJ hero of mine. The original came out on a 12” and was more tracky. Heather recorded this in Chicago with the help of my friend Johnny Fiasco as engineer. I made a more jazzy version for the album. Sounds like Lounge Lizard Rhodes plugin and possibly MPC-2000 drums.
“Heather has said she recalls doing her vocals at Johnny’s studio. She didn’t have a proper setup of her own at that time.
“I sent her the track and basically asked her to do that ‘Heather thing’, which we defined as breathy vocals and spoken word bits. She’d just done some singles with Swirl People; I was looking for something that was a bit like that.”
Next To Me feat. Roy Davis Jr.
“This one came out previously on Bombay Records, but they gave us the rights for the album as it was done around the same time and seemed to fit the whole story. Roy and I became friends through his Bombay collaborations. I used to do a lot of remixes for them and I’d remixed Watch Them Come and Cherish by him. I remember he especially loved the bootlegs I did back then [Erykah Badu, Outkast, Missy Elliott…] and every time there was a new bootleg he was asking me, ‘Did you do that one?’
“Sounds like I used the GRM Tools again on his vocals. The Rhodes are again the Lounge Lizard and a lot of TC Mercury for the synths. I had a real Rhodes and SH-101, but felt like using the plugins then. Things have changed!”
Not A Club Song feat. Joseph Malik
“Another one which started as an instrumental until I got in touch with Joseph Malik through a common friend of ours called Nikki in Edinburgh. I was a big fan of Joseph’s voice and had remixed his track Silent Fools on Compost.
“A lot of odd little samples in this one. I can’t quite figure out where they came from. I know some of them were from a live recording of an Afrobeat concert I picked up in a street sale and dropped the needle at a few random places while playing the song in the background and hit record and it sounded great.
“Jimpster remixed this one later on for an EP. Joseph came to Montreal to play at the Jazz Festival and we got to hang out. I remember feeling lucky to spend time with him. We’re still in touch now and talking about doing a new collaboration.”
”The outro, featuring bits from Next To Me, some reversed synths and vocals from Light Of Day. It was a quick way to say goodbye!”