We’ve had a lot of music this year from reggae producer Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi), culminating in the recent release of Black Rabbit, a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.
To cap things off, we asked Mike to pick the five standout production moments from his class of 2020, and he duly obliged...
1. Guitar intro hook from Black Rabbit - played by Kash from Rassites
“Kash from the Rassites is my favourite guitarist for feel and sound. The original lead guitar in White Rabbit is a super classic ‘60s style. To translate this into roots reggae requires some imagination!
“It’s a Gibson Les Paul played though an Orange TC30 Combo Amp. The microphone was a Neuman TLM103 into a 500 series BAE 1073 (Neve clone) with Kush Audio Electra EQ.
“Kash is a good engineer and has his own studio - we both use SSL X-desks and often work remotely. I was very happy when I received the guitar filles whilst in lockdown in Thailand. I just added a little Orban spring reverb in the mix and that was it.”
2. Horns from Take Me As I Am - played by the Roots Man Creation horn section
“The horns were played by the Roots Man Creation horn section (a talented and hyper-cool Thai reggae band) and recorded at Dynamic Studios in Bankok, Thailand in a triangle style as opposed to the players all standing in line.
“The sax mic was a Mojave MA-200 large diaphragm, vacuum tube condenser microphone with a fixed cardioid pattern. For trumpet we used an original RCA Ribbon 44-BX. I believe I used a AKG C12 on trombone but can’t remember exactly.
“The live room is quite dry/dead so it has a funky ‘70s sound. The horn part is a crucial counter-melody to the bass and lead vocal and supports the song all the way through. It sounds simple to listen to but to play precise from start to finish takes some skill to be consistent in dynamics and timing. Gotta love the JBs for they are the masters of funk!”
3. Vocals from Fever - sung by Shniece
“When it comes to musical standards we must try and bring something fresh if we are to do a version. I believe the vocal arrangement is clever and by adding a simple harmony/backing vocal it adds a new dimension.
“Shniece recorded this herself in her flat. The setup is based around a ‘60s Ampex AM-10 Mic Pre/Mixer and a Groove Tubes MDB1 valve microphone. Shniece has made good use of acoustic bass membrane traps to treat a corner of the room and it works very well, giving a dry, professional sound.
“There’s an Orban spring reverb with a delay on input with zero feedback followed by SSL LMC 500 series unit for high-pass/low-pass adjustment for the mix.”
4. Drums and bass from The Model
“Horseman on the drums delivers a super tight steppers feel with just the right amount of stubborn tension. We tuned the kick drum on the session to be closer to a punchy 909 so a little higher than normal, pitch wise. The wood beater gives the extra click in the mids to make it cut through the mix.
“If you want your drums to sound good, careful consideration must be given to the key and tuning of the drums. This can take time to get right as every drum has a pitch and if it’s not sympathetic to the key of the song, chances are the drum fills will sound bad. I can recommend tune-bot for those who want to experiment.
“The Synare percussion synth is triggered from either the snare or toms and the Kete drum brings the roots - both essential for any steppers-style dub flavour.
“The bassline is the big hook in this and so needed some filter vibes to bring texture and variation. For the filter sound I used a Rodec Sherman Restyler; this is a very clean and accurate filter. The low sub-bass sound is the Gibson EB-O bass (flat wound strings) with a 12db low pass filter most probably set around 150hz.”
5. Keyboards from 90% Of Me Is You - played by Bubblers
“Bubblers from the Ruff Cut band is my number one keyboard player and alongside Horseman has been with me on pretty much every song and every Prince Fatty production to date.
“Bubblers was trained by Jackie Mitoo and cut his teeth playing for Aswad and many others. This is a good example of funk keyboards and chords turned into Bob Marley-style reggae.
“The Hohner D6 Clavinet was plugged into a Watkins Dominator guitar amplifier and recorded with a Sontronics Sigma and then filtered to give a wah-wah style sound.
“The organ bubble is a Hammond B3 organ with a 145 Leslie speaker cabinet. The Leslie was recorded with two AKG D19 dynamics on either side.
“The piano is an upright Schiedmayer recorded with a single Sontronics Sigma microphone pointed at the back soundboard. I like ribbon microphones!”