Artist Tips: Matthew Herbert
While the striking jazz tunes that Londoner Matthew Herbert makes with his Big Band on There’s Me and There’s You (!K7) may not sound like the product of a sample-happy house experimenter, rest assured that behind these highfalutin trumpets and smooth vocals are intricately programmed bits yanked from clandestine recordings; beneath their feel-good sheen lies Herbert’s anti-capitalist, government-suspicious m.o., and he takes special pleasure in disguising these samples stolen from the Houses of Parliament and kitchens of McDonald’s, imbuing them with lovely brassy stabs and trombone toots. Below Herbert fills us in on the five pieces in his arsenal that made the record possible.
Lomo 19A-8 Microphone
The one mic I used for every vocal–a classic of the 1960s Russian valve mics–and it looks like something out of Metropolis. Not suitable for everyone, but on Eska’s powerful voice it brought depth and presence without having to resort to tons of outboard effects. It also doesn’t have that horrid high-end squeeze that seems to be a feature of recent records.
Logic Distortion Plug-in
One of my favorite plug-ins is a recent discovery but I have used it more than any other plug-in or effect–the free, built-in distortion effect in Logic. Every sound on this record has been recorded with a mic. There are no synths or direct signals. Consequently some of the sounds–not instrument recordings, but things like drips of bling H2O (the most expensive bottled water), squirts of Britney Spears perfume, etc.–are very thin signals. This plug-in adds harmonic warmth and body to allow them to compete with the whack of a drumstick or the blast of a trumpet. I rarely use it for fizzy modern distortion.
Korg KP2 Kaoss Pad Synthesizer
I’m almost embarrassed to include this as the aesthetic of it and some of the presets verge on tacky. However, as a way of sampling in real time and manipulating and effecting that sample instantly, it is unsurpassed. It has become indispensable in the live shows: I can interact with the Big Band away from a computer screen and away from the fiddly interfaces of hardware samplers.
Jazz Mutant Lemur
A groundbreaking piece of technology. I have come to rely on this programmable touch-screen interface for all my live shows. With a specialized MAX/MSP-programmed effects buss and harnessing the sampling capabilities of Ableton Live, I end up with the ability to sample up to eight sources into 16 buffers in real time. These samples can then be messed up in all sorts of fun ways.
Nagra Ares-M II Handheld Solid State Recorder
On this record, I did more sneaky, unauthorized recording than previously. For example, I didn’t get official permission to record inside the Houses of Parliament, or vocals at a landfill site, so I had to have something small that could fit in a pocket. Nagra makes great-sounding recorders but the operating system is a minefield. Not for the tech virgin.