Week 1 Collaborating with Kai Eckhardt… What Would YOU Do??? 
 



 

Week 1 Collaborating with Kai Eckhardt…  What Would YOU Do???

       
 

The inspiration for a series on collaboration came from this first session with Kai Eckhardt.  Kai is an extraordinarily gifted bass player and one of the most creative people in the music business.   
 

However, even when you think you have a session ‘under control’ with the finest musicians on the planet you, as the producer, could be finding yourself up S**t Creek.
 You’ve always got to keep your mantra on:
 

Anticipate Problems

Prepare Contingencies

Act Quickly

Know When to
Surrender 
 

I’ll set the stage and am curious about your thoughts on handling the same situation. 
 

Kai was hired by the record label Valence Records, to remix a song from
the new album called The Valence Project.  Kai was a contributor on that
record and I was the producer.  Kai thought it would be fun to come to OTR Studios and work with me involved.  I said, of course! 

We had the stem mixes from the sessions.  The OTR staff thought this would be an easy 5-hour
session and would contribute their time. Kai allowed for 5 hours out of his
schedule to complete this remix. 
 

The first idea is the hardest part when you have an empty slate.  Tempo?  Song structure?
Chord alterations?  Etc.  You try out some concepts and finally an
idea clicks.  Kai experimented with the melodic bass patterns while listening
to the stem mixes but decided he preferred to start with a simple rhythm track
which he created on a drum machine.  We suggested grabbing a few loops
from the stems to enhance the drums, but Kai felt he was inspired to play the
bass. 
 

He started with a “bottom’s up” approach to building his tracks – first with a synth
bass, then experimenting with his fretless.  He had a concept of taking a
12 beat phrase where each track would have him perform a juxtaposed rhythm
pattern.  One track subdividing into 6, then 4, then 3, then 2, etc.
He is incredible to listen to as he built the tracks. 
 

On the multitrack we’ve provided you can hear the parts as he laid them down called Mix #1Major.  Those tracks play together nicely in a major key and were
first performed.  If you import the session, you can choose various tracks on and off ideas, then add your own parts. 

We were 4 hours into the session with 1-hour left when Mix #1 Major tracks were completed.  Kai had performed enough parts at this point and I suggested we grab a vocal
sample from the original stems.  Then, I could feel my responsibilities to
the label were met. 
 

Listening to the stems, Kai realized the song was in a minor key and was not happy.  I
thought it could be very interesting to try to remix the song in a major
key! Since Kai was the artist, his decision would win.  
 

My assistants that day, Patrick O’Connor and Rudie, began to wonder if we would ever grab
something from the stems, but smartly didn’t say anything at the session.
I was wondering the same thing, so I had ‘Prepare Contingencies’ in my
head.  After Kai would lay down the parts, my plan was to grab the vocals
and put a remix together. 
 

It was Kai’s choice to lay down new tracks with one hour left.  He wanted to lay down a wholenew set of bass parts in a minor key to more resemble the song to be
remixed.  We were recording to 2″ tape, as I like to do (it sounds
INCREDIBLE, as you know).  We began to run into time issues and the
session would go over the limit soon.   
 

Kai’s parts kept getting
better and more interesting.  It would be like stopping a great singer and
shutting down the power before a great gig ended if we stopped now. Kai wanted
to continue, so what could I do? We continued. 
 

Fortunately, 24
tracks tape has its own limitations or we may have been there all night.
Kai played his last track to complete the set and I told him I’d figure out a
way to turn this into a remix, even though we hadn’t used one part from the
stems.  The next set of track for you to check out is called Mix #1
Minor
.  Check out this tracks as you did with Mix #1 Major and see
what you come up with. 
 

We were now at the
end of a very long day. My assistants were tired and it was late.  We
decided we’d come and work out the remix issues on this another day when we’re
fresh.  Kai went home feeling good.  He played some wonderful music
in those hours. 
 

When Kai left,
Patrick and Rudie asked me how I was going to add the stems to these tracks and
create the remix. This would require redigitizing and at least another day of
work…. time we didn’t have and more painful with no budget. 
L 
 

Kai was paid, but I
didn’t have a remix to present to Valence Records.  I knew I had to talk
to the head of the label in the morning and had to come up with a plan.
So….
 

What would YOU
do?   

A.  Cry to the
label that they just spend money for something that was not complete? 

B.  Stop Kai in
his creative process half way through the session and question what he was
doing which also puts a BIG cramp on the vibe, creativity and future
relationship? 

C. Take it in the gut
and just put the time in to do the remix? 

D. Or come up with a
solution that is win win win? 
 

I’ve done all of the
above and always look to Solution D first and settle with C, if I have to.

When you’re looking
for a win win win, it’s best to take a break and sleep on any decisions before
you have to make that call to the label.  Have the solution BEFORE you
make the call or be prepared for your reputation to sink to the bottom of the
sea.  Aspiring engineers and producers take note… if you want to get
into the music business; it’s less about knowing all the gear and much more
about solving problems. 
 

In Part 2, I’ll let
you know what happened.  Meanwhile, take your best guesses with

Mix #1 Major

Mix #1 Minor

and let me know what
you would have done.  Free to grab a few loops or do your own remix with
these tracks.  The files are 44.1/16 and should sound incredible. 
 

One note, Kai’s
tracks are for personal use only.  If you do end up with a hit on your
hands, and want to use his name, please contact me directly. I’m sure you
can write an album based on these tracks alone. Hmmmm, not a bad idea. 
 

I’m curious if anyone
else has found themselves in a similar situation.  Tell us your horror
story in a comment below. 
 

If you want to know
more about Kai, OTR Studios, The Valence Project, Valence Records, me or the
others mentioned in my series, go to Marenco Media and click on the information you need. 
 

Thanks for reading
the blog, and remember…

Experience is
everything. 

Back soon! 

Cookie

Definitions  
* stem mix — when a
final mix is complete, we often create stem mixes meaning, adding a pop tone to
the front of the multitrack and laying back parts or stems of stereo events
with efx.  For instance, all drum parts in stereo with efx and volume
changes, all bass parts, all background vocals, etc.  You can get as
detailed as you need.  Stem mixes allow you to make quick changes to a
final mix by lining up all the tracks with the pop tone and making alterations
as needed.

 

 


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16 Responses to Week 1 Collaborating with Kai Eckhardt… What Would YOU Do??? 
 


  1. Hey friends, thanks for downloading the mixes. We’ve had a few questions about format. I’m not sure I’ll have the time to post in other formats besides 44.1/24 bit. We chose that format thinking it would give you the most options.

    But, if you’d like to get the files in other formats, please leave a comment here. We will try to accommodate as time permits.

    Thanks again and let me know if you have any problems figuring it all out.

    thanks!
    Cookie

  2. Yes!
    I have had that problem not only as Producer, but in my earlier days as an artist!
    Being the win-win type myself, I always stay ultra time aware, especially when on a client budget, noting all breaks, and anything that might take away from the focus of the session.

    Doing remixes requires knowing the original key, vibe, mixing technique, and all data pertinent to the remix, so I think this was a problem that originated in the conceptual stages, not necessarily during the session it self.

    It’s hard sometimes to work in the realm of free creativity, while keeping the ideas well-formed as they develop. it is my belief that great sessions are decided before you even enter the studio.
    My guess is “C”
    BY the way, I have always been a big fan of a lot of the music coming out of OTR studios, and appreciate this knowledge sharing opportunity.

    The items following “keep your mantra on” are truly valuable to me and anyone in the studio. thanks!
    Piero Amadeo Infante

  3. Akara Etteh says:

    44/24 should be fine for most; if it saves time and bandwidth, Cookie, perhaps find a quick/free/easy to use audio format converter and post the link here?

    Great post by the way – love the “look-in” to life as a producer/engineer…Erm…in that situation…I’d *like* to say that I’d stop the artist as soon as the mistake was made, knowing they were skilled enough to adapt…

    …but the little real-life collabbing I’ve done has shown me I’ve got a lot of growing up to do, and a lot of people skills to learn. Relationships that seemed fine can really be strained by the creative process of…well being creative. So often I’ve found myself wanting to pipe up but fearing the reaction of a broken ego, I’ve kept schtum…and it’s probably been the same the other way ’round too!

    Kai is *very* talented. Great bass!

  4. Thanks for both of your comments! Well thought out and appreciated. I’ll check with the folks inside Indaba to see if there is a simple converter I can post a link for. We decided not to get into option anxiety with multiple formats and let the user decide.

    Kai is incredibly talented and sometimes it’s difficult to get into the ‘mind’ of the artist and know if they are on an artistic adventure or just misunderstanding. If you ‘red light’ too soon, you might miss something important. Usually, I’m good at greenlight, then say “that’s great, now can we try this.. “… which is what I did. Kai had a very strong idea of what he wanted to do. Being as talented as he is, I had to trust his judgment. In the long term, because of him, it made this article possible.

    thanks again for reading.

  5. Hey all, a LOT of people are downloading the multi tracks and I’m very excited! If you have any questions, write them here. Seth is going to help me answer any technical questions

  6. Thanks, Ulf! You’re the first to post a mix. Sounds great!

  7. Rocking Bass trax!

  8. Peter Wisely says:

    Hey Cookie, I know that you would like to see what we can do with these tracks, but I was wondering if you had any tips for mixing it? I’d really like to make the best mix I can, could you perhaps break down mixing a full band together, like where does each instrument find its place? Is this subjective?
    Thank you so much.

    Peter.

  9. Ozzi . says:

    Cookie.I would like to collab.ozwear_in_stores_soon@yahoo.com. or indaba music ozzi. leave me a message.

  10. Hey all, sorry, been busy in the studio with ‘stuff’…. you know.. ‘stuff’! I’ll be sending in Week 2 soon, where I called in Brain, to help out. You might remember him as the drummer with Primus, Guns N Roses, Tom Waits and one of my best buddies in the studio. Check back this weekend!

    Peter, mixing is definitely an artform. Being a musician helps, being creative and thinking out of the box helps. Mixing Kai’s piece as it is, with no additional elements could be really interesting by panning the parts, putting long delays on some tracks, reverb on others, harmonizing or chorusing to give forward and backwards or 3D sensations.. then adding the parts in one every 8 or 16 measures. Or starting off with a calamity/explosion of sound and building to one track. I’m looking forward to doing this myself.

    Ozzi, I’ll send you a message, thanks!

    Check back soon, all
    Cookie

  11. Ulf . says:

    Kai’s playing is fantastic and it was fun mixing and adding stuff to make a mix on first two sessions – but where is the collaboration ? The mix made with the Java console I cannot hear – it takes several hours to download and then it crashes – it would have been nice to hear, what the mix ended up like. Also on the session – Indaba members are just adding over-modulated tracks that have nothing to do with the session and there is no input or feedback – it’s disappointing and artless… sorry but Kai’s music really had me excited, but sessions are a let-down…

  12. Hi Ulf, sorry for any misunderstanding. The article I’m writing is from the perspective of being in the studio and discussing problems that arise during a session. The song we have written was already completed when I started this blog and is an example of how a collaboration takes place and the song changes over time. I’m interested to hear the members stories, reactions and possible remixes of the tracks. Each new session I’ll reveal what we did with the tracks. I think it’s fascinating to compare what the members did compared to what we have already done.

    Because my time is limited, I can’t spend as much time as I’d like collaborating with each member.. perhaps in the future. In fact, I will welcome suggestions for future educational subjects.

    As far as download times, we chose to keep the tracks at the highest quality Indaba would allow so that members could reuse the tracks for their own purposes. They are quite large, that is true. I’m sorry you’ve had so many problems with the download. In the future, I’m sure the internet will be much more user friendly.

    Again, thank you for your perspective! Art is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m thrilled by the remixes I’ve heard so far.

  13. Ulf . says:

    Thank you for your response – I dont like to be negative, but was trying for constructive. I personally would really appreciate being able to hear the completed mix. May I suggest a simple mp3?! The java console mix is not working for me and I know many others….

  14. Thanks, Ulf. I noticed you commented on Session 2 with Brain where a few folks are grabbing the pieces and morphing into new pieces. Thanks!

    Your questions are good. You’re anxious to hear the final mix…. which is the mystery of collaboration that will be reveal over 8 session. At the moment, there is no final mix of Kai’s first 15 tracks. Instead, we chose to morph the song by adding Brain’s beats and changing Kai’s parts. It was evolutionary that we chose not to use most of the parts because it was not appropriate for that particular band… we had our own constraints to deal with, but Indaba Members don’t.

    It’s fascinating to hear what everyone else comes up with.

    Our final mix (which you’ll hear after 8 sessions) is complete is complete and if you keep coming back, I think you’ll be surprised to hear what we ended up doing with the song. I can’t tell you now. I don’t want to spoil the creative process for others, but, I will be SHOCKED if anyone comes close to what we ended up doing. That doesn’t mean our decisions were ‘right’… there is no ‘right or wrong’ in the creative process.

    If you’re familiar with 12 tone row compositions of Schoenberg and others, you’ll note that within those constraints was a universe of new ideas. Here’s an interesting article on Schoenberg and his effect on John Coltrane and U2.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/311958/Modern-and-Postmodern-Music

    My role is less about judgment and more about inspiration and challenge. :) I’ve been very inspired listening to all the remixes (including yours), often thinking.. why didn’t I think of that! I’m hoping by the end of the 8 week sessions I’ll be able to post all the remixes chronologically and see how the public responds.

    One tree, Ten Thousand seeds, a New Forest. Amazing.

  15. Ulf . says:

    Thank you for your comment and pointing me towards that article. Interesting read.
    On the sessions Mix #1 Minor and Mix #1 Major – I was under the impression that there was a mix, because of the reference to the Java console “Cookie Marenco created the mix Cookie’s Mix 1″ – that I’ve never gotten to work. I struggled to hear it by downloading.. never reaching that goal. That is why I was under the impression that I was missing out on not being able to hear your final product…
    I’m patient and if the mix you guys did will some day appear – I’m cool with that…

    On Schoenberg I think someone had to do it, and I have an ear for what I would term abstraction, but does music exist without an audience ? … like your forest philosophical thought …. ” If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it …. ? ” I’ve read a lot about recent research into the workings of the brain and it explains a lot to me about how we perceive music. “This is Your Brain on Music” is a good one. Also cosmology – Music can be thought of as left over from the big bang…. Pythagorus had a theory about the planets in our solar system, their oscillation around our sun each represent the notes in our musical scale. Mathematicians have calculated it to be very close – before the tempered scale… The Andromeda galaxy vibrates as a Bflat….

  16. Hey Ulf, thanks for all the comments. Good to know the Andromeda vibrates as B flat. The earth vibrates at 7.53 htz… might be close to a B Flat, too!

    I think we’ll have the final mixes posted for this song in a few weeks. Mid September… Also, have an article coming out in Sept Audio Media magazine that talks about the collaborations in The Valence Project.

    take care
    all

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