Within a few days of my girlfriend tragically passing away a wreath was handed to me by a neighbour; a neighbour I had never even spoken to in the three years I had lived in London. We found we were both into writing music and decided to join up to write new songs. Through the pain; through the grief; we had just one goal and that was to create a unique sounding album combining Sean Powers folk/rock style with my techno/dance background mixed with the unusual added spice of an Ethnic soundscape.
MadTracker had already become my favourite vessel for carrying music to the masses, with its simple functionality that you could combine with other simple functions to create strong unique sounds from an initially weak uninteresting instrument. I had been using MadTracker for quite some time and found it faster and easier to use than either Cubase or Cakewalk, and even went on to write an article reviewing MadTracker for Future Music magazine.
However, the music we were writing as Ashmore often consisted of non-dance material with lovely long acoustic guitar passages and long multi-channel vocals. I had only used MadTracker for dance music. Could MadTracker be used for vocal-orientated ballads? Could MadTracker actually be used to produce music other than dance? How would MadTracker cope with Sean Powers three and a half minute guitar riffs thrown at it?The answer was, extremely well.
How we worked with MadTracker?
We decided to use MadTracker for sequencing the album, CoolEdit Pro for sound manipulation, and Cubase for pre-mastering and mastering. I built a sound-proofed studio named "Ashmore Studios" and filled it full of professional recording equipment, synths, guitars, effects pedals and sound modules.
A trick we soon learnt was to record guitar passages twice and use MadTracker to pan one passage hard left on one track, and the other passage hard right on another track. The sound was so much fuller and due to the minor inaccuracies with a human playing something slightly differently a second time, the sound became interesting and more stereoscopic. This was a rewarding trick we used throughout MadTracker and soon began to use on Synths and vocals.
Similarly, to get a thicker synth riff using MadTracker, we wrote a synth riff and replicated that same riff on a different channel using a different instrument pointing to the initial same sample but detuned (or incredibly detuned if we wanted to have that amazing Kernkraft 400 sound). It is a very good effect and makes a lead stand out.
The most powerful feature of MadTracker is to do with what happens when a sample stops playing. The ability to assign a volume envelope to a sound is incredibly powerful. To quickly fade out the sample when a new one begins adds a certain professionalism to the end result - no more clicks as one sample stops and another starts. Strings sound lush as your volume envelope fades a chord in whilst fading out the previous chord.
Stereo Delay is our most used effect within MadTracker and outdoes any VST plugin you can get, instantly making the sound more stereo and exciting.
There are so many tricks available within MadTracker, but the best single bit of advice we can give is to use one instrument per channel - even if that sound is only used once. It will make engineering your mix far less of a frustrating headache and save you literally days in the long run. Once a song is complete, export each track one by one out of MadTracker and into separate WAV files, and then load into Cubase for individual EQ'ing and compression.
Chasing the record company
We worked with MadTracker for about seven months to produce the songs and a further four months mixing, engineering the songs and creating the artwork. Next step? The record companies. We created one thousand CD's and blasted well over one thousand record companies, publishers, management teams, magazines, newspapers and radio stations throughout the UK, Germany and France in the knowledge that someone somewhere would like what they heard. The mailout was done on quite an epic scale.
I always like to work on the principal that for every 19 failures you have, you get 1 success. However, with record and publishing companies I would say for every 499 failures you have, you get 1 success! The thing is to not get despondent, just keep plugging away but only if you truly believe your songs are good enough.
Eventually two record companies were interested, Silverword in the UK, and Universal Music in Germany. Obviously we were very excited about the interest from Universal but eventually realised they were being slow in responding to us. A deal was signed with Silverword UK and EAST is now available at Amazon.co.uk, with HMV and WHSmiths high street stores to stock our debut album in their shops around Christmas 2001. Our first single, "An Eye For An Eye" was recently released on UKSounds.com as an experiment to test the Internet music market and is currently at number 6, outselling artists such as Barry White.
With the money from the first album we have upgraded to a 20-track mixing desk, digital recorder, OZone chosen as our new mastering tool, bigger synths (JD800, JP8000), and bigger electric guitar sounds; but there's one invaluable tool that could never be replaced, one thing that will always remain at the very core of Ashmores sound: MadTracker.Hunter / Power