by Jeremy G. Koeries
Last week I shared 3 of 6 lessons I learnt while remixing Neville D’s gospel hit, “Nobody Like Jesus“. If you read that post, you saw that the lessons had more to do with process and people than production. I think these kinds of lessons are often overlooked or under-emphasized. This week, I want to share what I learnt about Synergy, Humility and Artistry. Let’s go.
Synergy can be defined as “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. Throughout the session, I watched how the artists fed off each other’s unique gifts. Each one gave their level best, but no one artist’s contribution was bigger than the song. The combined outcome was way bigger than the combined strengths of each artist, even though each artist – plus the engineer and artist friends Alvin Hendricks (musical director for Jonathan Butler and top session-bassist) and Loyiso Bala – is a heavyweight in their own right.
Lesson learnt: The Result Of Synergy Is Greater Than Each One Just Doing Their Best
Genuine synergy is only possible with genuine humility. This was probably THE factor that made the session so special. Initially I was somewhat star struck and fairly overwhelmed by Neville’s featured artists and engineers. But it didn’t take very long before I realised that no one there had any desire to be praised! Despite each artist’s individual star power and experience, no single personality tried to outshine the other. Everyone was there to serve. Tia Herman quickly helped set up the session before leaving for another appointment. Even when the headphone amp blew early on, Kurt Herman exemplified excellent service, immediately rolling around under the mixing console to set up a plan B. What’s more, everybody was everybody’s fan. Each one cheered and celebrated everyone else. This made it extremely easy for me to produce the phenomenal talent & vibe in the room.
Lesson Learnt: Great Artistry Comes From Great Humility
Of course each artist was there to perform and record great art, and so they did. The rappers (C-Jay and Kabelo) wrote their verses on the spot. The level of artistry present in the room combined with some healthy, playful competition pushed everyone to deliver their finest. From the gate, Kabelo had some great song structure ideas. His experience and wisdom shone through, but not in a bossy way. Here’s Kabelo breaking down the English translation of his Zulu rhymes!
In the meanwhile, the singers (Lloyd and Neville) worked on their vocal arrangements. Here’s a clip of us listening to a scratch track of Neville and Lloyd’s vocals.
Quickly, the song shifted from a straight remix with the same major key modulations to a remake in minor keys. With the rappers and vocalists having killed their parts in the booth, Brian arrived to add his unique, super-human, touches to the project. And the rest of us simply lost it. This instagram video says it all.
A few days later, Neville decided to add the vocoder parts, which we tracked at our project studio in Cape Town. Tracking vocals through a vocoder synth was a fun learning experience for both of us. Up until then, I’d only used it as an effect plug in on pre-recorded vocals.
Lesson learnt: Excellent Art = Humility + Synergy
So, these are my 6 take-aways, my 6 “remix lessons”:
- Good Art Takes Time
- Community Is Always Better
- Nothing Beats Community in Proximity
- The Result Of Synergy Is Greater Than Each One Just Doing Their Best
- Great Artistry Comes From Great Humility
- Excellent Art = Humility + Synergy
They remind me that excellent art is most excellent when it comes from a beautiful spirit, and these artists, engineers, colleagues and friends are just that first: beautiful people!
Don’t miss Neville D’s “Beauty Of Difference Season 3” live DVD recording this coming Saturday 26 November at Lighthouse, Parow, Cape Town.