CDR took up residency at the Meltdown Festival alongside Ableton to bring masterclasses and interviews to the Royal Festival Hall. This years festival was curated by Mo’Wax founder James Lavelle, who performed DJ sets as well as a one-off UNKLE Audio-Visual show. Guests at the festival included Mo’Wax alumni and artists as diverse as Goldie, Grandmaster Flash, Josh Homme, Benji B and Jeff Mills.
As part of the Meltdown Sessions, CDR hosted guests including DJ Shadow, Heritage Orchestra and Si Medway-Smith, whilst Ableton and Point Blank presented masterclasses in production techniques.
Ableton’s Jesse Abayomi kicked things off in style. He talked us through how he created a remix on the fly, using the Push controller and three of his favourite Mo’Wax records to full effect, whilst Ski Oakenfull from Point Blank showed an audience of beginners and experts how to completely re-create a track, using Mo’Wax classic “Clubbed To Death” as an example. Both Ski and Jesse’s classes identified and chopped the original samples used, whilst Jesse created a totally new composition by adding in his own field recordings to give the classic Mo’Wax sound a new twist. Ski re-created a whole song, breaking it down musically, applying effects and faithfully imitating the composition.
Most peoples highlight of the day was Tony Nwachukwu’s discussion with DJ Shadow which explored his approach to making music, and how that has been influenced and developed over the years. Shadow has moved from MPCs and sampling records through to Maschine and Ableton collaborations with upcoming young producers. Numerous entertaining anecdotes provided budding producers with some priceless insights, from how he left air at the start of the kick sample when chopping breaks (for no perceptible edit points) to more philosophical tips such as his habit of listening to music that wasn’t intended for him, or his habit of going record shopping when he hit the proverbial brick wall whilst producing a track.
On day two, Heritage Orchestra came through ahead of their performance of Goldie’s “Timeless” to discuss the creative process that went into that and previous projects such as Giorgio Moroder and Joy Division re-workings. It was another great insight into interpreting a classic piece of work; the need to get into another artists’ head space; a few great production tips; as well as lengthy debates on the all important reverse snare sound in “Inner City Life”; or how they recreated the white noise on the snare hits in “I Feel Love”. One of the most impressive was how they transferred their hybrid classical-electronic performance to a live scenario involving upwards of 40 people, as they put it, “5 years of talking about it, and two months of actually getting down to it”!
Sie Medway-Smith, another Mo’Wax alumni, kept things running in the next session with Tony Nwachukwu. Si has worked with some of the biggest recording artists in the world including U2 and Depeche Mode, which isn’t bad for someone who’s first job in a studio was as a Tape Op, earning £10 a session. He quickly progressed to releasing his own music on Mo’Wax but realised he was more comfortable being the man behind the mixing desk than the man in the spotlight. Again, this session was a smooth blend of anecdotes and production advice. Si put his success down to his desire to learn, and is also another example of someone who followed technology and updated their studio and workflow – he now does (almost) everything straight out of the box with Ableton 9, not even using any 3rd party plug ins.
The sessions didn’t end there, back for the closing weekend of the festival Tony met with more Mo’Wax alumni including Charlie Williams, Kirk Degiorgio and Andrea Palmer to discuss how music making had changed since the mid 90s. What became clear was that despite the increased accessibility of music making now, it is harder than ever to keep up with what is coming out, and to get yourself heard. Charlie even joking “I’m glad I’m not young and making music now!”. I guess that is why movements such as CDR have evolved in these times, allowing passionate people to come together, share music and support each other.
This years Meltdown proved to be a great celebration of London’s electronic music and DJ culture of the last 21 years, and here’s to many more.
Words by: Mark Stangroom