The mojo’s got to be working

A week ago I got this track, Metal Nebula, back from the sound studio and I was chuffed! It is one of the very first songs I had composed, and it lay around unloved for months, until I gave it a last shot. And it was finally finished.

It started as a melody that I had kept in my “ideas box” because I liked the growly, sexy, metallic-sounding, anthemic sound it has. It was not up to standard, true, but it had a bit of mojo, achieved more through experimentation than by design.

Metal Nebula combines extremes of expression – hard and metallic with soft and melodic. The “metal” to which the title refers is the electric guitar tracks and the metal synths. The melody is played on a very loud and metallic, twangy- sounding guitar (“Bluesy Acoustic”). The “nebula” in the title is the Intermezzo, which has the softer Piano, Violins and the “Planetarium Melody” synth bells.

While I was writing this, I thought of the comment by DJ Deadmau5 in the notes of his Masterclass:

“When you start drawing notes, don’t worry about what synth sound you’re using or what groove your track might end up having; just start putting down notes and adjusting them into interesting combinations that sound good to your ears. When you’re working this way, your instinctual reactions to the notes are more important than the formal rules of music.”

Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman), Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production, v.1.6, p. 8

So, that’s what I did when I started working on this song again. I felt the groove, but I didn’t think about it too much. I mainly worried about the melody and how to make it appealing.

I wrote the main theme, which introduces the Verse sections, first. It was difficult to keep it clean and clear, since it is quite complicated and half a beat off the 4/4 rhythm. I don’t think I would’ve changed it to anything else though. The Verse is repetitive, so the Intermezzo was designed to be a big break from that.

The engineer who does my mixing and mastering, Luke Garfield, told me he initially removed the grinding electric guitar track because it didn’t seem to fit, then put it back and tweaked it…it seems that the song really needed that dark, sultry element, the mojo of it, in other words. So he put the mojo back in and that’s why it works, in the end.

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