There is something incredibly rewarding about taking a raw sample and turning it into a musically useful device. In a piece that I wrote a few years ago, I went around the house in search of everything at all useful as a percussion effect: paper in a bin, a fork against the metal on the oven, a shoe against the grass in the garden. I was amazed how much there was in the house just waiting to be used.
Ever since this piece (Extracted Intrusions, which will shortly be uploaded to the main streaming services, eventually!!) I have had a keen interest in producing my own sounds where possible. This does add an extra stage to the composition process, but is incredibly rewarding, and sparks ideas in itself. This is not always possible, however, and, as such, I am always interested in keeping an eye out for new samples that sound, perhaps more raw, than the highly impressive (and also expensive), main sample contenders. Companies like Soundiron, and 8dio spring to mind - especially their smaller libraries. I've even made a small library using rocks this week that I will be using for an improvised collaboration in December.
I used to rent a studio in South Bermondsey with lots of nice mics and pre-amps alongside my 1972 Ludwig kit. One day a drummer friend of mine came and recorded some loops and whilst there I asked him to record some individual hits. After sitting on my computer for a while, I began to edit these samples into a Kontakt instrument. On deciding to form Unorthodox Audio with Michael Gunn, we refined and developed this kit. One thing that I always find with acoustic bass drums is that they lack a certain weight once joined with a whole lot of other instrumentation. I felt it useful to be able to dial in a sub-sine alongside the bass drum and so we added this in. We then began to think that perhaps this could be further developed to have each kit piece and cymbal alongside an accompanying electronic sound. Two years down the line, Superfly Drums are now finished, and I feel are a great and flexible addition to the huge amount of drum libraries out there. The market is flooded with drum libraries, so what makes this different? The raw, acoustic sounds are intended to sound un-processed as if you were stood in the control room listening to the drums playing in the live room. They are not polished, but they are energetic, well-tuned and real! The electronic sounds can be crossfaded in (0-100%) and each is tailored to complement the acoustic sound - whilst working independently as an electronic kit. The mappings are also far more conducive to keyboard performance (though a GM mapping is also available).
Alongside the drums, we find St. James the Great Organ, an organ that I learnt to play on in my teen years. This organ can be found in the village that Michael and I grew up in, Snitterfield, near Stratford-Upon-Avon and is a two manual (plus pedals) Hewins organ, a local organ builder from the late nineteenth century. The organ is not a huge Cathedral organ, but is a solid and fully functional church organ. Registrations range from gentle and meditative to full choir and congregation rousing. Just as a real organist will be changing registrations throughout their performance (during the piece or from verse to verse of a hymn) we have kept this in full focus on our sample instrument. The key focus is that this is an instrument, designed to realise full pieces of music. Further to a church organ, it is possible to pan and volume mix the individual stops, so there is much potential for sound design also.
As musicians, we need to have many strings to our bow and sometimes it is difficult to find the best way to add to our musical and creative portfolio. Michael Gunn and I have really enjoyed learning about sample production (I have to say, Michael in particular with his thorough learning of coding which has led to these incredibly impressive results) and we are really excited to launch this new company, Unorthodox Audio. Thanks also to Huw Williams for the original hits, Sam Thomas for additional hits and demos and Katy Gunn (www.livelovelifedesign.com) for her amazing artwork , both on the instrument itself and in the manuals.
Please visit www.unorthodoxaudio.com for lots of demos, videos and more detailed info.