Inside The Track with Shades of Gray
October 2016 sees Michal Schwa and Nick West drop their new release under their Shades of Gray moniker. The Sydney-based duo have cooked up something fresh for their newest offering on Beef records, delving into Deep House, Electronica, Techno and more. We went ‘Inside the Track’ to find out more..
Congratulations on your ‘Circulate’ EP release via Toy Tonics. How is it being received in your sets? & How are other club DJs responding to the release?
The feedback has been great so far. We have been testing these tracks in our live show for more then a year. There was a lot of tweaking involved and mixing work. Its great to see them finally coming out.
Tell us more about the ‘Circulate’ EP. What was the main inspiration behind it and what prompted the musical direction on this?
We worked on this mini-album on out last Australian tour in 2015. Each track has a slightly different story – Circulate we wrote with Nick in his Sydney based studio using the Moog Voyager – the main hook came from that beast. We also used a few percussion samples and beats from old New York house records. That’s why it has such raw groove. There is another version of this track (which we did with Smash TV) – that one is coming out on Get Physical this week, so make sure to check it too.
Production wise, what is it about the tracks that make them work?
Treading Water – This was a track that was made with the open-air festival in mind. It has a big floaty and open sound that worked really well. The Australian bush was where we debuted it. We used a lot of NI Reaktor instruments in this one. The main arpeggios came from the synth called Rounds. The bassline was written on Monark and we used a lot of live and percussion recording including the triangle sample which gives a real lift.
Cross & Divide – this one came together from an analog jam session we did in Sydney with David Mayer from Keinemusic. We were in the pub having a few drinks together. Because the studio was just around the corned we decided to go there and have a jam. Lots of these raw electro grooves came from this jam. We used Ableton push, Microcorq XL and arpeggios from Nord Lead.
Is there one machine, program or technique that characterizes your sound?
It’s a huge combination of techniques that really came about through experimentation. Some of the most interesting sounds come from the most unlikely sources. For example the other day I was having a beer in the studio and decided to sample the flute sound it makes when you blow over the top of the bottle. I put that in a sampler the started playing chords. After that we started layering effects across it and ended up with an awesome sound that you couldn’t find in a synth or preset. So I suppose the key is extra experimentation.
What is the one piece of kit that you simply cannot do without?
MICHAL SCHWA: I think that most of the gear can be replaced with something else, There is so much great stuff on the market these days. We love using DSI The Tempest, Nord Lead, Juno 106, Moog Voyager and many other synths. I think what is more important is that you know your tools well and that you are capable of using it properly. You gotta know where to look for certain sound whether its software or hardware. But I guess we won’t be able to live without Ableton live and our own sample bank. It’s such a core of our production. Another software that is really important for us are the Omnisphere/Trillian plug-ins from Spectrasonics.
NICK WEST: In my opinion its a combination of new favourites, inspiration starters like Output Products and Spectrasonics Keyscape and old classics like the Moog Voyager, Juno 106 and Nordlead. It’s about flowing with the one that’s giving the results on the day. Some days we will get an instant hook from the Nord and the next it will give nothing. You really have to follow your instincts to know what’s flowing in the moment to get the idea out.
Any advice for your fans on how to make it in today’s fast paced game?
Michal Schwa: I think it’s about working hard, being passionate and kind of stubborn. If you keep doing what you love doing for long enough you will always somehow succeed. We both work as professionals in recording studios. Here are pics of Nick’s studio Smith & Western in Sydney and ORM studio in Prague where Michal often works.