I always start with the music first, and then I generally have a wish list of what singers I can imagine on a particular song. I also want to try new stuff, too. For example, the song I wrote with Snoop is a Reggae-Dubstep record, which I never write. It’s totally not what you would expect, but I wanted to try it out. So, I wrote a general concept and sent it to Snoop. He sent me his vocals, I re-wrote to his vocals, and then I fleshed it out. That’s essentially the process with every singer I work with.
Sometimes, we’re more hands-on. With Empire of the Sun, I wrote a version I could play in the club, then I got Luke Steele in the studio with me. We came up with the song writing structure for the vocals and how it would fit for our worlds combined. He wrote instrumentation and analog synths, then I came back and changed it up even more, and now it’s in a place I’ve never seen or heard before. I call it our “Electronic Dance Music Rhapsody.” It’s a “Bohemian Rhapsody” for dance music. I find this process exciting because I would have never gotten the song to the point it is at without him. It’s a true collaboration. I love working with singers who have musical sense and knowledge but can also play instruments.
Though I usually write the music first, I sometimes use a different process where I’ll give a singer a raw beat and have him or her sing different lines over and over again in the booth. Then, I’ll find one loop, and I’ll focus on that eight-bar section and build a song out from just the vocals. I find that when you can work with someone from scratch, which is what I did with Control Freak, you come up with something entirely different. I wrote a beat I thought he would like, but it didn’t really work, so we started from scratch. I wrote a bare beat and a few different rhythms to it. He was getting inspired off those rhythms and started writing a song, just top lines, then I wrote the melodic structure under his vocal and started sound designing all the synths and the base and deciding which drums to use. It was awesome.
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