Dirtybird’s white label series started with a mission: to defy expectations of the current sound and reclaim its ethos as a formidable tastemaker. Young upstart Nikki Nair joins the cause with ‘More Is Different.’ The EP delivers four eclectic slices of music, bound together by their complexity. To celebrate, we asked the fresh talent to show us the goods for another installment of our How It Was Made series.
Words and photos by Nikki Nair
Sony MXP-290 Mixer
This is the center of my studio outside of the computer. Even if I’m making a track that’s all software sounds, I run the channels through it and use the aux sends for reverb and delay. I guess this is kind of like dub-mixing everything. All mixers have different characters— this one I think has a clear but aggressive sound when it’s clipped. It’s on basically all the sounds in all of the tracks in the EP. Even with ‘Want You To,’ which is all software sounds, I ran the channels through the mixer to give it some juice.
I’m not the greatest at sound design and mix engineering but I believe most shortcomings in both of these areas can be overcome by distorting the shit out of everything. This is what I use the mixer for.
This is always on one of the FX sends from the mixer. It’s on all of the tracks in this EP (and most of my tracks). I don’t go that deep with programming it— although I know it’s possible. I just use the different preset algorithms on it– usually the reverb ones. It always just sounds good. It’s kind of warm and raw sounding to me, and just does what I need it to do without being too obtrusive.
As with the DP/4, this old multi-fx pedal is also always on one of the FX sends from the mixer. It has a compressor, a BBD style delay, and a chorus. I typically just use the delay. It’s a fine delay (People open windows). If there’s a delay sound in any of my tracks, it’s most likely this one. It doesn’t have a very long delay time or any special functions, but it sounds good and I’m very happy with it.
I used this for all the drum sounds in ‘Socket.’ Drums and breaks and stuff sound really nice through it. I think the best thing about it is the ‘cords’ function, which is like a mod matrix. In ‘Socket’ I routed the note velocity to filter cutoff and volume on the thinks and amens, so I could do those filter-sweep-crescendos. This is definitely possible with any software sampler too. In general, I think all its functions are possible with Ableton’s sampler, but I feel like it gives the sounds a grit and weightiness that’s slightly tougher to get out of the computer.
In the picture, there’s an E4XT. I’ve actually just upgraded to the E4XT because the e6400 was very slow with saving and loading. But these are almost identical samplers, with basically the same operating system.
Givson Jaguar Bass
I used this bass on ‘Something.’ I recorded it directly into the Sony mixer, and cranked the gain knob so it was a bit distorted going in. It is really not that well made and I keep thinking I should get a better bass, but for some reason I am attached to this one. It is a Givson, not a Gibson.
The drums in ‘Something’ are also a few loops of me playing breaks that I slowed down and chopped up in Ableton. I also think some of the drum sounds in ‘Socket’ are recordings of one-shots of these drums (and hat) sampled into the E-mu sampler. In general, I like making my own hat and snare samples because I can get all the types of hits/expressions I like. The one downside to doing this myself is that I don’t really know how to mic drums or have great mics, so there’s always work to be done to get them punchy afterward.
I did the vocals on ‘Something’ with this. It’s also on some of my other releases. You can record a vocal line straight into it as a sample and then mess with the pitch and formant of the sample in real-time- while the sample is playing– without changing the length. There are actually just knobs on the front for this, so it’s pretty quick and intuitive to do it. I think Roland calls what it does ‘Variphrase’ sampling.
Grab your copy here.