Amiga, the music maker

urban_shakedown_thumbWhen it comes to producing music, Commodore’s machines have a reputation that is rivaled only by well, Commodore itself. For the price of a C64 (and its magnificent SID chip), chiptune artists today still bring out the most catchy tunes and produce dance tracks that wouldn’t be out of their place on today’s dance floors.
But it wasn’t just the 8-bit classic that became a prime asset in the flight cases of musicians… there was also the Amiga.

Regular readers of the blog will remember the article “Music AMIGA Maestro” of November in which I look back at the early days of the duo behind the 90s chart sensation SNAP!, who started out on the Amiga.
So for today’s article, I continue along the Amiga music route and I take a look at the people behind the surprise Amiga generated hit single of 1992: Some Justice by Urban Shakedown.

It started when Gavin King and Claudio Guissani were in college and overheared someone talking about this amazing demo featuring sampled music from Bomb the Bass and SNAP!’s The Power. When the duo saw this demo running on an Amiga 500 they were blown away “We just couldn’t believe that this computer was making these sounds”, recalls Claudio.
The two guys had always been interested in producing music, but the tracks they used to play when they deejayed at the local clubs all seemed to be produced on racks of high-end equipment, which meant that their dreams of creating their own music were well above the budget of two college students. This all changed when after hearing and seeing what the Amiga could do, they both decided to buy one themselves.

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Having experimented with the capabilities of the Amiga, the duo went on to purchase some other hardware and software (MED 3.0, Audiomaster II, TechnoSound and a Zoom 9030 effects processor) and since they both were DJ’s, they already had the needed mixing equipment like the Newmark and Phonic DJ mixers.
Using their vast record collection (hey, they were DJ’s), they started by sampling some of the songs and sounds from the albums using AudioMaster II. They sampled at around 25KHz and then modeled and tuned them so they fit together nicely. Using MED 3.0, they then started constructing the actual track. With one Amiga running MED 3.0 and the other running AudioMaster II, they built up the backbone of the track with breakbeats and custom-made drum patterns.

To illustrate further that making music on a computer was much more hard-labor back in those days compared to today, is the fact that the duo decided against the use of OctaMED and used MED 3.0 instead. With OctaMED, they could have produced their 8-track songs on just the one machine, but because this application would reduce the overall quality of the sounds and samples, they instead created 4 tracks on one machine and then 4 tracks on the other. To keep them in sync, they didn’t use any fancy time-lock or synchronization hardware but just did it in a very hands-on way: Gavin would put in a four-bar ‘click-track’ (a simple series of bleeps in a 4/4 pattern) at the start of the song, whilst Claudio would put in a three-bar track at the start of the sequence on his machine. Gavin then starts his sequence and Claudio starts his on the second bar of the click-track. It was then just a matter of Claudio adjusting the timing until the two machines are perfectly in sync.

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With their tracks ready, they recorded them directly on DATs with little or no post production going into the final mix (except for the use of the Zoom 9030 to add some extra depth to some of the samples) and then it’s of to the press to get the 12” singles produced and out into the record stores… and into the charts!

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