Scenes talks production and collaboration on new release ID

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Scenes talks production and collaboration on new release ID

Scenes with guitar in front of person playing piano
Words by Sam McNiece
Images by Matthew Howard

Covering past work and the new release.

Scenes, which is the solo project of songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Graham Ritchie, has just released his debut EP ID. His resumé spans working with Holy Holy, Thelma Plum and Emma Louise and this new project is completely written and produced by himself.

The new EP ID, explores themes of identity, loss, growth and the human psychology in an emotional and gorgeously produced bed of sounds.  The release features Jesse Davidson, Montgomery, Ainslie Wills and Street Rat plus a remix from Japanese Wallpaper.

With the new EP releasing today, we got the opportunity to interview Graham and talk all things gear, collaboration and producing the new record.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.

scenes and engineers sitting behind mixing console

You’ve worked with a range of artists in your career, which release was the most engaging to work on and why?

I’m not sure which was the most engaging, however one that springs to mind because it was such a formative experience in my career is Emma Louise’s debut album Vs Head Vs Heart. Matt Redlich was producing the record and I was working as a multi-instrumentalist, which spilled over into arranging and programming. I think Matt, Emma and I did about 30-40 sessions together. It was a beautiful journey exploring Emma’s songs. It was an inspiring period of time for us all, I think. We learnt a lot from one another as we bonded throughout the process.

How does your process working with artists such as Emma Louise and Japanese Wallpaper change compared to when you’re working on your solo work?

Scenes is primarily a songwriting project, so I spend most of my time writing, editing and thinking about the core of each song; the lyrics, melody and harmony. For the songs on ID, I was arranging, to one degree or another, whilst writing. The production flowed from the songwriting process.

Working as a session musician or producer, often a demo arrives and I’m thinking about what I can bring to the song in terms of a palette of sounds, and working in with the context of the release.

What pieces of gear used in recording your new album helped craft your sound?

I have a pretty classic lineup of instruments on ID: Fender Electric Guitar and Basses, Taylor Acoustic, Roland Juno and DSI Prophet Synths, Moog Little Phatty for Bass. I’m sure I used my Dad’s Ibanez Artist for a part or two. Love that Guitar. But in terms of crafting ‘my sound’, I think the most idiosyncratic elements come from how I play those time-tested instruments and my use of effects pedals.

DSI Prophet synthesiser

Most of the EP was recorded with 500 series Pres and EQs, and Hairball comps. The JLM TG500 Pres are certainly part of the sound. I used them for the Guitars and Bass. Some Synth tracks too.

Any interesting recording techniques you used on the new record you’d like to share?

Making the two simultaneous drum kits on Henhouse work was an interesting challenge. The song begins with a drum kit part that is quite static for the remainder of the song. Half way through the introduction the second kit enters. The patterns interweave and the differences in the attack and length of note (of the kick drum, for example) between the parts brings a dimension to the feel of the track. Marly Lüske at Alchemix Studio in Brisbane engineered the drum tracking. We put up a bunch of close and room mics and found combinations that we thought would sit well together and then did a bit of sculpting. I have to thank Ryan Strathie (Drums) and Jake Miller (Mix) for making this work as well as it did! With prominent Bass parts thrown in as well, I was so appreciative of Jake’s work with the low end on this one.

Ludwig drum kit miked up

When a channel isn’t sounding right, what plugin do you instantly reach for?

Whether I end up using it to sculpt the sound, or just to figure out exactly what I’m dealing with, I often use the FabFilter Pro Q3. I realise this isn’t an uncommonly used plugin, however the general UI and sound are great and the dynamic EQ is really useful. It often helps me figure out what to try next if something isn’t working.

If you could own any single piece of gear, what would it be and why?

Neumann U47. I love the sound of that microphone. I borrowed one from a friend for the vocals on the tracks ‘Henhouse’ (ft. Ainslie Wills) and ‘I Made My Bed, I Lie in It’. I don’t envision it being superseded as my go-to for vocals anytime soon.

Runners-up…Rickenbacker 4001 Bass, DSI Prophet 6, Coles 4038s.

Which track on the record are you particularly proud of?

I think it might go with ‘I Made My Bed, I Lie in It’. It was the first track I finished for the EP and it helped establish the sound set. There aren’t any guitars on the track, but the interweaving percussion layers and verby synths are across the EP. I’m really happy with how this recording captured the song I was trying to write and the feeling I had at the time. I enjoy the ebb and flow of the arrangement – the mood that it creates, and how the production works with the lyrics.

guitar effects pedal combo

Finally, which song are you most looking forward to performing live?

I’ve been rehearsing the songs with a band this week and we’ve been enjoying a track called Into the Ground (which features Montgomery on the EP). The tracks I’ve released as singles, ‘Morse’ and ‘Henhouse’ have quite driving feels, so the breakbeat-inspired drums on Into the Ground have provided a chance to groove out. I like having that change of pace in the set and we’re looking forward to playing it!

Check out Scenes debut EP ID out now.