I’ve recently finished a remix of “Opposition and Joy”, a song by my friend Ali McLachlan, which is about the twin themes of opposition and joy that ran through the life of Paul. He draws particularly from 2 Cor 4.
You can stream or download the new version from Soundclick.
There were a few reasons I decided to do a remix. First off, my mixing skills have been slowly improving, and I wanted opportunity to practise some of the new techniques I was learning about. Opposition and Joy is also one of my favourite songs by Ali, and I felt that my original recording was fairly mediocre. On top of that, I’m visiting him soon, so I’m hoping to be able to take with me 3 or 4 remixes of his songs that do a bit more justice to his singing and songwriting ability than my original versions did.
Most of the remixing was done in 20-30 minute sessions during my lunch hours at work. This meant I didn’t have access to instruments or keyboards, so I had to focus almost exclusively on fixing timing issues and working on the overall sound of the mix.
The lyrics and music were written by my friend Ali, although bizarrely he seems to view me as
having co-written the music. All I did was listen to him singing it to me and worked out a chord progression.
It was recorded very quickly back in 2000 using Cakewalk Pro Audio 9. He sang into my Senheisser Evolution e845 dynamic mic with a pair of my wife’s tights stretched over a wire coat-hanger as a pop-shield. We had a click track and some very basic quantised piano chords for him to sing over, but at that stage we hadn’t worked out that there were some bars of 3/8 every now and then (its in 6/8).
The backing instruments were added after vocals. The P200 piano was the main backing instrument. A nice cello soundfont provided the bass in the introduction and in two later verses. A bass soundfont was used in preference to an bass guitar, mainly because lacking a compressor and the know-how to use EQ, my el-cheapo bass guitar was just not cutting through the mix. Drums were programmed in using my (new) JV-1010. There were some electric guitar power chords to beef things up during the bridge, and finally a guitar solo. Virtually no effects were used in the original version apart from those built in to the synths and amp sims I used.
Arrangement – This song actually has not only four verses but three separate choruses and a bridge, not to mention the guitar solo. This meant that the original track was a rather lengthy 5 minutes 45, which is OK considering that it is a good song, but still perhaps a bit on the long side. There was not much scope for removing material, but there were two chorus repeats (one before the bridge and one at the end) that could be removed without too much damage to the overall flow of the song.
Piano – I made use of my P200 sfz file played through the Cakewalk Dimension soft-synth. There weren’t any glaring errors, but the timing was a bit sloppy in places, and so I made use of the “nudge” feature of Sonar to improve timing without making it sound mechanical and quantised. I applied some EQ to the piano to balance out the overall frequency response of the mix and stop it competing with the bass instruments so much.
Bass – I originally kept the bass as MIDI, and used a Dimension bass patch. The timing was dreadful and there were some glaring wrong notes, but these were not so apparent in the original mix because it was mixed so low. I fixed the timing errors, and removed the bass-line altogether while the cellos were playing. However, the new MIDI bass line still didn’t quite cut it, so one evening I quickly recorded a new bass line using my Yamaha bass.
Drums – The drums made use of the ns_kit7 free, routed through multiple instances of Dimension using a drum map. I made various improvements to the velocities and patterns, hopefully resulting in a more authentic sounding drum track. The original only had a few patterns that were repeated throughout. I didn’t have time to redo it entirely, but did add some new fills and variations in places. Using multiple instances of Dimension also allowed different compression and EQ on different kit parts as well as a better volume balance between them.
Vocals – Ali is a great vocalist to work with, as he gives it his all every time, and has great pitch and timing. There was one word that had clipped on recording, one phrase slightly early, and one phrase slightly late, but apart from that all that was needed was some compression, EQ and reverb. I added a few delays to key phrases in the last chorus. I await to see whether Ali likes that, or thinks it sounds tacky.
Guitars – There are only two short sections of guitar on this track. I re-recorded the power chords in the bridge as their rhythm didn’t quite match the drums. I used my V-Amp 2 for the amp sound, and probably over-did the distortion, so needed some drastic EQing to get things back into shape. I used blue-tack to damp the unused strings during recording. The guitar solo was left untouched. Its not my greatest guitar solo ever, but I’ve heard it so many times now it feels like it belongs with the song.
Cello – The cello sounds were left as on the original. If I had a more realistic cello sample I would have used it, but the one I had wasn’t bad.
Mastering – Again the Sonitus Multi-band compressor worked well for me, evening out the piano and guitar sounds a bit more. The only problem is that the verses now don’t seem quite as quiet compared to the choruses.
They say that I’ve turned traitor.
They said I’d be dead within a year.
They said I’d never succeed in my quest,
And they tried to intimidate me with fear.
We proclaim him, Christ crucified.
We proclaim him, Christ given for sin.
We proclaim him, Christ risen in glory.
Peace with the Father found only in him.
It’s true that I’ve been beaten,
And worked till my strength is all gone.
But I realise now as I sit in these chains,
They can take a man down but the gospel goes on.
We’re pressured, but we are not crushed.
Persecuted, but never alone.
We’re frustrated, but never despairing.
We’re jars of clay for Christ’s treasure to show.
This gospel’s bearing fruit in all the earth.
This gospel’s turned the world upside down.
Empires fall, their rulers shaken;
The earth is rocked to its foundation;
Cause this mighty Christ has taken our sins away.
They’ve resisted my gospel all over.
They’ve dogged my every step.
They’ve tried to ruin the work of God,
And they come to me like a thorn in the flesh.
They’ve shouted me down in the courtyards.
They’ve stoned me and left me for dead.
They’ve tried to poison the comforts I’ve had
And they’ve criticised all that I ever said
He’s returning, the conquering King.
He’s returning to redeem all he made.
When Christ leads his triumphal procession,
I’m overjoyed I’ll be in the parade.