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William Orbit on Madonna, Ray Of Light : Keyboard Magazine

“Skin” is loaded with expressive pitch-delay effects.

That was Marius; he and I worked on that one. The bit where it kind of drops down is a looped-up guitar – a guitar phrase, looped up and then pitched up and down again.

How did you get the chopped-up vocal effect in the intro?

The vocals are going through a Panscan, a scanning device, on one side only. In fact all the tremolo you hear on the album where it’s panning is an old Panscan. The Panscan puts the signal back and forth across the stereo field, but you can speed it up. And if you’ve just got it on one side, it cuts in and out. It’s an analog device — knobs, not a mouse.

When did you commit those types of effects to tape — during mixdown or earlier?

I record stuff to tape in a really ad-lib fashion. In other words, I’ll get the gear going and just “perform” it to tape. And on a project like this, with 48 or more tracks available, you become quite wasteful. But the key is that I would subsequently go back, load the best bits into the sampler, and further manipulate them. You get the best of both worlds that way. I’ve been doing that for years; I think a lot of people do that. if people aren’t using tape, or some type of recording medium, they should. In other words, anybody who just runs everything through live sequencer patches to DAT runs the risk of not getting that kind of grungy… I heard this interview with Tom Waits and he said something to the effect of, “If you overwork music, if you sterilize it or pasteurize it too much, then all the nutrients get lost.” That’s what we’re talking about here. I believe you get more of that in analog recording. Then you shove your analog bits into your sampler or computer and further manipulate it. Wonderful things can happen. Best of both worlds.

Madonna - Keyboard / July 1998

What’s that Jetsons like flying saucer sound in “Skin”?

The M5-20 is very spiky like that. Like, if you listen to the track “The Power of Goodbye,” that’s got lots of little sounds like that in it. The MS-20 is great. I mean, there’s something about its transient peaks that are very spiky. And you can make that machine scream. Its two filters are very severe.

Are these sounds typically made by triggering one note with a long release, and then working the knobs?

It’s all done with the onboard VCO, and it’s all done in a very analog way, Basically, you have two hands, so you’ve got a hold of two knobs, and you set it up for that golden spot. Every synth has that little G spot where subtle, slight tweaking of two parameters takes you through a huge range of sound. And then you can pick those best performances and stick them back in the samples.
I think people who use lots of plug—in programs don’t always understand that it’s better to start off using different VCO and things on synths, to get your source material, because there’s something more “analog” about it. There’s something about the curve. The human brain can distinguish ever such a lot of information.
The way an analog echo throws its repeat back, for example, and the timing of its repeat versus the way a computer does it. It might be subtle, but we can tell that. That’s something that should not be underestimated.