Then there’s the art of combining disparate types of sounds. For example, the unexpected Middle Eastern flute riff that appears from time to time in “Skin.”
That was from Marius’s holiday. “Skin” was a track that the three of us worked together on [Orbit, Devries, and Madonna]. We had fun with that one, and that flute was something Marius recorded at a market while on holiday in Morocco. In fact, at the very end of that track I faded it early because everyone started clapping at the end of the sequence. It didn’t sound right to hear applause at the end. It gave the wrong impression of the track, so I faded it early.
Tell us about the other aspects of working with Madonna — cutting vocals, for example.
Madonna’s production involvement was a major factor in this record, and it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. She is pretty intense when she’s doing vocals, and doesn’t go over things a lot of times. It’s not like ages and ages of takes, She’s in the vocal booth, and stuff happens quickly. I always assumed or thought Madonna was more sort of calculating in the way she did music, but in reality it turns out… There is a level of crafting to get things right, but there’s also an element of serendipity, just letting things happen, and keeping the vibe going. She’s quite a vibe merchant — a real viber in the studio.
Another thing about Madonna. I’ve never met anybody who has more ability to make things happen like she does. Stuff happens, and she makes it happen just by the sheer force of her will.
Was it generally clear to you and Madonna when a track was done and ready to be mixed?
Well, the thing is, sometimes you do a demo mix… “Drowned World” was a demo mix, for example. It wasn’t supposed to be a final mix, it was a rough, but it worked and that’s what you hear on the record. So in that respect it’s the time when you say, “Well, it’s not finished, but I don’t want to take it any further ’cause it seems to have reached a son of apotheosis. It’s perfect now. Let’s not take it any further and risk spoiling it… Don’t guild that lily!”
Hopefully this record will inspire people to research your Strange Cargo back catalog.
I hope so.
You’ve been so prolific, yet you’re not that old. How do you keep the energy up?
Wheat grass and jack Daniels.
We’re starting to hear remixes of the new tracks on the radio. Are you involved in the process?
I know of a Stereo-MCs one, and Vlctor Calderone, who does stuff out of Miami. But there’s going to be a lot of mixes going on.
Are you responsible for getting the raw material out to the remixers?
To a point, yeah. I have to be, really, ’cause it’s all sitting in my Atari and samplers, and a few tapes here and there.
Now that Ray of Light is done, and doing well, what’s next on your schedule?
Amongst other things I’ll be returning to my Pieces in a Modem Style record. It was withdrawn shortly after release last year due to copyright problems, which are now resolved. I did versions of my favorite 20th century compositions. Composers like Henry Gorecki, Samuel Barber, Erik Satie, and Maurice Ravel. The delay was a blessing in disguise — I now have the opportunity to add some more pieces.
Will this be an acoustic or electronic project?
Both. I use my usual sound pallet but in a very understated way to do these interpretations.
Why do I think we’ll be seeing your name on the big screen soon?
Well I am here in Hollywood, in tinsel town, aren’t I?