October 26, 2014

In The Studio With... Designer Drugs: Through the Prism

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By: Justin Hampton

“I’d like to put Nine Inch Nails on our next Datamix,” Michael Vincent Patrick confesses as he discusses the 13th installation of Designer Drugs’ popular online mixtape series, “Or maybe Marilyn Manson.” After all, somebody’s gotta hold it down for the dark side in New York City, even if the other half of the duo (Theodore Paul Nelson) attends med school in West Virginia. Since the duo’s formation in Philadelphia, Designer Drugs has risen from the depths to fulfill this role with their canny mixture of vintage goth-industrial atmosphere and sleazy electro attitude, which they’ve spread through originals such as “ZOMBIES!” and remixes for Mariah Carey, Annie and the Klaxons.

Their latest CD, Hardcore/Softcore [Ultra], displays all of Designer Drugs’ musical urges, from sparkly Euro-disco (“Crazy For You,” featuring Annie) to slimy future funk (“Through The Prism,” which recently got a rollicking remix from Drop the Lime). For all of these productions, work begins at Patrick’s studio with Nelson and an assistant engineer, who may also shuttle sounds to a separate studio in Philly. There, the duo keeps outboard gear such as a vintage Neotek console, which accounts for the wobbly bass sounds on “Through The Prism,” and compressors by Avalon, ART and Drawmer. On the digital end, writing is done in Logic Audio and the mixing in Pro Tools, along with 29 soft synths. Among these, Patrick highlights the Korg Mono/Poly Emulation and the LennarDigital Sylenth1 as favorites. The group’s vocals are recorded on a Neumann U87 microphone, compressed and amped through the Avalon and sent through the Neotek board into Logic, where it undergoes further compression and EQing using Waves C1. They’re also not above using Autotune or Melodyne to thrust vocals up an octave.

“On the song, ‘For All We Know,’ the vocal is actually quite processed,” says Patrick, offering an example with the dark, nervy track. “It’s pitched up about an octave, but it’s only mixed in about an octave. It’s only mixed in maybe 70-percent, so the lower vocal’s in there as well.”

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