In The Studio With Nero’s Welcome Reality
While Skrillex and Bassnectar were busy claiming the States for dubstep, back overseas, a drum-n-bass production duo made good on its intuitive foray into dubstep’s low end. Indeed, Nero managed to dominate the discussion on the dubstep’s rise to the top, thanks to the U.K. Top-40 success of their single “Me & You.”
The 2011 release of the group’s debut LP Welcome Reality [Interscope] built on the group’s bombastic, larger-than-life take on the dubstep’s towering basslines and pared-back rhythms, mixed in with lots of rock-inspired raunch and ’80s-era funk/synth-pop fetishes. The group—Joe Ray, Daniel Stephens and vocalist Alana Watson—even joined forces with Skrillex himself for a joint remix of the group’s “Promises,” which they nailed in one session.
“It was refreshing to hear a different BPM with more space in the mix,” says Nero co-founder Ray of the group’s introduction to dubstep. “Drum-n-bass had got progressively faster and louder, so dubstep was this slightly more stripped-back, slower sound.”
Set in a future dystopia where the impoverished masses are anesthetized by a virtual-reality video game of the same name, Welcome Reality is a concept album, which derives its sound from several different bits of gear. Sequenced on Cubase, the duo relies on Native Instruments soft synths such as the dubstep mainstay Massive as well as FM8. The record also enjoys contributions from outboard gear, such as a Neve board, Roland Jupiter 8 and the Minimoog Voyager. The Jupiter 8, in particular, accounts for the retro touches present on “Reaching Out”—every bit as much as Daryl Hall’s vocal guest spot. In addition, Ray’s past experience in rock comes out with the Robert Fripp-inspired textures on “Scorpions.”
“We used an e-bow to create that ‘Scorpions’ sound,” reveals Ray. “We layered a few up, then layered with synths to create that ‘Blade Runner’ real/digital effect.”