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DAVID LOWE: Recording Touch & Go's 'Would You?'

Interview | Producer By David Lowe
Published January 1999

David Lowe, mastermind behind the Touch And Go single, in his home studio.David Lowe, mastermind behind the Touch And Go single, in his home studio.

It's every SOS reader's dream to make a record at home and have it go straight into the top five. David Lowe tells Paul White how it's done.

Would you go to bed with me? No it's not a lewd suggestion, but the hook line from the hit single 'Would You?' by Touch And Go. At the time of this interview, 'Would You?' had just spent several weeks in the top five, and that's in the face of some pretty tough pre‑Christmas releases. What most record buyers don't appreciate, however, is that Touch And Go is masterminded by David Lowe, who wrote, produced and mixed the single in his private studio on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills using relatively modest equipment.

David has already been featured in SOS [November 1996] for his work on a British Airways TV commercial — this is the man who brought an engineer close to tears by insisting that the output from a classic Neve console go through his Alesis compressor! He's put the sound to countless other TV programmes and commercials from Häagen Dazs ice cream to Jeremy Clarkson but, until now, record success has been more elusive. His first solo album Dreamcatcher certainly didn't do as well as it deserved, though some of the tracks have appeared on numerous TV programmes, and whispering Bob Harris's Radio 2 show — but the Touch And Go product is a quite different story. And yes, there is a real band that will be performing the songs live, not just miming on TOTP. So where did the idea come from for this annoyingly catchy single? David takes up the tale:

"I have an ongoing relationship with Oval Records, who released the Dreamcatcher album. After that project didn't take off as we hoped, we were looking around for other ideas to pursue. Charlie Gillett — who runs Oval with Gordon Nelski — is fantastic, a real music guru. He likes non‑formula music with the potential for commercial success, given the right exposure. He constantly finds and champions really excellent quality music that isn't mainstream pop, so keeping him interested is quite a challenge!

"I was working on some Brazilian‑style music which was sounding quite promising and I played it to Charlie, and between us we developed the concept of Touch And Go. From the outset, we wanted to make it performable live, because one of the problems with Dreamcatcher was that it was quite complex and I played everything myself — it was purely a studio album, which can be quite restrictive on performance and the marketing and exposure side. Interestingly, the keyboard player with Touch And Go is Mieko Shimizu, who also sang some of the vocals on the Dreamcatcher album. She's quite a well known performer in her own right in Japan.

"Because of the band approach, I deliberately restricted the arrangement to a set of instruments that a small band could play live — I love the sound of bands like Propellerheads, solid grooves interspersed with sparse vocals, that really appeals to me. I liked the idea of having something with just two or three elements, in contrast to Dreamcatcher, which was so layered and complicated. I wanted something timeless but different to today's sound, something 'new' that would create its own niche. I chose drums and stand‑up bass, piano — because that's what I play best! — and the great, under‑used, lead sound of the trumpet.

"I had a style — now for the concept, the subject matter of the track. Being a bit backward at coming forward in my earlier days, I thought it would be a great idea to produce a dance single that got straight to the point, with no bullshit, and simply asked that vitally important question. So if you fancy that girl or guy really badly, but you're a bit on the shy side, when the track comes on, hey presto, the question is already asked for you — you just have to look over and smile at your true love, and off you go..."

"I'm not going to divulge where that original vocal came from — that's a well‑kept secret, though I can tell you that she appeared in something quite different that I was working on a couple of years ago. She's an American actress, but I'm not going to say who, and no — it's not Monica Lewinsky or Jennifer Aniston! Obviously we came to an arrangement with her to use her voice, and she's really quite excited about it, especially as the record is about to be released in America. We replaced the original with our vocalist Vanessa Lancaster at a very early stage, but in the end we were overtaken by that well‑known disease, demo‑itis. The original vocal had that indescribable something, so at the last minute it ended up back on the record, though in live performances the vocals are handled by Vanessa."

So much for the vocals, but what of the track's South American‑flavoured backing? It turns out that David got the original inspiration for the track going with little more than his Akai ASQ10 sequencer, an S3000 sampler and a handful of MIDI modules, before involving the rest of the band.

There's also a Latin percussion loop taken from a Zero‑G sample CD...

"I got the basic groove going over what was initially a four‑bar major chord MIDI sequence on bass, drums and piano. Then I got James Lynch, the trumpet player, to jam over the top for a while to see what would come out. I also got him to do some more specific things, such as the trill and a few melodic elements. We recorded that straight into one of my Akai S3000 samplers using my Rode Classic valve mic. Once the trumpet was down, I trawled through the recording and picked out little tiny snippets, then mapped them on to different keys of my master keyboard — I had the whole keyboard full of tiny little trumpet phrases. The melody motif that's on the record didn't actually exist until I sampled sections of what Jim had jammed and then played it back from the keyboard over the top of the piano chords. We did work out some riffs between us at the recording stage, but when I came to use them, they weren't quite what I wanted — I wasn't quitesure what mood I wanted to capture, but I was pretty sure that it wasn't what we had at the time.

"Once I'd got the final motif worked out using the sampler, Jim came back in and played it for real, as the samples sounded a bit too stilted. The complete new phrase was then put back into the sampler to be triggered at the relevant places during the song. Even then, the whole feel wasn't quite happening as it should, but then I got the idea of changing the piano part to a minor key and straight away it all came together.

"The bits that sound like trumpet improvisations were actually pieced together from that original jam we had over the chord sequence, with some added delay. I used the same delay on the snare drum to give it a bit of a rockabilly feel.

"The original drum part comprises a bass drum, snare and hi‑hats taken from a sample CD. They were part of a loop, but I sampled the individual beats and then programmed up my own part. There's also a Latin percussion loop taken from a Zero‑G sample CD, and another loop with more of a thumping African feel. These are used fairly quietly and I had to slow them down to match the tempo of the song, which happens to be 171bpm!"

Sovra Wilson‑Dickson, Touch And Go's drummer, also helped David put together a conga loop which is used in places throughout the song. "She's a great asset for the band," explains David, "as she also sings, plays violin and is very good at string arrangements." A talented lady indeed!

"I got Tony Thomas to record all the bass part using his double bass, but in the end I couldn't get the sound of Tony's bass solid enough on its own to sit with the rest of the track. So I used the General MIDI acoustic bass (patch 033) from my Roland JV2080, quantised, with just a hint of the recorded bass mixed in. The piano also came from the JV2080 (preset bank A, patch 001), and I added a bit of unquantised piano improvisation which I used in the mix.

"When the track was presented to Charlie [Gillett of Oval Records], it was probably 90 percent there, but it was felt there wasn't enough happening at the bottom end, and we decided the arrangement needed editing to make it tighter. To beef up the bottom end, I layered other drum samples with my original programmed loop to create a fatter sound. I didn't know at the time how close to finished the song was, so I went through the whole thing of trying different rhythms and loops, but in the end, nothing had the feel of the original, and it turned out that thickening up the sounds by layering on another bass drum and snare drum was all that was needed.

"The record company took my mix to do a radio edit and put more vocals in the second verse as well as at the end. Originally, I had more trumpet in the second verse."


DAVID LOWE: Recording Touch & Go's 'Would You?'

"My usual way of working is to get all the individual elements into the two S3000 samplers, so none of the mix actually comes off tape. Everything was sequenced direct from the samplers and the JV2080 with my Akai ASQ10 sequencer, which I'm very used to working with. I used seven of the separate outputs plus the main stereo out on the first sampler, then used the second one for the trumpet parts. In all, there are 29 separate trumpet samples on the single.

"My mixer is an Alesis X2, though I quite like the look of the Mackie Digital 8‑buss — the ability to recall a mix would be very useful. My Logic‑loving friends are also telling me I ought to ditch the ASQ10 and buy a Mac running Logic Audio instead, possibly with Pro Tools hardware. Since you last interviewed me, I've replaced my Tannoy monitors with Dynaudio BM15s, but I still use my Yamaha NS10s to provide a 'second opinion'.

"I used the parametric EQ on the mixer to sharpen up some of the drum and hi‑hat sounds, and the delay came from my old Alesis Quadraverb, set to 518 milliseconds. I used a Lexicon LXP15 set to the Dark Closet patch to provide general ambience, and also used the really cheap Zoom 1201 set to Ambience (Variation 3) to give me a short, trashy reverb on the drums. That's an incredible little unit for the money."

At this point discussions turn to the follow‑up single, and it turns out that David already has a basic groove sorted out and has thought up a a sax line to go with it. We pause the tape for a while and David runs through a few bars on the sequencer. Coincidentally, the initial drum loop behind the groove is the same one he sourced the snare and bass drum samples from for 'Would You?'. The vocal hook will be different, but if David knows exactly what it's going to be yet, he's not telling. All he will reveal is that the single will include some surprises.

Have you changed your mind about revealing the identity of the mystery vocalist?

"Would I?"

Virtual Track Sheet

DAVID LOWE: Recording Touch & Go's 'Would You?'

As the whole composition was played directly from the sequencer rather than recorded to multitrack, there is no conventional track sheet, though the various layers look something like this:


  • Main kick/snare/hi‑hat loop (programmed) with 518mS delay on the snare and hi‑hat (Akai S3000).
  • Latin percussion loop (from sample CD), treated and time‑shifted to fit (Akai S3000).
  • African percussion loop (also from sample CD), treated and time‑shifted to fit (Akai S3000).
  • Conga part (Akai S3000).
  • Bass: acoustic bass from JV2080 (GM patch 033), layered with small amount of recorded acoustic bass.
  • Piano 1: Chordal pattern using JV2080 (internal patch A001).
  • Piano 2: Improvisation using JV2080 (internal patch A001).
  • Trumpet: 29 samples on Akai S3000 (518mS delay on improvisation section).
  • Vocal: sampled on Akai S3000.


  • Delay: Alesis Quadraverb (518mS single repeat).
  • Reverb 1: overall ambience, Lexicon LXP15 (Dark Closet).
  • Reverb 2: Mainly for drums, Zoom 1201 (Ambience, Variation 3).

David Lowe (left) with the other members of Touch And Go — James Lynch, Sovra Wilson‑Dickson, and Mieko Shimizu.David Lowe (left) with the other members of Touch And Go — James Lynch, Sovra Wilson‑Dickson, and Mieko Shimizu.