Our engineer works the mix to get a pop-funk track competing sonically with the likes of Jamiroquai.
When Axel Roland first played me his music, it was clear he’d already put his best foot forward, supplementing his own considerable singing, keyboard-playing, and sequencing talents with judicious overdubs from other live instrumentalists, and working with a female singer to build up an engaging backing-vocal arrangement. However, his production-values benchmark was Jamiroquai — a high quality bar — and I felt that a good deal of fine-tuning would still be needed to sound competitive in that kind of company. So I suggested that I put together a mix to demonstrate the kinds of tweaks I had in mind.
Lingua Funqa is the creative brainchild of Axel Roland. Graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Axel first built a career in New York as a jazz pianist and composer, releasing records under Axel’s Axiom moniker. Since 2017, however, he’s been forging a new pop-funk sound with the help of several long-time musician collaborators, and the song featured in this month’s article is his fourth single, ‘Just One Minute’.
Alongside Axel’s singing, songwriting, and general production skills, it also showcases the talents of drummer Sean Rainey (recorded by Rozhan Razman at New York’s Riro Musik), violinist Benjamin Sutin, and backing vocalist May Cheung.
First off, I wanted the song’s groove to feel more consistent, and began by focussing on the drums. The performance was decent enough that, had this been an indie rock song, I’d probably have left it untouched. But set against Axel’s sampled loops and multiple quantised MIDI parts (including the main bass synth), I felt it really had to be nailed to the grid. This isn’t the kind of decision I ever take lightly (not least because it can be a pain in the arse to implement!), but here it struck me as unavoidable.
While checking through the drum slices, I also attended to another important issue. In common with many classic funk and disco tunes, the drums combined a four-to-the-floor kick-drum pattern with a snare backbeat, and few drummers can maintain this without their kick and snare occasionally disagreeing about the location of beats two and four. These unwanted flams sound less punchy and tend to undermine the groove, but fortunately it’s usually not too tricky to fix them by copying and pasting more solid hits from elsewhere in the song. You just need...
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