Brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey have been delivering their brand of trip-hop and pop for 19 years as Morcheeba, with the beautiful and unmistakable vocals of Skye Edwards very much part of their inimitable sound for most of this period.
Their most successful singles include Trigger Hippie, Part of the Process, and, of course, the infectious Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day and, last October, the trio released their eighth studio album Head Up High. Time+Space customer Paul Godfrey recently rated iZotope’s Iris as one of his favourite plugins in Computer Music magazine, so we caught up with him to find out more about his studio set-up, the new album and why he loves Iris.
Hi Paul, let´s dive straight into your studio, which DAW do you use and what are you running it on?
I use Pro Tools 10 on a Mac. I also use Ableton for it´s superior warping abilities and N.I. Maschine for creating beats.
Where to start? Well, I have a ton of hardware I´ve collected over the years and I still prefer to mix hybrid but mostly out the box. I love compression so I have many different flavours like the Pye compressor, the vintage LA2A or the 1176s, for stereo compression, I have the Thermionic Phoenix Mastering Edition, the Elysia Mpressor, the ALSO Dynax, the ADR Compex, Cranesong STC-8, DBX 160s etc.
Pre/EQ wise I like vintage Calrecs and Neves, it doesn´t get much better than that for me, I also use valve V72s though.
I love synths too and have an ARP 2600, a Moog Voyager that I love for bass, a Prophet V rev 2 that used to be the BBC one that still has the BBC presets! I also have a Eurorack modular which I hook up to Expert Sleepers Silent Way and get lost in. I often use a Cwejman S1mk2 plus a bunch of other quirky stuff.
There are also a lot of vintage keys like Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond, Clavinet etc. and drum kits of various shapes and sizes.
I use a little Tonelux 32 channel mixer which sounds amazing and better than all of the large format consoles I´ve owned.
It´s been 18 years since your debut album ´Who Can You Trust?´ was released, and we´ve seen huge advancements in music technology since then but is there anything in particular that has remained steadfast in the way you work and/or hardware you use?
Despite an engineering background, I was originally a DJ so I´ve always approached music from a fan´s perspective. I have always employed turntables and although I use Traktor now I still search for inspiration from the decks. But as convenient and amazing as the advancements are you still need a good quality idea that people can relate to and that is the challenge.
When we made Who Can You Trust? we were young and somewhat slapdash compared to our more recent pursuit of craftsmanship and to be honest, there was a lot to be said for not caring as much, things used to happen naturally and in those days we only used our ears and didn´t study sound waves.
In a recent interview with Computer Music magazine you rated iZotope´s Iris as one of your favourite music software tools, what is it about the ´visual instrument´ that you like so much?
I like it because it´s fun to use and yields unique results pretty quickly. I also love the fact that all this modern software can detect pitch pretty accurately which helps a DJ with limited skills like myself.
What prompted you to start using Iris? Was it recommended by someone?
Dave Spiers from G-Force introduced me via email to [iZotope’s] Tedd Terry who was recruiting for the beta program.
Would you go as far as to say that Iris has changed your creative process?
I wouldn´t go that far no as there are many ways I like to manipulate sound which are all incredibly valuable but the speed of Iris makes it a weapon of choice for me.
I like to record my own location sounds with a little Olympus digital recorder and because I live in rural France I capture some great noises and ambiences and then I like to mangle these with Iris.
Do you use any of the inbuilt sounds and expansion packs or do you tend to stick to using your own samples?
I tend to use my own in most cases although I used a preset on a track from our last album called "To The Grave" and it just glued everything together incredibly well. I find with Iris that it works great with analogue and digital sounds and bridges the gap between the two worlds.
What kinds of samples do you generally throw at Iris?
Everything from synth pads to natural sound effects.
Do you use any other iZotope instruments and/or effects plugins? If so, which ones?
I also use Stutter Edit which I love and RX which is very useful. I´m also just getting into BreakTweaker which is a lot of fun and fast. Speed is key, if I have to spend too long looking at a tiny plug-in window I just lose interest and do something else like surf the net.
Head Up High is more uptempo than previous albums and we read that this time you started with the beats instead of starting with an acoustic guitar – was that a conscious decision on your part when you started writing for this album?
Yes, I wanted to set the pace of the record with rhythm on this album as it felt like a fresh approach. I believe it´s really important to start with a strong concept for a song but sometimes the beats can be equally inspiring in terms of setting a mood.
What software/hardware did you use to create those beats?
Maschine mostly but also AIR Transfuser and a few old drum machines like the DMX and the 808.
The new album features appearances from Rizzle Kicks, Ana Tijoux, White Denim´s James Petralli among others, how did those collaborations come about?
I spent time researching stuff that I felt would work with us and we made contact to see if the potential collaborators were interested. Turns out they all were and their contributions were incredible. Bringing in the top outside talent is great as it set´s the bar so high for us and keeps us on our toes.
Finally, you´re busy touring in the next few months in Russia, New Zealand and Sydney - are there any plans for a UK tour in 2014?
We played a couple of dates last year and we have some festivals this year but no plans for a UK tour as such yet.
Thanks very much for your time Paul!
To find out more about Morcheeba, you can visit their website here