Advantage 10 year itch

Advantage 101

We are going back at least to the start of the 2000’s for this post, as this is when I first produced a track called Advantage, which ultimately led me towards a 12-year music production career.

I was living in a house in Belfast, with a few friends and had just recently left the band I had pretty much spent all of my 20’s in, called Zerotonin.

I really enjoyed that time of my life, we travelled all over the world and met some wonderful people, played with bands such as Clutch and Throat, but as always musical differences comes to play. So, they moved on with a new bass player, and me and Andy (childhood friend) moved onto other music related things.


advantage - needle jerk
Zerotonin – Needle Jerk

Zerotonin were formed in August 1998 by Glenn Wilson, Garry White and Andrew Morrison, under the name HYBRID. The band immediately “clicked” and began to write a large number of songs, the first four of which were recorded at the end of January 1999 – this is the “Is Innocence Beautiful?” recording. During the recording, the band encountered copyright problems and so changed the name to Zerotonin.

For live work, the three-piece line up is complimented by samples & decks man MrTheBigMan. The band played their first gig in the Rosetta Bar, Belfast on June 19th 1999 and immediately made an impact on the scene. For the 2nd gig at the Rosetta, on July 31st, the British Unsigned Rock Bands organization and What’s That Spell? fanzine flew over to see them, and this has resulted in Zerotonin being awarded Artist of the Month on the Burbs website.

In November 99 the band produced their second studio recording, “Needle Jerk”, which was released on February 2nd 2000.

Zerotonin – Blunt
Zerotonin – Tongue


But we did always come back together to work on or discuss music, as it was a great passion of ours.

However, reason I left the band was not for the reason the band thought.

I didn’t leave because my best friend at the time did, instead I realised that the band was going into a direction that would require me to be much more musical, but I didn’t have the skill level to give them what they needed.

So, I left, with a new set of goals, mostly to make myself better musically, but also to follow on the path of a new passion, in music production.

How it Started – A Serious Advantage

We came back from a UK tour that lasted around 60 days in early 2000 and we were all frazzled to say the least. In fact, we couldn’t really stand the sight of each other, so we took some time away to refocus our energies, in order to come back again and make some new music.

We had done some work with a producer in Magherafelt who had very kindly given me all the tracks recorded on a CD, so I could pull out some samples for the live show (I was a turntablist and keyboard player).

We had a fairly beat up PC at home which wasn’t really being used for anything, so I began to look at the tracks I had, and what software I would need to make the best out of them.

Of course, there was no budget, so I was looking at free alternatives, and this is were I found Acid, or Acid Pro as it is known now.


Acid

“ACID Loops is a technology used with the music making software originally from Sonic Foundry called ACID. Created in 1998, it refers to the repetition, and transposition of sound clips, to form a song. The ACID Pro program is now owned and distributed by Sony, and is on version 7. Sony also now sells a line of Acidized loop sample CDs to be used with ACID, as do many third party companies.

Similar technology was added to Cakewalk’s Sonar (calling it Groove Clips) and Cubase (calling it Audio Warp). Although the phrase “ACID loops” technically is only associated with Sonic Foundry, some people use the term to refer to the technique even when used with other software packages.

Acidized loops contain tempo and key information, so that ACID can properly time stretch them when pitch shifted.”


Effectively, any piece of audio you through at it, turned into an Acid Loop, which automatically fits to the tempo of the track you were writing.

So, I started working with a track called “Blunt”, which was a single contender even though we were such a heavy band and returned to the band after a two-week hiatus with a remix.

My passion for music production had begun, and I was loving it!

Advantage Me!

The remix made it around our group of friends as well as our peers in the music community. Andy then suggested to an up and coming band that I could produce their first record in my little home studio, and we began working on it.

It wasn’t the best thing I have ever produced in my life, I felt guilty charging for it but it was good enough to get them in the door to play dome gigs, so served its purpose.

We both realised that if we were going to do this full time, we would not only need to practice and learn how to produce a record, but get good at it, quickly.

I picked up an early copy of Cubase and we began to write tracks, record the parts, get good at microphone placement to try and get the best recordings possible.


Cubase VST

Cubase has existed in three main incarnations. Initially Cubase, which featured only MIDI, and which was available on the Atari ST, Macintosh and Windows.

After a brief period with audio integration, the next version, Cubase VST, featured fully integrated audio recording and mixing along with effects.

It added Virtual Studio Technology (VST) support, a standard for audio plug-ins, which led to a plethora of third-party effects, both freeware and commercial. Cubase VST was only for Macintosh and Windows; Atari support had been effectively dropped by this time, despite such hardware still being a mainstay in many studios.

Cubase VST was offering a tremendous amount of power to the home user, but computer hardware took some time to catch up. By the time it did, VST’s audio editing ability was found to be lacking, when compared with competitors such as Pro Tools DAE and Digital Performer MAS.


When we later worked on their second record, it was much, much better than before because we had spent the time getting good at the work, we were trying to get involved in.

One of the tracks we wrote together as a part of this process was Advantage.

How Advantage was Written

It started with a jam session on my first ever keyboard, which was a Casio (not sure which).

Naturally it had the usual drum pre-sets and some very bad synth sounds, but it played its part.

It is built off a bar of B and a bar of C and if you can listen to the track, you will hear that synth sound in the background as the backbone of the track.


Probably the wrong one, but it looks very close to what I remember.

The drums are the same as the keyboard pattern, and can also be heard in the background, but naturally I built a real drum track over the top of it for more flair.

Andy then wrote the bass line, and the guitar lines and we recorded then in one sitting, as we were into rough and ready productions at that time (really, we still weren’t good enough at it, in the food world they call it “rustic”).

The Charles Manson thing came later.

At that stage of our lives, we had come out of a heavy metal/punk band and really had that punk attitude still in our bellies.

Also, a great part of music marketing at that time was how to get yourself in front of as many faces as possible by being deliberately obtuse, think “Firestarter” by The Prodigy to get what I mean.


RIP to the original Firestarter, Keith Flint

Also, neither of us could sing.

I was looking for free vocal snippets online and came across the full speech that you can hear in the song, so I cut it up, fit it round the music and Advantage was born.

Why is it called Advantage? I don’t know, as we were rubbish at naming tracks. Instead, we pick the first word that came to our head beginning with A. First track, first word, first letter of the alphabet.

Remixing Advantage

The remixes came a long time later, I believe in …. The reason for that is me and Andy parted company after the last record we produced together to work on other bands, namely Inside for Andy, and The Doctors in Session for myself.

Once I had finished my production work with them, I then began to work on my own solo material, under the guise of T2D and MrTheBigMan.

T2D was my house imprint where I made most of my techno and tech house creations whereas MrTheBigMan was all about the bounce, which you can hear on both sets of remixes.

Below is a breakdown of some of the work that went into creating the Absurd Underground Remix of Advantage.

In this video, I demonstrate how the main bass-line, drums and melodies were built for the Absurd Underground remix of Advantage.

Follow along as I show you how I created the sounds within the Absurd Underground Remix of Advantage