Cut to the Chase
El-P | Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 (Gold Dust)
producer, and Def Jux label founder El-P has a little story he wants to
tell you…Make that a big one –– a pretty damn scary one, too. As a solo
artist and front man for hip-hop group Company Flow, and producer of
Cannibal Ox, Cage, Mr. Lif, Aesop Rock, NIN, Beck,
The Mars Volta, among many varied
others, the man is famous for getting a sound that makes you want to smash
things, or at least brood about it while nodding your head to his
mesmerizing beats. Audaciously so, El-P’s new, all-instrumental Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is far grander than a mere mix tape of wicked
sounds: In fact, it’s a movie, and each track tells a part of the riveting
Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 –– the follow-up to his past two mixes of the
same name –– is another threatening sonic cityscape filled with powerful
bass lines, bruising drum thumps and about a million other deranged sounds,
given suitably agitated titles such as "Drunk With a Loaded
Pistol," “Jump Fence, Run, Live” and “Whores: The Movie.”
mixed, and edited at El-P’s New York apartment studio, with additional
mixing done with engineer Joey Raia at Gotham Studios in Tribeca, the
album is so in-your-face you’ve got to wonder what was going on in his head
when it all went down.
was the kid who was in love with The Warriors movie because of the score, and I was obsessed with Vangelis and Blade
Runner,” he says. “You go through any
movie soundtrack, and the coolest music is from the chase scene! The chase
scene is not a happy scene, it’s a dangerous one, and I love that rush.
“I wanted to make something that was cohesive, that wasn’t just Song
1, Song 2, Song 3, and so on, despite the fact that a lot of the songs
initially didn’t have anything to do with each other. The challenge was
creating a place for them.”
There are things that are easier to do in a real
cut-and-paste sort of way, rather than relying on the performance of a plug-in,
“I often like to hardwire those things in. For example, I do a lot
of hard chops with my delays and other effects. Much of what one hears as
delays on the album are things that I’ve cut and faded manually in order to
have more complete control over the sound, and to be more creative with
order to establish some sort of thread between the songs, El-P did an
initial full mix of the songs, and then bounced each paired, mixed tracks
of the guitars, sound effects, strings and keyboards, and then took them
back into the mix, in effect re-producing the record using those mixed
stems. Such a process allowed for layering of additional instruments and
effects as well as alterations in song structures and overall sound blend.
“I was getting full mixes of songs that were
essentially completed, but which also had room for some editing,” he says.
After bouncing those mixed stems –– which would reduce the number of stems
for each song to under eight –– he brought them back into the system, then
layered additional instrumental parts and effects on top of each premixed
attention had to be paid to how the individual parts of each track would
fit into the overall “scene.”
you listen to the record you might see that there are elements reappear
throughout the record,” he says. “That happened in the first couple of
songs and it just bled through to song 4 or 5; and then I’d start again, and those things worm their
way throughout the whole record.”
This mad new mix was a lengthy and often tedious
process, but, says El-P, well worth the effort. Apart from his treks over to
Gotham Studios for additional mixing work, he played, recorded, edited and
effected the entire album in his New York apartment. Basic tracks were
recorded directly to an HD 2 ProTools system.
sampling plays a significant role in El-P’s kaleidoscopic sound mixes, the
end product on Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 was derived from a combination of sampling and
live playing on mostly analog and digital synths, and a lot of plug-ins.
One goal was to mask the sources of his sounds as much as possible. The
majority of the sampling was done on El-P’s enduring “dinosaur,” the
Ensoniq EPS 16+.
the same sampler that I’ve always used, and it’s a beautiful workhorse of a
machine with a really amazing sound. When I first started, I made
everything on that. Now, it’s more like an ancillary instrument, but it
still finds its way into everything.”
The album’s huge variety of analog synth sounds
include a Moog Voyager, a Nord Lead 2X, an Oberheim OB12 –– and a humble
little Yamaha CS 50, which El-P calls “the star of the show.” Plug-ins
include a couple of Virus synths, Dave Smith Prophet and Evolver modules,
and Spectrasonics’ Trillion Total Bass and Omnisphere.
While most of the sound design on Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 was achieved with the Sony Pulse
vintage analog synth and effects software, he did experiment with other
plug-ins for outboard effects; for compression he relied on his trusty old
The idea was to create a musical time and place that played like
that old-school notion of an LP record album, to immerse in
and follow through from beginning to end.
To create this story of an album, El-P collected old tunes that he'd started but which had never ended up on his next lyric rap record or on
any other project. “[These songs] were all different moods, and I put them
together to make some junkyard robot out of them.” And what a funky
junkyard robot it turned out to be.