Monday, 28 January 2008

On & On & On & On & On

Finished our extended version of On & On tonight for the forthcoming EY/Undo compilation.

I started it quite a while ago and kept going back to it, rather than trying to do a traditional remix I have tried to do a faithful extended 80's 12" type thing. The problem is doing this yourself is it gets really tedious as I must of heard loops of this track many thousands of times.

I discovered some parts that had not been used in the final version, I think these were for an early middle section, these have now formed part of the extended remix and I'm glad I never deleted then. Normally before final mixing I tidy my arrangements up and delete all the unused parts to eek extra processing power our of my Mac. Having written that track almost a year ago I quite like the new section, maybe include this in a future live version.

Just ordered the SE Electronics Reflexion filter for our next batch of vocal recording, previously the vocals were recorded within a normal room space and whilst the vocals work really well within a full mix it means there is unwanted ambience recorded . I would like to treat the vocals more like an instrument on the next album and a clean sound is vital.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Love Action

Two posts in one night...

In December we played at a private party in Sheffield to celebrate the launch of 'Wigs & Warpaint' a hair salon / clothes boutique, anyway Rob from EY asked us to do a Human League cover which of course we went and did. So because we were playing in Sheffield we decided to do our version of 'Love Action'. This was to a very young and very trendy crowd, afterwards a girl said to me "I've heard that song before, I didn't realise you did it" - I didn't correct her!, although I did ask "are you a waitress in a cocktail bar" she replied "No I'm a beauty therapist" - I felt very old.

Anyway this is a version of the track with just the backing vocals, we have decided to redo the vocals in our next recording session.

Have a listen here

Friday, 25 January 2008


Well got my tickets in the pre-sale this morning, noticed this evening that the London show had already sold out, not sure if that means the whole thing or just the pre-sale allocation?

We had a request earlier in the week by Markus from Borlife in Germany, he did a great review of our album. This was his email.


How are you? Hope, you feel well!

We are planing for our radio broadcast a special for YAZOO. For this we would like to have comments from you for our Radio-Show. Would it be possible that you answer the folowwing questions as MP3, so that we can play in our broadcast?

What do you think of the fact that Alison and Vince are together again on stage?

What influence did YAZOO to your music?

Which song is your favorite song of YAZOO?

Will you attend the concerts?

It would be nice, if you could send us the answers nearly. Of course, we would play Songs form you at the show!

By now many thanks and lots of love!


I will post a transcript of our answers soon after the show is broadcast.

I did start to wonder though what sort of musical set-up Vince would have. It will be really interesting (for me) to hear how faithful the tracks will be. I purchased one of the special "Evening with" Erasure CDs but I was quite disappointed at the Karaoke version of 'Just can't get enough' they did.

Vince... if you're reading this give me a shout, I'd love to help.

One of the first things I/We (Baz from Electrobelle) did when we got our virtual versions of the ARP 2600 was program the sounds from 'Upstairs at Erics'

Recognise the start of this? This track "Please" never made it to our album.


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Sarah: Writing about writing

Why do I write? I write to relax, unwind and de-frag the day. Writing soothes me, and when things are on the page, they’re out of my head and I don’t have to worry about them! Sometimes, I speed write. I’ll literally set a 5 minute timer and just go for it. I won’t think much about what I’m writing, I just make sure the pen keeps moving on the page. Quite often, I end up with some tasty lyrics from this approach – ‘with shaking hands and twitching face’ from Home, is one example.

What do I write about? Most of my lyrics aren’t really about any particular thing – they are more groups of words that give a flavour of something; a person, a feeling, a need or whatever. I wouldn’t ever profess to set out to write deep and meaningful lyrics. Sometimes, when Matt sends tracks up to me to work on, I listen to the tune and certain shapes and rhythms of words just seem to fit. It’s all a bit of a mish-mash. I mostly write from instinct and for pure pleasure. I wrote a couple of tracks on Fifty Three Degrees North that were specifically about people in my life. I have to be really moved (or pissed off) by someone for this to happen! I suppose it’s inevitable that you end up writing about your own life and relationships that effect you.
Someone at a gig of ours once said that my lyrics were ‘too personal’ for electro-pop, which is interesting. I think for the new tracks that I’m writing, I’m going to experiment with this and write some de-humanised, robotic lyrics in response. But, then even that will be personal, because it’s still about my emotional response to something – I guess there’s just no pleasing some people!

Who do I write for? Myself. With maybe a glimmer of hope that someone, somewhere might be moved, inspired or entertained by the words I’m singing.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Fresh ears

The first batch of ideas are now complete, Sarah will be finishing the lyrics for these over the next two weeks and we will be recording these over the first weekend in February. Previously we worked on at most two ideas at a time however I'm trying to get a feel for the album as a whole, so after the first vocal sessions I will pick out the stronger tracks to concentrate on. I plan to take these to almost a finished state and they will form the bulk of our next EP, Project X.

The reason for working this way is to try and get an album that feels complete, 53 Degrees to me feels like an eclectic album, probably as it was written and record over a year. We never really had the thought that we would do a complete album so the early tracks just happened. I'd like to strike a balance on this album between catchy pop tunes and more interesting tracks that maybe have a less conventional song structure.

Having reviewed the tracks so far I'm quite happy with them, Sarah thinks they are more mainstream pop than anything else, I think they probably are at this stage but I really want to push them to the edge when I produce the final versions.

We played live on Thursday night at The Musician in Leicester. Not really a night for "electo pop" but still quite good to get out and see other bands.

Quite excited about the Yazoo announcement, maybe we can be the support act :-)

Picture by Wout

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th

I have been consciously trying to write an up tempo track over the last few nights, tracks with BPMs above 125 I find really difficult to write. I usually start with a repetitive bass line and add the kick and snare, then try and some kind of melody or lead line to sit over the top. The problem is I get very bored listening to the same loop over and over, so most of these ideas get trashed.

Yesterday however I persevered with a track and now finally I think I'm getting somewhere with it. I have left it over night and still find it interesting listening with fresh ears this morning, so this will one will stick. This is idea 009.

My plan of not drinking and trying to be healthy went straight out of the window this weekend, still I have now drank all the alcohol left over from Christmas so no more excuses and I'm definitely getting up early for the gym.


Friday, 11 January 2008

Friday 11th

Today I have been in William Orbit mode.

Done a dub, sub bass, minimal beat type thing. Not sure if it is at all Northern Kind but it sounds pretty cool. On the last album there were a couple of tracks that I gave to Sarah that triggered really good vocal melodies, but the music didn't really sit well with the other songs so I ended up re-writing the backing tracks. They were "Thoughts of you' & 'Home'.

Maybe this will be one of those tracks?

Its now 10.30pm, so I'm gonna get a beer and watch Jonathan Ross.


Thursday 10th January

Discovered a problem with my SSL Duende, or at least I think it's the Duende.

I needed to bounce down our remix of 'On & On" for the EY/UNDO compilation. I noticed after two attempts that there is an obvious audio click just before the first vocal comes in.

I did notice this happening when I was bouncing the tracks for 53˚N however the amount of parts playing always seemed to mask this. If you bother listening to the original 'On & On' you can actually here a click just before the first verse.

The annoying thing is that in this remix there aren't that many other things happening so it's quite obvious. If I disable the Duende on the track insert the click disappears.

I hate things like this as they tend to drive me insane, it becomes a process of elimination as to what is causing this and I could end up ripping my whole system apart. Indication is that it's something to do with the Firewire Bus, maybe I need to by a PCI to give me a separate FW Bus, this also might mess up my intentions to by the TC Powercore PCI card as there appears to be loads of issues surrounding compatibility with that. Bugger!

So again not a very productive evening.


Thursday, 10 January 2008

Wednesday 9th

MId week day off from writing ( a new rule ) - To be honest I left work pretty late so felt too tired to lock myself away for another night, besides I feel pretty accomplished from the past few sessions :-)

I also spent a while on the Marsheaux forum and answering some NK emails.

We had some interest from a manager pre Christmas, he looks after a very well known solo artist. He sent an email today that was very frank and to be honest I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about it. Ultimately it would mean making some very difficult decisions about how we proceed. It would possibly mean a step-up to a level that would see us loosing quite a bit of control over our own destiny. At this stage in our lives Northern Kind exists to give us enjoyment in doing something we love. By making it the sole focus in earning us a living would possibly turn this scenario into music being just a boring day job, that would never do.

So there we have it, not a very productive day music wise by nonetheless quite eventful.

Ciao x

PS Was randomly listening to the new 'Ideas' on my mac today, by filtering the word 'ideas' in iTunes I also came across this song by Tears for Fear "Ideas As Opiates" - Just thought I would say how good their first album was - "The Hurting" they are often forgotten in the grand scheme of electronica, but they had some great moments. I also worked for their original keyboard player.

Roland Orzabal released an album a few years ago, it included a brilliant track called 'Low Life' which was great.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Tuesday 8th Jan

Today I decided to play with a sound I had sampled over Christmas. Sitting on the sofa pigging snacks and probably getting quite drunk I started tapping an empty Pringles tube, I quite liked it so decided to record some various ways of me hitting it.

So after spending 20 minutes tonight or so editing it and tuning it using the ESX-24 sampler within logic, I ended up with a sound that reminded me of something The Knife had used on "We share our mothers health"

I then started creating some loops with bass sounds from the Moog Modular V and preset kits from Ultrabeat. Melodically it wasn't going anywhere but had a good groove to it. One of the bass sounds I was using reminded me of a sound used on "Shout" the DM B-side to "New Life", so I turned to the ARP 2600 to try and get yet another percussive loop influenced by this track. I knew that this was used by DM and that Vince Clarke had recreated this on his "Lucky Bastard" sample CD so the ARP was an obvious choice. The problem is when you need a fairly complex sound and sequence the ARP is a bit of a bugger to get to grips with. I decided on a synth I was more familiar with, the Jupiter-8v. The additional features that Arturia have bolted on to this version include a matrix sequencer. So after about five minutes I had pretty much created the sequenced loop I was after using a simple sound modulated by the sequencer. This idea was taking shape so I decided to try and write a proper structure with different song parts.

This idea now has three different sections but is still very much an evolving groove. So again I emailed Sarah a link to the track and this was her response.

From: "Sarah Heeley"
Date: 9 January 2008 09:47:52 GMT
To: "Matt Culpin"
Subject: once you pop

...should be the title for this ;-)

Holy COW this is cool.
What about doing this track with spoken vocals???? And just a few oohs
and ahhhhs??

Well done x

-----Original Message-----
From: Matt Culpin
Sent: 09 January 2008 00:00
To: Sarah Heeley
Subject: snack food

howdie, something a bit different for you.

the noise at the start and used elsewhere is a tuned Pringles tube :-)

Monday 7th Jan.

You have to bear in mind that NK has to fit within our regular day jobs, normally for me the prospect of coming home and then locking myself away to work on tunes is usually out weighed for a night in front of the TV with a bottle of wine. Today however I started my New Years regime of getting up early for the gym, eating well & no alcohol. It seemed to have done the trick as I felt quite perky still at 8.00pm so decided to have a go at some music.

Sounds often influence what I play, tonight after tweaking a preset on the CS-80v I ended up with a synthy flute sound that I started to play a repetitive lead line with. I then added my stock ES-1 kick sound to create the back-bone of a beat. The bassline I added was fairly simple and provided by the Jupiter-8v, a bit of a waste of such a powerful synth but hey it fitted well. Within about 10 minutes I then had a nice short chord sequence using a short sound from the ES-1. After adding some creative delay and evolving cutoff filter throughout each bar the idea really started to take shape. At this stage I start to hear what other sounds will work well and the possible progression through from the verse into the chorus and so on.

I then added more parts to the drum track using a synth snare from the Albino synth with Kick and hats coming from one of the Ultrabeat preset kits. The tom sounds on this kit also were added, odd but these really added a commercial element to this idea, I then quickly added the bridge and potential chorus parts. This idea was then pretty much finished, all within about an hour.

This track was then named 006, simply because my folder of ideas had already used 001 through to 005. Sarah has 001, 002 & 004 to work with. 003 I'm not quite sure about yet, it's more just a collection of sounds rather than a song.

I then uploaded this idea and then emailed Sarah, this was her response.

From: Miss Sarah Heeley
Date: 8 January 2008 13:11:12 GMT
To: Matt Culpin
Subject: Epic

I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it
I la-la-la-la-like it........

Bloody hell, this album's gonna be a stonker - and at this rate will be finished by spring 08 ;-)

Get in.

Matt Culpin wrote:
track coming atcha with soundz of the future


New Year...

We have begun to write for our next ep and album so we thought we would document this process and our progress. I really enjoyed reading the Gareth Jones (Producing Erasure Blog) that he wrote during the recording of their last album so this is kind of what we would like to do for our own project. What was encouraging about this was the relatively simple set-up of equipment and proof that to create a great sounding album you don't need large budgets.

For the mixing of our last album I was torn between getting someone else to do it and investing in gear to help me get the best from my own set-up. I checked out a couple of local studios that had decent equipment lists but handing over something that I was quite precious about to a complete stranger was going to be costly and not necessarily give me the results I wanted. What I really needed was a controlled audio environment and fresh ears. In the end I decided on the investment and spent just under £2K on some Dynaudio BM 6A MKII powered monitors ( and the SSL Duende ( The Duende is probably by far the best thing I have spent my money on. Having worked on SSL desks before the ability they give you to knit mixes together is incredible, someone described the Duende as audio glue. What the Duende gives you is 32 mono channels of an SSL console to use within Logic and most other DAWs.

I had written pretty much everything on my Apple G5 1.8Ghz Dual Processor Mac using Logic 7.2 and handful of software synths. The main synths were the ES-2 included within logic and the ImpOsca synth. Most of the drum sounds came from the ES-1 synth and Ultrabeat.

Over the years of dabbling with music I alway thought having a vast array of synths and sound sources was the thing to do, in-fact the smaller range of synths I use the more creative I am, I think it's because you learn how to use them and quickly get the sounds you want.

That said I have pretty much overhauled my set-up in preparation for our next album. I have also converted my attic into a proper studio space, no windows but a fairly good acoustic environment.

My equipment list is now as follows.

Apple G5 Quad Processor, 3GB RAM, 250 GB HD plus 4 additional back-up drives.
2 * Formac 19" LCD Displays
M-Audio Axiom 61 Midi / USB Keyboard
M-Audio NRV-10 Firewire audio interface / mixer.
SSL Duende
Dynaudio BM 6A MKII - Monitors
AKG - Solid tube mic.

Apple Logic Pro 8
Korg Legacy Collection (MS20 - POLY 6 - WAVESTATION)
GMEDIA - Oddity, Minimonsta, ImpOsca
Arturia V Collection (Jupiter 8c, CS-80c, Moog Modular, Mini Moog, ARP-2600, Prophet V, Prophet VS)
Rob Papen - Albino

So enough of techno babble for now...

In October '07 I worked on a couple of ideas, these were going to form our Project X ep along with Tears & Tinsel, to be honest I think we ran out of steam and decided to pick it up in the New Year. Therefore we never got to release T&T but we will save that for Xmas '08. The handful of ideas that I gave to Sarah have now started to come together. Sarah sent me a txt message a few nights ago saying that the first one was cracked and it sounded like Status Quo. I'm not sure what that means, maybe Sarah will explain.

So now to start the Diary bit.