Andrissa Song Stories

The story of “SPEED

Speed is Track 14 from the Andrissa album, “Essence”, released in 2001.

This track began life as a ‘live drums’ loop.

In early 2000, my “At Random” partner Paul McCarlie was in the studio with his drums all miked up, doing some recording. By this point in time, I was working in the studio, which was called Sherwell Studios, located in Ashmore on the Gold Coast.

Once Paul had done the work he needed to do, I asked him if I could record him playing some drums. He quickly smashed out some powerhouse rhythms for me.

When I listened back to what we recorded, there was a specific pattern that he had played, which I thought was particularly intense – I was able to identify and manipulate into a drum loop as we were using a computer based recording setup in the studio (the Pro Tools system). Once I was able to create the loop, I was able to take the simple approach of copying/duplicating it (from its original length of around 2.5 seconds) so that the drum track repeated for around about 4 minutes. All good – I now have a 4-minute song which is a repeated drum loop!

So were to go now? There is nothing better for composing songs on the bass guitar than having a drum beat to accompany your noodling’s. I used the bass to construct the pattern of the music, and then added guitar embellishments and some keyboard backing. Like done with the drums, I then made loops of the bass, guitar, and keyboards to match the original 2.5 second drum loop and then repeated/duplicated them.

So, now I have four minutes of a repeated riff. I thought it was sounding tough and edgy. All good, but with a whole lotta work still to be done. But where to next?

As it turned out, very soon thereafter (hmm, meant to be?) someone bought into the studio some actual radio recordings of a police pursuit that he had just got his hands on. My memory of who and why is genuinely very vague now – I blame that on it being the year 2000, which is now, a fair while ago! And perhaps more to the point, it was given to my studio partner Simon, not me. Simon was kind enough to play it me and it was an intriguing listen.

I had an epiphany that using it for this track was the right thing to do – it seemed like it would suit that tough edginess that I thought the instrumental backing track had. I went through a few hours of tape to try and locate 3 or 4 minutes of interesting and potentially usable content.

Speed, sirens, pursuits, people doing the wrong thing………………………! Yes!

I started to add bits and pieces of the police radio parts into the track and was happy with the momentum it was gaining. But again, all I had was a four-minute repeating piece, with some interesting commentary here and there. Not enough.

As a part of working in the studio, we had access to some voice over people – one male, and the other female – that way, if we were doing more corporate style work, we could use them to give whatever it was, a nice professional finishing polish. I liked the idea of doing something in line with the police broadcast and decided that I should try and call in a favour and get them both to speak as though they were TV news announcers (which they both were in previous times!) talking about the outcome of what happens when driving too fast ends in disaster.

I ended up writing a short script for both, and then when they came in to do some other work over the following month, I asked them to do a read for me that I was able to record.

Cool! I was able to weave those in to tell the story “…police say that speed was a contributing factor to the crash….”. The key thing in this instance (as it is with any vocals or spoken word), is that it needs to be in context, so it is about blending what you have together to tell some sort of logical story that the listener can easily follow (unless, of course, that is not your thing!). Once I did that, it started to feel like I had something – an actual police broadcast, male and female TV news presentations. But I still felt that it needed an additional element.

At that time, I had recently met Melissa Stankovic and we had just formed the duo Andrissa. There are many more stories to tell about that time, but I came upon an idea that I would need Mel to perform. I asked Mel if she could imagine herself as the grieving mother of a child lost to a car crash – pretty miserable, I agree, but it was about seeing if she could sing/cry through the track to give it some dynamics in the spaces where there were no voices. I thought that it could add another layer of power to the track. Somehow, she took my vague description and turned it into everything I could hope for.

Once I was able to edit Mel’s performance into the track, I was starting to feel that the track was very close to completion – though I still had this nagging feeling that the repeated loop that courses through the track, relentlessly for four minutes, needed some sort of relief. I realised that I could probably find some way to create a break in the middle of the track and make it sound like some sort of crash – so, I grabbed everything I could lay my hands on to create an absolutely spiraling cacophony of noise – leading to a destructive crescendo which would fall back into the riff, to see the track out.

I think it worked, and Mel was amazingly generous in allowing it to be included on the Andrissa album, “Essence”.

So, not the proverbial “15 minute and its done”, song. In fact, the very opposite – but maybe a good example of the sort of journey the creation of a song can take you, if you are willing.

I was very proud of this song, but I also knew that there was no chance it would be a commercial success. Still, I had thoughts of it being used for a TV advertisement or shown before films (accompanied by suitably confronting vision)…..I even went so far as contacting a government Transport department….but alas, that went nowhere.

Ah well, it’s all about the song, isn’t it, it’s the journey, not the destination…………………………or at least, that is what I keep telling myself, to make me feel better!