23 July 2010|
One beautiful evening I decided to touch a "sainted giving" of electronic music, a legendary historical track "Smack My Bitch Up"... Have decided to recreate it from the beginning to the end by my own hands, using Ableton Live software. To prove the world that our ukrainian musical fellows deejays are capable to do something more than just to carry fashionable hair and to write an obsolete unclaimed minimal techno. I decided to write a remake of one my favourite tunes of The Prodigy. What made me to come to such a mad act? Read on, it's all in this article.
Everything started very long ago, in 1997. I got a first tape cassette with a famous records of the Britain Four. No, I lied, it started much much earlier, in 1993, when I got one of my first dull hardware samplers produced by Akai. Exactly at that moment I started my long long way on sampling, keyboards, tone-generators, computers, midi-sequencing, and the whole electronic music in general. I've studied a tons of documentations on all these things, and for me all of it became very close, familiar and native. One thing remained is to get into a right groove and to direct myself in the direction of some good music style that I will like. But there weren't such kind of music. I wanted something new, interesting, electronic, but there were around only just pop-techno like E-Type, Ice-Mc, 2 Unlimited etc.One time in early 1997 I heard on one radio station the full presentation of an album The Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation. This music seemed to me such native, familiar and close, it was so easy for me to understand how those weird sounds are made, what kind of technologies were used, because I knew and saw most of that midi-garbage, like mister Howlett did. Not saying about their music style, which really blew my mind and changed my taste in electronic music, putting all the accents and priorities in my music for the future.
Many people ask, how did I figured out all the samples of Smack My Bitch Up (SMBU). The thing is that I already knew some of them before the album The Fat Of The Land (TFOTL) was released. Before I heard SMBU for the first time, I already knew, that a voice sample in it was taken from Ultramagnetic MC's (black rapper name Kool Keith). In general, the information in the world is well organized. Despite in 1997 I didn't used Internet and even didn't knew about it, there were another electronic web systems for information exchange, like for example Fido-Net. Before TFOTL release I've read a full annotation to the album, including SMBU. In addition to it I have to say, it's not a secret, that official Prodigy's album cover had a list of almost all used samples on it.
Some time later I got that pirated tape cassette with TFOTL, from which I heard the sounds of the future hit for the first time. The quality of the record was pretty good, but it also had a two strong bugs. First is that instead of "Funky Shit" on the tape there was a second double of "Serial Thrilla", this thing really disappointed me. And second - all the tracks on the tape were pitched up, and that's why SMBU sounded not in original 138 BPM tempo, but in almost all the 150 BPM. However, this didn't do a track sound worse, even vice versa. So I scratched up that tape to the gaps, it still with me, somewhere on the dusty shelf. That's why it's not surprise that I knew almost every single sound of SMBU's by heart in detail.I started to write some Prodigy reworks and remixes very long ago in 1998, when I was a youth and yet able to walk under the table. I tried to repeat (to copy, to lick off, to tear off, to f..ck off - an editor's note) such tracks, as Break And Enter, Firestarter, Breathe and some other kinda shit. Every time I got only just a garbage in result. You understand it by yourself, there was a lack of experience and a lack of expensive hardware gear similar to those a maniac Howlett had. Everything changed after time, technologies are stepped far into the future, and now we can even boast that often Liam uses a wonderful software Ableton Live himself while writing his new tracks. Next, after spending a consecutive day in finding some shit in a global storage of trash named Internet, I've found an interesting information, then more and more... Forums, articles, messages, posts, finally I've got an interesting list of samples, which were used in The Prodigy tracks.
Evil and merciless uncle Liam was "stealing" everything to the left and to the right. Everything, that lay wrong, or better, sound wrong. For that he had to pay some official copyright fees systematically. Many people didn't loved him for this. Especially National Association for Women, which accepted a claim in the track Smack My Bitch Up to their own address. Besides a standard "Give my girl a smack", they claimed this phrase as one more meaning "Give a heroin to my girl" (heroin sometimes called Smack). Some f**king nonsense as you can see. Howlett even quarreled one time with a famous Beastie Boys by this occasion, and them restricted The Prodigy to play this tune at their joint concert. The good thing Maxim Reality stood up and said "They didn’t want us to play this fucking tune. But the way things go, I do what the fuck I want!!"
A list of samples collected by me however was not full. Many of samples remain a secret of a maestro Howlett. Despite that, there were one track, almost all 80% of its samples were already known to me. And the name of this track was Smack My Bitch Up (what a surprise!). Exactly at this moment an idea came to my head is to repeat this tune by my own hands and to try to come through all the process from the beginning to the end by myself. Don't know why, maybe to understand some dark and mysterious thoughts of the author, just decided to make it for myself. I couldn't even image, that it could become interesting for many Prodigy's fans and that it will be possible to earn a nice PR on this kinda stuff! ;)
First of all I want to thank and give my huge appreciation to all those people, who's information helped me to find the samples, it's Lynxx, Idoru, LeStR, Gsus and many many others. I can be proud myself only by a sample of a wah-wah guitar, coming from Rage Against The Machine's Bulls On Parade. Inside one of the forums I found a post that says about some sounds of this track can present in SMBU, but they were still unrecognizable. I knew and heard RATM - Bulls On Parade before, and I momentary got what to do. I've found that f*cking guitar there and tried to change the pitch of some different fragments, then made a few operations with it and oh my god! By a not sly sequence of operations I finally extracted an evil sound of The Prodigy from the merry happy track of RATM. All this things are showed in detail inside my video.
Fig. 1 - Debauching and vulgar video, made by some certain person name Pavloff
Another sample, which was occasionally found by me, is played together with the fills between bars, is a sound of a cowbell, taken from an olden song Groundhogs - Cherry Red. I'm not sure that this sound were used in SMBU, but it is very similar and it does its stuff very well. All the rest was a deal of the skill. It was not so hard for me to process all the other samples to achieve their sounding as in SMBU.
With the drum samples the situation was following. I didn't knew, what samples were used as the drums in the track, except one snare break sampled by Liam from one of the Ultramagnetic MC's track. I had to imitate the other samples by similar samples from my own sound library, selecting them by my ears. I already had a sample of famous SMBU kick drum. About ten years ago I synthesized it from the basic sinusoid wave by a graphic pitch bend, and then I've fixed some moments of it by a pencil tool in Sound Forge editor to make it sound more closer to that in SMBU. I don't know from where Liam took that kick drum. It also can be heard in Funky Shit, and possibly in Diesel Power it is presented too, any way it is very similar.
Vocals in the pit. It is well known, that the vocals in SMBU were specially sang by a singer name Shahin Badar. I can bet that she would refuse to sing especially for me. However, Internet had another information, that in the very first beta version of SMBU contained a vocal of the other Indian singer name Sheila Chandra. This vocal was taken by Liam from a ready track called Nana - the Dreaming. The only one thing has traveled from this track to the final version of SMBU is the ambient intro, a sound of a sustaining Indian sitar. And here is a confirmation of it, a rare version of SMBU that was played by the band before the album release in far 1996 year.
A very rare version of Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" with vocals of Sheila Chandra, played live in 1996
Then, I had to torment with a synth lead-part. It was played by а mocking Howlett on a Korg Prophecy keyboard. Because I don't have this madly expensive keyboard in my modest arsenal, I had to use what I had. So I synthesized this melody line by another means, to be concrete I used Native Instruments Pro-53. I had also to hang some processing stuff over it, because this sly maniac had a bad habit to process all his sounds very hard with a distortion effect unit called Roland SE-70. BTW, he had four of them! Maniac, what to say more. So I remade this melody part, and it sounds not very similar, but any way, it is much better than to sing it in microphone or to play it on accordion )))
That's all folks about it. It took about two weeks to complete this rework. In December 2009 I uploaded a video clip about this rework to YouTube. I wasn't expected absolutely a huge feedback that followed after this video. Nearly one year has came from that moment, but people are still sending messages and comments from all over the world. And the number of views of the video is now getting very closer to a million.You can download the full version of my remake in 320 kbps, and even get in addition my new electro-house remix of SMBU, which I wrote a few months after writing a remake. To do that, just transfer a 20000,00 USD to my bank account, adding your personal data, your date of birth, social status, place of work, and how much do you earn per month ))
Written by Jim Pavloff, 2010