Craft are lead by three hugely distinctive voices. Two male MCs, Max and Tony As, interact with each other enriched by the mesmerizing soulful vocal performance of Cristabel Noseda. Driving the Craft band are some of the finest instrumentalists emerging on the British music circuit. The musical vision is a collective mission to expose hip-hop and British urban music to an audience that is crying out to hear it in a style to which they can relate.
At first we weren’t sure exactly where the project was going so we were in ‘home recording’ mode and working within those limitations – just myself and Max (one of the MCs) writing and producing together. I would play some live drums, replacing the initial ideas we’d done on programmed drums, and then work on bass and guitars. As the material developed we pulled in other musicians such as the keyboard player to add the Fender Rhodes parts.
Some tracks such as Soundwave were mainly done as a live take from start to finish with the whole band in the room. We wanted to capture that spirit and avoid minute editing, keeping it simple – working within restraints – the ethos of a ‘live band’.
We recorded in a mixture of places including Nam Studios in Bradford-on-Avon where we tracked drums, keyboards and vocals. The mixing desk at Nam is an MTA series 990 from the late 70’s, which sounds fantastic. The room is perfectly suited to getting a gritty, ‘garagey’ drum sound – the live room has low ceilings and gives a ‘damp’ and controlled sound; it’s a ‘dead’ room which is ideal to get the hip-hop lo-fi graininess we were after, but at the same time the great desk, good monitoring and nice converters can get you a great hi-fi recording.
The vision for the music of Craft was to capture some of that ‘garage’ spirit - gritty and grainy, but still keep it hi-fi. We wanted to recreate a distinctive and typical soul sound for the guitars and bass, and cross over with modern synthesiser hooks. We were looking for a blending of a classic American soul sound with British MC-ing . Typically MC-ing is hard edged and dirty and aggressive – we wanted to juxtapose that with music that had a warmer more accessible vibe. Initially we weren’t trying to write out and out pop songs but in fact the material ended up being very accessible and immediate. Those same songs would have developed very differently in a hard-core urban music context. But the band felt it was pointless to follow that direction – as musicians and vocalists they had done this on numerous projects before – so they wanted to try something a bit different.
We came to the Big Room at Real World with a set of original mixes – a benchmark on which we wanted to improve. The studios at Real World have great monitoring and an outstanding SSL desk and outboard options – you can really sculpt the mix and place things more effectively – you can pull out frequencies more accurately to make room for other things. You can create a far more harmonious balance by using outboard compressors like the Teletronix LA 2A and Urei 1176. This kind of album needs to use musical compression to make it bounce and make it swing - outboard compressors have a lot more musicality and can produce better tonality than some of those used in the computer. Coming out of Real World the final mixes were more harmonious and better balanced – sweeter and less hard or aggressive. Nicer top end and great big bottom end!
Vocals by Max Hammond, Anthony Simbo and Cristabel Noseda
Greg Freeman: drums, bass, guitars, synths, keys, programming, backing vocals
Max Hammond: synths and programming. Jay Wilcox: keys (2,3,4,6 &9) vocals (5&6)
Pete Josef: horns (4&7) bass (4) Maiyu Castle: violins (2, &9) Jamie Mason: piano (1)
Recorded and mixed by Greg Freeman
Mastered by Tim Oliver
Recorded at NAM Studios, Greg’s place and John’s house
Mixed at Real World Studios assisted by Patrick Phillips
Cover photography by York Tillyer
Produced by Greg Freeman and Max Hammond
All songs written by Craft
(P) 2012 Craft
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