Sonic Immersion talks with VoLt, aka Michael Shipway & Steve Smith
Date: May 2008
Guys, so how did this project actually start?
It all started the day after we played at Hampshire Jam 5 (HJ5) in October 2006, when we received an email from HJ5 organizer Steve Jenkins, asking if we would like to make a return visit and play at HJ6 in October 2007.
We thought about it for at least two minutes and decided yes. We also decided that we would write new material especially for HJ6 and try to record the performance for our first live cd release. A simple task, as we had twelve months to prepare!What is your thought about the style of music?
Well, we decided that the new material should be driven mainly by sequences, based on comments we received from the HJ5 audience. This would be fun for us, as in the studio we had been trying out a Virus Ti for sequences, to replace the Supernova we had used on all our recordings and performances so far…
The Virus gave us some initial compatibility problems with our sequencer (Sequentix P3) but after an upgrade to the Virus operating system and a hardware mod to the P3, all went well.Please tell some more how all music was composed….
Well, we worked on the new material in the same way as we have approached a new album in the past. What we did was to prepare the sequences and a selection of pad and lead sounds, then improvise with each set of sounds, usually for 30 to 40 minutes each.
Following this, we listened to a recording of each track and decided which parts worked well and created edited versions of three of them that were around 20 minutes each. This would give us the hour of new material we needed for the HJ6 set.
At the same time, we wanted to do something different for HJ6, so we replaced the synthesizer lead lines in one of the tracks with a guitar…..
This would be the first VoLt track to use guitar, so we thought that would be quite different, especially using the e-bow for part of the solo.
What is there to tell about the actual preparation for Hampshire Jam 6?
Rehearsals took place over a couple of weeks before the event, and of course we had the inevitable last minute changes that would hopefully make the set better. However, what this really meant was that we completely threw out the first track we had prepared and replaced it with one of the other improvised tracks we had made! The other fun part of rehearsing is that we get to change the sounds we are using and also, get all the musical and technical mistakes out of the way before the performance…or so we hope anyway!
So how did the actual event turn out?
On the day of HJ6 we managed to set up our PC running Cubase, to record the live set from our stage mixer over 16 separate tracks, so that if the performance was good enough, we would have the audio available to mix (or re-mix!) for a cd release. Actually, most things went very well during the set, until we reached the encore…. The first part of the encore has no sequences and went well, but as soon as the sequencer was started, although the notes were correct, the sound was very unexpected!
We should explain that the encore we played was the same as we performed at HJ5, so we took the Supernova to HJ6 just for this one track….
The problem here was that the sequencer was driving the Virus that we had used for the main set. However, when increasing the volume of the Supernova, it was obvious that there was no sound coming from it!!
At this time, Michael disappeared behind the module rack to try and sort out the wiring and was joined by the organizer and photographer, helping out to find the issue.
Eventually, Steve Jenkins suggested that I use the cables from another synth for the Supernova, which worked ok, and is the reason for the audience reaction on the ‘Extinction’ track at 7:42.
Meanwhile, during all this, the sequencer continued to play the Virus and Steve Smith was courageously playing completely unrehearsed, improvised leads and synth pads, almost as if we had intended the track to be this way!
No one was more pleased than Steve Smith when the sequence problem was sorted, but he must be congratulated for his unique performance!
I also wondered about the cd titles. Where did they come from?
We called the first track “‘Primaeval”, as when all the main sequences are running, it sounds (to us) like a jungle scene, maybe from some prehistoric time. “Atavistic” means reverting to an ancestral type – and using the guitar on this track was our step back to earlier days when Michael played guitar and Steve played bass guitar in the same band.
Maybe if we add the sax and percussion from those earlier days we could create a VoLt big band!
The third track contains morse code spelling out VoLt as one of the sequences, so we just had to call the track “Signals”’.
Finally, we had played the encore track live several times before and because of the problems it has caused us, either in playing or recording, we decided we would never play it live again, so it became “Extinction”…but never say never eh?
So what eventually happened after the gig?
Finally, we were relieved the day after HJ6 when we played back the Cubase recording and all had been recorded ok.
After some mixing sessions, we submitted a stereo master recording to Groove Unlimited who then released it as “HjVi” – Hampshire Jam (HJ) plus the Roman numerals for 6 (VI), all in upper/lower case sequence as in VoLt….
We both really enjoyed the preparation and the event itself, which has had a great venue and audience for six years. It is sad that there will only be one more Hampshire Jam (HJ7 in 2008) but we are really pleased that we had a chance to play at two of the events, and that we now have “HjVi” as a record of our performance…