It is always interesting when artists tell stories of how a hit song was made. Now long-time Enigma member Jens Gad tells how he and Michael Cretu made the song Push the Limits (from The Screen Behind The Mirror, 2000). It is a story about creativity and the music production process. A great read indeed!
Jens Gad writes:
I made myself a nice cafe latte, flipped the studio switch and went through new sounds, samples, new cd’s. play time.
We just received Korg’s brand-new TR-Rack modules. I unpacked and installed 2 of them in the huge keyboard wall rack, went through sounds, rated them on the excel file of my little sony vaio mini laptop (just came out) and stumbled over that tom riff. I really loved it – it was playing just like that, i edited it a bit, less noisy effects and started programming a track around it right away.
The riff plays less notes the shorter you press the key, that’s how i came up with the alteration of the riff.
That’s something i would advise every producer to do – if you like something – use that very minute to create a song out of it. The “heat of the moment” is worth a lot in songwriting.
I made that tom riff the “hook” of the song and started building sounds around it. Even the toms itself have a certain pitch and i started following my intuition. It was clear that the tom sound is quite big so the additional drums underneath had to be minimal and punchy sounds. So i programmed the basic beat around it, using a wooden stick sound from my “alternative snares” library, containing a huge selection of unusual samples that could be used instead the typical snare sounds.
Then i added the typical “ dem bones” noise loop we used in many enigma songs, i think it comes from the distorted reality sample library. Then i added some tribal burundi drums, programmed a little slightly shuffled 808 hihat (every enigma drum is always slightly shuffled – a great cretu rule).
Time for chords. I played the first chord structure on Roland’s D70 “space dream” – that typical pad michael edited himself and which became the iconic enigma pad.
Michael came in, really liked what i was doing and asked me for an akai pizzicato sample he used sometimes.
Then he turned up the gigantic Quested monitors and played the pizzicato melody. one take. no quantization. Also the intro and end part – you hear that it’s pure improvisation.
He is really good at spontaneous ideas – there’s a lot to learn from him in that sense. Next thing he added was the tambourine. Sample cell, 1/4 ping pong delay plus some reverb to add some “silver” how he called it. Then the 90s clap fills.
Then he left and i thought about a second part. I always loved that reverse vocal sample i used here, it’s almost one of my favorite hook sounds. So i found the second part with different chords, the chant answer, the child like second chant hook and the mysterious ethereal female “ooooh melody” I had in my library.
And of course, here’s the song we’re talking about: