Jeff Carruthers, a producer, composer, arranger, and musician and one of the original architects of the “smooth jazz” genre, and M.B. Gordy, a freelance musician and producer, are the composer team behind Megatrax’s new release “Trailer Percussion and Soundscapes” (MX315). The album, laced with tension and mood cues featuring percussion, atmospheres, synth pads, hits, risers, drones and sound design, melds the strengths of the duo in 10 full tracks ideal for promos, trailers, reality programs, underscores and more.
We asked them to offer a little behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inspiration and execution of this release, and here’s what they had to say.
MX: What are some of the fun/special things you got to do for this release?
Jeff: I must have created 100’s of new risers, slams, whooshes, and transform combinations along with tweaking all the latest software instruments that cater to sound design. (Engineers) Derek and Preston recorded nine tracks of every percussion instrument M.B. used, including taikos, bass drums, Mahler hammer, gongs, toms, snares, chains—you name it! I also got to have Cameron Stone play electric cello; he kicked ass!
M.B.: With this project, Jeff and I worked at my studio writing the pieces and recording percussion, plus he had ideas as well from other projects that he’d done. He went back to his studio to flush out what we had done with his ambient sound elements. He is a master at Pro Tools and mixing, plus he is a great guitar player, and all of his ambient sounds and ideas were amazing. After this process we were able to go into Megatrax and record more percussion in (their studio) with Derek Jones engineering. That upped the sound quality immensely.
MX: What do you think makes percussion “cinematic”?
Jeff: Well for sure the big drums pounding are exciting and get your adrenaline going! Then enhancing all that with the sound design elements creates the tension & release for crafting the perfect emotion for every action, suspense, thriller, chase and/or mysterious scene on film. Also, blending subtle percussion and experimental approach to cymbals—like using a bow combined with an ambient sound design backdrop for the scary and tense moments in a scene.
M.B.: I think what makes percussion cinematic is the fact that there is a huge array of sounds available in he world of percussion that can help evoke the moods needing to be supported in film. Whether it be rhythmic or “ drony” or melodic, it can all be covered with percussion, and then you add in the guitar and synth ambient sounds, and the possibilities are endless.
MX: If you had to pick just one thing, what would each of you select as your favorite track or element of this album?
Jeff: Wow, that’s a tough question, because every track has something unique, and it’s all good! But I guess standouts would be the cello effects, the huge ambient big drums like taikos, djuns, bass toms, multi bass, & bass drums. And also the dynamics of the sound design that give the pieces their color and mood swings!
M.B.: Picking just one piece is tough. I don’t think I can actually that. But I will say this: despite the fact that I play and write percussion, I resonate with ambient music. So for me, I have a special feeling for the pieces that are more ambient.
MX: How does the experience of working on production music differ from working on your own independent projects?
Jeff: I’ve been a pop, R&B, and smooth jazz composer producer for 30 years, so, as you can imagine, sound design/production music is a completely different approach. Now I’ve scored a few movies (like recently a teen thriller called “Recreator,” which was an all-sound-design score), so I’m bringing those elements to this project, but crafting a 4-minute, radio-friendly commercial song is a whole different mindset. The thing I like most about this production music project is the freedom to just go with whatever you feel like without the constants of your typical intro-verse-hook format. The only guidelines are make it 2:30 minutes, and end with a BANG!!
M.B.: What I love about production music is the fact that there are not a lot of rules as to what to play and write. Pretty much anything you can think up may be usable somewhere.
MX: Did you get to spend time in Megatrax’s studios on this release?
Jeff: YES! We did! Like I said earlier, all the percussion was recorded there and Derek & Preston, the engineers, are top professionals and really know their stuff. They got the best sound from multiple mic placements in the huge studio on all the perc and cello overdubs. I even redesigned my home studio after talking with Derek about room acoustics and the best monitor speakers.