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I can remember the first time I ever recorded my vocals on to a beat. Cat Coore from Third World - a legendary Jamaican band - had a little demo set up at his house. I'm very good friends with his eldest son, Shiah, who plays with me now. So we were rhyming over a track by the dancehall artist Peter Metro. I've still got it somewhere.
I pay such close attention of the record making process that most people would assume are very little and wouldn't be that big of a deal; the packaging, the title, and the harmonies, I think, are arguably as important as the lead vocals.
Oh man, I love what the South brings as far as the soul, and I really have noticed from even the early days of listening to OutKast and Goodie Mob that Atlanta and the South has a diverse sound to it. You have bounce music. You have soulful musicians. You have artists with vocals who try to do different things.
When I listen to the radio, I just hear so much music that doesn't even sound like people. The vocals are all tuned, and the drums are all fake.
I write the vocals last, because I wanted to invent the music first and push the music to the level that I had to compete against it.
It's fun singing with other people who are really good singers. There's something kind of poignant about braiding a couple vocals.
I'm tired of being around men all the time. I'm going to start a band called Skirt with three girls and I'll play the guitar and sing backing vocals in drag. I went window shopping when I was in New York, saw a lot of amazing dresses.
I grew up writing songs in my room on GarageBand, and I would make the beats just out of layering my vocals over and over again. Very Imogen Heap-inspired.
I played guitar and bass. I didn't do much vocals, although I did have one band where I was the lead singer. But that was when I was in college.
If I'm playing with Ozzy it's just a guitar thing. But with the vocals I feel like I'm studying for the SATs.
I feel like vocals are to music what portraits are to painting. They're the humanity. Landscapes are good and fine, but at the end of the day everyone loves the Mona Lisa.
In the studio you can auto tune vocals, and with drums, you can put them on a grid and make them perfect. I hate that sound. When someone hands me a record and the drums are perfectly gridded and the vocals are perfectly auto tuned, I throw it out the window. I have no interest in rock music being like that.
My son is in a band, and he's a singer, and his vocals... they're screaming-growling stuff... and he's got a pretty reasonable voice. Yet he practices really hard to get the screaming-growling thing without losing that voice every five minutes. So I'm, like, 'Hats off to you.'
I think I'm a vocal genius, not a musical genius. I like background vocals. I consider myself a voice, not a singer. A voice is a sound, and singing is what you do with that sound.
But I would lie on the floor and analyze everything. I'd listen to all the strings and the background vocals on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and try to pick out the different instruments.
Remixes come very quickly, because you already have the melody and the vocals. I have a great passion for music, so it doesn't matter to me if it's a remix or an original production. I don't think about it as, 'Well, I have to spend three hours on a remix or I have to do something all original.'
I do most of my vocals - aside from a couple of little one-shot vocal samples. I record everything into the Saffire with an SM58 then scratch it with loads of plug-ins. I don't do much vocoding to be honest. All my vocals are usually done with Melodyne and a ton of other plug-ins to make it sound weird.
I sang in a reggae band. And then there was a soul band where I sang back-up vocals and some lead. And I was also in a women's a capella group. And I was in the gospel choir at school. Actually, I've always been in choirs. Or some kind of group. Just because I love singing so much. But I truthfully never thought of it as a career.
Musicians like James Blake were a big influence on me. How he uses his vocals is amazing. And then Yeasayer and Animal Collective, who aren't pop bands exactly, but they do something that is so catchy and undeniable and so much fun.
It's just a lot of fun to be able to see your ideas come into fruition. And to see people translate the things that come out of my mind vocally. And to be able to produce vocals and give people my point of view musically. And to be able to sit in the crowd and see people sing the song that I wrote, it's an amazing feeling.
As far as favorite 'overall package' record of all time, I'd have to say 'My Girl' by The Temptations. I like everything about it, not only the composition - but the arrangement, the production, the lead vocals, the background vocals, the horns, the strings. That one I listen to over and over again.
I just like simplicity. I like simple songs, I like simple chords, simple vocals, simple lead guitar. I just like simplicity. That's just the way I like it.
I live for playing live. All my records are live, since After the Gold Rush, with the exception of Trans and the vocals on Landing on Water.
Whenever I'm home, I haven't got any makeup on. But even in the studio, before I do vocals, I put makeup on.
I don't think it's important to be that good at singing. I think people who are good at singing sing backing vocals for pop stars. It's about how you project. I wouldn't consider myself to be a singer.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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