Happa: How I Made – ‘Only Light’ (Fnord Communications)

I started working on this track around the end of summer, 2017. It was known as ‘Track 2’ for about a year. Track 2 of a 6 track EP I had dived into making, based on a concept depicting a night out in reverse. It then progressed to ‘Track 2 (Piano Trancey Banger)’ for around 9 months before finally finding its permanent name: ‘Only Light’. By this point the concept had been altered, track positions switched and ‘Only Light’ had come a long way (when I started it I had never anticipated adding a fat MIDI guitar solo… hehe).

Looking back nearly two years ago to revisit the birth of this song, I have to mention Track 1. Or as it’s now called; ‘Party Chat’ – forthcoming on Fnord ;). These two tracks were originally intended to be played seamlessly from one to the other, connected via a sample – an acapella sampled using a granular synth. This breathy, chattering vocal you hear rolling right at the start of ‘Only Light’ was taken from another of my tracks, and I feel it is important to mention this, as recycling elements of my own music is a big part of my process. Sometimes it will take components of 5 unfinished songs to make 1 complete one. In this case, it only took one tack the get the ball rolling.

In all honesty, from this point onwards I can’t really remember the order of what came next… Was it the pads? Was it the drums? I dunno! So instead of trying to recall the correct order, i’m gonna jump right to one of the most crucial elements of the track: the donk tape sample. This is the stretched mc vocal/trancey synth sound that comes in around 1 minute in. In my opinion this carries the song, and as with most of my favourite ideas; it was an accident. I was searching for a mc vocal to lay in the background of the mix, and I found a 15 minute or so excerpt from a tape recording of some Donk night in the early noughties. All it took was mucking about with it for 10 minutes (looping, stretching and reversing the sample) for me to realise I didn’t want it in the background anymore! Not to sound like a dickhead but it fully was a “Eureka!” moment for me haha. Once again, I feel I should make a point on this section as it contains two main ingredients to most Happa tracks: fucking with audio samples, and massive accidents! Any producer who denies accidents being a huge part of their creative process is a liar, jus’ sayin’.

I guess next, maybe I should try break down the track a little more… Throughout this tune, at every moment, I was trying to supersize the euphoria. Taking cues from nostalgic rave to EDM, I used detuned pads paired wth white noise builds. Trying to look backwards and forwards, I used drums recorded to a broken cassette deck against recordings of smashing ice mangled in Granulator II. The only bits of hardware I used was an MS20 Mini and a field recorder (and Ableton Push 2, if you wanna count that). In the later stages of the track, I added some orchestral instruments, with my fave; ‘Orchestral Swarm’ by Spitfire Audio (i’m obsessed with it), attempting to push the dramatic feeling of a come up even further. Hmm, what else… did I mention the guitar solo?

To be honest, that sums it up well enough before it starts to get boring. It was made between Leeds and London, my old home and my new one, thus representing a new stage in Happa’s life and also Samir’s… woah, v deep 😉

Words: Happa

‘Only Light’ is out now on Fnord Communications.

NEXT: In conversation with Happa

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