More about: Dead Nature
Spring King drummer and solo musician (as Dead Nature), Tarek Musa is an absolute monster of indie. Not only does he make his own—scuzzy beat-heavy sounds in Spring King, quirky and catchy stuff as Dead Nature—he also produces other peoples'.
Here, he talks us through some of the releases he's produced, how they went down and what they taught him.
Calva Louise - Interlude For The Borderline Unsettled [EP] - RECORD/MIX/PRODUCTION
Working with Calva Louise was an eye-opening experience. We’ve known each other for a long time, having played shows together, and being fans of one another music made it way easier to connect. Jess, the lead singer and guitarist, has always been a fan of my productions, especially the work I did on the first Spring King album Tell Me If You Like To. After years of talking about working together, we finally got together in the studio and came out with an incredible EP, with the lead single ‘Belicoso’ on it.
I had Ben recording his drum shells separately to his cymbals so that we could give the backbone of the songs an electronic/crossover feel. It gave us room to really push the sonics of the drums, without creating any harsh qualities in the cymbals for instance. When we came round to doing Alizon's bass parts, we never strayed away from doing parts in sections, or sometimes even note by note, anything it took to get the riffs as tight as possible for the record. I’m really not someone who cares how we get there, as long as the final sound coming from the speakers excites everyone in the room.
We would usually start around 10am, and it would always be very laidback in the morning. We tried to blast through all the drums for the EP in the first day or two, so that I could go away and edit them before we continued. Nothing too wild happened, but some of the conversations we had really opened my eyes - there was always something that would make us pause for hours at a time and veer off into discussions on music, the industry and things that need to change. It was part recording sessions, part debate club.
We once bought three tubs of Ben&Jerry’s, and pretty much cleared them all within 20 minutes. Never felt so sick in my life.
Dream Nails - Dream Nails [ALBUM] - RECORD/MIX/PRODUCTION
Dream Nails had an album they wanted to record, and were looking to challenge the sound of their records moving forwards. I had heard some of their tunes before, and loved what they were doing, but was very honest with them: if we record together, I’m probably going to produce this in a totally different way to what you’re used to. They’re already an incredible band, with a lot of energy and passion in what they do, and in my head it was about getting that sound across in a much bigger way. However big we could go, I wanted to push it.
We tracked all the drums first for the album, it made sense because the record was done in two weeks! We had no time really, and it was the middle of August in a studio with no air conditioning and no windows. Lucy is pretty rapid at drum takes, so we worked fast, committing as much as possible to ideas and moving on. I love working like that and I love bands that have no qualms with committing to things there and then.
I’d say the best thing about being in the studio with them was turning around to check on everyone, and without fail, someone would always have a look of 'I’ve eaten way too much' on their face. I seem to have a synergy with bands who enjoy food as much as I do, and to this day I know Anya is thinking about the amazing Tater Tots that the Baltic Social make.
I couldn’t believe that after the record was made, I’d heard Tom Morello was really into some of the tracks, to the point where he released one in the states via his label Firebrand. I don’t think any of us expected him to hear the music but the fact he did meant a lot to all of us.
Moving forwards I know Dream Nails are going to continue putting out big tunes. They’re in this for the long haul and all the members are legends in their own ways.
Police Car Collective - 1980 - MIX
It was just before the last lockdown in 2020 when I got a e-mail from 3Beat Records, who had asked if I wanted to mix the debut EP for Police Car Collective. 3Beat are known for their foot in the dance and electronic world, so I wasn’t sure what these guys would sound like at all.
When I heard the music, I was blown away. It was this perfect mix of electronic influences from Kanye West, Brockhampton and Dominic Fyke to guitar heavy The Cure and Nirvana. I said yes instantly to mixing the EP, and spent the next couple weeks non-stop just enjoying the tunes. It didn’t even feel like mixing at all because the tunes were just such a blast to have on repeat!
A family member had just gotten Covid who I was with a weekend previously, so I had to isolate. I didn’t have a choice but to begin the mixes on headphones and on a laptop. I’ve never mixed a whole EP on headphones, but it actually made me feel liberated. I was focusing on the weirdest elements in the mix that I never would if I was in front of a pair of speakers in my studio. I was riding faders on effects in ways I never would, because I was mixing out of my comfort zone. It was a great experience, and eye opening for sure. I had learnt a lesson on this EP: mix wherever the hell you want, just as long as it sounds good there are no rules to how you digest the audio, whether it be speakers, headphones, car radios, laptop speakers etc.
After the EP was finished, they eventually released ‘All The Time’, the first single from it, and it went off pretty well for a band starting out. With over 300k plays already, it’s an awesome start for the guys and I know moving forwards they’re going to be putting out some huge tunes!
Spring King - Tell Me If You Like To [ALBUM] SONGWRITING/RECORD/MIX/PRODUCTION
This album is where a lot of my production work started. I was recording and writing songs in my old house, and had accumulated so much material one summer that I began to try and piece together an album. There was no recording budget so the majority of it was done in my house, and I could never imagine where those songs took Spring King.
Recording predominantly through a very cheap pair of speakers and with access to four microphones, I was very limited in what I could do, but I had big ambitions. I wanted this debut album to break through at radio, but still retain all the dirty, fuzzy, crunched up sounds that get me excited about making music. I had to think on my feet a lot and had to make the most of what I had in front of me. All the guitars and bass on the record were DI, running through effects in Pro Tools. We didn’t use amps, purely because there were none around.
It wasn’t until we were 6 songs deep and then i’d heard the PRS were going to give us a bit of money towards going to a studio, so the record was finished at Chapel Studios in Lincoln. We spent a couple weeks there where a couple tracks were done including ‘Rectifier’, ‘Detroit’, ‘Take Me Away’ and ‘Heaven’. Everything else was already done, including two of our biggest tunes ‘City’ and ‘Who Are You?’.
The funny thing about Chapel was we went there purely because my brother had just had a baby. He was staying at my family home at the time so I was aware there was no chance I could make any noise whatsoever. My heart kind of sunk at the fact the first half of the record was done but we had no way of finishing it, until PRS stepped in. I gotta say, they’ve always been amazing to Spring King, and now to Dead Nature and what I do as a producer.
When we got to chapel we were surrounded by incredible gear, but I really wasn’t there for that stuff. I think it surprised the owner a lot. It was residential and so in the end, a huge chunk of the guitars were recorded in one of the bedrooms upstairs, because that felt way more like my natural habitat. I think it was a bit confusing for the studio, why were we even there if we don’t want to use all the great gear around us?
In many ways in came down to comfort, into doing things in a way you know best, and the old cliche of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
The record was eventually finished, and I took it back home to mix. I spent the whole of December mixing it, with a deadline to master it on 10 January. When I open those sessions up these days, they are so simple, there’s not a lot to those tunes, just a whole load of distortion and technically incorrect choices, but that’s what’s so special about them. To this day i’m proud of those tracks, they made their way onto all sorts of childhood bucket lists - whether it was FIFA17, Guitar Hero or Jools Holland.
Do it the way that feels right.
More about: Dead Nature