Why (and How) did I cover Visage’s “Fade To Grey”?

Back in 2016 I was playing around with my Boss DR-110 Dr. Rhythm drum machine. I had created a simple little syncopated 4/4 pattern to jam with, and after playing with it for about 5 minutes I hit “STOP” when I realized my beat was essentially “Fade to Grey” by Visage. This inevitable moment, when you realize your riff is actually something you’ve heard before, happens periodically in every songwriter/producer’s life. When it happens to me, I usually just start over from a clean slate, or delete the stuff that sounds like the other song.

But in this case I started thinking about that lovely, ghostly melancholy of Fade to Grey, and instead of erasing my work, I decided to trudge onward, and in a few hours I had largely recreated the original tune (without vocals, of course).

I admit I took a few liberties, such as extending the middle breakdown by a few bars and punching up the kick drum. Also I added a not-so-subtle phase shift effect to the stringy chord strings in the background for the latter half of the song. The only part I think I really didn’t quite nail is the chimey part at the very intro. Instead I played something similar using an eerie string sound. If I had it to do again, I’d try harder to replay that soft Rhodes-style intro.

To make this song I used a set of Roland CR-78 samples, I used Arturia Spark for the acoustic drums (I never use Spark, but I had it and didn’t think I had much to lose by trying it out on a track I’d never release). The “bass” riff is played on Jupiter-6 in unison mode. The strings are from a vintage Elka Rhapsody 490 string keyboard. The bell-type synth lead was made on a Roland Juno-106. The portamento lead that starts in the second verse is a slightly modified preset on the Korg MS2000.

As the tune plays out, I gradually increased the tape delay level so that it eventually turns into a lovely textural echo soup. After it fades out at the very end, I offer a bonus beat, consisting of the Dr. Rhythm part I had originally made as a sketch, and the CR-78-based Fade To Grey rhythm I built for this cover, played simultaneously. I think the two slightly different beats sound really lovely together, but it was just a bit too busy to use through the whole song.

In summer of 2016, I played this track as part of my live techno set at the Solstice Gathering in Ontario, Canada. The dancefloor was surprised – we all had a lot of fun! I’ve pulled it out a few times since, too, but now I think it’s time to let it go …


Steve Coen “Anomaly” now available on Beatport!

Anomaly is available as part of the Maloos “Playground 2017 Sampler”. If you want to find music from me on download services, you must search for “Steve Coen” (not Steven … hmmm … and not ‘nebula’)

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