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 Rhythm part I had originally made as a sketch, and the CR-78-based Fade To Grey rhythm I built for this cover, played simultaneously.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 …