Tainted Love – Rebuilding a Classic

Posted on 27. Jul, 2009 by in Studio Sessions


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soft cell tainted love 1W-a-a-a-a-y back in 1981, once a week, I used to gather up a group of friends for a trip to Leeds, and that amazing club ‘The Warehouse’. As Disco gracefully bowed out the exit door, a whole new musical sub-culture emerged from its ashes, with a sprinkling of post-punk ‘n Bowie thrown in: Enter the dawn of the New Romantics. Drum machines and synths were the order of the day, with instrumentation and vocal content evoking imagery of some classic film noir.

Just ahead of this time, I made the acquaintance of the clubs cloakroom attendant.. his name was Marc Almond. Prior to Soft Cell being a name on anyone’s lips, Marc would constantly hurry round the club, gossiping with anyone who’d listen and complaining that all and sundry were bringing their problems to him like some form of gothic agony aunt. The vision of him shooting out of the hat-check box to shimmy his skinny frame under the smoke cloud hanging a few feet off the dancefloor is etched firmly in my memory. Of course, his life was soon about to change completely..

Fast forward to 2006, and I get a call from the DMC guys asking if I’d like to remix that electro-pop masterpiece, ‘Tainted Love’. I agreed (erm, obviously) but with one condition: that the vocals were Marc’s original 1981 performance, and not the inferior, early 90′s re-vocal session. Result- it was the original I got! The vocal parts were emailed to me, and that was it: none of Dave Ball’s synth percussion sounds or those luscious keyboard parts were present. Not to worry I thought as here I had not only the chance but now the necessity to rebuild one of the biggest selling records of all time.

Soft Cell Tainted Love 2I’m gonna skip now to the next development in this story and then take you through the production notes: Reason? Well, about a year after I’d done the DMC remix, Soft Cell’s label decided to commission a full remix album, offering the bands back catalogue to receptive and eager pro fan/remixers. With my Tainted Love remix already well received by DMC’s DJ members, the label asked me to ‘re-tweak’ that mix and also do a full radio edit, club mix and ‘dub’ package for promo and eventual release. This is how that final remix was moulded and fine-tuned..

The Tainted Love Re-Build:

From the off, I knew the fundamental issue I wanted to address for the remix. Firstly, the 1981 track runs at 144 bpm, and I wanted to make the remix around 130 bpm which obviously involved using time stretch algorithms. Easy enough, but.. the original is sung by Marc in accordance with the song’s time signature of 6/8 (not the 4/4 area I needed). Throwing a very basic 4/4 house groove into Logic, I then processed Marc’s acapella from 144 to the new 130 tempo. This obviously kept the 6/8 time signature vocal delivery intact – and that of course needed to change, otherwise, Marc would be singing 6/8 over a 4/4 track – wrong!

To get Marc’s microphone performance sitting correctly within the new 4/4 rhythm, I had to cut up most of his vocal phrases and ‘re-position’ them by manually sliding the audio files left or right until I ‘felt’ it was the right delivery (and yes, a degree of paranoia did creep in as I debated the accuracy of my positioning choices – I was messing with a classic after all). After an intense few hours, I was eventually happy with the BIG change I’d already made – and I hadn’t even started on the rest of the remix!

The basic house groove was programmed up with a combination of my stock EXS samples and Battery. From herein, what to do about the bass – oh yes, that ol’ chestnut! In this case I’d already managed to get a really funky element into the rhythm track, so I thought I’d plum for straight eighth notes for the bassline and let the two elements work together and not sound overly cluttered once everything else was added. The bassline itself has different bass sounds on alternate eighths: not initially noticeable but a subtlety that nonetheless works (adding a certain ‘lift’ to the ‘up’ note).

Soft Cell Heat The RemixesOf the various synth elements, those of note are: A 16th note [Giorgio] Moroder style arpeggio to bed under each simplistic 1 phrase chorus, leading back into the verse: A layer of vintage Mellotron string/vocal pads, under the song’s bridge section: A distorted, legato guitar shredding at full power, but low level in the mix which is introduced in the album version’s breakdown: Various subliminal ‘pop’ synths to punctuate the chord movements as the timeline moved on. The observant amongst you will also notice the original Dave Ball ‘stabs’ in this remix. As the parts for this remix were only the vocal, this fantastic and iconic stab was missing – so, I sampled it from a vinyl version. I did however, layer this with another sound and added a cool slap back Elvis delay to make a retro-contemporary version – well, that’s my justification for nicking the original! :-)

On a final ‘how pleased was I when I stumbled across this..?’ moment.. Whilst looping up a vocal section and working on a synth part, I chanced upon a Marc vocal loop making a phrase that doesn’t appear on the original track, but is evident and really quite ‘hooky’ on the remix breakdown. This is a loop of.. “..please, I cannot stand the way you tease..” but, what is happening here is that the ‘T’ of ‘tease’ is latching onto the word ‘please’ but minus the ‘P’, therefore creating a very cool new phrase, and [luckily] then unlocking the loop to give that ‘tension/release’ moment and bringing the track back in, to its full on glory – it’s taking advantage and expanding upon lucky accidents like this that can make the world of difference to a remix!

Check out the full extended mix in the link below.. It appears on ‘Soft Cell – Heat: The Remixes’ album.. which is a highly recommended 2 CD package for fans of the electronica genre, old and new style!

PLAY ME!!

See more of Paul’s creative output at Dakeyne Photography

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8 Comments

sharon good

27. Jul, 2009

sexy,sassy and funky,your a true genius paul,fantastic revival of an old classic for me!!! i want to hit the dance floor now!!!!

lincoln biggs

27. Jul, 2009

another master production brother paul.you nailed it yet again!

John Rushford

27. Jul, 2009

What a great production Paul – Whilst listening to this qualit mix I laughed, whilst reading, at “vocal parts e-mailed to you”…Hahahaha gone are those day’s of the “master Tape”, so to speak and also “Paranoia of accuracy” – Yes i wonder how many others feel that way whilst putting the mix together,,lol.. – Will be checking out Heat The Remixes….!!!

Paul Dakeyne

28. Jul, 2009

Thanks for the comments guys.. yeah, it was a pleasure to do the mix being the track it is (and what it means to so many people), but the pressure of ‘getting it right’ hangs heavy.. wouldn’t have it any other way though :-)

James Hyman

30. Jul, 2009

Again, props.

in early DJ days, I often wanted to play this (& your others) in my sets but they were just TOO cool/smart and went way over people’s heads on dance-floors. Great to listen to on radio etc. though unless the crowd were really ‘switched’ on, a mix like this was wasted in a club environment and confused the average punter.

I also clearly recall enthusiastically playing this to some MTV suits (ad-sales) in the boardroom circa ’88/89 to illustrate the power of a ‘remix’. LOVE(D) it!
x

[...] that was all guitars really – to recharge your geeky valves go read how paul dakeyne went about remixing tainted love This entry was posted in frank friday, guitar, indie, video and tagged anr, byrds of [...]

Johnny Edward

02. Jul, 2011

Hello Paul,

I have a track that would benefit from your talent.

Let me know if you’d be interested in hearing it.

Kindest regards,

Johnny

Hollywood Records and Music

The first indie to reach number one!

07796 04 8888

Paul Dakeyne

10. Aug, 2011

Hi Johhny
Sorry for the late reply. A lot of comments get lost in this blog’s spam filter and yours did too :-(
If you’d still like to chat about the project, email me on tinman18remix@hotmail.co.uk
Cheers
Paul

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