Marcus Whale‘s cover of Troye Sivan’s pop hit My My My is something to savour. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Sivan, and the original track doesn’t quite do it for me. I find it a little bland, and devoid of any emotional arc or sonic character.
Both of these pitfalls, Marcus ameliorates with flying colours. His reimagining is dark and foreboding, building from a pulsing crawl to a full-blown sonic barrage. And the hook (the only thing I really like about the original) is amplified to cavernous heights.
We had a chat to him Marcus about how he approached reworking the track, the gear he used, and what he loves about the original.
Marcus Whale walks us through his dark reimagining of Troy Sivan’s pop hit My My My and his approach for reappropriation.
Hey Marcus, really enjoying your remix of Troy Sivan’s My My My – where did the inspiration come from to rework this track in particular? What do you love about the original?
It’s actually a cover, not a remix! I’m flattered I am passing as Troye Sivan himself though because I find the original to be a really joyous, beautiful piece of work. I felt conflicted about this song at first – it didn’t grab me, which is ironic because it is so immediate.
There’s something dangerously irresistible about that hook and it’s so perfectly midtempo. I never really make music in that kind of 100bpm range so it is, weirdly, quite a foreign groove for me. I’m also a huge sucker for songs about the prospect of love, that point of burgeoning, blooming feeling before something happens.
What are some of the stylistic ‘Marcus Whale’ tropes that you find yourself coming back to when you work with someone else’s material?
I don’t think too consciously about what my mark on the song might be. I like to think of each of them as being pretty organic responses to the original work.
For instance, the remix I did of Far From View, which is a gorgeous song by Jack Colwell, was for me about drawing out what I felt were really gothic undertones in the song, this really heavy thread of desperation that I found both compelling and horrifying. So I ended up doing something that stripped all the beautiful elements away and foregrounded Jack’s voice with all of its poetic graininess.
How do you approach a remix? Do you have a process that you follow, or is it entirely dictated by the original composition?
I like to generally keep the song structure mostly intact, not least because it gives me a nice map of where the remix can go. I’ll usually try and strip away the majority of the instrumental, which I realise now is probably because all the stems take up so much space on my hard drive! But I keep some elements in there to give just a ghostly hint of the original. I like to just listen to the acapella and allow some imagination of the song emerge from the emptiness around it.
Tell us a bit about your set-up at home.
I make music on a desk in my bedroom on my laptop, mostly composing on Maschine and with a MIDI keyboard. I usually then will drag it all over to ProTools to edit if I need to and if there’s vocals, I record them there. Sometimes I add a bit of audio processing, usually granulation, from AudioMulch too, which is a program I have used since I was 17. I have some cheap Yamaha monitors. I’m in need of a sub.
Is the entire remix process in-the-box or do you use any hardware/re-amping/outboard gear?
It’s all in-the-box. I come from a pretty DIY background musically so I’ve always tried to do things as cheaply as possible – this laptop and ProTools I bought with an ArtStart grant and my plugins were bought for a soundtrack job.
I love that pulsating arpeggiator you used on the track – what are we hearing here?
This is just a preset on Massive that I was playing with on the keyboard, but I’ve covered it in a couple of different distortions and saturators as well as a filter, which controls the dynamic pretty much on its own.
Your use of reverb really brings an element of darkness and intensity to the track. Is there a plug-in or piece of gear that really shined here? How did you approach lathering the track with verb?
I’ll mostly use native plugins from ProTools and Maschine but I think there’s probably a bit of SoundToys Echoboy in there as well. I like using that with my voice. I think the largeness of the sound is just from multitracking and duplicating my vocals, then putting that all through a couple of bus channels that are then sent to a lot of reverb and echo.
Those barraging industrial beats are a huge element too. What are we hearing here?
I have often used white noise over the years probably because one of the few ways you can generate sound in AudioMulch is with white noise and sine tones. A lot of the beats you hear are simply enveloped and filtered white noise with some delay, etc. One of the kicks is just direct from a sample pack. I know there’s this anxiety around it but really don’t mind using sample packs and presets if they work! There’s also a lot of compression and saturation happening throughout all of the beats which gives it much of the character it has.
How about the synths?
As far as I can tell, all the synths are Massive synths – that preset I mentioned earlier and then this other patch I use in a lot of my music that has this real sad, haunting quality to it when I put it through shitty freeware amp emulators.
What’s next for you?
My band Collarbones has some music coming out this year definitely, and if I get my shit together I’ll have an album to share as well.