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tend to succeed on the more old-fashioned qualities of melody, chord progression, and emotion. In addition, their productions are always wholly supportive of the song, many of which are minor key ballads or medium-tempo numbers that allow the singer space to shine. It’s understandable that all this makes Stargate popular with singers. What’s more, Hermansen and Eriksen also almost always co-write their hits with fellow songwriters, and often with the singer, which gives the latter even greater scope to make the song his or her own, not to mention that it also allows for a share in the royalties. Eriksen appears proud of Stargate’s non-ego approach, and explains that it’s the result of the epiphany that lay at the heart of the creative outburst that followed meeting Ne-Yo in 2005. Eriksen: “So Sick was definitely an eye-opener for us in that it really worked to have the singer write the lyrics. When we lived in Europe we used to write most of the lyrics ourselves. We’d hum melodies into a dictaphone and I used to sing on our early demos, which taught us about what makes a good vocal melody. These days we really enjoy working with American lyricists and top writers. They’re on another level lyrically, and this gives us the space to focus on writing and recording, which is the part we love the most. We put a lot of instrumental melodies in our music that singers and lyricists can use and adapt. Our goal is also to inspire

singers to come up with their own melodies, which we can then edit. “The other thing we discovered with So Sick is how simple a good song can be. You don’t have to have loads of vocal harmonies and overlapping lines in the background. The most important thing is to have one great lead vocal throughout the song. You can sprinkle it with all sorts of stuff but you try to keep it focussed on the lead vocal and make sure the melody and lyrics are great.” GEAR AT THE GATE Like more and more hit makers these days, Stargate weave their magic on a state-of-the-art ProTools system, and little else. Says Eriksen, “As you know, everything is moving towards smaller production facilities these days. You don’t really need big consoles or lots of outboard anymore to make a good sounding record. We have a G-Series SSL at Roc-The-Mic, but we only use four channels of it: two for ProTools and two for the iPod. We do everything in the box and the desk is just there to make our room look like a real studio (laughs). Back in the days in Norway we used quite a bit of outboard, but now it’s all about plug-ins. I think we were one of the first to move to ProTools for song writing… that was 10 years ago now. Before that we’d been using Cubase for the previous 10. Cubase was much better for MIDI at the time, but because we were doing the vocal recording in ProTools, it

eventually made more sense to work on just one platform, and ProTools was the more convenient of the two. In the end it doesn’t really matter what you use. It’s all about ideas now, not the equipment. Anyone with a laptop and a small keyboard can create records that sound just as good as the ones on the radio. “Tor and I both play keyboards, and we have all the different Yamaha Motifs: the ES, the EXS, and so on. The Motif ES is my master keyboard. We also have the Roland Fantom and Fantom-G, and several older modules, like the Roland JV and Proteus 2000, but we rarely use them any more. These days we mainly use soft-samplers and soft-synths, the main ones being Digidesign’s Structure and Access Virus Indigo. We also use XPand! a lot and the new Transfuser software, which allows us to chop up and mess with the sounds. We have pretty much every soft-synth on the market, and several symphonic sample and drum libraries. Actually, it’s a real danger, having too much stuff and too many possibilities, which is why we often go back to our own sample libraries. But to be honest, we don’t really care whether we use a preset or our own sound. Often we start with a preset and modify it; at other times we create a sound from scratch. We don’t focus too much on the sounds – more on the ideas and the song writing.”

THE STARGATE TOUCH: Mikkel Eriksen on writing some of the Norwegian duo’s greatest hits.

IRREPLACEABLE (2006) Artist: Beyoncé. Writers: Shaffer ‘Ne-Yo’ Smith, Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Hermansen, Espen Lind, Amund Bjorklund, Beyoncé Knowles. “This song began with some guitar chords that were given to us by

Amund and Espen, and we arranged them and added bass and drums, strings and melodies, and everything else. The chords were leaning towards country, so we had fun exploring something new. Ne-Yo is also not locked into one genre, and when we presented the song to him, he wrote lyrics to it and added a melody… and magic happened. It was actually an A&R person who suggested that the song would work better sung by a female. A couple of labels wanted the song, but for a while nothing

happened, until Beyoncé heard it. She loved it and recorded it, but it didn’t seem to fit on the album she was doing at the time, B’Day, which was supposed to be a hard-hitting club album. Finally, one of the producers on the album, Swizz Beats, said that she’d be crazy not to include the song on the album. It was released on the album as track number nine, and then spent 10 weeks at number one as a single, and in the new edition of the album it’s the second song, immediately after Beautiful Liar.”

BEAUTIFUL LIAR (2007) Artists: Shakira and Beyoncé. Writers: Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Hermansen, Amanda Ghost, Ian Dench, Beyoncé Knowles. Eriksen: “This song is very simple. Most of the time we have more chords in a

song, because we find it hard writing a great song on just one chord. But if you do it right, you can make it work, and this song is a good example of one that works. We’d written the backing track a year earlier, and played it to one of our managers TyTy (Tyran Smith), who loved the track and said that it’d be perfect for a duet between Shakira and Beyoncé. We were like, ‘yeah, right’ and laughing and shaking our heads and thinking it couldn’t be done. But he was really devoted to the idea. We didn’t have a lyric or a top

melody so various writers had a stab at finishing the song. The first two or three attempts weren’t good enough, and then he had the idea of putting us together with Amanda and Ian, who we hadn’t heard of, and they wrote the lyric and the melody. It originally had a Spanish title and different lyrics, but then Tor said, “You have that line beautiful liar in one of the verses, why not use that as a feature?” So that became the punchline. We presented it to Beyoncé, who loved it and added her own twist to the lyrics and then recorded a version

Profile for Alchemedia Publishing

Audio Technology 74  

The magazine for sound engineers and recording musicians

Audio Technology 74  

The magazine for sound engineers and recording musicians