Recording

Chris O'Brien

Chris O'Brien... a drummer, programmer and composer, O'Brien has handled synth chores for the likes of Michael Jackson, Amy Grant and Lionel Richie. He also keeps busy writing cues for Entertainment 3/01/2003 7:00 AM Eastern

In the highly competitive sample-library market, no company has abetter reputation than Ilio Entertainment. Led by the wife/husband teamof Shelly Williams and Mark Hiskey, Ilio's catalog is pristine andhighly creative. The close relationships the partners share with manyof the artists whose work they represent, and often produce, are bigfactors in the duo's success. Case in point: Chris O'Brien. A drummer,programmer and composer, O'Brien has handled synth chores for the likesof Michael Jackson, Amy Grant and Lionel Richie. He also keeps busywriting cues for Entertainment Tonight and GeneralHospital, and banging the kit for numerous sessions. After workingas an independent contractor for several years, O'Brien folded hisproject studio into the Ilio camp in 1999. Ilio recently released atwo-CD sample library of O'Brien's drum/percussion loops, StarkRaving Beats.

“My studio was a converted garage in a small, cozy rentalhouse in Burbank [Calif.],” says O'Brien. “I had myacoustic drums and electronics set up in the same space as my Spirit328 Digital Console, Mackie HR824 speakers, and, at the time, aDigidesign 882 hooked to a d24 and DSP Farm card in a Beige G3Macintosh with Opcode Studio 4 MIDI/SMPTE interface, all powered byLogic Audio. Ilio offered me a space that previously was a recordingand mastering studio. It was a great opportunity to have a much moreprofessional working space, and a way to give my wife some peace andquiet! I brought along my home setup, which now consists of the Spirit328, Neutrik Balanced ¼-inch patchbays, Mackie monitors, MOTU2408mkII, G4 800MHZ CPU and Panasonic SV3700 DAT machine. My mainsynths have always been my trusty Roland JD800 and JV1080 with variousexpansion boards, and Korg Wavestation SR. My main sampler of choicethese days is the Emagic EXS-24, but we also have Kontakt and aGigaStudio PC setup, as well as a vast array of hardware samplers.

“Stark Raving Beats was an idea I was discussing forsome time with Mark Hiskey. It was truly a challenge to conceive of adrum-loop CD that hadn't been done before, what with so manydance/R&B titles crowding the market. One thing we noticed, though,was the majority of the titles' tempos were mainly in the low- tomidrange and were mainly programmed. So, we came up with the concept offast and aggressive grooves performed live on acoustic drums andpercussion and then remixed for a unique organic/electronichybrid.”

SRB features Groove Control, a post-ACID method of splittingall of a loop's elements into individual slices and triggering themfrom a sequencer. Tempo, quantization and pitch can all be changedindependently. Although the concept is simple, many owners of GrooveControlled libraries fail to dig into the possibilities. “It'seasy to achieve half-time/double-time versions with your sequencer, andeven remix the drum kit elements of the groove. For instance, you canuse only a pattern's broken-down kick and hi-hat, then bring in thesnare, add the separate stereo-delay FX loop in, or try blending theroom loop level in hotter in the song's chorus. Where it really becomeswild is when you mix different acoustic snare, hi-hats, room and FXloops from grooves originally performed at different tempos and feels,instantly locking them together with your sequencer's Quantizefunction. Working with the MIDI files, you can easily alter theperformance by adding or deleting notes within the groove, shorteningthe note's duration for a tighter sound or randomizing the order of thenotes for a totally off-the-wall twist. You can also mix and match anyother Groove Control-activated libraries from Ilio and Spectrasonicswith Stark Raving Beats.”

Hiskey says that O'Brien's many talents were too strong to pass up:“We initially contracted Chris to do some SampleCell programming,knowing that he was an excellent drummer and a programmer. Over time,we began leaning on him more and more.

“Chris did a lot of post-production work on another GrooveControl title in our catalog, Ethno Techno, which featurespercussionist Bashiri Johnson. We spend a lot of time inpost-production, making sure that all of the samples sound as clean aspossible, experimenting with processing and organizing the discs aslogically as we possibly can. Chris has done the heavy loading on anumber of our releases.”

Hiskey and O'Brien are currently writing and producing cues forSonic Desktop's SonicFire Pro and Movie Maestro software libraries.


Gary Eskow is one of Mix's contributing editors.

Click here to check out a demo of Ilio's "StarkRaving Beats" percussion loops collection by Chris O'Brien.