Melbourne's own Chiefs gives us the rundown on his creative process.
Song writing begins with imagination. Much like anything else that involves creativity, the ideas themselves come from a myriad of your own personal experiences combined with your ability to dream outside of the constraints of normality. Without sounding like a complete lunatic, or potentially an art snob, I'll try to generally explain the process I go through in creating a body of work. This process is truly ever-evolving, and works best for me at this point in my career.
INSPIRATION & EXPLORATION
It all begins with inspiration. This can be the most difficult stage, but really is the most important. As I mentioned in the opening, imagination guides creation. Sometimes inspiration can come at the most inconvenient of times, so you should always be prepared to write down any ideas that may arise, whether they be on a notepad, into your phone, etc. When inspiration isn’t as obvious, it's important to train yourself to be inspired. I feed my mind with all types of auditory and visual stimuli, which greatly helps me generate new ideas and concepts when creating music.
If you look at the tabs in my Google chrome browser, you'll see multiple YouTube and Soundcloud windows open that are filled visuals from anime cartoons I grew up with, music/podcasts from my favorite stations like Soulection and Futurebounce, and political channels like Russell Brand's "The Trews" or The Young Turks.
With active attention on these varying stimuli (and not being distracted by unrelated interweb things), I try to write my concepts, thoughts, and melodies in their true infancy, tabula rasa. These inspirations could be a statement, a question, or an idea for a particular sound that I want to design. Sometimes I’ll even memo them, and record the odd noises that I'm hearing in my mind with vocal imitations.
During this process, thinking as abstractly as possible brings out the most in my creativity. Sometimes though, especially with my upbringing in hip-hop culture, sampling stands as my go-to method of creation. I can find inspiration from a sped-up sample that triggers a new chord progression, or a slowed-down sample that inspires a new bass line. Hopefully by this point, I will have plenty of ideas to work of off. There will be a lot of terrible ones for sure, but I will still have a few that I can make into something more.
TUNING & TUNING & TUNING
The next step in my creative process is tuning, or more specifically fine-tuning. I’ll select the concept where the flow of ideas is most natural or easiest, and then sit down at a keyboard and try to translate those ideas into chords. Once some of the basic chords are written, I’ll look for a sound through my VST sound collection, or design a sound of my own that I’m comfortable with using. My go-to VSTs at the moment are Sylenth1 and Z3TA+2. I repeat this process for the rest of the musical elements like lead, bass and drums etc.
For me, this can be the most time consuming part of the whole process, because I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive about sound selection and sound design, especially when it comes to the drum sounds. I think this is where most of the work is done though. Once I’m comfortable with my beginning template, and there are no more errors in my mind, I’ll ask for feedback from some of my trusted sources. Most of the time, I’ll redesign my tracks from the feedback I get, as it is always for the better. I’ve learned that a good balance between ego and acceptance is important to achieve something you are happy with. That being said, I’ve overhauled my completed tracks more often that not, simply because I’ve re-designed them so many times that they have eventually become completely different songs.
The final stage is more like a review of my tracks and a categorisation of them in my mind as to where the “overall” direction of my body of work is going. There’s been times where I have written five songs for an EP, but maybe only one or two of those songs take me in the direction I want to go. In that case, I put those other songs on ice and start the entire process again with that direction in mind. It then becomes easier to hone in on the ideas and sounds.
This is what I do, and what “u” can do too.