Recording—Simplified: KYKO Talks Textures, Layers, and Loops

July 17, 2017 | by Jon Simmons

KYKO by Gaëlle Beri

KYKO | Photo by Gaëlle Beri

Recording music shouldn’t be complicated. In this ongoing series, we’re asking musicians to offer their tips for simplifying the recording process. KYKO, a London-based indie electronic artist, shares how he does it.

What techniques work for you to capture song ideas?

I start pretty much all of my songs by playing over a two or four bar loop, so I just tend to chop up and stack different loops/sounds to make a beat that gets me and whomever I’m working with excited. Then I’ll spend a silly amount of time just playing along to that loop—experimenting with different sounds and chords to get melodies.

I also use the voice memo app on the iPhone for most tunes. Sometimes I start with vocal ideas, and sometimes I just leave it on while I jam over a loop, so I can just listen to it all and pick what was good and what was terrible.

At what point do you make the decision that a song is ready to record?

Like a lot of people do now, production just seems to be a part of the writing process—just another element in the same way the vocals and chords are. I find it kind of hard to distinguish between a demo and a final production sometimes, as everything is recorded and roughly mixed by the time the demo is done. A lot of the time it just takes a bit of mixing to polish a demo when we decide a song is going to get used.

How do you simplify the recording process?

The majority of sounds on my songs are synth-based or programmed, so it’s often about making a decision of what would be good to record live to give it another element. The producers and I will record one element in then chop, mix, and edit it into the track before layering the next part on top. For example, we will always do guitars and mix them into place before recording any vocals on top. I find it gets jumbled really quickly if you’re laying onto a part you’ve just recorded that's not comped.

What’s your ideal recording environment?

Probably just being in a space with as many different instruments, sounds, percussion as possible that I could record and play along with without any faffing. It can be a curse having too much to play around with, but I think it’s the best inspiration for me.

What’s your recording environment from hell like?

My biggest frustration with having so many textures and tracks running on songs is not having the CPU to run it and having the program crash when I’m in the middle of things. Whichever producer I’m working with, we have to take some time to bounce or freeze half of the tracks, which helps get through it, but it just feels like a waste of time.

Be ready to record your song ideas wherever you are. Download the Spire app, a free, multi-track recording app for iPhone.