Larry Klein on using Propellerhead Reason for the production of Walter Becker’s Circus Money

Larry Klein was involved as a producer and co-writer on Walter Becker‘s Circus Money album. Released back in 2008. As you should know Walter Becker is part of one of the best bands which are still around, Steely Dan. Circus Money is Walter’s second solo record with songs full of those nifty diatonic smooth chord changes which are reminiscent of the work of Steely Dan. Plus some great grooves which push the songs with the right feel.

Reggae is the main stylistic element on this album which you can hear even on some of the stuff that doesn’t even sound like reggae (accent on the 3rd count of the bar). The drums and bass guitar are playing these interwoven parts with short percussive accents from a guitar, piano, organ or clavinet, which are kind of minimal as in reggae music. Sweet grooves are all over the place here with stunningly great sound. Dry. Nice upfront bass. Recorded on analog tape, mixed digitally. No walls of reverbs here. And (almost) zero synths were harmed.

Although synths were used in the songwriting and arranging process. Larry is (or was?) a happy Propellerhead Reason user it seems:

We used Propellerhead’s Reason at my place,” states Klein, “because it is so simple to set up, and it has software-based sounds on board. We’d mock up the drum patterns, and sometimes we even used the bass lines from the reggae tracks. We’d generally just have that looping endlessly, and then we developed our own harmonic schemes for the verse and chorus. Once the harmonic scheme had coalesced we’d develop other bass lines. We put vocal melodies down using just a vibe synth sound and we didn’t use microphones or other inputs at all. We always had a guitar and a bass in the room — we both play both — but they were just for us to jam with. Bass and guitar parts were recorded using a keyboard. By the time things were done, the initial groove might have changed.

Since I was a teenager and hardly able to play the guitar myself I am a huge Steely Dan fan. I have seen them perform several times here in the Netherlands. And back in the day, early year 2000’s I had a little contact with the great Dan engineer Roger Nichols (RIP) because we were both Steinberg Nuendo users at the time. This Reason connection feels nice as well. I’m wondering what kind of sounds they did use. Maybe they even used some of the ones that were included in the Factory SoundBank and were created by me.

Somehow music software in general and Reason especially feels like a big connection with all those music people I admire so much. Wondering though if those guys are still using Reason… who knows?

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