Ghostly International has long been lauded as an outlet of forward-thinking music favoring visual aesthetics and the arts. Using Splice, Ghostly artists Christopher Willits, Heathered Pearls, and The Sight Below have created a refreshing ambient tune, “Collider,” to accompany an upcoming exhibit from Michael Cina and John Klukas. Learn more about the exhibition.
We catch up with Christopher Willits, Heathered Pearls, and The Sight Below to tell us about their experience crafting “Collider” together; using Splice to collaborate.
Can you tell us a little bit about how this project came about?
Heathered Pearls: Sam the label owner introduced us all to the program, I think Christopher, Raf and I are probably the closest sound wise on the label so it made sense once we figured out Splice that we should try something out.
Christopher Willits: I’ve been brainstorming a similar system with a couple friends in SF, a way that people can create together remotely. One day my friend sent me a link to Splice and that same day Sam at Ghostly asked if I wanted to be introduced to the Splice crew. It was really amazing how the whole thing fell into place. Since then, me and my friends are brainstorming new ideas, since this one was covered so well in the world of Ableton Live.
The Sight Below: Michael Cina and Sam were discussing creating a specific piece for a gallery installation. We decided to use the Splice platform and create a collaborative piece between Chris Willits, Heathered Pearls and myself.
Did you already have experience working together? How does that help you get started?
Heathered Pearls: Actually no, I’m a big fan of Christopher and Raf, both have been influential musicians. One big difference from them and I is their experience and knowledge with guitars, I’m more on the hypnotic soundscape end.
Christopher Willits: I love Jakub (Heathered Pearls) and Raf’s (The Sight Below) work, and when Sam presented the idea of making a track among Ghostly artists, the combo of all of us doing something just came together and made a lot of sense. But it’s funny, it was not any kind of pre-fabricated idea. Not everyone on the Ghostly roster uses Ableton Live, and everyone’s schedule had to permit. The three of us loved the idea and wanted to make the time to see something through, so it just happened.
The Sight Below: I’ve remixed Chris before and we’ve played together several times, so I’m quite familiar with his music. We got started with Jakub (Heathered Pearls) making a loop and we just start playing with the file from there and shaping it into a song.
What is the first thing you usually notice about a new collaborator?
Heathered Pearls: Their use of rhythm or substance in their sound choices.
Christopher Willits: I think if you have never worked with someone before there can be many some unknowns in terms of the creative process, and how you want to proceed. It’s good to get to know each other a bit, see where your intentions align, aka why you want to create something in the first place.
The Sight Below: Their commitment to the project and work ethic.
When you work with other musicians and producers, do you prefer to work together in the same room or work remotely? Are there benefits to each?
Heathered Pearls: I benefit from being alone, I like to hear tiny alternations on the fly in a loop until I get something that sounds right for me personally, I don’t expect anyone to ever have to sit through that.
Christopher Willits: I prefer to work in person, in the same room with people, but that’s not always possible. I think Splice is really going to help me finish collaborations that I begin in person with people. It can be challenging to get something off the ground when it’s completely remote, but I think with more practice and experience doing it, it’s not going to be a problem. I do think having a working relationship, creatively and personally, with the people you’re working with remotely helps the process tremendously. You know each other and you can set an intention for what you’re creating. Then there’s trust and some collective intuition and energy that guides the process forward. I think that can happen with strangers for sure, but with friends and people you’ve worked with before, it’s just easier.
The Sight Below: I’ve been working remotely for so many years now, I’m very used to it. I think with Splice is quite neat to be able to almost work in real-time. It’s as good as it’s going to get.
How do you decide where to begin in a collaboration with two other artists?
Heathered Pearls: It matters on what the other person wants to do and what they’re best at for the idea ahead of us. I enjoy working on melodies and effecting each section through the sequence to set the haze and core of the song.
Christopher Willits: We decided to begin by adding whatever we we feeling. Just trusting the process, and then as things grew into some loose form we decided to lock in some specific roles. That really never happened, but the thing about a plan is it gives you some constraint to work within. Often that constraint is more valuable than the specifics plan itself. So Jakub put up a loop, I added a processing system to that and added some other loops and then Raf added some synth ideas that we all refined. Once it was close to being finished, and keep in mind this is just a fun and rough thing to begin with, I took over the mixing duties and mixed it all analog, summing, EQ and compression. Then did a quick mastering pass.
The Sight Below: Analyzing each strengths and trying to bring something to the table. Most importantly, respect for each persons input and work.
How did Splice help your workflow in this collaboration?
Heathered Pearls: I love the information Splice gives you from itemizing to what the other person has been doing to the track.
Christopher Willits: Splice gathered all the updates and ideas we were creating in our project, automatically and put the focus on the creativity and the sound, so we were not wasting time trying to do manual version control. I want to create more like this. I believe that what we call remote collaboration now, will just be another basic form of collaboration in the future. People all around the world are creating music together through the web, and it’s becoming more organic and fluid to do so, thanks to intelligent tools like Splice.
The Sight Below: Splice was a wonderful way to have three people communicate and develop ideas remotely. I’m amazed at how it all panned out.
Any advice for people getting started creating music you might like to share?
Heathered Pearls: Don’t use the default sounds, tweak something until it feels like it’s your own.
Christopher Willits: Create what you love and create a lot of it. Know that you will always get better at what you are doing, it’s all a process. Ask yourself why you want to create, and what sounds serve your own personal voice. Don’t compare yourself to others, follow your intuition, your heart, and just do it. And, very important, have fun!
The Sight Below: Don’t let limitations hinder your creative process; make the limitation PART of the creative process and embrace it.