ATTLAS and CloudNone had the chance to chat with each other about music production, what their experiences have been like in 2020, and more.
ATTLAS and CloudNone are both two incredible music producers in their own right. ATTLAS quickly became one of mau5trap’s most loved and celebrated artists with releases like Lavender God, while also recently bringing his beat to Lane 8’s label This Never Happened. Meanwhile, CloudNone has been gaining popularity and notoriety in just two years since his debut release and just today dropped a fresh tune dubbed “Told U” with Direct. So it’s no wonder that these two brilliant artists have gravitated together through their love of music.
CloudNone’s exclusive release with the famed video game Rocket League, “From Here,” garnered millions of listens. With its beautiful piano melody and powerful lyrics flowing brilliantly into chill, melodic, liquid beats, it’s obvious why the track was such a huge success. We were further blessed by this track’s existence when none other than ATTLAS gave the track a unique, feel-good remix of the beloved track.
Looking to gain a special perspective on the two artists, ATTLAS and CloudNone sat down with each other to chat about all things music, keeping their creativity alive, their processes, and more during a unique interview. Read on to hear more as they pick each other’s brains about all things music, and stream ATTLAS’ remix of “From Here” below.
Stream CloudNone – “From Here” (ATTLAS Remix) on Spotify:
ATTLAS: With your music, how do like working with vocals – writing for/around a topline, the topline coming after a mostly-assembled demo, or something that’s your own process?
CloudNone: I like both approaches. The moment I heard either Lights Out by Danyka Nadeau or Let The Music In by Elle Vee, I immediately had a clear vision and knew what I wanted to do with both songs. Then on a song like “From Here”, I began with the piano melody, which was so compelling to me that the lyrics kind of just poured out “strangers found lost in time with one another…” over that melody. Both ways are somewhat reactionary, and so I suppose trying not to over-think things, either way, keeps the process fun and unique to each song.
ATTLAS: With your distinct approach to vocal chops, what’s your preferred technique for finding the rhythm and melodic balance (chopped with mouse and keyboard, played in a sampler via a controller etc).
CloudNone: I’ve done everything with mouse and keyboard. Typically, I’ve just searched through a capellas for interesting bits and then transpose slices into different keys, speeding things up or down to fit in some way that feels interesting to me. I’ve only recently been turned on to throwing like an entire a cappella into a sampler and seeing what the notes hold. I can imagine a lot of happy accidents, so I may give that a go soon, but until now, it’s just been grabbing audio.
ATTLAS: I’m curious about your rhythms – to me there’s a lot of breakbeat and UK garage influence, but more meticulous in a modern way. Is there a drumming background there, or just a disciplined focus with sample selection, laying out audio versus midi performance?
CloudNone: I’m definitely meticulously moving samples around a lot, and most often, I’m moving bits away from any sort of grid. That sort of production style is the most fun for me. I really love discovering grooves hidden within selective bits of foley or finding other unexpected sources to use as percussion and I often just allow those accidental findings to contribute to the overall groove. While mostly all of my music (so far) has been 120-130bpm, I try not to mentally lock myself into tempos that are generally associated with certain genres. I guess if it feels right, it must be “right.”
ATTLAS: When you’re heavily involved in a project, what are your listening habits like outside of the project file? I personally try to listen to completely different music and need a lot of time to refresh ears, but there is also a real value in referencing similar tracks.
CloudNone: Yeah, I figure it’s best to completely remove myself from a project or genre and so I’m almost always listening to the peaceful piano playlist on Spotify. It’s very therapeutic… I also enjoy hearing what composers do with such limited instrumentation, which can be inspiring to think about making music from a different angle.
ATTLAS: How do your hobbies and interests outside the music itself affect the creative process and motivations of your music?
CloudNone: I love going for late-night walks and I find that being outside with no agenda is one of the best ways to let my imagination roam free. I feel like my musical creation process becomes cyclical in the sense that many of my songs have been birthed on these walks, but then also become the soundtracks for them too.
CloudNone: What is generally the first thing you do when you get parts for a remix, and what was the first thing you did with “From Here” to set the foundation for your remix?
ATTLAS: Each remix I approach a bit differently, but in general remix work tends to include a vocal. If it isn’t a vocal track, the main ‘melody’ or hook serves a similar purpose as the narrative driver. I make sure I keep that stem. I rarely if ever use any of the percussions and rhythm elements of an original mix, but retain anything melodic and harmonic in the session. It gives you a sense of the emotional quality of the original.
From there, I’ll loop different elements while recording synth lines, piano lines, chord progressions, and do the process in a real honest, and improvisational manner. At this stage, it’s brainstorming, sketching in pencil, rough drafts only. You want to creatively explore things at different tempos, moving pitches up and down, looping and chopping, resampling… I find this part a lot of fun and creatively enjoyable, but after enough time you’ll find a natural fit for your own creativity and a new perspective on the original track.
CloudNone: Sometimes I hear remixes that are so far from the original version that any original elements are hardly noticeable, but I loved how you kept all the core elements of “From Here” intact and still took the song into a new direction and did something that feels completely unique to you. Do you have a predisposition regarding how much of the original you want to retain vs the idea of going in a completely new direction? Are there certain elements in an original work that you already know you’ll keep every time, regardless of what you’re remixing?
ATTLAS: It’s hard remixing a really great track, in this case the original was so beautiful that you make peace with the fact that you aren’t going to make it ‘better’. I try to avoid that kind of comparative thinking though. There’s a saying – ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. During the time that I was writing this it was when I had been slowly recovering from the worst injury I’ve had and in the middle of canceling what would have been the tour for my first album. I was in a very low spot and the pandemic was starting to really shift the world from what it was to what it is now.
I tried to listen to more positive records in my free time, and I came back to things like Third Party, Mat Zo, Ferry Corsten – records that brought me to good memories. I wanted to see if I could reimagine the track in that style, so that’s how I approached the existing elements and what I would create anew for it. It was definitely that motivation that led to wanting to retain much of the atmosphere and melodic/vocal components, as opposed to scrapping those and shaping something around solely the vocal elements (which I had done in many remixes previously).
“Regardless of what I’m remixing, it’s the emotion and the melody that really inspires me to write, produce, create.”
CloudNone: There’s one sort of trancy synth in your remix that I absolutely love. You used it sparingly and when it chimes in for a few notes at a time it immediately fills me with a sense of nostalgia. When you’re creating your synths, do you prefer software or hardware?
ATTLAS: When it comes to synths, I have comparatively much less experience with hardware than I do VSTs and samplers. I’m not sure if there’s a better or worse, maybe it’s just different. For the acts, I love, equally amazing music has been achieved with each. Four Tet is all within the box, so to speak, and then you’ve got Boards of Canada tracking down rare vintage gear just for three seconds on one record. It’s how you use it, I believe.
CloudNone: Do you generally create all your sounds from scratch, or do you use presets and edit the sound a bit? Or a combination, saving all your sounds to revisit and reuse later?
ATTLAS: It’s a real mix these days. I go through phases where I get really into sound design-y kind of writing and producing, and then I think hey Jeff, “I Need You More” was about as simple as it gets production-wise, just well-executed. I definitely save everything though and have dug through old hard drives to find out just how I made certain sounds. For instance, I needed to go back to see what I had done on a remix for “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” for something I’m trying on an upcoming release.
Something I’ve started doing over the last few bigger projects (Lavender God, Charcoal Halo, upcoming releases) is going through and sampling my old demos. Sometimes there’s a bit of a gnarly degradation of quality that I don’t love, but I do love what you can achieve by repurposing the best bits of unused projects. A melody, a few bars, a synth, or a pad combination pitched up or down or played through a sampler as eight notes really let you make the most of your old efforts while imbuing your new stuff with something that’s uniquely yours. So in short, yeah it’s the age-old re-sampling.
CloudNone: Do you feel like you’re creatively tied to a certain place, or do you find yourself able to create music wherever you go?
ATTLAS: That’s an interesting question and I hope I’m answering it correctly, but I find myself creating differently in different environments. And as you probably know as a creator yourself, not everything is going to go in the ATTLAS box. I love music. When I’m out at my parents and their old piano, I find myself going back to the kind of singer/songwriter stuff I imagined for myself as a teenager. Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, etc. A million blues and jazz standards. I’ve got most of my guitars and banjos out there, which speaks to a whole different era of creative pursuit. These days, my writing is inspired by what I do when I don’t write.
A lot of the work I’m proud of these days comes from getting far far away from technology, living these experiences out in lakes and forests and rivers, then coming back and processing the significance and mystery and jubilance of it all through melody and narrative. At its best, I mean. We don’t always get that perfect balance, but when it happens I for sure write better.
CloudNone: Lastly, how has COVID-19 affected your creativity and productivity?
ATTLAS: It’s been really up and down. By the numbers, when this year is done I will have put out more material than any other year (if all goes according to plan in these next couple months), but it has been a much different process. I’m not normally in my room this much (I just do my writing by a window in my bedroom) and there are times when it really gets to you.
I’ve had a lot of friends leave the city, seen favorite places close down for good, been unable to attend funerals for loved ones because of the pandemic. I had a lot of professional and personal plans this year that are now of course indefinitely if not permanently altered or halted. But I’ve still written. I think I’m writing a bit more nostalgic in recent months. Emulating moods and emotions from records that remind me of a different time. I miss my friends, the way things were, and yet I’m still here. So I’m trying to write the good moods, not the bad ones.
Our industry will be one of the last ones to come back and I feel for every single person that has been affected by this. There is a heavy psychological shadow hanging over a lot right now, and I’m torn if music should hold a lens up to that or offer us a place to go that is the counter to it all.