Set in the berkshire hills of Massachusetts in a house on several acres of woods, Control Natural is a project designed to subtract all distractions from an artists life, to curate the best environment for them to create.
The project takes the form of a studio album (EP) and a 3 part documentary series produced by producer Mike Fresh and directed by Matthew Charof. Each of the 3 artists visited the property for a few days separately (one coming after the other) and spent time letting go of their everyday worries before stepping in the studio, located in the house everyone was staying at. Mike and and the artists then created a new song from scratch. Artists featured are Adrienne Mack-Davis (5/7), Dao Jones (5/14) and James Ryan (5/21). Tobias of Teenage Engineering had a few words over email with Mike.
TE: What was most challenging with the environment you were working in?
MF: The most challenging thing for me with the environment was to make sure everyone felt extremely comfortable and relaxed but at the same time push to make sure we write and record a beat and vocals as well as film interviews and a documentary, usually within 24-48 hours for each artist.
TE: Did the benefits outweigh the challenges?
MF: I believe the product that was produced under this controlled environment was some of the best work ever written by these artists. The challenges made us all better at what we do and our benefit outweighed these challenges by a long shot. I would take every advantage I can to use this model with other artists I am producing as well as open this project up to visual artists.
TE: How was the OP-1 used in the process?
MF: The OP-1 was heavily important to the writing process. All 3 artists and myself noticed we would unintentionally pick up the OP-1 and carry it with us outside to the front lawn or pool, bring it to the dinner table, and even bring it to jot down a few ideas while in bed. The OP-1 broke down the walls of the studio allowing the entire property to be the studio and we no longer had to sit in one room inside for hours looking at a computer screen. It also played a big role in the production of the songs which to me (being the producer) was super happy with. This instrument that is small enough to cary around is actually outputting high quality sounds that I was picking over my Juno, JP-8080, or any soft synth.
TE: What is your favorite thing with or feature of the OP-1?
MF: My favorite thing about the OP-1 is that it really has been designed so well both inside and out. Tweaking instruments on the fly, changing patches through the wide spectrum, and making them your own with all the effects and parameters. Also super happy that I can take it anywhere, use the super easy record functions and then plug it into my computer and develop it more, while still be able to use the same sounds. Also, can’t forget Chop Lifter :) !!
TE: Will you do this kind of project again?
MF: I would make another Control Natural if I had the opportunity. I would keep many things the same but also change some things. The cool thing about this concept is that it can take place anywhere with any set of artists. I hope next time we can use a beach house somewhere warm or travel across seas.
TE: Add one more: Are you always this super organized?
Ha ha ha, I’m a crazy person and loose my mind if things are not organized ha ha.
TE: Thanks Mike!
Be sure to check out the documentaries, listen to the tracks and grab the studio album available for download May 21st.