Words By: Miki Hellerbach
The Producer’s Voice is a new series for GUAP where we highlight the stories of instrumental crafters. We hope to bring their stories to the forefront instead of kept behind the artist they are producing for.
Slinger is Ashnikko’s trusted producer, and that’s largely down to his dedication to understanding an artists sound whilst also bringing his own flair to the table.
While producer Slinger has called London home for nearly 9 years, he is originally from Leicester. Though he did not grow up in a musical family, he did grow hearing and liking the classic British rock his father would play but also having a deep reverence for Britney Spears’ first album. This, unbeknownst to him, would plant a seed for his eventual pop music obsession and artistry.
When he went to University for business management, Slinger quickly realized he hated it but powered through. His outlet for fulfilling expression ended up being DJing which he taught himself to do because he became enthralled with the club scene. He witnessed the joy that the dance music he and his friends were hearing in these spaces and wanted to replicate it with his own sound. The things sonically that stuck out were the dynamics of how bass works on big sound systems.
Learning the craft of DJing quickly transitioned into learning the craft of producing and translated into Slinger producing under the producer alias Gemini between 2010 and 2016. His biggest track “Blue” has over 11 Million streams on Spotify. He toured the world and got used to playing in front of thousands, but got to a point where he felt he needed to take a step back and travel the world to find his true purpose.
What resulted was a realization that he wanted to set his focus on building sonic worlds with other individual artists in pop production and songwriting. This led to an over three year search to find the right person to further this quest with and eventually through management Slinger would be introduced to burgeoning popstar Ashnikko. Their work from that moment to now has received countless praise and Slinger even produced 4 out of the 10 tracks from Ashnikko’s breakout debut album DEMIDEVIL. The lead single “Daisy” from the album was recently nominated for an Ivor Novello award for Best Contemporary Song.
“I think producer’s are such an integral part, especially when it’s a 1 on 1 relationship. I think you go a lot deeper and there’s less variables. I love building a universe of sounds, smashing genres together, and seeing what happens. I really enjoy the process of understanding another human being who’s on a whole other level of creativity and trying to bring the best out of them.”Slinger for GUAP 2021
I asked Slinger to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.
“Daisy” by Ashnikko
“Seeing “Daisy” go gold in America was pretty mind blowing. Ash always thought the song was gonna be huge and I thought it was cool but didn’t think it would go that far. We wrote it a couple of years ago now I think. I’ve got a playlist of things that Ash likes and what her influences are. One of the things that was kind of on this playlist but she wasn’t mad into was MIA’s “Bad Girls”. I’d always loved that song and felt like, “We could use this today,” for that day’s session.
I’d been building up the courage to bring her on something like that for a while. I had this Arabic scale and the melody for the chorus in my head. She came in and I played it on the keyboard. It was just a really short sine wave, so I bounced that down and chopped it up to create that melody. Then I formatted that down with Little AlterBoy (Voice Manipulator Plug-In) and put Valhalla Room (Reverb) on it as well. Then put stupid amounts of compression.
Her voice lent itself to it straight away. That day we wrote the first verse, the pre-chorus, and sort of the chorus. But I’d done a really shit beat for the chorus and she was like, “This isn’t right.” Then she came in the next day and said she wanted to try something different and I was like, “Nah let’s just go back and write the second verse.” Then she was like, “No, I also want something different for the second verse.”
So I started making a whole new beat but with that same sound we started with and she said, “OH MY GOD THAT’S IT!” The second I did it she started singing, “I’m crazy but you like that,” and we finished the song in like 30 minutes. We nearly gave up on that idea but it was all about her coming in and being like, “That’s not right.” I remember hearing that about Missy Elliot and Timbaland. She would keep saying “no” until he played the right thing. Then they hit fucking gold.”
“Tantrum” by Ashnikko
“I just wanted her to have an epic, bass heavy live song. Also, we were writing songs for the Birds of Prey soundtrack, so we wrote that song about Harley Quinn and they didn’t want it. But we had a great time and I just wanted to give her a song that had a drop. I felt the best way to do that was brass and borrowing some of my ideas from the dance world. But also the epicness came from writing for a Hollywood film. I think I actually put a little too much bass in it. (The backing bass melody on the hook) I just stole it from Tchaikovsky.
There’s two main threads that I have with Ash that are ongoing. One is my love for old classical pieces because I’m not musically talented but can create something strange out of their ideas. The way a horn or string line can flow like a pop vocal. Then the other thing is that Arabic scale that we just keep going back to. But I don’t think that was even a specific Tchaikovsky song but just the energy of his transitions. That’s kind of my thing, it makes you think you’re listening to something you know but it’s not something you know. Also, the thing with Ash is her music is such an amalgamation of pop, punk, rock, and genre smashing everything.”
“Deal With It” by Ashnikko feat. Kelis
“I never thought that song would happen because there were so many people involved. A really good songwriter friend of mine named Max Wolfgang wrote a chorus with Dan Priddy, Mark Crew, and Dagny. It was just that hook and some chords and Max said it could be really cool for Ash. I said, “Ash doesn’t take outside songs but it could be really cool if it was reworked a little bit.” He sent me all the parts and I spent a day or two making a new song. But because it had that Kelis “Caught Out There” sample I thought it was really fucking cool.
This generation don’t really know that 90s stuff and they are just discovering it from what happens on Tik Tok these days. So I wanted to bring some of that into this Ashnikko world. When I played her the idea I was super nervous because she’s so particular about what she wants. She’s all about a personal relationship with one or two others and doesn’t wanna bring in writers so I had no idea how it was gonna go down. I had no idea if we were even gonna be able to clear the publishing or the masters. But I played it for her and she fucking loved it.
Straight away we wrote those verses and didn’t hold back obviously. Then my favorite part of that song is the second verse with the vibrator sound. I thought that was really fun and I felt quite nerdy pitching it down so I could put a vibrator sound in a pop song. I was like, “This is crazy, what is my life?” It took me a while to find the right one as well. I had to cycle through a few and spent about half an hour on that.
I also really enjoyed the process of having this song that wasn’t hers but bringing it into her world and having her be really excited about it. Then having her record label get really excited about it. After that, watching them clear the publishing and master recording cuz it was Pharell was crazy. We thought it would be impossible but Pharell was like, “Yeah, sure.” It worked out.
I spent a long time over the past couple years collecting these weird sounds and putting them into the logic sampler and changing the attack and release. In that one I used a sort of bubbly sound in there. It might even be the sound of someone blowing a bubble in pitch but then tuned and played in an arpeggiator. That’s the weird percussive sound in the verse. They are all over the place in Ash’s music.”