Remix: Zombie Nation – Level

The extent of my exposure to Zombie Nation was a demo track included in the sequel to the MTV Music Generator, the creatively titled MTV Music Generator 2, available for the PlayStation 2. The track itself was Inside the Speaker, and I only vaguely recall it since by the time I had received the “game” as a gift, I’d found more capable production software and didn’t spend much time using it or its weird USB microphone that cost far too much for what it was. So, aside from recognizing that they had an amusing name tied to a weird video game, I more or less forgot about them despite apparently hearing another one of their tracks on Shaun of the Dead.

As a result, I was slightly amused to have found they also had a remix contest running on Beatport, and recalled them as “that MTV Music Generator band.” I quickly gave the original a listen and downloaded the multitrack stems alongside those for The Game, and loaded them up to sculpt them into something more suited to my tastes.

Right off, we hear the dreaded “android fart,” a term my fiancée and I picked up from someone mocking the trend of recent movie trailers all containing loud, deep, buzzy, synth sounds that seem designed to test theater soundsystems’ subwoofers and nothing else. The rest of the stems were complete, there were no missing parts or sequences like the last track on which I worked, so I had much more to use here. I muted this track and that, soloed the drums, fiddled with a little EQ, and gave up. I couldn’t find my groove with this one and wasn’t really feeling the original. I shrugged it off and moved on to finishing another track before returning to keep scratching my head and listening to this one on a loop. This was until I broke out one of the newer devices in my ever-growing Reason arsenal: the Alligator.


The Alligator is a pattern-controlled filter/gate that allows one to rhythmically filter and gate an instrument/loop/what-have-you. You can put them on pads to liven them up, you can apply it to drumloops to drastically alter them, you can put them on synths to give them a staccato rhythm; the possibilities are pretty far-reaching. Take one of these and plug it into the insert effects of a loop and you now have a totally different loop, based on the pattern you dial in (or manually program, in my case,) the filter settings, and a few additional on-board effects. I find myself using these more and more to radically change a boring loop into something much more lively.

Along with the Alligator, I used an envelope-follower applied to a lowpass filter to tame the android fart, shaping it into a much rounder “wow” sound, still deep and bassy but much less noisy and gritty. The same concept was applied to another bassy sound and combined with the first to forge a simple but effective bassline. Now I was in business. I often throw out the original drums when remixing, and this was no exception. After a bit of digging, I found a house loop buried in my vast collection of mostly useless samples, and ran it through a highpass filter, some light compression, and a bitcrusher to give it some edge, then added a drum machine on top of that, providing a solid kick and snare, along with some sampled 909 hi-hats to keep things moving along.

After some more sound design with more Alligators, some distortion and EQ, and the occasional delay, things were ready to arrange a bit less haphazardly. Unhappy with the original loops, I cut and pasted bits and pieces of them together to form new sequences, pitchshifted a slowly rising synth to create an even longer build, and built drum progressions. I ended up with two breakdowns, one featuring a snippet of a guitar loop, distorted and run through a slowly opening wah, and the second consisting of two sections: a completely intact but highpass filtered, bitcrushed, mono (to sound something akin to hearing it on a cheap transistor radio) passage from the original track followed by a small, simple buildup with a looped clap and a kick drum. All other fills were created by running the entire track through a “glitch” plugin, set to stutter the entire mix on sixteenth notes.

After all the fun sound design and arranging came the boring stuff: filtering, EQing, compressing, etc. You can hear the resulting finished track by clicking the image below:


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