Back in 1989, Curtis Wilson recorded Rochad Holiday’s track “Sneak” without him knowing. When Holiday heard the cut, he had to know who did it. The pair met, and became close collaborators, including as members of the group Something for the People alongside Jeff “Fuzzy” Young.
Fast-forward 30 years, and the duo are still at it. Between them they have worked with the likes of Celine Dion, Ariana Grande, Will Smith, Ne-Yo, Brandy, Frank Ocean in his early days, have been sampled by Drake, and – though they might not let it on – remain some of LA’s most-respected vocal producers.
The producers share a particular love for vocal production and exploring the human voice. “Your voice has character, it makes you who you are, and that’s what makes a track special,” explains Ro” that’s what brings a track to life.” For Sauce, it’s all about tone, emotion, and pitch. “Sauce has always taken pride in his vocals,” says Ro, “he’s one of the best at what he does… in some cases I’m just happy to be in the room.”
Check out the video below to hear the Glaze story as told by Sauce and Ro themselves, then read on to learn more about the pair and their approach to creating this unique instrument.
GLAZE started life as a KONTAKT instrument built by Sauce in collaboration with London singer-songwriter Sonna Rele. Sauce had Rele sing each note on the keyboard, and the result was a way of cutting backing vocals on any track without the need for another studio session.
“I wanted a shortcut to play pads with vocalists,” Sauce explains. “The way we cut vocals, we always do four stacks of every note and it can be five-part harmonies which can take a while.” The idea to build an instrument to do this was inspired by a documentary on the recording process behind 10CC’s I’m Not in Love.
“They took three guys from the group, and they sang every note on the keyboard from C to C on a 16-track machine. It took them like three weeks. They gave each of the guys in the group three faders and they actually played the chords of the song with the faders. If you go back and listen to it you can hear those ‘Ahhs’ in the background.”
“I was like oh wow… I think we could do that real easy these days, and it won’t take three weeks!”
The early version was used to cut backing vocals on a number of tracks, including on demos with Rele. It was passed between close contacts of Sauce and Ro, who would explore what it could do.
“We had another producer friend who Sauce let use it, DeMonte Posey,” said Ro, “Demonte got his hands on it and hit back with ‘Oh my God, what do you have here?’
“It was in those moments that we all realized this could be more than something in our personal arsenal. We could turn this into something special for the public.”
After teaming up with Native, they worked with Sonna Rele again to provide vocals for what would become GLAZE, alongside Kip Blackshire, a singer and keyboardist for Prince, Candice Boyd, and B.Slade. Over the course of the sound design process, it became clear that the instrument could do much more than backing-vocal pads – although the sound sources are all vocal-based, there are plenty of presets that push the sample content further.
Sauce says his goal “was to make presets where you could do a whole track with just GLAZE.” As well as stacked chords and pads, the final version includes a broad spectrum of plucks, basses, and synth-style sounds, plus new Riffs and Runs.
Riffs and Runs are specialized presets that combine vocal chops with corresponding bass notes. “That’s the part that blows every producer’s mind,” says Sauce. The idea behind them is to have vocal runs play along with a chord progression. “So when you play a chord, the runs will coincide with whatever bass note you’re hitting. I see myself using it a lot, especially for B sections, hooks, and bridges.”
For Ro, the Riffs and Runs allow the singers to put their own stamp on the instrument too. “It’s a signature thing with the artists that we worked with… they are all very special and talented. It’s them lending their voices to what we did. You’re not going to find what we did in GLAZE [anywhere else].” True to the spirit of the Play Series, the Riffs and Runs are designed to be played quickly and easily, with musical, inspiring results.
Sauce and Ro look forward to seeing how producers might use the instrument in the future. “I know they’re going to use it a lot differently to the way I do, says Sauce, “when we use it we play stuff in, I know a lot of people draw stuff in… other people might flip the sounds.”
“I’m excited to hear it on the radio,” Ro tells us, “it’s contributing to the business in a different way, helping people to create… that’s another level for me. You can literally scroll through presets and you’re going to hear stuff that’s going to work with what you’re doing in your production.”
Ultimately GLAZE is the product of a close partnership fostered over decades. “I’ve been blessed to have a partner like Sauce and Fuzzy,” Ro says, “we kind of think alike… To do something for this long you have to understand that music changes, and you have to go along with the change.
“Sauce stays not on the curve, but ahead of the curve – in terms of technology, sound, style, and I think we’re both conscious of that. That’s allowed us to get grey and still do music. I guess you can say this is part of our way of giving back.”
Hear all the demos and learn more about Glaze over on our online shop.