Sunday, 8 July 2012

Mornin', Sheriff - Sweet Britches/Firestorm complete

And another one done - the 2nd Season Aerial - 'SWEET BRITCHES' / 'FIRESTORM' aerials, originally done by Ian Freebairn-Smith. This track turned out to be particularly difficult to produce. While the arrangement itself is not very demanding (n.b. it is the only (excl. Pilot) synth version that does not include Levay's famous arpeggiator pattern - it was brought back in Firestorm though), the recreation of the main lead sound alone has proven to be a real challenge. In both episodes quite a different than usual synth gear was used for the soundtrack production. The core of the setup seems to be the iconic Yamaha DX7 (released in 1984) which pioneered the FM sound synthesis - which was unlike most synthesizers (so called "analog synthesizers") at the time. The sound of FM is very distinctive and has a metallic resonant character (which can be clearly heard during Firestorm music cues) and programming FM synthesizers has always been considered to be "rocket science". Which is precisely why I rejected the notion of recreating this sound using FM, and decided to resort to DX7 samples instead. It took me a couple of months (years?) to notice that the main lead sound of Sweet Britches aerial is actually not the FM alone; it's actually played using two synths at a time - an FM synth is responsible for the attack transient (the beginning "phwah") and an analog synth provides that nice spacious warm sustain. Eventually I was forced to recreate the FM sound using "rocket science" (the samples were simply not good enough), and the analog part was done using the trusty Yamaha AN1x.

The Sweet Britches aerial is known for being "big" and "powerful" - it has to "blow the doors off" (pictured above), as Mark and I put it. Making it sound big boils down to three things - finding a proper reverb for the main lead sound, tweaking the hell out of the Linn drum samples, and finally putting the entire audio mix through a properly set up compressor and limiter. Speaking of the drums, it is absolutely AMAZING what audio engineers in the 80's managed to pull off using Linn drum machines over and over again. Even within the confines of Airwolf Main Theme universe - EVERY (with the exception of Season 1 opening theme and Pilot) version of the Main Theme employs this drum machine, but it sounds completely different in Sweet Britches aerial and e.g. Season 2 opening theme. Yes, those are exactly the same drums, albeit processed differently. Did I say it was amazing?

The final ingredient of this track is imperfection. In the original, the main lead sound was recorded pretty much live without any quantization afterwards. This especially shows in the brass staccatos during Ascending Bridge - it seems that the performer couldn't match the pace. Recreating these imperfections was paramount to the feeling of this track.I haven't managed to recreate those imperfections perfectly (sic!) - I guess I'm worse than the Borg in this regard.

"2nd Season Aerial - 'SWEET BRITCHES' / 'FIRESTORM' aerials" was completed within three weeks (this obviously does not include the FM brass sound research, which started back in 2006). Final length is 4:55.

The track includes
  • The entire 'SWEET BRITCHES' aerial
  • 'FIRESTORM' aerial (first verse and Ascending Bridge)
  • Extended ending (as heard in Firestorm closing titles)
  • A surprise


(Special thanks to Lance LeGault, Martin Grant and Eric Shepherd for the new AWT Intro).

MARTY'S AIRWOLF DOCUMENTARY - Don't forget to check out Marty Grant's progress on the other big Airwolf project... the Airwolf DOCUMENTARY on his Blog.


  1. I'm running out of words to compliment your work Jan :D

    It's astounding what you've been able to do so far...honestly, more I hear it the more I want you to release it right now! Your hard work is paying off, it sounds like the real thing...just better overall quality (in my opinion)

    All the best to you guys!

  2. Jan you are a genius, these themes originally composed by Ian Freebairn-Smith were excellent pieces of music and enhanced what Sly originally produced with the main aerial theme (shame it only lasted for two episodes).

    Truly an excellent re-production of the highest calibre!

    Keep up the great work! :)

  3. Thanks for your kind words, guys. Keeps me motivated!

  4. i love this cant wait to get it !! honestly, more I hear it the more I want to use it for a youtube video !!!!


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