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Billy Morrison – Rocking Out With VoicePro
Billy Morrison has played with some of the biggest names in rock. From his time with The Cult to Camp Freddy (with Dave Navarro, Donovan Leitch and Matt Sorum) and his recent addition to the Billy Idol band, he’s played some of the biggest and best venues across the world. Recently, Billy started using the TC-Helicon VoicePro for his vocal processing.
He shares, “I have a small demo studio at home. Small, but perfectly formed! These days it’s all in the box anyway, so I have a Mac based system with a couple of large monitors and a couple of racks containing the basics – preamps, compressors, some guitar units for decent guitar sounds. What I was missing was a dedicated vocal processor that actually works! A lot of plugins just don’t sound right. So I tried the TC-Helicon VoicePro and it’s just perfect for me. An easy signal path out of the DAW into the VoicePro, mess with the vocal to your heart’s content – then send it right back into the arrangement. It was love at first hearing!”
When his busy schedule allows, Billy takes the time to record his own music, “The last release was a three track EP I released in February of this year. But I’m usually writing with other people. And writing is an intensely personal process. It could start with a riff, a title, a lyric or simply a vibe. I usually like to start with a sketch of the drums and bass, get a tempo and groove. Then, start feeling my way through some riffs. All the while thinking about vocal and top line, making sure it’s going to work.
“I find myself now taking time to get the right tone, the right harmony and the right character for the voice, and all thanks to the VoicePro.”
With the VoicePro I’m spending way more time now on the vocal sound. Before, I would always think – it’s a demo, it doesn’t have to be perfect. But I find myself now taking time to get the right tone, the right harmony and the right character for the voice, and all thanks to the VoicePro. Why not, right? I mean, if the take is good, the take is good. So why not get it sounding perfect.”
Billy says that it was pretty much ‘game over’ for him from the moment he saw the Sex Pistols on UK TV. “Up ’til then, I knew I liked music. The Glam thing was hot in England – The Sweet, Slade, Gary Glitter, T-Rex… I guess I always gravitated to the flamboyant, true Rock Stars. But when punk rock hit, and I heard the sound of Steve Jones guitar fill the speakers, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. After a few failed attempts at forming bands (and a 14 year drug habit!) I cleaned my act up and formed a band in the UK called Stimulator that signed to Geffen here in Los Angeles. From there, I joined The Cult as a bass player (the one and only time I ever did that) and after that tour, I formed Camp Freddy (with Dave Navarro, Donovan Leitch and Matt Sorum), which has been going nearly ten years. Last year I got the call to join Billy Idol, which is a fantastic gig. Along with some acting, song-writing and a five year stint on the radio.”
Billy cites the Sex Pistols as one of his major influences and continues, “Never Mind The Bollocks” still stands up as one of the most powerful, angry records of all time. Also, The Wildhearts (a UK rock band) are quite possibly one of the most underrated bands ever. The frontman, Ginger, writes the most interesting tongue-in-cheek lyrics and sets them to enormous riffs… you have to listen to their album ‘Earth Vs. The Wildhearts’ – song-writing to die for. David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Velvet Underground – all the seminal, groundbreaking rock artists. I’m also a huge Oasis fan. And have you heard the new Sixx AM record? Absolutely amazing! For inspiration though, it really depends what vibe I’m looking for. If I need to mellow out, get my acoustic vibe on, it’s usually some Bowie. If I wanna get amped up to go on a stage, maybe some AC/DC or some Sabbath. And, if I’m writing in the studio, it’s usually some programme-heavy stuff like The Prodigy, NIN or Depeche Mode; whatever the session requires.
As far as my own music goes, I love a loud guitar, so I guess that makes my music ‘Rock’ although I love programming and computer based stuff too. As long as it’s got a great chorus, I’ll appreciate the song. My VoicePro is perfect for taking vocals and producing some killer harmonies (even some that I haven’t thought of) and spinning them back into the track as huge backing vocal stacks.
With the VoicePro I do find myself stumbling across sounds that make me want to sing certain lines again in a different way, or getting the VoicePro to produce harmonies I hadn’t thought of, and THEN putting guitar down, it really helps inspire me in that way. The best trick so far was discovered while I was doing a voice over for a video piece. I had recorded a 20-year-old guy but needed him to sound like a teenager. And the VoicePro handled it perfectly. I dialled up the ‘A Bit younger’ preset and then spent a while messing with the parameters, and voila! Instant 14 year old!”
Lastly, Billy shares some of his personal insight and earthy wisdom about being in the music business, “Make sure your motivation is pure. If music moves you to your core, then be prepared to work hard for no results, bang your head against many doors, and enjoy every single moment of it. We all have a choice. If you want job security and safety, go work in a bank or something. If you choose the music business, don’t complain. It’s a tough road but creatively fulfilling. Enjoy it all and be grateful for every day you’re able to make music. If you make even one person’s day better by playing/writing/performing, then you are a success.
“I had recorded a 20-year-old guy but needed him to sound like a teenager. And the VoicePro handled it perfectly.”
My overall philosophy is to have a good time! Work hard and play hard. I’ve already achieved way more than I ever thought I would, so I consider myself lucky. Like I said above, every single day I get to do this, is a good day. I never take anything for granted (‘cos God knows things can come and go just like that!) so, I make sure I appreciate it all while it’s happening. Gratitude and humility go a long way in this life.”
Currently Billy is immersed in Film and TV, “I’m writing and creating various things and acting in a few as well. On the music side, I’ve written a bunch of songs with Billy Idol and Steve Stevens recently. Billy Idol will eventually do a new album, so it’s nice to write with him and Steve and feel some of that juice floating around the room. I mean, those guys wrote some pretty huge songs!! Camp Freddy will be resurfacing at some point later in the year, I have Billy Idol shows in October, and a couple of other music projects that will come to fruition soon as well. I may even get to do some gigs with Ginger from The Wildhearts in November if the planets align.”
keep your eyes on www.billymorrison.net for details!