I’m on my way to Atlanta, GA for this year’s A3C Hip Hop Festival. I will be speaking on the “Run that Back,” engineering panel on Friday, October 12th at 1:30 PM. If you are attending the event, come pay me a visit.
Archive for the 'Music Production' Category
I spent a good part of my September mixing nine of the fourteen records on Kingpen Slim‘s new album, “Triple Beam Dreams.” I also tracked several of the records over the past year or so and the album includes “No Photos,” produced my production company, Team Demo. Slim once again displays why he’s been consistently one of the best hip hop artists from Washington, DC over the past five years. Click here to download.
Check out the new release from Harmony Muzik – “Conflict of Interest.” It was recorded and mixed at Depth Charge Studios by yours truly and features two tracks I produced for Team Demo Productions. Click on the link below for the download page.
Team Demo and the Depth Charge Recording Group were recently awarded a gold plaque for their production of “Crime Wave” on 50 Cent‘s album, “Before I Self Destruct.” Although the album was released in November of 2009, we finally received the official award this past month.
I will and have engineered on a wide range of projects. Recording, mixing and mastering are the technical arts of music, and I can stomach almost anything while working in that role. Whether I believe the record I am working on is a masterpiece or a crime against nature, I focus on the objective aspects of my occupation and make sure the music is presented to the listener at optimum sound quality. But when it comes to the creative arts (what I produce, compose, write and arrange,) I have much more to consider.
Over the past few days, I have been exposed to a level of crap in both music and culture that I have found so repugnant that it has actully inspired me. Most people search through gardens of brilliance to find inspiration. I found it in the dumpster. I have become so turned off by the output of artists who are not musicians, and the chatter of professional fans and self-ascribed “industry people” who know dick when it comes to making music, that I have come to the conclusion that trying to make music they will appreciate (which usually must sound like something else that is out because they require context) is a waste of time. This isn’t entirely an epiphany, but my desire to make hit records that provide the extended residual income needed for my future plans, often comes into play in the creative process. No longer will I allow this to happen. When it comes to my creative output, my criteria will be as follows…
I want to only work with highly talented people. People with vision who want to raise the bar. People who are only concerned with making the highest quality most original music possible. I want a flagrant disregard for conformity. I want to create with people who know that hits come from making amazing music, not by trying to make hits. I want to make music that makes these laptop programmers run to Guitar Center and pick up an instrument. I want to make music from scratch instead of every damn record being made by writing to a pre-made instrumental. I’m trying new things. I’m working differently. From here on out, I’m strictly about creative excellence. Everything will either follow, or it won’t.
In 2007, Depth Charge Recordings released a free mixtape from my production crew, Team Demo, entitled, ”This is How it Should Be Done.” The critically acclaimed sampler of music produced by Team Demo included original songs, official and unofficial remixes as well as exclusive mash ups. Artists on the mixtape included Eminem, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, T.I., Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Jadakiss, Marvin Gaye, Obie Trice, Stat Quo, Illa Ghee, Lord Digga and Ax as well as the comedic stylings of Shady Records A&R, Riggs Morales. Over 3500 CDs were given away and the album was downloaded thousands of times from our web site. To celebrate the five year anniversary of this release, we have once again made it available as a free download by clicking the link below. It will only be up for a limited time, so for all of you who may have missed it the first time around, cop your free late pass by clicking on the link below.
“Creativity is the residue of wasted time.” – Albert Einstein
March and April were very busy at Depth Charge Studios so as things began to slow down in May I wasn’t too upset. Normally, it is months like these that allow me the time to create new things, try new ideas and re-stock my catalog with seeds for future records. Unfortunately, the muse is not obliged to conform to my schedule. I am simply out of creative juice at the moment. If you create for a living I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s that sense of fatigue that creeps in when you need to make something, but nothing is there. Some refer to it as “writer’s block,” and try to plow through it. I just remember the Einstein quote at the top of this blog and try to find something to waste the time needed to clear my head.
The following paragraphs aren’t really for anybody to read but myself. If you find them valuable, then terrific, but I’m merely trying to collect my thoughts in an attempt to better understand the current creative bottleneck in my brain.
I feel stuck in between lanes musically. I’m most known for the work I do in hip hop, so the demand is high for my services in that genre, but almost no other contemporary hip hop inspires me to make my own. The hip hop I make sounds very little like the stuff I hear on a regular basis. I believe this is generally a good thing but it requires the people with whom I work to have vision and a willingness to try to make stuff that doesn’t fit neatly with what everyone else is doing. Talented individuals with that kind of artistic courage are few and far between, and those who are looking for what’s hot “right now,” may find it difficult trying to make “the next.”
My sound is organic (not synth based) and is arranged with live and scripted instruments. I don’t sample from other works (though other people on my team do) and I go into each piece with an idea of a band playing the music I’m making. I often write down each imaginary musician down to the timpani player in the back of the orchestra. I know of very few “hip hop” producers who work the way I do (my production rig would most likely crash their laptops) and I find myself sharing ideas more with film composers, jazz/ funk musicians and singer songwriters than with hip hop cats. Often times it is the non-hip hop people who appreciate my “hip hop” tracks, while the hip hop heads pass over my stuff to rap over a two note, half step progression, Reason synth preset arp line with an 808 kit. To each his own. I get the most joy from my non-hip hop production projects because the artists truly can and want to implement my full range of skills and ideas. I try to bring all of this to my hip hop, but the genre is quite frankly just not keeping up. It has become so easy to make a hip hop track nowadays, that musicality is simply lost in the combined noise of a million kids banging on lap tops who wouldn’t know a single aspect of music theory if it bit them on the ears.
I have quite a few colleagues who stopped making hip hop all together. I used to wonder why they did. But as my talents expanded I realized why. They didn’t leave hip hop. They kept walking and hip hop stopped. Hip hop decided to squat on the corner and even retreated back to play on the monkey bars with the kindergarteners while they progressed into adulthood. They tried to bring hip hop with them but for whatever reason, it didn’t want to go for the ride. They realized, as I have, that a real creator doesn’t follow the music, the music follows him or it doesn’t. Hopefully, I will soon find the inspiration I need to lead my music somewhere else and maybe, hip hop will join me, but right now, I’m pooped.
Every few months or so, when either of these two legendary gentlemen come to mind, I watch this video. What a flawless and unique collaborative performance by two masters who are no longer with us; not to mention the skill and precision of the accompanying orchestra. I hope this caliber of artistry is not an endangered species, but I fear it is.
I try to keep everything I have ever worked on. In the days before music could be easily stored as hard drive data, a busy music professional could build quite a collection of media. This is my new Ikea bookshelf in the lounge at Depth Charge Studios. I purchased it to store & present my collection of works from the first fourteen years of my career. The bottom three rows contain double stacks of ADAT track tapes. There are more than 100 completely filled sets each containing an average of 10 songs each. That’s quite a few records. It is also important to note that most of my clients had their own tapes, so this stack only contains all of my company’s productions and recordings along with recordings by studio clients who rented tape from us.
The middle row contains VHS and Digital 8 video tapes of our shows, music videos, making of music videos, various studio sessions etc. This is one of the few libraries I consider incomplete. I am missing a lot of video footage from over the years which I would love to have. If any one has any old Team Demolition or Lower Life Forms concert footage from back in the day, please let me know.
The next row up contains floppy and zip discs storing mostly beats I made on the ASR-10 from 1993 – 2003. The top row contains more than 75 DAT master tapes (digital tapes used to store the final mixed and mastered stereo mixes of records) and more than 60 four-track analog tracking tapes which contain my crew’s early work from 1989 – 1994. It is pretty amazing to stand back and look at this knowing it represents such an enormous portion of my life. Thanks to hard drives, my work from 2004 to the present is stored on a couple of machines no bigger than a typical paperback novel. While the convenience of that is fantastic, it doesn’t look quite this cool.