Posts Tagged ‘depth charge recordings

11
Mar
15

Team Demo Presents… Notorious White

Last year, we (Team Demo) released a compilation entitled “Journey with Nas,” which mashed up Nas acapellas with beats made with samples from the legendary rock band, Journey.  The follow up is “Notorious White,” which does the same, but this time with Notorious B.I.G. and Barry White.  The project was put together at Depth Charge Studios over the past several months and is available for streaming and download on the Team Demo Soundcloud page as well as several other hosting platforms.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Team Demo Presents… Notorious White.

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10
Jan
14

What’s Your Motivation?

bandwback1When I was a kid and I decided that I wanted to have a go at becoming a creative music professional, I knew I needed a plan and a vision of what success would look like so that I could attempt to make my way to it.  This began by answering a simple question: “what’s my motivation?” An even simpler way of putting it would be, “why?” Why am I pursuing this and what specifically do I need to do to satisfy those desires?  My answer was about as pure and innocent as this often unseemly business can permit- I love making music.  I love working in multiple facets of the music production process.  If I could find a way to make my living and career doing this, I would consider myself a success. Whatever additional money, accolades and benefits would be bestowed upon me, I would consider a bonus.  I reached my goal only a few years after setting it and have maintained it ever since.  This self actualization does not mean I’m not still motivated to reach for higher heights in my field, but it does provide a foundation of content and happiness.

Anytime I begin working with a new client or colleague, I always try to find out what motivates them to do what they are doing.  I am in the customer service business and if I can determine what is at the root of an individual’s desires, hopes and dreams, I can better serve and assist that individual in reaching them and insure that he or she is satisfied with my work.  Oddly enough, I have found very few people share the motivation I have.  Quite often, their motivations are primal and based on misconceptions and even delusions about what it means to be in the music business.  As a result, even if and when one of these individuals does achieve a degree of success, they become disappointed when they realize that the things that come with it, are not what they thought they would be.  Below is a list of the four primary motivations I encounter in people who are trying to enter the music business.  Read and understand their drawbacks before using them as the driving force for your pursuits.

Fame

Many of us begin with the human need for attention. Few individuals I speak to tell me that they wanted to become a recording artist when they picked up a guitar or sat down at a piano and heard the magic emanating from the instrument they were playing.  Quite often though, the story I hear is of the first time that person saw a rapper or singer on television or on stage.  “Look how cool he is! Look at all the people focused on his every move! He is the center of attention.  I want to be the center of attention!” I listened to music and played around with instruments throughout my entire childhood, but not until I saw Run DMC did I want to be a rap artist.  As a white guy, it wasn’t until I saw the Beastie Boys that I realized I COULD be a rap artist, and later, seeing and meeting 3rd Bass, confirmed that I SHOULD be a rap artist.  All that being said, it would be the countless hours I would spend learning and developing my craft that would shift my motivation to the satisfaction that comes with creative expression.  I realized that the magic of beginning a day with a mere idea and then ending it with a recorded piece of art, transcends fame and attention.  While I wanted to share this work with the world, I quickly ceased being motivated by that desire.  Fame and attention became RESULTS of my work and not the reasons for doing it.  Unfortunately, many people don’t ever make this transition.

Me, performing live at Nation in Washington, DC, 2005.

Me, performing live at Nation in Washington, DC, 2005.

Fame is a drug that is highly addictive when one first gets a taste of it.  Those first few times one walks out on stage to a roaring crowd, those first people who are so happy to meet and have their picture taken with you, those first interviews when spectators are hanging on your every word; all have the addictive properties of nicotine.  Unfortunately, fame is also fleeting.  It rarely lasts too long at a high level.  Most B list celebrities became B list celebrities by falling off of the A list.  If one is motivated by fame and does not understand its shelf life, they are in for a fall.  I have worked with so many people who were once famous and even more who were “almost famous.”  These are artists who are older and are often trying desperately to get back to where they were. Perhaps they were signed to a major label, appeared on big records with famous artists, or even had a modestly successful project or two of their own.  Whatever the case may be, they often didn’t fully appreciate and enjoy their fifteen minutes while they had it; perhaps believing that they had “made it” and that fame was the new normal.  Fame kissed them on the cheek and then walked away, and although they publicly say they still do music because they love it, they secretly long for one more taste that more than likely, will never come.  Plenty of people achieve fame, but very few become iconic.  If you are doing music because you want to be famous, be aware that if you get it, it most likely won’t last long.  Enjoy the moments, but if this is WHY you did all that work, get a Zoloft prescription because a future bout with depression awaits you.

Women

It still amazes me how many aspiring artists can have their needs satisfied simply by putting them around some beautiful women.  I’ve seen artists forego payment for their services and even come out of their own pockets just to be in the company of women who believe they are a future star.  Perhaps these men didn’t get a fair helping of sexual experience in high school or college and now see their stint in music as an opportunity to mingle with a caliber of woman about whom they could previously only fantasize.  Once again however, women as a motivation, is dangerous and foolish.

groupies useAccess to beautiful women is a RESULT of success, not a reason for achieving it.  Many recording artists spend their fifteen minutes of fame tasting all the fruit the groupie tree has to offer.  But these women, as you may imagine, aren’t always cut from a cloth of high character.  So many artists have children with the wrong women, alimony payments to the wrong women, child support to the wrong women; all because they couldn’t resist the temptation when they were on top of the world.  Even worse, men with a weakness for women are easily identifiable and are easy to appease.  I have seen artists pimped out of all kinds of potential earnings simply because they were distracted by women who were either intentionally or unintentionally placed into their lives by those with whom they do business.  There is nothing wrong with partaking in some recreational sexual activity, but if you are getting into music for this, you will be disappointed.  Many successful artists are actually very lonely.  They live in a kind of bubble where everyone they meet knows who they are and must have their motives questioned.  You will still masturbate the way you did when you were living with your parents and the promise of a different woman every night is either an outright lie, or a giant let down.  If you want to fuck for a living, get into porn.

Money

This is one of my favorites because it may be the most uninformed. Whenever I meet an aspiring artist who wants to get rich making music, my first impulse is to ask him if he has been paying attention to the music industry over the past ten years.  Music business revenues have shrunk to a fraction of what they once were.  Only a minute percentage of people in music have ever actually gotten filthy rich doing it and that percentage is even smaller in today’s climate.  Even a modestly successful artist may only achieve really good money for a few years before he is on the backside of his career and the royalty checks fade away.  Hip Hop is all about the illusion of riches. It has the ability to snatch up kids from lower class backgrounds who often don’t really know what a LOT of money is.  If you came up on food stamps and a record label offers you a $150,000 advance (not to be confused with a budget,) you really might believe you struck it rich and sign your life away on the dotted line.  What the artist often doesn’t realize, is that $150,000 is what he is supposed to live on for the next year or more.   Once Uncle Sam takes his share and management and lawyers get reimbursed, the artist is left with the one year salary of a typical upper middle class American.  Yet, the aspiring rapper celebrates his new “fortune” with the purchase of a $35,000 necklace and several large charitable strip club contributions.  Six months down the line, he is living in an apartment with no furniture and no food in the refrigerator, hoping desperately his album is released on time, if at all.

Posing with a royalty check.

Posing with a royalty check.

Most of the people I know in the music business make the kind of money I make: a typical, modest living.  Every once in awhile, we may do something that is abnormally lucrative, but those of us who have been around know to take that extra money and put it into retirement, investments or other long term ventures.  If you are fortunate to get on a roll and skip up a few tax brackets, the notion must always be in the back of your mind that it can dry up just as quickly as it materialized.   Until you have put away enough money where you can comfortably say, “I can retire today and maintain my standard of living for the rest of my life,” you are going to have to work.  If you are motivated by dreams of getting rich, invent the next big web site or get into real estate.

The Myth of an Easy Living

baldheadslickWhich leads to the last and most popular delusional motivation of them all:  “I don’t want to work, I want to bang on the drum all day!” Making music for a living for as long as I have has been fantastic.  Over the years, many people have expressed to me their envy of my position.  Quite often though, their perception of my life is WAY off.  I wish I had a nickel for every artist who has said to me,” I can’t work a regular job,” or, “I just want to get to where you are at. You get paid to sit around and do music all day!” Reality check… I WORK MY ASS OFF! I have deadlines to meet, budgets to which I must adhere and clients to whom I must answer.  If you think this is because I mainly operate on the production and not the artist side… NEWS FLASH… You are going to work even harder as an artist! You want to “make it?” You are going to have to outwork everyone.  Do you have any idea how many people are trying to do this? You have to beat them and being more talented than they are doesn’t matter if you are not willing to work.  You are going to go into debt and rob Peter to pay Paul just to get an opportunity, and if you get it, the fun doesn’t stop! You will be staying up late for shows and then rising at the crack of dawn to do a morning radio show.  You will be in the studio recording drop scripts for three hours and doing press junkets where you must answer the EXACT SAME QUESTIONS over and over again without losing your mind.  You thought getting to this point was tough? Now you have to maintain it! Now you have to make it last as long as you can so that your label determines you were a worthy investment.  There are half a million guys behind you just WAITING for you to vacate your position so they can snatch it from you.  You got a hit record? Now you MUST make another one and soon…  Got a family? You aren’t going to see them that often.  Got interests outside of music? You better make some more hits buddy! You thought it was all after parties and getting your “money for nothing and your chicks for free?” You’re being sued because your bodyguard had to choke out an overzealous fan.  Your sophomore album’s numbers are nowhere near as good as your debut.  What now? Your label just dropped you.  The ride is over. It’s time to get on with the rest of your life. Did you save any money? Maybe you go back to school so you can get a “nine to five” where you realize that life is a lot less stressful working a “regular job.”

The bottom line? The above motivations are empty.  They will more than likely not be met by your musical endeavor.  Do yourself and the rest of us a favor.  Take a long look at yourself before you decide to venture into this fiasco.  If you aren’t doing this because you love making music, have something unique to say and a deep passion for expressing it, do something else with your life.  Otherwise, you are chasing the wrong dream.

27
Nov
12

New Video: Kingpen Slim “The Haunting”

Check out the latest video from Kingpen Slim, “The Haunting” shot and directed by Chop and Shoot Productions. The song was produced by J-Buttah and recorded and mixed at Depth Charge Studios by yours truly. Slim’s latest album, “Triple Beam Dreams” can be downloaded at http://kingpenslim.net

24
May
12

Lamentations of an Uninspired Musician

Zechariah Wise on the keys at Depth Charge Studios

“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.

05
Feb
12

Throwback: Team Demolition “Teamwork” Video (2000)

This past week marks the 12 year anniversary of the release of this record, which was our top-selling 12 inch single in the history of the Depth Charge catalog . To celebrate, I have posted the video. Enjoy!

04
Jan
12

My Resolution

The average urban music career is one and a half albums. The average attention span of a modern music enthusiast is about a second and a half. Add these two things together and it is easy to see why so many of the artists I work with have no idea that I was one of them not so long ago. In fact, they would be fortunate to have a career where they made the money my crew and I earned, sold the records we sold, toured the places we toured and broke the ground that we broke. We had videos before there was a Youtube. We were featured in The Source and scores of magazines that have been gone so long one probably hasn’t heard of them either. We were on WPGC when we were in high school.  Our records charted on CMJ and Rap Attack for a decade. Much of our music was available online; in the sense that one could order it from an online record store on vinyl, cd or cassette. (Side note: In 1999, I signed an online distribution deal with a company called CDuctive. We received a $2000 advance for the rights to distribute our catalog. That company was later aquired and then they were aquired until one day, they became The Orchard.)

If you’ve never heard of my crew and our work, I don’t take it personally. A hip hop generation spans about 3 or 4 years. That generation is usually only aware of the generation that immediately preceeded their own, and the one that follows. With the exception of my “Mister Wise Album” which came out in 2010, all of my records as an artist were released independently between 1996 and 2004. Only the few scholars of the current generation know about the Depth Charge label, the Lower Life Forms and the Team Demolition projects (but I digress at the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney.)

Fortunately, there are many from in and around my generation who do remember.  It is the demand of these individuals that drive up the price of our early out of print vinyl and who post our old music on web sites that are designed to spotlight the works of an underground era.  It is these people who have sent me a number of requests to make available our old catalog and unreleased tracks.  And it is in part, them who have inspired to make my New Year’s resolution to do so.

My company only released a dozen or so 12 inch singles and a half a dozen albums in our history.  However, that represents just a small fraction of the material we produced and recorded.  In the early 90s, we recorded our music on 4 Track tape.  I still have the working machine and all 62 tapes which contain more than 250 songs, (most of which never made it to market.) I also have more than 85 sets of ADAT tapes containing our music that was recorded between 1995 and 2003.  We are still cataloging these, but I estimate there are 300-350 songs on those tapes.  I am personally going to be spending my spare time dumping and archiving all of these tracks from both of these formats to hard drives over the next several months.  From there, I will restore, re-mix and re-master all that I find redeemable, and make as many of them available as I can.  I also have plans to take some of this material and re-work it.  (Vocals placed over new music, lost beats remade or completely remixed etc.)

When all is said and done, I believe those who do hear this anthology of sorts will enjoy the creativity, passion, unique ideals and honest artistry my crew represented.  If a youngster wants to have a listen, have at it, but I’m not doing this for them.  I’m doing this for myself.  The digital age allows me to preserve for both posterity and enjoyment, that which was the central focus of my life for a dozen years.  Doing so allows me to truly close that chapter of my life, and have a ton of fun in the process.




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