Posts Tagged ‘depth charge studios


Video: “The Man of Orange” by Mister Wise

This is a PSA from Team Demo’s, Mister Wise. We make no copyright claims to any of the images in this video.


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.


Zechariah Wise: Panelist at 2014 Made in the DMV Conference

WiseDepth Charge CEO, Zechariah Wise, will be a featured panelist at this year’s “Made in the DMV” Conference. The free event will be held on Saturday, December 6, 2014 11am-3:30pm at R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center at St Elizabeth’s East, Gateway Pavilion. For more information on the conference and to register click here.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Mister Wise Featured on the Huffington Post

huffpostI recently did an interview with friend and colleague, Head-Roc for the Huffington Post.  My first name managed to get spelled wrong but that’s just an example of why you can just call me “Mister Wise” now.  (So much easier.)   🙂

Check it out here


Pre-Order “The Way of the Doh Doh” EP by Mister Wise

Mister Wise, Team Demo, Depth Charge Studios, Zechariah Wise, Team DemolitionMy new single, “I Can’t Figure You Out,” is now making its way through promotional circulation, but you can get it now by pre-ordering the EP from our label store page.  Just put down the $4 for the EP, and you can immediately download, “I Can’t Figure You Out.” Then, when “The Way of the Doh Doh” EP drops on September 17th, you will receive an e-mail to download the full project.  Many thanks and enjoy!


Preview the New Single from Mister Wise – “I Can’t Figure You Out”


Mister Wise: “The Way of the Doh Doh” EP Out September 17th

There's been a Doh Doh sighting

There’s been a Doh Doh sighting


Mister Wise Interview with iStandard

Just came across this interview I did last October while attending the A3C Hip Hop Festival in Atlanta, GA.  Good times.  Be sure to check out for all things related to hip hop music production.


Mixing the 808 Bass: A Few Tips

One of the few signature sounds in hip hop music is the Roland TR-808 Bass drum.  Roland released the TR-808 drum machine in the early 80s and its synthetically created sounds won just as many detractors for their lack of realism as it did fans for its ability to put together drum patterns without the expense of a kit, microphones and a recording studio.  Drum machines such as the MPC-60 and SP-1200 would soon eclipse the TR-808 due to their ability to use samples of ACTUAL drums, but the one sound from the 808 that permanently stuck in the hip hop production culture, was the sub bass kick and its many variations.

Roland TR-808

The 808 bass drum has survived and flourished mostly because it isn’t a drum at all.  It is a pulse of synthetic low end existing primarily between 20 and 80 hz.  The attack, sustain and decay of this pulse can be tweaked, allowing it to be used to pad existing kick drums, or exist on its own.  As hip hop began pushing into funk based drum tracks in the late 80s and early 90s, the 808 found its way into the background; filling the low sub frequencies where very little else is found.  In the mid 90s, the 808 began to return to the front of the mix as southern rap music emerged with a more stripped down production style. Producers began to manipulate digital samples of the 808 kick, often layering in punchier kicks and combining them into single samples.  The result was an even rounder and fuller boom than was even available on the original drum machine.  (Unfortunately, the southern rap genre also brought back the OTHER 808 drum sounds such as the hi hat, ride, clap and crash which in my opinion, belong in the dustbin of history.)

Today, the 808 kick is as popular as it has ever been and remains one of the more challenging aspects of mixing a rap record.  How much is too much? How loud is too loud? Here are a few tricks of the trade I am willing to share.  If you want more, you’ll have to pay me to mix your record like everyone else.


As mentioned above, the 808 kick has different applications.  There will be times where it should be treated like a drum, and others like a synth bass.  This will affect how you compress and control the dynamics. If the 808 is short and being used as the primary kick drum, compress it like you would an acoustic kick, just don’t flood the channel.  Over compressing an 808 will bring up ‘crunchy’ frequencies that exist due to its synthetic origins.  Give it a gentle 3 to 10 db of compression with an attack that is just slow enough to allow the punch at the front of the sample to hit hard, but fast enough to hold the rest of the sample in place.  If the 808 is a long sustaining tone, treat it like you would if it were a string pluck on an electric bass.  Often times, 808 kick samples have big front end attack, very little sustain and long but steep decay.  Compression can extend the sustain of the pulse and keep the decay audible for a longer period.  To do this, set your compressor with a high threshold and a high compression ratio.   I find myself compressing these kind of 808 sounds between 8 to 1 and 12 to 1 but again, I keep the threshold very high.  The trick is to get the compression to hold down the attack but then release in time with the sustain and decay.  Solo the 808 and then toggle the release time of the compression. Your release time is set too fast if it is quicker than the decay of the sample (this sounds like the sustain and decay actually bump up in volume.) The trick is to find a release time that matches the decay time. The result is a more even sound, allowing it to cut through the mix and do its job without causing picture frames to come off the wall in the next room.  I also use tape emulation and saturation with 808s to achieve the natural analog warmth they gained by being flooded onto two inch tape in the 80s and 90s.  You will have to experiment with that on your own.


As mentioned, 808 kicks aren’t actual kicks and you will find that particular attention needs to be paid to how they are tuned.  Unlike an acoustic kick, which may sound good so long as it is tuned to any of the seven notes in the particular key of the record, the 808 is a bass pulse and will clash when it plays with non-unison and non-pleasing harmonic notes in the music.  Because it is very low end, it can be a bit difficult to tune by ear alone.  Use a tuner plug in (preferably while you are still making the beat) and tune the 808 to the root note of the passage in which it is contained.  It has also become popular to use the 808 as a bass and tune several samples to different notes and place them with the corresponding chord changes.  Personally, I’m a funky guy so I would rather just play a bassline, but if you’re part robot and like that electronic feel, knock yourself out. Just make sure you tune each sample to its correct note.  If need be, 808 kicks can usually be fine tuned in the mixing stage with little to no artifacts using a standard pitch correction application.


Surprisingly, this is usually the least of your concerns.  There just isn’t much in the spectrum and standard boosting of the limited frequency of an 808 are nearly the same as just turning up its overall volume.  That being said, I have found myself placing hi pass filters on 808 kicks just to roll off some of the REALLY low frequencies below 30 hz. Even though most monitors usually roll off at 50 hz or so, they still TRY to produce those frequencies which takes energy away from reproducing the remaining spectrum.  Rolling off the very very bottom of what the human ear can hear can often add a bit of clarity in the overall mix. You may also have to do some work in your EQ section if there is another competing source of low end within the mix.  A bass that plays through the record can create problems if it has notes that hit right on top of the 808 pulse.  A wise beat maker will avoid these bass battles, but there have been times where I have needed to notch down the specific frequencies of a bass that corresponded with the note of the 808 to keep them from compounding. (Another solution for this is side chain compressing the bass to the 808, but that’s for another article.)

The Mix:

If your 808 is the only kick in the record, you will have to place it up front just as you would an acoustic kick.  In rap, the kick and snare are usually the loudest single musical instruments.  Given that an 808 is mostly sub frequencies, boosting the companion frequencies between 80 and 120 hz will add punch and insure your kick will still be heard on laptops, cellphones and other low end transducers that lack the ability to reproduce the very low end of the spectrum.   If you are using the 808 as a pad, start by setting it well under the volume of the dominant kick and adjust in small increments from there.  We all want that very bottom end to rumble, but make sure the rest of the content is not being compromised.  Mixes should always be done using the flattest monitors and environments possible.  Remember that consumer headphones and car radio systems boost low end considerably.  Even when the bass is set at unison zero, it is often not really so in consumer systems.  If it is heavy in the studio, it will almost always be heavier in the car. Play your mix at speaking volume in the studio.  If the 808 has disappeared, turn it up slowly until it is audible.  Then play at full volume.  Your sub bass should be clearly present, but not overwhelming.  If you used proper compression techniques, the 808 should still cut through effectively without being too loud. If you don’t use a sub-woofer in your mixing environment, it can be quite difficult to get a clear perception of the loudness of your sub bass.  These days, 8 out of 10 beats that are brought to my studio have WAY too much below 60 hz. When you are in the final stages of your mix, place a spectral analyzer on your master fader and look at the low end.  There shouldn’t be much there below 30 hz.  If there is stuff going on down there, give it a 6 to 12 db roll off.  You won’t lose much in beef (the human ear only hears down to 20 hz,) and you will gain some clarity and punch.

After 30 plus years, it is safe to say that the 808 kick is here to stay in rap production.  But like any good thing, there is always the danger of it becoming cliche from overuse.  Use your 808, but bottom up those acoustic kicks and put them to use as well.  Now if you excuse me, I’m on the way to the repair shop to pick up my sub-woofer, which needed a new voice coil due to a client’s careless love of, “that B-A-S-S bass.”

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