Can you shortly introduce yourself for our readers? Where are you based?
I'm living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and have been creating music for some 6-7 years now. A big part of it for me is also building music software.
How did you learn to make beats? Do you play any instruments?
I started out sitting around and practicing beatboxing. From there, I wanted to do live fingerdrumming on MPC like devices. I learned everything I know from youtube, and don't play any 'real' instruments yet. But I try to play all my drum loops in live without metronome.
What are your musical inspirations?
Lots of old school 90s stuff, like Dilla's projects with Common beats he's done for Busta Rhymes, that kinda funk is the illest, or like Hi-Tek on the Reflection Eternal albums. Exile on Below The Heavens. DJ Premier on everything he does. Muggs on the Muggs vs GZA. Outside hip hop there's stuff like Bonobo, Nicolay, Hiatus Kaiyote, there's so much out there. I like to listen to dutch hip hop from time to time as well.
What equipment or software (DAW, VST’s etc) and production process did you use on this track?
First I chop and prepare the sample a few different ways with Ableton Push 2 and a (ableton live) Simpler. Pitch some chops, add echoes, etc.
I've built a software 'live looper' device that I control with a launchpad, and I always start with a drumloop that I play and record into this. Then I play and record the prepared samples on Push, also into that looper. When I'm done with that kind of 'brainstorm session' I have 8 tracks, some with 1-bar loops, some will be 8 bars.
Then I came back to the recordings two days later, started shuffling everything around. Doing mouse chops. Adding volume changes. I like to use GoodHertz' Vulf Compressor on a lot of my sample tracks, and for some other tracks I'll mess with a built-in Phaser or Chorus. Another funky effect is Banaan Electrique, from the NI Reaktor plugin standard library. I started putting so many plugins on the drum track that I had to freeze it. The Drum Buss in the new Live is killer. The bass sound (just before the one) is a NI Reaktor synth too, Prism, with a guitar-like preset that I use a lot. The effects are standard Ableton, like filter -> saturator -> automated filter. On the master I've just used FlatBlaster, also in NI Reaktor standard library. I've tried to force myself to repair sound/artifacts (like bass timbre) without that mastering plugin powered on though.
What was your approach to get started?
As above, record a drum loop with fingerdrumming, then layer samples, add bass. This is all in the first step of the process with that looper VST I've built (and want to release somewhere soon). My setup is perfect for this, and came to be (a few years ago) because I had big problems trying to conform the swinging funky groove I had in my head to the metronome I heard coming out the computer. So I now record a half, whole or two bar loop basically without metronome, and then set Ableton's tempo to that, instead of the other way around.
How did you go about the drums?
I just buy a ton of drum sample packs and organise them in Drum Racks. Push is awesome for this, you can have 64 drums reachable at any point in time. So for me that's 8 kits times 8 drum sounds. The one thing about it in Live that is stupid is that it's completely impossible to move multiple drums at once, (re)organising it is tedious to say the least. For effects, usually I try to use Reason as well to process the sounds a bit but I haven't this time around. Just a good amount of time fiddling in Ableton.
How did you make use of the sample?
There's one base layer with just the two tones, that you can hear all thru. Then on top I've played a good amount of chops, which I've later reordered to fit the composition. When I read the rules I immediately thought: I have this Nas & AZ aca right?
Did you stumble upon any difficulties?
Finding the time, but I feel like I used the time I had pretty well. Like not get scared to delete shitty parts and tracks.
Are there any interesting aspects about the track you’d like to share?
I just casually listened the sample for this week once, and knew I had to flip it. Lots of good instrumental elements without anything else like drums over it.
Oh yeah maybe this; when I recorded, that double snare hit was there every bar. I'm glad I removed that for most bars and kept it only for every 4th or 8th bar.
Any recent projects/collabs going on?
I'm really just getting back to music, but I might have a lot of time for it the coming months. What I foresee as most interesting release this coming year is definitely the looper VST.
Thanks CAS, great interview.