It has been a big twelve months for OddKidOut. He has smoothly transitioned from an Instagram sensation to the festival line ups of SXSW and Firefly this summer. In regards to production he has also been busy with the creation and release of his new EP called “Full Circle”. The Philly producer was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his new EP, what he has learned in the last year and his three new lessons on Melodics.
The last time we did a Q & A with you was April 15, 2016. How have things changed for you in terms of your music career in the past year?
It’s been that long already? I feel like a lot has changed in the year, specifically with my artistry. I’ve been focusing much more on my industry presence as both an artist and a producer. I’ve slightly veered off the hip-hop path (I’m still on it 100%), but have opened up my musical horizons to different genres and new musical environments that I haven’t touched before.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned over this time period?
I’ve learned so many things, but I think one of the most important ones was to be safely skeptical of what people tell you. I’m not saying not to trust people, but to rather assess what they are saying to you when you meet them and take it at face value until you get to know the person a little more. I used to get my hopes up and immediately think big things would come of these meetings but have recently realized that I need to be wary of what actually is the truth.
You will be performing at SXSW and Firefly this summer. What did it feel like when you first heard you will be performing at these events?
It was a great feeling, I’m so honored to be a part of both of the festivals. I had performed at SXSW two years ago so I was a little more taken back by Firefly since I haven’t even gone as a concert-goer. Honestly, I felt like my friends and family were more hype than me when I found out but that’s just because I’m constantly challenging myself and looking for the next big thing to do. However, I’m really grateful and excited to play…I’m counting down the days!
Your new Full Circle EP has just been released. Tell us about the EP and how it differs from your previous works?
The EP is different than my other music because I wrote it with two other people; 1403 and Mitch Beer. Immediately, the musical content was enhanced because these two are extremely talented and we understood how to work cohesively. 1403 is from London, so he brought with him those gritty vibes that acted as a counterpart to the more vibey sound that Mitch and I created here in the states. It’s what I like to a call a “genre-blender”. While some of my other music is obviously hip-hop or soul, the Full Circle EP wanders somewhere in between there and electronic music.
Was there a change in the way you approached producing this EP compared to your previous works?
Yeah, the way we produced this record was much different because we only had about a week. Tom (1403) came over here to the US for a week and that was when we basically constructed the whole project. Working in such a small timeframe was a little difficult, but also a great tool to keep the creative juices going. The project was really an organic creation that evolved over 7 days, and I think you can feel that in the music.
1403 features in a few tracks on the EP, adding richness to each track with his vocals. How did you guys connect?
Yeah, so 1403 is on every track, whether it was his vocals or an instrument he was playing. I was actually introduced to him through Mitch Beer; that’s how we all came together for the project.
What was it like working with 1403 throughout the project? What was the process of creation like?
It was “Wonderful”, ha! No, but in all seriousness, it was a delight working with both 1403 and Mitch. Musically, we all are on the same wavelength so it made the process very smooth. And from just a normal life standpoint, both are my homies so it’s always great to be around friends.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you have been listening to Anderson Paak’s ‘Malibu’ album a lot and loved how it fuses old school and modern elements. What other artists or albums have you been listening to lately?
I’ve also been listening to Rick Ross’s new album. That project is truly fire…I’ve had it on repeat recently. I’ve also been getting back into my Dubstep phase, as I’ve been listening to a lot of Excision and Datsik recently. I really listen to everything…this morning has been all about The Police aha.
What is the single biggest skill you have developed as a producer in the last six months?
The biggest production skill I’ve learned recently was how to utilize space, and that less is more. I found that I was over-producing my tracks when really the answer was just to incorporate more comprehensible parts that didn’t step all over the main lead.
You said in an interview for Creative Masters that you don’t like to describe your sound, but if you had to it would be a mixture between electronic and hip hop. It seems that has held true with your latest EP. Was that your intention?
Yeah, I usually try and stay away from genres or labels because I feel that it becomes limiting as a producer and an artist. I tend to say that I incorporate my soul into every track I make, that way I’m open to all sorts of opportunities. For this EP, it’s a direct incorporation of both my soul, but also Mitch and Tom’s as well. That was our intention….to make a project that was gestated from our creativity, and didn’t conform to any preconceived notions.
In the same interview, you talked about using the time you walk between places, shower and when falling asleep to plan and think about the past, present and future. Are you able to go into this process and how it has helped you achieve your goals?
Yes, this is a daily routine for me. The shower is still a sanctuary for me…I’m sure I piss off my roommate by being in there for hours at a time but there’s something so relaxing about hot water and it helps me think. And still, before I fall asleep, I always always always think about the next goal in mind. I think about how to get there, what I can do tomorrow to make that happen, and then imagine what I’ll do when I finally get to it. It helps visualize the goal and helps me stay focused on achieving what I want.
You have previously said that success for you, would be to redefine the way that people listen to popular music. Are you able to elaborate on this and what it would mean to achieve this goal?
Yeah, I really just want to share my uniqueness with the world. I would love to be writing tracks for the biggest artists, but doing it in a way that is unique. For example, you can almost always tell when an artist does a track with Pharrell (or the Neptunes), his sound is just iconic. I want to do the same thing with the way that I produce my tracks.
What excites you the most about releasing three songs off your EP on Melodics?
I’m most excited for the community to wrestle with some tracks that have actually been turned into real songs. Some of my past lessons have been beats and those contain invaluable lessons, but this round is almost more “real”, as the listener can play the lesson and then open up Spotify and listen to the real track.
Are there any tips you would give to Melodics users before playing your new lessons?
LOVE. YOUR. METRONOME. It’s the most important thing in music in my opinion; be one with the metronome. With all of my music, or anyone’s music at that, being able to lock into the groove is everything. I sometimes produce tracks off the grid that are still in a pocket, so in order to play that slightly swung feel, you need to master the metronome simply on its own. And I also just want to say thank you to everyone who has been messing with my lessons and thank you Melodics for allowing me to share my craft with the world!
In early March Stro Elliot was kind enough to come into Melodics HQ while on tour down under. In just one afternoon Stro created a new Melodics lesson from scratch named ‘Eggs on Toast’ and even spared some time to do an interview with us. The conversation was full of amazing insights as Stro delved into his life as a musician and his unique approach to music production.
Tell us the story of how listening to Pete Rock growing up turned you into a finger drummer by accident?
When I started making and listening to beats I assumed that producers played all their drums at once. I thought this particularly when listening to how Pete Rock’s music sounded. He had such a loose feel, it sounded like a drummer was playing the drums even though I knew they were samples. So I’m listening to what he is doing and I’m assuming that he sat there and played through the whole track. Like a drummer would on a drum kit but on pads. So I taught myself how to play drums on pads. This is the way that many people see me play drums on pads now during my live shows. I later saw a video of him (Pete Rock) in the studio and watched him program drums one finger at a time, one sound at a time. I then realised how he really did it and was like ‘you have got to be kidding me’.
Fast forward to a show I had the honour of doing with him about a month or two ago. When I met him we did the set and he watched me perform and he said “yo that is really bugged out the way you play the drums with your fingers”. I then told him the story. He said “oh that is really crazy, but now you have this great tool that is in your favour and you can use”. So all in all it was a headache in the beginning but at the end of the day I guess it was all worth it.
That is pretty incredible how you went from listening to Pete Rock to performing with him. Who are some other heroes of yours, that you have had the honour of working with?
I was in a hip hop group called The Procussions and we had a chance to open for a lot of our heroes. A Tribe Called Quest being one of them as well as Redman, Methodman, De la Soul, The Roots. We almost checked off everyone in terms of people we wanted to open for. In the last year or two I have had the honour of getting to meet these people and have spent a considerable amount of time with them. Working with The Roots in the studio for a week and Electric Lady out in New York. Meeting the guys from De La Soul, Jazzy Jeff and a few others. It has been a real blessing to be able to collaborate and pick the brains of some of my heroes.
Has spending time with your heroes become a new normal for you?
I don’t know if it is normal. I tell my friends that I have known for years, that there are these moments when you are around people who you revere and you forget that they are super heroes. I have a couple friends at home, that I will spend time with. We’ll hang out, watch sports, go out to eat and it’s not until I’m in the studio with them or a show, that I remember that oh yeah this guy is Superman. I’ve been hanging around Clark Kent all day, but I forget that he can fly and can see through walls.
Do you think that learning to play live gives you a better understanding of how to make beats than sequencing?
I don’t know if it gives me more of an understanding than it does inspiration and ideas. The same way a live band will improvise a song they play a million times live, I will do the same when performing in a live set. You know I may have created some piece of music, but when I’m performing it, I might get a different idea. Like this would have been cool if I did this in the original recording. So it gives me ideas if I want to go back and change some things if I haven’t released the track, or provide ideas of things I can apply the the next time I make something with a similar feel. So whether it be a little fill in here or a little switch up there, I can now apply this to the track I’m making. That way I think it’s more about being inspired and motivated to expand on what I’ve already done.
So through playing live you are able to generate a catalogue of ideas in your mind faster that can be applied to future tracks?
How does finger drumming affect your workflow in the studio?
For me it definitely enables me to get the idea out faster. You don’t have to stop every four bars or every eight bars. You can kind of just do what I call have a ‘jam session with yourself’. I will play around and be like okay that’s a cool sequence or chord structure, lets add a bass line to it, then I will just have a jam to it (on the pads), until something feels right or good over that track. Otherwise it would take me longer as I would have to sit there with a kick, a snare, a hi hat and if I do not like it I would have to repeat that process. As opposed to being able to play to it, until something feels good.
When I watched you ‘jam with yourself’ I saw the Ableton Session had three minutes worth of MIDI from you playing drums. From there is it a matter of going through what you played and taking the best four to eight bars?
Yeah exactly that. I will find a section that fits. Sometimes it will not be exact but it will be close. Then it will a matter of me replaying it or physically drawing or shifting things around until it feels the way I want it to feel. Technology.
I read in a past interview that you know how to play piano, guitar, trumpet & drums. Is that true?
The first instrument I was actually taught to play was the trumpet. Which was in middle school. This was because it was less noisy than drums for my parents. However my parents probably regretted that as trumpet is not very quiet either. I played it for 4-5 years. My father being in the military meant we moved to Germany for a while. Due to moving around a lot I did not have all my papers at the school. So they had no record of the instruments I played previously. So when the teacher asked me what I played I said ‘drums’. I figured this would be my chance to finally play the drums. By the time he figured out that I played trumpet he gave me the choice between drums or trumpet. At first I chose trumpet but eventually went back to drumming after more of the other students left. After this my mother bought me a keyboard when I was 16. I was self taught with that instrument. I learned primarily through first learning a few chords and then learning by ear. I liked Jazz Fusion stuff and early soul, from their I would analyse the songs I liked and pick apart the chords that I wanted to play. The guitar I was given by Granddad at around the same time. I spent a summer with him in the Midwest and found his guitar in the basement, he never used it but said it was a gift from a friend. I kept picking away at it, but it only had three strings. So to this day, what I know on Guitar is very basic. But I feel like I can thumb around on the guitar enough to get the idea out if needed. As a kid that was what I was into, I just wanted to get my hands on anything that made noise. Anything music related.
What influenced your passion for music at a young age? Was it a certain moment or person?
There was just something about music. I come from a family that is not musical. No one in my family played anything or sang. There are members of my family who are tone deaf, and can’t dance. So I was definitely the odd ball that came out of nowhere. However my parents knew I liked music and continued to play music as I grew up. But it was probably not until I was much older that they realised how serious I was about it. I’ve always felt like, without getting too deep that there must be a God because there is no reason for me to have this strong a desire to make music without anyone in my family playing music. I’ve always found this interesting as most of the musicians I’ve met come from pretty musical backgrounds, either their parents played or had a group friends they came up with that played.
So you have a big interest in music, you are learning a lot of different instruments. What happens next?
Because I was such an introvert as a kid, my parents and family did not recognise my passion for music until a lot later. I didn’t share it with anyone. They knew I liked it and would ask them for instruments, however they didn’t initially realise it was something that I would want to turn into a career. It was not until high school that I got active about it and found other people to play with and started doing things in talent shows. Those opportunities came from people I met at school or summer jobs. We would get together and jam, which kind of set a trend for me to find people that were artistic or created music and try to create a vibe from that standpoint.
So how long was it until you went from playing music at high school to touring with The Procussions?
It did take a minute. It was about three years until I met the initial members of Procussions. We had met before that but it was more of a hobby. They knew I messed around but it was not something we started to take serious until about 98/99. We came up with the name and started doing shows together and that has snowballed into a career.
And you have been on that trajectory since?
Absolutely that has been my whole life every since. I have never really had a Plan B for myself. Much to the worry of my mother. She is very happy and proud of what I am doing now but there was a period where her and my father did worry. No one wants to have the Bohemian kid that bounces from couch to couch and any doesn’t have any sure income and that whole scenario. But I think for myself knowing that I had no Plan B, forced me to find a way to make it work. This was the reason why I connected so much with another member of the group (The Procussions) Mr Jay, who is doing the same thing now and has many different outlets. I think we were the two people in the group that did not plan for anything else. This made me take things more serious and be grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.
Did you ever doubt?
Yeah. There was a time I had really huge hair, soul patch hanging from my chin. After the group disbanded initially I was down and out. I cut my hair and got a real 9 to 5 for a minute. I worked for GUESS Jeans in Los Angeles. It was more or less a customer service type role, I answered phones and helped people with their orders. However the odd thing was I got fired during my training. I was like “who gets fired during their training. I’m learning to do the job and how could you get fired for learning”. But afterwards I had a very interesting conversation with my brother, I remember ranting and raving “I can’t believe they fired me. Here I am trying to do the right thing, trying to get my life together, getting a legitimate job, cut my hair and this happens”. Interestingly my brother was actually really mad at me he said “I don’t feel like that is what you are put here for, this is not was your calling. Everyone else can get 9 to 5’s but you are made for something more than that. So whether that means you got to work harder on the music thing or create a different circle of people around you. There needs to be something more you can do.” It turns out he was right.
Did you switch up your approach after this?
I did. It happened slowly. But the way I did it was treat my passion for music as a 9-5 job if you will. Making sure there was a certain level of productivity everyday, whether it turned into something or not. I went through the motions of making music and hitting certain targets. In relation to finding the right people, that happened more organically. I decided to go out in LA more, meeting more musicians and participating in different circles. The Procussions would eventually start working again and put out another album, but even in with that happening I would continue to be a working musician and connect with other like minded people as much as possible. They say a lot of the time in the industry that ‘who you know’ is more valuable than how talented you are, and I would say that has served me well. I’ve got a lot of opportunities based on my relationships with people and that is something I continue to do. I feel like I continue to create these opportunities to meet people who are influential but also just good people. So we can hang out outside of music as well.
What would you say to someone who has been inspired by your videos, bought a controller and are just starting?
I would be honest and tell him that the biggest thing in music for me was being a really big listener. I was nerdy in the essence I would read every line and note, I would watch people. Now days that is a lot easier than it was back in the day. There are a lot more resources with Youtube at people’s disposal to do this. So I would probably start there. Watch the people who are doing what it is that inspires you. But it is important to start from the standpoint of listening. Because as much as I would be honoured that someone would like to make music like me, it is also much more important that people develop their own style and sound. Just as I was influenced by someone and took it to a different place, I would hope this person starting out would do the same.
Today you made your first Melodics lesson. I was privileged enough to watch you make it from scratch. Can you tell us about the lesson and give some pointers on how to play the lesson?
Well it was good that I was given guidance on the tempo. Because I often feel I would struggle to be a teacher. I tend to start at Level 5 without releasing I need to teach Level 1-4 first. Initially I was like I would make something in odd meter time and just go nuts. But being given the number of 100 BPM was helpful as it gave me a vibe to start. While working through it chord wise I knew I wanted to make something that was simple to follow, but still felt good and that allowed me to be open with the drums and the way they are played. I knew going into it that if I made something a bit too muddled up, a lot can be lost in translation about what is going on with the drums and the rest of the music. With that said the overall process centered around making something in my own style that was simple but still interesting for people to play.
Could you give a brief description of the way that you layout your drums on the pads?
Well it is interesting in this particular lesson you get to see where I came from and where I am at now. In the live video you will see I have a lot tighter set up, with everything bunched together. Which came from the fact that I used to use the MPD pads from Akai that only had 16 pads. The pads were much bigger so it did not feel as tight. So with the initial part of the video the pads are arranged in this much tighter set. You know you have the kick right next to the snare, hi hat next to the snare, a clap above that and maybe what I call a snare ghost note under the snare. Now what I have found is that I have been able to open up my set up. On my live kit, you will see that I have the hi-hats on the outside of the pads. The kicks and snares are all below that as well as the toms and the cymbals and all the other bells and whistles on top. It kind of mimics the way I play the drum kit, you know having things in a open flow, even though it is me using two limbs instead of four. I like being comfortable and having a flow of feeling like I can go anywhere from the hi hat standpoint. So my set up being hi hats on the outside, kicks and snares below allows me to sort of have a natural flow with my two fingers.
Do your finger drumming skills help with other instruments when you are producing tracks in the studio?
I had an instance about a week ago. Where I was helping a friend of mine by laying down some guitar. I noticed that I did feel a little bit looser, than the previous times I had played on guitar. I remember there were a couple licks, where I was like that’s surprising, I couldn’t do that before. So maybe unconsciously there could be a benefit to me utilising my fingers more through playing with the pads. This could be potentially opening up the way I play keys as well as guitar. So there may be a connection there.
What does the rest of 2017 have install for you?
I hope there’s more music ahead in terms of creating it and playing it live. As of now that seems to be the case. I have always liked travelling and there’s already plans for more shows stateside and potentially overseas, so I am really excited to be doing that. Hopefully I will be releasing a new project by the end of 2017 as well which would be cool.
I thought a good way to start would be with your twitter bio which says “Creator, curator and story teller”. Are you able to explain what these words mean to you a bit more?
For sure, I’ll answer them one by one.
Creator: I’m a creative junkie. Producing music happens to be the most popular thing I’m into at the moment, but I’m lowkey a photographer and graphic/web designer as well.
Curator: As musician I listen to a ton music and as a photo geek I come across sooo many images. That research led me to start collecting and over time curation. I want to start merging the two at some point with an audio/visual live set.
Storyteller: In my mind that’s what all this is. The intent with anything I create is to take you on a journey, convey a feeling or mind state or to put it simple, tell a story.
The pinned tweet at the top of your twitter profile says “The homie @stlndrms is the Bob Ross of this lofi ish. “I think we’ve found what we want, now let’s make a beat…” That is pretty high praise as Bob Ross is an amazing individual. Explain what that tweet meant to you and the significance of Bob Ross in your life?
1. Bob ross is the man.2. I always admired his artistic process and how he would effortlessly create from a blank canvas in such a short time. I used to watch his show like every week when I was a kid. So when someone compared me to that guy I had to pin it.
Keeping on the Bob Ross track for another question. I understand you are a big anime fan. One of my favorite anime/television moments has to be the Boondocks scene when Bob Ross and Huey escape from the police. What are your favorite anime scenes or shows?
My favorite anime moment ever, is from an episode of Gurren Lagan. When Kamina says “You have eyes in the front of your head for a reason. Keep moving forward.” I legit think of that quote at least once a day.
On to the beat making. Describe what turned you from a listener of music into a beat maker? Was there a particular song or person that made you take that leap?
I had an uncle that ran a music store in Detroit when I was a kid. The store was popular and he was an influencer in the scene so he knew all the artists that would come through the city on tour. He used to drop off promo copies of everything at the house and I would play it all. Outkast, the Roots, Redman, Black moon, E40 and all that. He was my biggest personal musical influence. I remember beatboxing and rapping in his car in like elementary school, some of my earliest memories. If you ask my mom she’ll tell you I was a musician before I could walk. That’s a good bit before I can remember though.
What were you like when you started out making beats? How long was it until you started making the kind of beats you wanted?
Honestly I wanted to be Premo at first, Then DJ Quick, Then Dilla. Dilla was more an admiration than a “want to be like” however… But I digress, It took me some time (years) to get a consistent sound. To be real however, I still haven’t been able to fully articulate what I hear in my mind. I’m having fun trying though.
I found your work through your show “beats + chill” and I have to admit I’m hooked. There is nothing like it out there on the internet. Where did your idea for the concept come from and have you been amazed by the how much traction it has gained already?
It pretty much came from me wanting to share the creative experience with my friends. I’m in a big metro but I stay in the suburbs so people don’t like to drive out to where I am to work/chill. So I’m kind of “silo’ed” off on the day to day. I figured I’d live stream me making beats and we could go from there. Then I saw thousands of people were watching it so I did what I could to make it professional. I’m still confused as to how it got this big. I love it though and I’m going to do everything I can to keep it going on and upward for sure.
How do you see “beats + chill” developing over the next few months? Are there any surprises users can look forward to?
Relationships and joint venture stuff for sure. I can see BEATS+CHILL sessions eventually popping up over several platforms and possibly in a few live venues maybe even with some guests from time to time. My endgame is to take this show on the road. I want to hang out and create / play music with people all over the world man.
Your setup for the show is very cool and so is the gear you use. Are you able to explain your setup and briefly what each device does?
Sure, The hub is an Akai MPC2000xl and/or Native Instruments Maschine I do almost all my production work with those. The other gear the Roland SP303 and SP404 are for compression and distortion (303) and for playing live and adding stutters and glitches (404). Add to that a thrift store EQ and tape player (15$ a piece) and you have my sound in a nutshell…
You always release music with that lo-fi feel and are very much entrenched in that community. Who are some other lo-fi artists you are currently listening to?
Soooo many man, I’ll do you one better. For lo-fi stuff, go grab everything from every artist on the following collectives: Natural Selection, NINETOFIVE records, O-nei-ric Tapes, and Chillhop records. That’ll get you started. One time for these guys and all the other lo-fi collectives out there putting in work man.
What advice can you give to other aspiring beatmakers looking to make music like you?
Make a million beats. Than make a million more. I’ve legit lost over a 1000 beats at this point. I’ve had to sell about 20k worth of gear over my time producing to get by or make ends meet. I’ve used so many diff pieces and diff programs and they are all great but honestly, they have nothing to do with your sound. I know dudes who use all hardware and dudes who only use an IPad. They are all amazing. If you want to establish your sound there are no shortcuts. The 10,000 hr rule is in full effect. Lucky for you though music is about the most rewarding and fun thing you can do with your time if you love it. So yea make a million beats and keep moving forward. (1 time for Kamina-san)
Finally I checked out your vs.co page and saw your photos from your time in Japan? Are you planning on taking any other trips overseas this year?
Nothing on the books yet but my passport is ready. Say the word and I’m on a plane.
I wanted to take a second to say thank you guys so much for this opportunity and to let you know that the App you put together is awesome. Timing is everything in HipHop and there’s nothing like drums that sit in the pocket like they’re supposed to. Melodics is one of the best tools I’ve seen so far outside of just making beats to train yourself to stay in the pocket. Great work guys.
You are well known for the amazing finger drumming videos you do on Maschine. When did you first purchase Maschine. What inspired you to make this purchase?
I first purchased Maschine when I was 16. I knew about it for a while before I got it, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it when I saw it in person.
Did finger drumming come naturally to you? What is your musical background?
It didn’t come naturally. I mean I had a sense of rhythm because I’ve messed around on the drums and percussion here and there, but hard work and dedication were the two things that got me to where I am today.
The lesson you have made is called “PTM Level 1”. Tell us about the Persian Trap sound and how it is connected to your roots. Where do you see this genre going in the future?
The Persian Trap sound is how I bring culture to Trap. I think culture, Persian or not, is such a vital thing to have in music. There is such a strong culture behind Persian music that puts non Persians in a new world when experiencing it. And I put my heart and soul into bringing this same cultural feeling to modern trap music.
Can you explain what Melodics users can look forward learning to in your new lesson?
I hope those who strive to be where I am today get inspired to work their butt off in melodics. If I had such a tool to start from, I’d be on it 24/7. Melodics is literally guitar hero for beat pads, but you’re learning and getting more skilled the entire time.
What made you want to get involved with Melodics?
The simplicity of the interface, the quality of the website, and the passionate people that make up the company is what made me want to get involved.
In mid 2016 some of your work went viral. Including a video of you mashing up the Spongebob Squarepants theme with Kanye West’s ‘I Love Kanye’, and making a trap remix out of the Rugrats theme song. Where did you get the inspiration for these ideas? How has it affected your career since?
It’s crazy how viral these videos went. I just love making music, even if it’s some dumb mashup. People know I’m doing these things for fun. It has definitely been a journey since Spongebob Kanye. I’m just glad people were actually taking the time to check out my real music.
Name your three biggest artistic influences?
Mura Masa, Travis Scott, Shahram Nazeri
What advice would you give to someone who has just started producing music?
Just. Keep. Producing.
What does 2017 have install for ASADI?
2017 is going to be crazy. I have many songs to release along with festival shows all around the map. 2017 is by far going to be the best year yet.
Beat Breakthrough talks to different music producers about the beats that were significant in their development. On our first ever instalment we talk to Philly producer Oddkidout about some of the beats that have shaped his progression.
What is the oldest or one of the older beats that you can find? Tell us the story behind it.
Beat Name: Untitled
This is the first beat I’ve ever made. My parents bought me Logic 9 for my 15th birthday, so this beat is about 6 years old. I was so excited, I opened up the program without reading any manuals and literally just started creating. As I was moving things around and programming sounds haphazardly, I was starting to get a feel for the program. I had so much music stored in my head for so many years that when I sat down in the program, it all began to just pour out. I ran downstairs after I made the beat and played it for my parents, who were shocked that I even could figure out the program and create something musical within an hour.
I didn’t sample anything for this beat, but I created it with mainly apple loops (which are royalty free samples that come with Logic). So I hadn’t comprehended Midi yet, but was just starting to drag files onto the grid and learn how to layer and chop. At the time, I was listening to a lot of 90’s hip-hop and jazz, so naturally I was choosing boom bap drums and a vibraphone for the melody. I still think it’s a cool beat. I mean I would never, ever send it to anyone or put it anywhere because it is completely amateur. But, it’s special to me because it’s my first. And I’m proud that my first beat still makes my head nod 6 years later.
Name a beat you have made that represents a turning point in your production career? What made this beat so significant?
Beat name: Amore (feat. GoGo Morrow and Bonic)
I’ve had so many turning points in my production career so far. I love all types of music, so whenever I create a song in a genre that I usually don’t do, it spawns off a whole new direction of creation for me. I literally had a turning point beat two days ago, it’s the best feeling ever because it represents growth. But, I think one of my favorite turning points was when I created my song “Amore (feat. GoGo Morrow and Bonic) on my EP, WITHIN. It was so significant to me because it was the first time that I had created a full song, from start to finish, with vocals on it. And to have GoGo and Bonic be the featured artists was such an amazing look. I was used to creating beats and then dishing them off to other people to use. In this scenario with Amore, I had control over the direction of the song, and was able to bring vocalists in and add them to what I was doing. It also inspired me to be more than a bedroom producer. It showed me that there’s more to just making beats, and that the true art is conjuring up a full package of instrumentation and vocalization. It’s inspired me since then to work in that mindset.
Want to learn how to play ‘Amore’ yourself? Download Melodics and get started today with a suite of lessons designed by Oddkidout himself.
Going right back to the beginning what moment/person got you interested in music?
Witnessing how excited my parents were when they came home from a Jimmy Smith concert in the 80’s.
From this point how long was it until you started creating your own songs and beats?
I started writing my own music at high school and then made my first beat with Kutcorners (Serato) in 1998, we borrowed a Boss SP202 from our local music store from our friend who was the manager of the store (he now works for Ableton).
You have appeared in many different musical bands and projects over the years including Open Souls, She’s So Rad and now Leonard Charles. All these projects are distinctly different in terms of genre and sound. Have you always had such an eclectic taste? Are you seasonal in what you listen to?
I just listen to what I like on any given day. I have a fairly decent record collection so in the morning I just reach for the record I want to hear. I usually end up working on music influenced that record when I get to the studio.
With all that experience under your belt who is the coolest person you have met in your musicaljourney so far? Can you explain what your first encounter with them was like?
A huge part of my musical experience I owe to Dave Cooley. He is a mastering engineer / producer. He always has time to share knowledge and is a genuine person within the global music industry. The first time we met he invited me to a recording session he had at Sunset Studio’s in LA working with a band called Silversun Pickups. They gave us a some tips on riding the busses in LA.
Tell us about your project ‘Basement Donuts’. What inspired the project initially and how did it evolve?
Inspiration for Basement Donuts is all J Dilla. People who know me know how important J Dilla’s music is to me. I’m not exaggerating when I say he has influenced every single piece of music I have released or produced. I was invited to perform at a night to raise money for the Dilla Foundation and so I decided to make it a special performance and remake J Dilla’s album Donuts but in my own way. The most important thing about J Dilla’s music is that it is unique to him so in order for me to serve the music right I needed to make my version unique to myself. I feel confident that I achieved this, I was hesitant at first because I really didn’t want to step on the toes of one of Hip Hop’s greats. I had the honor of playing some of my tracks from the release to Guilty Simpson andhe was feeling it. That seal of approval was enough for me to know I was doing the right thing.
The bulk of this project and a lot of your music is made in your basement studio. What was the first bit of equipment you bought for it and what gear do you have now in your studio?
The first equipment I bought was an MPC2000 and a turntable back in 2000. I have a bunch of gear now but the main things I use are: Ableton with Push. Roland Rhythm330, Roland MP600, Moog Voyager, Roland Chorus Echo, UAD Apollo, UA LA-610, Akai MPC3000, Fender Rhodes, Fender Jazz Bass, Fender P Bass, Fender Coronado, Premier 1075 drum kit, the list goes on.
In 2008 you performed at the ‘MPC Championship of the World’ under the name Jeremy Ota. Are you able to tell our viewers more about this event and the hours taken to build your cardboard MPC suit?
Haha, The event used to be held every year in New Zealad. It was an invitational MPC beat battle. A week out from the event all the competitors are given the exact same samples and get to make whatever they want to out of the samples given. I decided to do a tribute to all the Hip Hop I love by manipulating the samples they gave us and remaking classic beats. Some of the beats I made were even by people I was competing against.
You have helped design lessons for Melodics in the past primarily in the Chiptunes and Classic Breaks genres. What is it like having a Leonard Charles lesson released?
It’s cool. I really like the educational element to Melodics and I love building lessons that push peoples imagination. I hope that some of the elements from my own lesson will inspire people to go and create music.
What can Melodics users expect from your “Can We Go Back” lesson? Do you have any tips for how a newbie should approach the lesson.
I think a good approach is to go and listen to the godfather of modern funk – Dam Funk. Then go back to the lesson and just feel the drums. The drums are so important, the way the kick sits in the rhythm.
Who are the three artists you are listening to the most right now?
Mulholland – he has a studio above me so I hear his music all day.
Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)
What advice would you give to an aspiring music producer or beat maker?
Be yourself.Respect the architects/ creators of the music you are making. Look to the past for education and look inside yourself for creativity. When it is time to make music forget the world around you and just feel what you are doing, get in the zone, that is where the magic is.
This week Melodics released some brand new Modern Funk lessons. To commemorate this we have decided provide our list of five modern funk artists to listen to this week. Let us know if we missed anyone and who you have been
This United Kingdom multi-instrumentalist released his first full length project “The Cove” back in 2015. It sold out quickly and led to much critical acclaim. Expect beautiful synths, slapping bass in his soothing instrumentals.
The six-piece Miami band got together in 2010, releasing a couple of records on their own Cosmic Chronic label. Since then they have gone on to release a few more big projects most notably their Nature of Evil album. Check out one of their most notable cuts “Charlene” that will give your body moving.
Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One make up Tuxedo. Started way back in 2006 when the two exchanged mixtapes with each other, the duo have gone on to release a full EP back in 2015 via Stones Throw. The production and Hawthornes vocals compliment each other perfectly.
Another Stone Throw don Dam Funk has been in the game since 1988. Producing his unique style of funk for the likes of Mack 10 MC Eiht in the 1990’s. However after seeing other artists get gold plaques all around him he decided to go ‘full funk’. In 2006 he launched Funkmosphere Records and a couple years later he dropped his first LP with Stones Throw. Things have been good since with Dam collaborating and performing with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Flying Lotus.
Brian Ellis is a multi-instrumentalist Brian Ellis hails from Escondido, Californian. His Reflection EP was held in high esteem and dubbed one of the most modern funk projects of the year. The EP includes a cameo from West Coast electro pioneer and super freak, the Egyptian Lover, and showcases Brian’s one-of-a-kind musical witchcraft.
When asked in the past about what advice you would give to upcoming producers you said “Create something new every day, and release new material frequently to build a momentum and a following.” Are you able to give a bit more depth into these steps or add anything you’ve learned since?
One thing I would add to that is: be yourself and create authentically. Make the music that moves your soul, and avoid trying to force your art to fit a mold. Avoid people, situations and career paths that influence you to conform so much you lose your authentic voice.
How does the BOSS SP-202 Sampler, a Tape Deck and a HR16 Drum Machine fit in your production story? How have you grown equipment and sound wise since then?
Haha — the humble beginnings.
At the time, my workflow was to sequence drums on the HR-16, loop it, then trigger samples in realtime on the SP-202. I was 13, just starting out, and didn’t really understand MIDI at the time, so there was no quantization and everything had a really raw feel. There was no looping on my 4 track tape deck, so I had to make the whole beat in one take, part by part.
Once I started getting into the power of desktop computers for production, everything really changed. I started using Cool Edit Pro with a program called Tuareg (by Hammerhead). I would sequence the drums in Tuareg, load the drum stems into Cool Edit Pro, then copy and paste samples in time with the drums. People thought I was crazy for making beats this odd, complicated way, but I made some bangers and was able to capture the sound I wanted. After years of making beats this way, I got into Reason for a bit, then the MPC 4000 which was a game changer at the time. My main setup for a while was the MPC 4000 with some hardware sound modules.
Now my setup is really simple: Ableton Live 9, Push 2, NI Komplete Kontrol… and my newest addition – the Dave Smith Tetra. This setup allows me to work in the studio, and have a portable setup I can take anywhere with a backpack. As I expand as an artist, I continuously discover new ways to create in Ableton.
You performed an amazing video of your single “Feeling” for Ableton back in 2015. Explain the process of performing that video and how your relationship with Ableton began?
Push’s 64 pad mode was in beta at the time so coming from the 16, I had to learn a new skill before shooting. I wasn’t used to finger drumming with two hands. There was no quantization in my performance and the video was shot in one take, so I was forced to nail it all the way through with no mistakes. It was a lot of pressure, but I definitely grew from it.
Back in 2013 I did a YouTube video collaborating with Ski Beatz, while showing him Push. Ableton picked up the video on their site, and our relationship has continued to grow.
You’re first ever Melodics lesson teaches “Feeling” and how to perform it like you did in the Ableton video. What can Melodics users expect from this lesson? How will it help their skills?
If you want to learn or get better at finger drumming and performing live, practice is the key. I partnered with Melodics to put this lesson together because I feel its a great tool for artists to step up their performance skills and have a great time. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get.
You took three years out of music between 2009-2011 to find yourself through spirituality and meditation. Out of this came the project ‘Omnilove’ which you have said “embodies the essence of what you are trying to communicate” Explain this process of taking a hiatus from music and how it has served you both personally and musically since your return in 2011?
That time was a strong wake up call. I dropped everything in my life to experience who I was on a deeper level. I was looking for my purpose. I hardly made any music during that time. This hiatus from music turned out to be revelatory. Because of it, I am definitely more focused. Coming through that helped me to create and hold a bigger vision for my life and art.
You mentioned in a previous interview it was the likes of Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre that made you begin your production journey in the 9th grade. What is it like years later producing a track that your influence Snoop Dogg was featured on called “The Weekend”? I can only imagine it must be quite surreal things coming together full circle like that.
Snoop is a legend – I’m honored to work with him. Doggystyle was the first tape I ever purchased, and one of my favorite albums of all time. It feels great to work with the people I’ve looked up to — then and now.
You have a drum pack online called ‘Drums That Knock’. This came about after being repeatedly asked how you get your drums to knock by your fans over the years. Outside of getting this pack are there any other production techniques you would suggest to get those drums cutting through the mix?
Some techniques that work well are a mixture of compression, saturation, pitching and crafting the transients. I use a lot of soft limiting (but never letting the signal clip). My advice to sound designers is to take some time and mess around with plugins. Use your ears. Try boosting, cutting, distorting, shaping, layering. Try things that seem unorthodox – create a sound that is unique and never been done before.
How did you get involved with Melodics? In what ways do you think Melodics will help the next batch of producers and beatmakers?
When I started performing, I specifically remember wishing for an app that would help me practice finger drumming, but I couldn’t find anything like it. Recently abuddy of mine introduced me to Melodics and I checked it out and thought it was dope. I really appreciate what Melodics is putting out there. This is a great tool allowing producers and performers to get good fast with structured lessons.
You are a massive Ableton and Ableton Push advocate, with this combination giving you a live performance element now. Are you able to talk about how this has helped your performance skills and how the art of finger drumming ties into this?
Before Push came out in 2013 I thought of myself more as a producer than a performer. After rocking Push for just a few months, I shifted towards crafting live performances because I realized its always been natural to me to perform. Freed from the computer screen, Push becomes an instrument and it’s a matter of mastering that instrument.
What does the rest of 2016 have install for Decap?
I’ll continue to release new music every month. I have a couple secret projects in the works. I might drop another drum kit ondrumsthatknock.com … we’ll see ;).
If you were stranded on an island for a year and could only bring three records with you what would they be?
Our latest interview comes from R!OT is a Pianist, Film Composer, Producer and Controllerist from Los Angeles. He has risen to fame through his amazing Launchpad videos on his successful Youtube channel. R!OT was able to answer a few questions this week and gave insight into his first release on Melodics this week based on his live performance entitled ‘R!OT’
You have been playing piano since you were 4 years old but didn’t hit your peak until high school. What spurred you on to get better and how did daily practice play a role in this development?
In high school I discovered there’s no secret to improvising, and it was that revelation that inspired me to sit at the piano every single day. I liked playing Bach as much as the next guy, but back then playing someone else’s music didn’t light a fire in me like creating something of my own did: something that only existed in that moment and would be gone forever, like all performances are. I owe everything to my piano abilities.
You have also stated all your production/Launchpad knowledge came through hours of trial and error watching Youtube tutorials. Are you able to walk us through this process and how a program like Melodics helps aspiring producers learn effectively?
I think the best thing about Melodics is it’ll give people a visual way to improve their technical abilities. I constantly get comments and messages about how to put two hands together, let alone how to play a polyrhythm. My piano chops transitioned seamlessly to launchpad, and one thing I’ve noticed is all the “big” finger drummers also play instruments: M4SONIC, Exige and I play piano; Shawn Wasabi, Nev, and Throttle play guitar (just to name a few). Melodics will break it down and I think it will be an amazing help to those who haven’t been fortunate enough to learn traditional instruments.
You started at age 16 ‘with a really slow laptop, shitty Skull Candy headphones from target and torrented software’ what gear are you using now?
Now I work on my desktop PC, KRK Rokit 6’s, a Scarlett 2i2 interface, and AKG K240 headphones.
Tell us the significance of the M4SONICS – Weapon video in your finger drumming story so far?
M4SONIC’s Weapon video was the reason I bought a launchpad, it’s that simple. When I saw Pop Culture I thought it was really cool. But when I saw Weapon, I had one of those “I need to be able to do that” moments, similar to when I heard Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Things went full circle when M4SONIC and I became friends and he said he wanted to learn piano from me. Love you M4
How has John Williams influenced your music and what is one key teaching of his that you use in your productions?
My other passion is writing music for Film/TV/Video games, which is what I got my bachelors degree in. And John Williams is 100% responsible for that. One thing he does that I learned from is I let my melodies dictate my harmonies. A typical pop song will be written by picking a key, choosing from an established three-four chord progression and writing a melody on top. But if you write your melody first, you can choose from a bunch of different harmonies that allow each melodic note to function differently, in and out of different tonal centers.
Yourself, Nev, M4SONIC, Shawn Wasabi all seem to know each other quite well online. How did those relationships develop? Can you explain the small community you guys have formed.
Shawn and I had sushi together one day, and then we met M4SONIC and Nev at NAMM. We formed this chat on facebook and reached out to the other people that were doing what we do. It’s basically just a chat for talking about music, and sharing each other’s content.
How has finger drumming particularly on Youtube developed in your eyes since you started posting your own videos back 2012?
I’ve seen finger drumming split into two roads: There’s one branch that’s covering other people’s songs, and one branch that’s creating original songs. But overall the scene has exploded since then, there’s a whole culture surrounding it!
You are releasing your first lesson on Melodics this week which is based on your Original composition called ‘R!OT’. What can Melodics users and your fans expect from these lessons?
My “R!OT” performance might be technically difficult for some people who have never played a traditional instrument, so I’m hoping they will be able to easily break it down with Melodics.
You now have 160K subscribers on Youtube and over 23 million views. Can you explain the story of how your page has grown? Has it been gradual or were there certain events/videos that skyrocketed your numbers?
I think my channel was able to take off because my Animals video went viral, and then people checked out the rest of my channel and thought, “Hey this guy actually makes music.” So while the growth since that event has been gradual, that video definitely triggered it.
Right at the end of your ‘How I Feel’ video you have a brief clip of yourself responding to some Youtube comments you got stating your videos are ‘fake’. Your response was awesome and to the point. Are these comments are common occurrence? Any message to those who think your videos are fake?
They are a common occurrence, but I write off half of them as trolls who just want attention. The other half I think just genuinely think it’s fake because they don’t understand what’s going on, and that’s fair. And to those people I would say: Keep an open mind, and come see me perform live.
Since Launching its first piece of commercial software in 2001 Ableton the program has gone from strength to strength. While the production component of the software is huge so is its live performance capabilities. In 2012 the music tech world marveled at the Ableton Push the first controller specifically designed for Ableton. The result saw a 64 pad layout that would take live music performance to a whole new level. We countdown the Top 5 best Ableton Push performance videos online.
5. Gaston – With My Brain On Twist
The mysterious GASTON dropped this awesome finger drumming performance a few years back. Sadly he hasn’t uploaded anything since. Fingers crossed that he has something install for his Youtube subscribers in 2016.
Decap is a hip hop beat maker from San Francisco who is very good at what he does. A few years back Ableton asked Decap if he wanted to show off his Ableton Push finger drumming skills. The result involves an old school hip hop drum break and some lush synths.
3. Jeremy Ellis on Ableton Push
When you think of finger drumming it is hard not to think of Jeremy Ellis. The Roots member took the internet by storm when he dropped a series of MASCHINE videos that went viral. Ellis also has applies his craft on other controllers from time to time. Check out this subtle but amazing performance from NAMM in 2013.
2. Rodi Kirk Performs ‘Underwater’
At number two is another Ableton branded performance featuring the talented Rodi Kirk. Shot in hipster nirvana this video has it all from summer camp vibes to random bonfires adjacent to a ping pong table. It’s hard not to get lost in visuals and performance.
1. Mad Zach Ableton Performance Video
Producer and finger drummer Mad Zach was heavily featured in the launch of Ableton Push particularly in his appearance in this performance video. Mad Zach is able to play a multitude of different sounds and vibes in a short amount of time, in a video that I am sure helped contribute to a lot of Ableton Push sales. Shout also to the sweeping camera work in this video.
Yashar Gasanov has a few Ableton Push videos out and was clearly influenced by the style and feel of the original videos. In this video he plays his own composition in an abandoned warehouse. The incorporation of him playing Push and singing reward this video with an honorable mention.
Our boi Jeff Tunque played this chopped and sampled track Vide on his Ableton Push this year. If you have not seen this guys stuff yet then I suggest you get onto it. He is a very skilled and talented finger drummer, producer and DJ.