Throughout the past century of music, there has been a huge amount of change. Movements have come and gone, while technology has given people access to the immense diversity of music. When you step back and look at some of the biggest changes, minimalism stands out as one of the most impactful. Minimalism in western music, which sprouted in the mid-20th century, can be found today everywhere from electronic dance music to the orchestra.
Within Melodics, you might have come across the term ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalism’. Maybe you’ve heard these terms used when describing a dance track or a piece of art. Maybe this is totally new to you. Either way, it can be tricky pinpointing what people actually mean by this. Does a piece of music need to include minimal content, structure, or have a short duration, in order to be considered minimalist?Does minimalism make the music simple?
Let’s first acknowledge that minimalist music can have many different definitions. Among them is that minimalist music uses limited musical materials. I once had an acclaimed professor of music history at my college describe minimalism as music where ‘all the voices are immediately apparent.’ While most definitions like these aren’t necessarily wrong, they don’t get the full picture either. Music from oft labeled ‘minimalist’ composers, like John Adams or Steve Reich, is richly orchestrated, deep, and full of motion and change. On the other hand, when you’re spinning tracks by Plastikman you’ll hear just a synth and kick repeat the same couple notes for several minutes at a time. So if minimalism can range from the club to the orchestra, and from 50 instrumentalists to 2 – 3 synths, what else can we use to describe minimalism other than ‘limited musical material’?
One of the most important elements frequently left out when talking about minimalist music is the concept of process. Often times, it doesn’t matter how many voices are active. What’s more interesting is how they’re changing. In minimalism the excitement comes from the discovery of process. One voice can split into two or three. A synth’s tone can slowly evolve over the course of 10 minutes to a steady beat. Minimalism is best enjoyed when you discover the pattern, or the ‘rule’ behind how changes in the music are made.
Still feeling a little fuzzy on minimalism? Dive into our keys course on Minimal Music. You’ll have the opportunity to experience some of these ideas first hand.
For your listening pleasure, here’s some amazing examples of minimalist ideas in music:
Akylla is an up and coming electronic music duo compromising of the talented Sherry St Germain & Saratonin. Since combining creative forces Sherry and Sara have gone from strength to strength, successfully building their reputation musically and forging an even stronger friendship personally. This week Akylla has released their debut Melodics lesson ‘Invincible’. The track ‘Invincible’ is a yet to be released track which will be coming out on Big Top Amsterdam next month. Both Sherry and Sara were kind enough to answer a few questions about their journey so far as Akylla.
Tell us the story about how you both connected and why you formed Akylla?
Sara: The two of us met in our friend’s studio in Winnipeg, Canada. I was there taking some production lessons and Sherry was coming in to mix a track. She was coming and I was leaving and we started to chat. I had heard a lot about her (this rad producer chick from Vegas) from our engineer, and she had heard of me from him as well. Both of us had our own solo music careers for over the past decade so we were both genuinely interested in what the other was working on. We decided we needed to get together and jam, and I think it only took two times before we realized that this needs to be a real thing. We’ve never looked back since. And we aren’t just bonded over music now, we are best friends.
On to the name ‘AKYLLA’ according to your bio – (In numerology the name Akylla has the birth path 8 and its meaning is connected to balance between the material and spiritual.) – What is the significance behind this name for you guys? Is there a story behind why you decided to use it as the name of your group?
Sara: To be honest we didn’t learn about the numerology aspect until after we chose the name. The first meanings that we discovered from the name were “Intelligent Women” and “Eagle” both of which resonated with us. But what also mattered was the way the name sounds and rolls off your tongue, how it looks written out etc. It didn’t take us long to settle on Akylla.
Musical duos always have different ways of collaborating and creating. Are you able to describe your process in the studio when creating a track? How do you guys work together? Has it always been easy?
Sara: Yeah I think that’s part of the reason why we bonded so quickly. From the start, it’s always been very fluid with us in the studio. One idea leads to another, and most importantly we have so much fun! A fly on the wall will see us falling on the floor laughing, jumping up and down when we get excited about a drop we made etc. This doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously because we do, it’s just that there’s a very playful energy between us even when we need to buckle down into boss mode.
Sherry:Inspiration hits at all times but mostly I get all the music/production ideas out in the day and then do the singing and writing at nighttime. I’ll generally sing some jibberish. Then Sara will come in and decide what I’m saying and we’ll both write the song and arrange together from there.
Your onstage performances are full of energy and different gear. Are you able to describe your onstage setup? What gear do you use and for what purposes?
Sherry: I rock the MicroKorg, APC 40, Ableton Push 2, Midi Fighter 3D and the Komplete Kontrol. I know it’s a lot of gear but they all compliment each other live and keep it challenging. My live set up also forces me to grow as a musician.
Sara: My set up includes 2 CDJ’s, a Z2 mixer (with Traktor), for DJing, and a Midi Fighter (with Ableton) for playing in percussion, synths, and samples live.
Watching through your ‘Shenanigans’ videos the MIDI Fighter makes numerous appearances. What inspired you to purchase the controller and how does it help with your live performances?
Sherry: I saw a video with Mad Zach he is one of my greatest teachers, but he doesn’t know it. I’ve watched all of his tutorials. He’s an amazing teacher, performer & creator.
How has the art of finger drumming influenced your live performance skills?
Sherry: Level up!It’s the next evolution of music. It went from musicians playing to not playing at all and now we finally have the technology to bring that back! Basically, as long as it lights up as you hit it, I’m down.
You have just released your new lesson “Invincible” on Melodics. How did you discover the app and what benefits does it have for aspiring producers?
Sherry: I was in at Ableton headquarters in L.A. I was trying to get a device made for me for playing live and my friend Cole over there said “Have you heard of Melodics? I think you’d love it” and that was it I’ve been hooked ever since.
The Electronic Music scene is a very male dominated environment. What has it been like navigating this world as a female duo?
Sara: I think this is something that Sherry and I have been used to just from the music scene in general and so we are pretty thick skinned about it. But we would be lying if we said that it didn’t bother us to see such a lack of representation from women in this industry. It does, however, feel like the scale is starting to balance more, and we are extremely happy to not only tip the scale ourselves but hopefully inspire other females to step up if this is their calling.
What has been the best on stage moment you have both had so far since forming Akylla?
Sara: Oh man, hard to pick one. I have always loved the live stage, but performing with Sherry is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. It’s the same as the studio in the way that it’s so natural and fluid. We feed off each other’s energy and both have the same work ethic about making our show as tight as possible. I will list one funny memory though. When Sherry and I were playing our second show ever together and this guy from the crowd comes to the stage and yells over to us “ ARE YOU GUYS BEST FRIENDS!? “. We thought it was hilarious and the fact that that’s what was coming through made us feel like we were doing something right.
Sherry: Sara just said it! I’ll never forget that moment. It’s like he could see the joy on our faces and had to ask us right in the middle of a performance, while I was scratching with a sine wave/white noise on the Midi Fighter.
If you were stuck on a desert island for a year and could only bring three albums with you what would they be and why?
Sherry: Tough question.
1) Pink Floyd- Dark Side of The Moon
2) Best of Iron Maiden
3) Best of Aretha Franklin
Because I can air guitar to the first two and get into my zone with the queen of soul.
Sara: This is so hard. But I’ll name a few albums I’m pretty obsessed with.
1)Paul Wall & Chamillionaire – Get Ya Mind Correct (2002).
This album came out well before either of them really blew up, but they capture the sound that exploded the Dirty South Rap genre. It is a sound that I just can’t get sick of. I played it all the time back then, and I play it all the time still.
2)Radiohead – The Bends (1995).
So much love for all the Radiohead albums, but this one, in particular, hits me very deep in my heart. Start to finish I love every song, and since I was 13 I’ve known every lyric.
3) Tool – Lateralus (2001)
Again, love all the Tool albums, especially the earliest ones. But there is something very special about Lateralus. It’s as though Tool broke out of the 3 rd dimension and decided to take us all with them. I’ve been lucky enough to see Tool (and Radiohead) four times.
You have collaborated with the likes of Excision and Steve Aoki. What other artists would you love to work together with in the future?
Sherry and Sara: Zeds Dead, Alison Wonderland, Skrillex, Diplo, Kill The Noise, too many to name
What has been the biggest thing you have learned in terms of music production in the last year?
Sherry: Multi-band compression is your best friend. The OTT is Epic and makes everything sound so big and automation on the LFO tool swing/rate and filters are super rad for sound design stuff.
What advice would you give to someone trying to make it as a professional musician?
Sara: Just know that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication, but if it’s truly what you want to do the reward is worth the sacrifice. Also, enjoy the journey! Live in the moment and be grateful for every step.
Sherry: Practice every day! To songs that you actually like. Don’t practice to some outdated system just to get a certificate. Some of the greatest musicians I know aren’t schooled “traditionally” but they slay harder than most. Practice to the stuff you like so your mind stays stimulated and your heart is fulfilled. If you’re passionate about it, do THAT! Your passion is your purpose.
Any other comments or shout outs you want to make?
Sara and Sherry: Yes! We have teamed up with Bakermat and his label Big Top Amsterdam! Our track “Invincible” (which is also the track used for our Melodics lesson) will be released next month!
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.
Polish DJ 69Beats won this years Red Bull Thre3style Poland Championship with an incredible set that involved classic turntablism, live remixing, tone play and finger drumming. While only young he has been in the game for a long time rocking shows and Festivals in Poland since 2008. Late last year 69Beats became a Melodics user and immediately captured our attention with a series of videos he put out on social media. We wanted to speak with him about his DJ journey so far and how Melodics has helped him improve his craft a long the way.
When did you start Djing? What/who inspired you to begin?
I started learning in 2006. Although the music was always in my life – my mom and older brother play the piano, dad plays the guitar and I finished musical school playing piano as well – the DJing came into my life with a total impulse. Even though I loved to party I never thought about DJing. But one day I went to a party at my friends house and her brother was a DJ. When she showed me his room with all the DJ gear standing there I was like… dang… that’s something I want to learn. Like the love at first sight. It didn’t even cross my mind that I could do this for a living someday, I just wanted to learn this.
How did you discover Melodics and what made you download the app?
I was into the fingerdrumming for quite some time before discovering Melodics, but didn’t have the gear to learn it properly. I just had some samples loaded into my DVS and was trying to come up with my own patterns that worked for me at the parties. And when Melodics came out I happened upon the video of Eskei83 where he played one of the basic lessons. And again I was like – I need to have this! I’m totally into the video games and apps that make a real challenge, and this challenge is measurable. Melodics has it all – the fun, the challenge, and on top of all – you learn a real thing, not only score points for hitting the right buttons on your gaming controller.
Back in 2015 you sent through to us a video of you playing Funk Bass on Melodics. How long did it take you to learn to play that lesson?
I enjoyed this lesson so much that when I started it I just couldn’t stop, but it was also very exhausting for my head. Spinscott has very cool patterns, they might seem really hard to learn for the first time, but they are also very smart, so when you learn it for the first time f.e. with Funk Bass, the other Spinscotts lessons aren’t that hard to play. So Funk Bass was the first one of his lessons for me and it took me like 2 or 3 days to get to 3 stars
What is the best thing about learning with Melodics so far?
>The best thing for me is that skills aquired with it can be easly used in real DJing environment – in the club, during a performance etc. – Melodics helps a lot with exploring your own creativity and building self confidence on the pads.
You entered and won the Red Bull Thre3style Poland this year. Was this your first time entering this competition? How did Melodics help with your preparations
Actually that was my second attempt at RB3S. First time was in 2015 and it didn’t really play out as I planned. When Melodics came out it was a total game changer for me. I left all other training for a few weeks just to play it. I wanted my Thre3style set to be as versatile as possible and there were no better way to gain necessary skill on the pads than Melodics.
Talk us through your winning set. There is so much going in terms of creativity. How long did it take you to put it all together and what was your creative process?
So as I said I entered Thre3style in 2015, but everything was happening really fast then and there was not much time for preparations. I didn’t make it to the Polish final, but took a lesson and decided to start preparations for 2016 since the moment I dropped out. I began to write down every single idea for routines that I came up with. Whether it was using a short single sample or creating some long transitions – I was writing down everything. Then I was testing all those ideas at home and finally if they felt good – I tried them in the clubs. So when RB3S 2016 was announced I just opened up my notebook, chose the best routines and started wondering what will be the best way to build a set with them. I didn’t have a problem with building a 15 minute set. My problem was fitting all my ideas into the 15 minutes so it won’t go any longer
You have The Red Bull Thre3style World Finals coming up in Chile later this year. How are you feeling before this event and what can we expect to see more of from you performance wise?
I feel very motivated and just can’t wait too perform before the Thre3style community again. To be true I don’t even know what can I expect from myself. I’m the type of guy that changes everything till the very last moment, so it can be everything. For now I’m focusing on my basic technique, so I hope that my sets on the finals will be more “clear”. What else will happen? I guess we’ll have to wait till December
Any words you want to give to all the Melodics users out there?
Sure! Always have fun with Melodics, don’t give up, don’t underestimate yourself and don’t underestimate Melodics itself. It’s a powerfull tool that can make a huge difference in your performances. Don’t be afraid to use the skill gained with Melodics at your gigs it really works. And remember that everybody loves skillful fingers.
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.
At only 20 years of age Butch Serianni also known as OddKidOut is the youngest person ever to release a lesson on Melodics. A drummer since age six and beat maker since his early teens the Philadelphia based producer has gone from strength to strength.
Showcasing his beat making talents on Instagram over a year ago has seen OddKidOut earn 65,000 followers and a feature on the websites main channel. This week OddKidOut was kind enough to discuss with us his influences, beat making process and of course his fresh new lessons ‘Amore’ now available on Melodics.
The city of Philadelphia where you are from has been a big influence on your sound and upbringing. You have previously said how the ‘In the pocket Philly soul groove is what makes you feel truly at home’. Are you able to provide some song examples for people unfamiliar with the sound?
Of course, literally any Root’s album is exactly what I’m referring to. QuestLove is one of the people who opened me up to the natural swing. If you listen to the way he drums, specifically on one of the Root’s less popular side projects called “Dilla Joints”, you can hear how he sways the beat behind the metronome but still holds time based on feel. Speaking of Dilla, most of his beats emulate the same formula. Usually the hi-hat and snare will be pushed slightly back or forward, and the kick will be almost exactly on time. It creates a natural feel, instead of a quantized, robotic groove.
Your name ‘OddKidOut’ has been integral in building your fanbase. You have said you wanted it to build a community for people who feel different from the crowd and eradicate them from being stereotyped as ‘weird’. What made you want to take this approach and how does it relate to your own personal story?
Well growing up, I was always very sociable and had a lot of friends, but I always felt like I wanted to do something different. I played every sport and lived like a normal kid, but it wasn’t where my heart belonged. And this feeling is still inside me as a 20 year old in college. I don’t really care about going out to parties, or getting drunk on the weekends. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, but for me I just felt like I would much rather spend my time being creative and innovative. I still have a very large group of friends, an amazing girlfriend, and I definitely go out from time to time. But I felt like the odd one out because no one else wanted to hop in the studio and be creative on a Friday night. And what always irked me was that the social construct trains us to look at the small amount of individuals who actually do worthwhile things as outcasts, or “not as cool” because they don’t conform to what the norm is considered. I want to eradicate that because it’s bullshit.
You are the co-creator of #FACTInstaBeats hashtag which has an Instagram phenomenon for beat makers to get exposure. How did the idea come about and how did you get it off the ground with FACT Magazine?
So after about 2 months of posting my videos, I received a DM from Fact Magazine from a guy named Max Schiano. He essentially told me he had an idea to create a hashtag for Instagram beat makers where we could all share and feature each other. Together we came up with the #FACTInstaBeats hashtag and we both began working to promote the tag. Fast forward almost a year and now it has over 10,000 uses. The greatest part about the hashtag is featuring other artists. I will go through the hashtag, pick my favorite video of that week, and write a little bio and send it over to Fact. When they post it, the videos usually get over 20,000 views and to see how happy it makes the person who I’ve posted brings me so much joy. I love helping out other people who deserve the recognition.
You stated in an Instagram interview that you used the format you learnt for drums and transferred it to the pad controller. Was this an easy transition? How long did it take to adjust and to begin churning out the beats you wanted?
It was actually a really easy transition. I was always the kid who obsessively tapped on his desk during class and was constantly smacking items around to make different sounds. Even when I would walk, I would be snapping my fingers to the beat of my footsteps. Everything for me is rhythmic. So as soon as I got my Maschine, it was pretty much a go. What has been a struggle for me, though, is learning how to split my fingers up. I often play with my fingers together to emulate drum sticks, but I’m now training myself to split my fingers to utilize more pads at once.
Talk about the importance of the track ‘All Good’ by J Dilla and how it has influenced your musical development? Is this your favorite Dilla joint of all time? Man, this beat honestly means the world to me. It’s impossible for me to say it’s my favorite Dilla beat of all time, but it’s certainly in the top 5. It was so impactful because at the time when I first heard it, I had never listened to music like that before. I distinctively remember hearing it…my mom and I were driving to a gig I had in Delaware (I was still too young to drive) and I had randomly purchased the “Yancey Boys – Instrumental” album before the drive. I plugged my iPod in to the aux chord and played through the album, amazed the entire time, but really was blown away by “All Good”. Even my mom was like, “Woah, what is this, it’s beautiful”. The way Dilla samples the horns and then fits the beat behind it, ah it’s so simple yet so powerful. That’s what inspires me the most about Dilla; using so little to make so much. And when your mom is vibing to a hip-hop beat, you know it must be really special.
You have described live instrumentation as being ‘A natural feeling and connection between the mind, the soul, an instrument. Some of that gets lost behind the quantization of computers’ Are you able to explain this quote in more depth? How has live instrumentation/finger drumming helped with your music production skills and beat making?
Being a drummer, I was born in to the world of live music before I knew anything about electronic music. So my understanding of music is rooted in natural grooves. I feel like now a days, a lot of music that is popular sounds like it was gestated from a computer and has no real soul, no feeling of a few people in a room making sounds that are not exactly on beat, but in beat on their own. Again, everything has it’s own place and can flourish, but I just like to produce music that is one take, so as to capture that raw groove.
Tell us about your track Amore and what Melodics users can expect to learn by going through your lessons?
Amore is a love song that was inspired by my girlfriend, Addie Jonas. So users can expect to be learning a song that has a lot of emotion and a lot of passion infused into it. Speaking from a technical side, the users will explore how strings can be utilized in hiphop beats, and can also analyze how I orchestrate my drum patterns. From the kick drum, to the snare and hi-hat, each section will be split up and broken down so that the users can see where things such as open hi-hat’s should occur, or how the snare should be placed in reference with the metronome.
What was it about Melodics that inspired you to want to get involved? How do you think Melodics helps beat makers?
The thing I love most about Melodics is the fact that it teaches. As a producer who is self taught, I always found myself watching videos of Dilla, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, just to study what they were doing on their MPC’s and then I would go and adapt my own rendition of it. But with Melodics, the capability to see exactly just what the beat maker is doing is light years better and is set up in a way that is informative and educational. There aren’t an abundance of sources that educate beat makers, so Melodics is definitely doing something special. And to be one of those artists that gets to contribute is an honor.
You were featured on Instagram’s main account which you said was one of the coolest things to happen in your young career thus far. Are you able to explain this story and the impact that it has had so far ?
Yeah, so a worker at Instagram, Alex Suskind, runs the Music channel for Instagram. He sent me an email and basically told me that he loved my videos and wanted to feature me on @Music’s page. So that in itself was a huge honor and I was so excited, but about 3 months later, I received another email saying that the editor of the main account for Instagram wanted to feature me as well on the main channel. And when I got that email I was smiling from ear to ear. I’m very, very thankful to Instagram and everything they have done for me. They’ve given me a huge audience (the video they posted received over 4 million views) and have been nothing but extremely helpful and nice throughout the whole process. I’m hoping to stop by their headquarters when I’m in California this summer!
The release of your Within EP has been a success. What did you learn from the project and what do you want to do even better for your next body of work?
WITHIN EP was a learning experience for me. To be honest, it was much more successful than I had anticipated it to be. I was really hoping to get at least 20,000 downloads by a few months, but I ended up getting 50,000 in the first day and 500,000 in the first week. It really blew my mind. It was a great first release because it was very introspective and kind of carved a path for my career to build upon. Now that my audience understands who I am more clearly, I think that future releases will make more sense. That being said, I want to capture a different vibe for my next project; my debut album. I want the focus to be more on music that is appealable to all genres. I don’t necessarily mean pop, but I want to create songs that make you bob your head rather than make you think. That being said, I’m happy that the EP was the way it was, and I’m really excited to share a more brighter side of myself on the next project!
OddKidOut’s brand new lesson ‘Amore’ is now available on Melodics. As a special offer users can access these lessons through using the promo code ‘OKO-MELODICS’. If you have not downloaded already feel free to do so with this link. Finally check out the trailer video below to get a feel for these lessons.
Mark de Clive-Lowe has been involved in music from the age of four. Since then he has gone on to live in some of the world’s biggest musical capitals. Whether it be London’s West End , New York or his current home in Los Angeles, Mark has used each pit stop to refine and at times revisit his craft. This week the New Zealand artist was able to answer a few questions about some of his career highlights so far and his creative approach.
You grew up in good old Auckland NZ and started played piano at 4 years old. In your teen years you became influenced by hip hop and started trying to make your own beats. However you would go on to sell all your looping equipment as you did not see the point of making ‘loops’. How did this affect your musical development and what happened next?
You’ve done your research! I was making beats when I was 14 and didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember waking up one day and thinking that making all these loops wasn’t really fulfilling me. That was my cue to get back to just the piano and Miles and Trane records. Ten years later and the opposite happened – I totally shelved my jazz and piano side and went full force into the beats, remixing and production world. Much for the same reason. Now it’s all come together as one story.
Music has taken you around the world and you have been able to experience many different scenes. Are you able to describe in one sentence how each of these locations has shaped your musical journey?
Auckland – Was where I grew up for the most part. My first experiences playing with other musicians and exploring my own taste. Of particular influence from there were Nathan Haines, Manuel Bundy and back during my round one of early-teen years beat making there was the whole Voodoo Rhyme Syndicate that I was part of along with a lot of great Auckland-based hip hop and R&B/dance artists. We were all influenced by different aspects of US and UK music culture and it was pretty special to be able to incubate those influences so far from those epicenters – it allowed me to be free of any creative expectation but still be inspired by it.
Tokyo – I have a lot of family in Japan, but most pivotally, I spent my last year of high school there. My Buddhist priest homestay host father was a jazz head through and through and we’d go out most nights to check out some incredible live music – often touring international artists, sometimes local artists – which was hugely inspirational to me. I got to see the working musician lifestyle first hand and fell in love with it. I went back to NZ after that year and fairly promptly dropped out of law school in favor of the minstrel life!
West London – In the mid to late 90s I drew a lot of inspiration from the UK’s jungle movement especially. 4Hero’s “Loveless” was a seminal piece of music for me – I’d never heard anything quite like it – and I was regularly consuming the latest jungle and drum’n’bass 12s that would land at the local record store in Auckland. By the time I got to London in 1998 that movement was at its peak and what became the West London broken beat was forming. That whole community blew my mind. They were taking the entire history of everything I loved – soul, jazz, funk, house, jungle, breaks, afro carribean and afrobeat, and creating a new form from all those influences. I quickly became a core member of the movement collaborating with artists who I consider to be some of the most creative anywhere – IG Culture, Restless Soul, Dego, Bugz in the Attic – it was an amazing time. I evolved as a musician and producer there, and really developed my live show concepts touring Europe almost every week.
Los Angeles – I’d visited LA a few times touring before relocating there and was hearing a lot of great music coming from there too – early Sa-Ra demos, J*Davey, Blu and the whole Sound in Color camp – it was like a version of the West London scene but half a world away. When the opportunity came to move there it felt like the right thing to do. A decade in London was plenty for me and it was the right time to start a whole new chapter. LA has been most pivotal for me in that it reconnected me with my jazz roots. I hadn’t played the acoustic piano or a jazz gig in over a decade having been so deeply in the beat scene in the UK. In LA I was able to find my love for the piano again and bring everything together, full circle so to speak. Now the music is riding this line right in between jazz and beats, live musicians and sampling/live programming – really fusing the worlds that I grew up on.
In 2003 you said you had a ‘Jazz Epiphany with a drum machine in Budapest’. Describe this story and what you learned from this epiphany?
Up until that moment I would always pre-program my beats for live shows. The MPC3000 was the heart of my rig and I’d change patterns or say, mute the kick, live, but for the most part it was pre-programmed and I’d be playing keys live over the top. This one time in Hungary, we performed the whole set – including the encore – in the main set. I’d planned on there not being an encore. When the time came though, the crowd insisted on more, the promoter insisted on more, and I felt like I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. I remember walking back on stage and looking at the MPC thinking, “dammit. I guess I’m going to have to program a beat live right now!”. I was nervous for sure. Something I’d never done before and had no idea how it would turn out. I hit record on the MPC and started banging out beats. It was a complete epiphany. The whole spirit of improvisation and spontaneity that I had grown up with in a jazz context now became apparent to me in a whole different setting. From that day on, every gig was programmed on the fly from scratch. Often with no preconceived notions. It was never like performing a routine – it was about using the drum machine as a creative instrument and improvising grooves and ideas that could be sequenced on the fly live on stage.
In a previous interview you described a funny story about your first visit to South Africa, and how you ended up playing a live set on National TV during prime time. Are you able to give a bit of background into this story?
I do remember my very first show in SA – I’d just stepped off the plane and was so hype to be there. For years I’d heard how soulful house was on a whole other level in SA and how the audiences went nuts for it all the time. I was doing a full live production live remixing set and tore into it, tempo wise at a similar bpm to how I was playing peak time sets in Europe around this time – starting around 122 bpm and building up to 130 or so. The frustrating thing was that I could tell that the set just wasn’t connecting with the audience and I couldn’t understand why. The support DJ after me got on when I was done and dropped a jam at about 110 bpm and suddenly the whole room was in the pocket. That was a huge epiphany. In SA, they like their jams slower! My next set I started at 100 bpm and peaked at 122 and had the whole club entranced the whole way. It was great too, because even though the context was house music, when you slow it down, the music has so much more room to breathe. As soon as you get into the mid 120s, it’s mostly the kick and off beat hats that are driving everything. It was great to get away from that and remind myself of the beauty of being outside the box.
I was asked to do a live remix set on national TV on that first SA tour – that was kind of mind blowing. A 2 hr set, live on TV, with no ads, on a Friday night! SA just has a whole other culture when it comes to soulful music. I really can’t wait to get back there again.
How did you get involved with Melodics? What about Melodics do you think benefits its users from a production and live performance standpoint?
Sam hit me up really early in the conceptualising process knowing my interests in both pads as a musical interface and music education in general. I’m big on empowering creative and sharing process. There’s no need to hide any special tricks from the next enthusiast because we’re all going to use the same equipment or interfaces in a different way. Melodics can give the committed student more confidence when it comes to rhythm and the language and conversation that the different parts of a drum kit or beat have with each other. Especially for producers who step sequence or draw in drum programming it helps them work infinitely faster and have a more direct connection between the idea in their brain and the reality coming out of the speakers.
You are releasing your second lesson called ‘The Ummm’ on Melodics this week what can users expect from this lesson?
The idea of ‘The Ummm’ was to take a classic Native Tongues style hip hop vibe but push it up to a dancefloor tempo, bridging those different worlds. I wanted to make sure there was both a rhythmic and harmonic vibe to it so it’s a combination of beat and Rhodes sample. I wanted to use as few elements as possible to create something that sounds pretty complete already. Often simplicity is where the beauty of a vibe is!
Describe your workflow and creative process when it comes to production? What equipment do you use?
I like to start from different places – sometimes I’ll be sitting at the piano composing in a more traditional way; other times I’ll start on the drum machine banging out a rhythm idea; or playing around with harmonies on the Rhodes; sometimes I’ll be chopping up a sample and finding the inspiration there. For the most part though, it is important to me to have fundamental rhythmic, melodic and harmonic elements in any one track so that it has identifiable signature elements – to the point that you could play the same signature elements on a piano or a guitar and the track would be recognisable without any of the production or electronic elements.
Some of my favorite workhorses at the moment are: NI Maschine, Ableton, Logic, NI Komplete, Arturia collection, Fender Rhodes, Roland Juno 6, Korg KP3+… I love analog synths too – can’t wait to get my hands on a new Dave Smith Prophet keyboard.
What advice would you give to someone who has just seen one of your performances or songs and decides they want to be a DJ and producer just like you?
Practice. That’s the only way to be able to execute anything live. So yeah, diligence goes a long, long way. Also to be open to a diverse range of music. If you primarily make house music and you want to find your own sound, then the last thing you should be listening to is house music. The more diverse a range of musical stimuli you have, the wider range of influences and inspirations are there to be drawn from. I’m also a big proponent of understanding music theory – music is sonic mathematics, and the more you understand the rules and formulas that make up the language, the more empowered you are when you create.
“Hip Hops the love of his life yeah that’s apparent / Jazz gave the piano life it’s so exquisite” – Describe how these bars from John Robinson on your song ‘The Mission’ describes your career so far and your album/club nights ‘CHURCH’?
JR really nailed it with his verses telling the story of my musical journey thus far – he’s an amazing MC like that. Hip hop has been at the core for a long time – I’ve always resonated with it and especially in my formative early teen years in NZ, it was everything. I love the whole concept of 90s hip hop production too – sampling the history and flipping it into a whole new context. The mash up before that even became a term. I had a funny relationship with the piano growing up – my dad forced me to take lessons from a very young age so I felt like I never chose the instrument myself. It wasn’t really until I connected with jazz music that the piano started to become my own instrument and not just the one I was told to play.
CHURCH is all about sharing my whole journey with the audience – from the jazz club to the banging dancefloor, blurring the lines between live musicians and electronics, improvised moments and live sampling and remixing – one minute we could be in a jazz groove, the next in a deep Detroit techno-meets-afrobeat vibe. That freedom.
Make sure to try out Mark de Clive Lowe’s new lesson ‘The Ummm’ this week and also follow his work on his website and social channels ->
The legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff shares an inspiring Hip Hop instrumental called “Don‘t Forget” as his debut Melodics lesson. This instrumental was also used as the fourth track on Dayne Jordan’s debut album ‘Memoirs of Dayne Jordan.’
Like what you hear? Learn to play this beat made with one of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s drum kits from his personal collection today! Also check the trailer video we have put together for this lesson featuring some wise words from the man himself.
There is more insight to come as we have an in depth interview from Jazzy Jeff, hopefully arriving next week. So keep an eye out for that.
Our finger drumming video of the week comes from the super talented BeatsByJBlack who flipped our Tall Black Guy lesson in Melodics. This kid is an up and comer so make sure to check out his Instagram page.
Finally the team are loving watching all your performance vids on social so keep them coming. Just post your video with the hashtag #melodics and we will find and regram / share them on our social channels
Spinscott has just released his second set of lessons for Melodics users to enjoy. It has been an awesome 2016 so far for the American ‘Junglist’ with his incredible finger drumming performances at NAMM earning a lot of social media coverage. Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions about his musical journey and share what he has learned so far.
You uploaded your first finger drumming video to Youtube just under 4 years ago, and got an amazing response. What prompted you to upload this video and were you surprised by the reaction?
I originally got my first drum machine for a Hip Hop production project in July 2012, but the first thing I decided to do was to try cutting up and playing classic breaks. (Junglist mentality). I had no idea that MPCs were used for live drumming, and coming from traditional DJ formats had never heard of “finger drumming”. I briefly searched youtube for live jungle, and couldn’t find anyone doing it with all one shot drums, so I decided to cut the breaks into single drums (one-shots) and film a quick video. I didn’t think it was a big deal, and was definitely surprised by the reaction. People requested more, so on it went.
In a previous interview you said “I tend to consider myself more of a music fanatic & performer than anything else really”. Are you able to explain this a bit more?
Sure! In my opinion, terms like “DJ”, “Producer”, and “Remixer” have become largely ambiguous, and at the same time kind of limiting. Some DJ’s mix realtime, others use auto sync, some say “Live PA” and are triggering sequences and loops, others actually play Live real-time sounds, and it goes on and on. From the production perspective, that can mean something as complex as composing an entire track from scratch using all original and custom sounds, to something as simple as combining a couple of sample pack loops together and releasing a track. Regardless, I think it’s cool that there are so many ways that people can experience, create, and share music! For me personally, I think Music Fanatic & Performer best describe who I am, what I do, and how I do it. (although, I certainly consider myself a DJ, Producer, Remixer, Coffee Drinker, happy dog owner, etc.)
What was the first Jungle track you ever heard? What was it about Jungle that captivated you?
The first Jungle I heard was actually on a mixtape my sister brought home from a rave in 1995. It was by a DJ called Mastervibe. Having been a drummer since the age of about 5, I was instantly pulled in by the complexity of the drums, and the way that the melody, pads, atmospheres, etc played smoothly with the beats. Jungle just seemed to have so many different sounds and influences, and SO MANY rhythms that were not limited to what one could play on a kit. The track “I Can’t Stop” by Lemon D, pretty much sums up what I love about mid-90’s Jungle.
You’ve also previously mentioned that you used to drum along to drum heavy tracks in your car and not leave the car until you got every note right. Delve into this story and how it relates to the amount of time that you practice.
Ha! Been “dashboard drummer” since I got my license… probably to the amusement of people who’d pull up next to me on the road. I’ve always played and learned music by ear, even back in the marching percussion and jazz band days in school… so when I got those first Jungle tapes, it immediately became a task to master every note. If you listen to mid-90s style Jungle tracks with Think, Amen, Apache, and other breaks a billion times and drum along, eventually they become burned into muscle memory. It also wears away the steering column and dash… After a while, you can completely freestyle with all of the intricacies of the breakbeats. Each one has its own characteristics, and that all settles in with time. I have never really spent dedicated time practicing, because I am always drumming on something and challenging myself with the beats. Lately my new fun self-challenge has been turning the drum machine around 180 degrees and trying to play my programs upside down.
What advice would you give to a person who has just downloaded Melodics and is wanting to get as good as you?
First point of advice would be to HAVE FUN! People succeed when they enjoy working towards success. What I love about Melodics is that it starts off very basic, and steadily increases in difficulty. I encourage people to focus on the style they like and are comfortable with, but also try the other lessons in styles they are unfamiliar with. Diving into new sounds is how new music and skill is born. If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.
I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born.
How did you find out about Melodics? What about the software intrigued you enough to make lessons?
I got an email from the CEO of Melodics, inquiring about my Jungle videos and a new lesson program, and I wanted to get involved immediately. When you have lots of content out there, people tend to ask how to learn and get started, and until Melodics I really didn’t have a way to show people how to begin finger drumming. The ability to share music and teach through Melodics lessons is something I am very excited about, especially because people can now try playing true 100% Loop-Free & Sequence Free beats.
How have you seen finger drumming evolve since you have been involved with music and where do you see it heading?
It seems to be becoming a lot more common to see DJs hitting pads during sets, which I think is cool. The convergence of traditional mixing and live performance is a primary driver in the electronic music realm, which can be seen as all of the major gear makers are adding pads to their new equipment. Also, the live elements bridge the gap between electronic music performers and other musicians. I predict that it will continue to grow, as there are so many different ways to integrate pads and finger drumming into projects. Just like scratching and creative mixing, it is another tool that can help differentiate a DJ’s performance.
If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.
Your live performances have a bit of everything, with live finger drumming, mixing, a bit of scratching, and real-time remixing being key components. What made you want to incorporate all these skills as opposed to being a traditional ‘DJ’?
Back in the late 1990s when I was spinning Jungle on vinyl, I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born. As I built full routines, I incorporated those into the show. Ultimately, being able to drum, spin tunes, and multitask in the booth makes things very fun, and every set is different and quite unpredictable. Sometimes I bring my bongos to gigs too and play on those with the music.
You are a skilled drummer. How has this helped with your finger drumming performances and what are the key differences between the two?
Thanks! Coming from a drumming background definitely is a great advantage to bring to the table, but I don’t think it is necessarily required to become proficient with finger drumming. Actually, I think hand drums (Bongos, Congas, etc) are more closely related to finger drumming than kit drumming is, however the standard drum rudiments apply across the board. Any experience with drums helps build chops, so where it really comes into play is from a stamina and endurance perspective, and obviously the rhythm is helpful!
You absolutely killed it at NAMM this year getting a lot of social coverage from the likes of DJ Tech Tools and Pioneer DJ. Tell us about your NAMM experience and how it has impacted the rest of your 2016.
NAMM was an amazing experience, and something I have wanted to attend for quite some time. When Melodics asked if I would do demos at their station in the Pioneer DJ booth, I decided to book the trip. I spent a lot of time working the booth and showing folks Melodics, and was asked to do finger drumming demonstrations on the Pioneer DJ stage and the AKAI booth. That was awesome, and it was definitely a highlight some of the DJ Tech Tools guys. NAMM was a great demand creation opportunity, and has led to several opportunities with manufacturers and for booking opportunities for 2016.
What has been your musical highlight so far since getting into the DJ game?
There have been so many great highlights with music, it would be hard to pick just one or two. Overall, the highlight in all of this for me has been the opportunity to share music with people, and meet other music fanatics through traveling to shows, releasing tracks, and pushing limits on my video routines. In 2015 I was able to tour through 15 cities/states in the US, and it has been great to see the audience on my channels expand at such a nice pace.
Name one place you have always wanted to visit and why?
Well, I have been to the UK twice, but not for performances. That would have to be the place I’d most like to bring Jungle Plus Drums sets to this year, as it is the birthplace of so many of the styles of music I love. As for visiting, I have always wanted to see the Phi Phi Islands.
In preparation for this interview I have watched a lot of your videos. In almost all your performance videos I have noticed there has been a gold beetle and a coffee cup or thermos in shot. What do they mean?
Ah, you saved the most popular question for almost last! There are many strategic and subliminal reasons why I use those objects in the videos… watermarks for authenticity and brand imaging are two of the primary ones. You may also notice that many videos have electric clocks in the background. That is to show that the video was recorded in realtime with no speed alterations. As for the Beetle, that one’s gotta remain a secret.
We have a laid-back jazz infused hip hop lesson called ‘Vib’ now available on Melodics. The samples for Vib come from the Smokers Unite sample pack on the Loopmasters website and can be downloaded for your own productions.
To mark this release the team has decided to do something a little different and have made a list of some of our favourite laid-back hip hop tracks.
1) MF Doom – Saffron Original Sample:Sade – Kiss Of Life
Starting off the list is the one and only MF Doom. The masked emcee has rapped over many amazing productions in his career. The track ‘Saffron’ contains a Sade sample and some Special Herbs for Metal Fingers himself.
2) Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y) Original Sample:Tom Scott – Today (Featuring The California Dreamers)
The legendary combination of Pete Rock and CL Smooth released two albums and an EP in the heart of Hip Hop’s golden era. The sampled horn for ‘T.R.OY’ is arguably its most iconic element.
3) Souls Of Mischief – 93 til Infinity Original Sample:Billy Cobham – Heather
‘Yeah, this is how we chill from 93 ’til’.. The lyrics to the hook say it all. The original sample is sped up significantly, most likely on a SP-1200. This was common on jazz samples at the time because the SP-1200 did not have much sample time.
4) Nas – Still Dreaming (Featuring Kanye West & Chrisette Michele) Original Sample:Diana Ross – The Interim
One of my favourite tracks from Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead album. The verse and hook from Kanye West sit beautifully with Chrisette Michele’s vocals. Oh and how can we forget that Diana Ross sample capping off a truly beautiful track.
6) The Herbaliser – A Mother For Your Mind Original Sample:Roy Budd – The Car Chase
A hip hop duo out of South London. They are renown for there jazz influenced productions. Other notable career accomplishments include making the soundtrack for the movie ‘Snatch’.
7) Nightmares on Wax – Les Nuits Original Sample Of The Bass Line:Quincy Jones – Summer In The City
Sampling one of the most heavily sampled tracks of all time Leeds producer Nightmares On Wax put together this song back in 1999. As the video suggests this song is perfect for going on long scooter rides and singing in a laundromat.
Flying Lotus is no stranger to the experimental. His adventurous productions have made him a household name amongst beat makers around the world. Tea Leaf Dancers utilises a Free Design sample and has sultry vocals from British songtress Andreya Triana.
10) Apollo Brown – Blue Ruby Original Sample: Unknown
Our final beat is a pure instrumental from Detroit based Apollo Brown. Apollo was fired from his office job in 2009 and gave himself one year to make it as a producer. Three months later after the release of his first LP ‘Clouds’ he was signed to Mello Music Group.
So what do you think of our list? Is there something that we missed? If so let us know in the comments.
Next week we have some more lessons from our growing team of Melodics Artists. You will have to wait and see who it is. But I can promise that it will be ‘Massive’!