We checked in with producer Mark de Clive-Lowe to get the info on his new course.
How would you describe your new course Bassline Bootcamp?
I’ve made a range of bassline examples over different style and tempo beats. They all look at applying different ideas to take you from a simple single note vibe to bringing in fills and embellishments that you can apply in your own creations. Basslines are little melodies themselves so it’s a great way to learn multiple skills at the same time.
How would you recommend Melodics users approach your course to get the most out of it?
Some of the lessons have challenging aspects so I’d definitely recommend using the practice mode to loop up those bars or sections that are harder and slowing them down. Slowing down whatever you’re practicing is the magic trick to mastering something – it might not seem as fun, but it’s definitely the tried and true method.
What will Melodics users be able to do after finishing this course? How will it help in regards to their overall music production?
If you go deep and really nail it as well as taking note of the associated information – like what key something is in and what technique it’s applying – you should be able to build basslines around any chord progression, create fills and make alternate versions of your main idea.
Are there any other comments or things you want users to know about this course and the new Melodics lessons?
Practice makes perfect!
To try Mark’s course in the Melodics App simply download and head to courses in the LEARNING tab.
Music and rhythm have taken Eshan Khadaroo a.k.a Push4Life on an amazing journey over the past few decades. Transfixed by drums and self-expression at a young age, Eshan has made a career out of his passion. This has seen him tour the world as a professional drummer and more recently become an educator for the next generation. In this week’s interview we explore how he has made this progression as well as discuss his brand new course on Melodics “The Road To Rhythmic Mastery”.
Please explain how a Bruce Lee video inspired you to become a drummer?
Before I ever started drumming Bruce Lee was my biggest inspiration. Towards the end of this scene below, Bruce uses two fairly large sticks to defend himself. When I was 11 and my mother asked me what instrument I would like to learn, I said drums, not so much because I wanted to learn the instrument but rather because I thought I would be able to do what Bruce Lee did. It was only in my late 20’s that I saw his infamous interview where he talks about expressing oneself authentically as a human being that I realised that it was this message that resonated so deeply within me and I then went on to study his ideas and how they related to expression through drums and ultimately through music.
You said in a previous interview you moved to London at 18 years of age to kickstart your music career. When did you make the decision to pursue music professionally? How long was it until you got established?
I decided I wanted to be a professional musician around 8 years of age whilst still learning the piano. Chopin was my musical hero and I planned on being a classical pianist. But I moved to Germany when I was 10 so I had to stop piano lessons. By the time I could speak the language well enough to start back up with music lessons, the drums seemed way cooler for the above-mentioned reasons. Once I moved to London at age 18 it took me about 4 years to establish myself professionally and get booked for studio sessions and live tours.
Your career has had many highlights which include drumming for Cirque Du Soleil. Tell us about this experience. How did it come about? Do you have any crazy stories from touring?
From 2006 to 2008 I performed with Blue Man Group. As my time with them was coming to an end I just decided to surf around online to see if there were any interesting opportunities out there and stumbled upon Cirque Du Soleils casting website. I decided to send them an email regarding a position that was opening up for their show Kooza in 2009. They got back to me within days and had me do an online audition where I had to record videos of myself performing to a number of their songs from different shows. Within a few months of this process I was signed up to do their North American leg of the tour. The most exciting part of this tour was spending 10 weeks performing on the beach in our big top next to the Santa Monica Pier. At almost every show there were celebrities checking out the performance including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Neil Patrick Harris to name a few. My favourite moment though was getting to hang out with one of my biggest drumming idols, Tools drummer Danny Carey.
You had a setback with your health that prevented you from continuing as a touring musician. Are you able to explain how this experience lead you to wanting to become an educator for the next generation?
I had already decided before going on the road with Cirque Du Soleil that this was to be my last major tour and that after that I was going to focus on education. I was very lucky throughout my career to to have had some great mentors in Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick and Guy Sigsworth – both major producers and unbelievable musicians. And they had always been so generous to me in helping not only in my career but also in deepening my understanding of music. It was my wish to “pay it forward” and do my part in helping the next generation fall in love with music. When I got seriously ill towards the end of the Cirque Du Soleil tour I felt all the more compelled to act on this desire to share what I had learned sooner rather than later – a brush with the grim reaper tends to have that kind of effect on you!
You had a Youtube video that went viral which is titled ‘Top 5 things every Push 2 user should know’. What inspired this video? Were you surprised by how well it was received?
I had only had my Push 2 for a few months when a good friend of mine in England also bought one. She was having a lot of difficulty understanding how to use it. As I live in Germany and couldn’t just pop over to her house I decided to record a video with her in mind to show her how simple it really was. I decided to make it for the general public too and so uploaded it to youtube and just sent her a link. To be honest I still can’t believe how many people have not only seen it and benefited from it but also the positive feedback has been nothing short of overwhelming.
Did this successful video get the wheels in motion for your Push4Life project? What were your next moves after you released there was interest?
At the time that I released this particular video I was focused on putting together drum related content. But the immediate popularity of this PUSH 2 video really inspired me to drop everything else and focus on creating more PUSH videos for my growing audience. The next big video that I put out that I am still very proud of is “10 Practical Ideas to Take Your PUSH Skills to the Next Level” which really is all about how I see making music and how thankful we should be for technology like the Ableton PUSH 2. And at the beginning you can also see how things come full circle again when I talk about expressing yourself as inspired by Bruce Lee. Shortly after that I also started releasing PREMIUM Ableton Push 2 content for people who want to dive deeper into the PUSH experience. The feedback has been awesome so far!
How would you describe your new course ‘The Road To Rhythmic Mastery’?
This course was conceived specifically for people who want to go from playing beats with one finger at a time to playing more complex patterns where you use both hands independently. The exercises were inspired by one of the great drumming educators – Gary Chaffee – but with my own twist to them. Most modern music is based on what is know as the 16th note grid and when you make modern day beats most of the time you are working within this grid. Believe it or not though, there are only 15 patterns you need to master in order to play anything within this 16th note grid. These 15 patterns form what I like to think of as a rhythmic alphabet and I take you through each of these patterns one by one in lessons 1 through 15.
How would you recommend Melodics users approach this course to get the most out of it?
To really benefit from this course, you need to work through all of the lessons – specifically lessons 1 through 15. Ultimately you want to be able to get at least 3 stars on all lessons (100% would be even better). The best way to do this is to slow the exercise down in PRACTICE MODE until you can play it as precisely as possible. Precision is key and that is really where Melodics excels at helping you in my opinion. Once you can play a given exercise precisely at a slow speed, then you can start upping the speed 5 bpm at a time using auto bpm until you hit the target speed of the exercise. Every 16th note pattern is equally important to master. Just like when you learn to count to 10, each number is equally important to understand and if you miss one out there will be a significant hole in your understanding. It is the same with each of these 16th note patterns. You will only ever be as strong as your weakest link and if you want to be really great, you will need to master all 15. The most important exercise of the whole course though is exercise 16 where you have to play each exercise for a bar consecutively. Once you have mastered this exercise you can rest assured that you have a very solid foundation to work with.
Talk about the background of making this course? How much time has gone into it? What was your process to creating it?
I made a similar course for my drum students back in 2012 when I set up my teaching studios here in Germany. I started working on the Melodics version of this course in January 2017 after meeting the Melodics team on my trip to New Zealand. The bulk of the work was done in the last 3 months where I had been working on both production and post-production. It’s been a lot of work and a challenge to do all of the jobs including video editing and sound engineering but at the end of the day it was a lot of fun because I am doing something I love and to know that it will be online for a global audience is a real privilege.
What will Melodics users be able to do after finishing this course? How will it help in regards to their finger drumming and overall music production?
If Melodics users put in the time and effort to not only get through the levels but to master them (3 stars to 100%) they will have a solid foundation for playing the bulk of beats in modern styles of popular music, from Hip Hop to Rock, from Pop to R&B. And above all it will give them confidence in themselves to know that they have what it takes to take their finger drumming to the next level. And as far as music production is concerned it will show them the basic building blocks out of which most beats are put together and hopefully inspire them to create beats they weren’t even aware that they could do.
Are there any other comments or things you want users to know about this course and the new Melodics lessons?
As with all things, if you really want to learn something properly it requires discipline, concentration and above all patience. This course is no different. But I guarantee that if Melodics users put in the necessary work, they will greatly benefit from these exercises. And best of all they can then take advantage of the more intermediate and advanced levels Melodics has to offer that may have been to complex beforehand.
Have you played your lessons much in Melodics yet? How have you got on?
I have played them all multiple times and it even took me a while to get 100% on all of the lessons. It just takes a microsecond of your mind drifting and before you know it you have missed a beat enough for it to be too early or too late and then you have to start all over again. But I am a person who loves a good challenge and I didn’t give up until every single lesson was played at 100% as you can see in all of the video tutorials on youtube.
What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you? Any big plans or other projects?
I have been working on various online courses solidly for the past 13 months and definitely need a break. But a break in my world just means working on fun projects. I have recently discovered modular synthesis and Reaktor Blocks so I am going to use my free time to dive into that rabbit hole. The final major project I hope to get off the ground in 2017 though is to start my own podcast and get a handful of episodes out by the end of the year. So watch this space…!
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.
Need new sounds for your production library? Well you are in luck. Our friends over at Sellfy present the Sellfy Music Production Bundle. Including premium sounds from Decap, Evil Needle, Danyal, Brightest Dark Place, Juku and Steklo Acapella this bundle is essential for aspiring producers.
In the bundle you will get:
– 8 Drum kits
– 2 Massive presets packs
– 2 Sample packs
– 7 Vocals
– 1 Stem pack
All these products come with Sellfy Music license, which means everything inside can be used completely for your creations.
Special Offer For Melodics Users
This pack is usually priced at $260 but is currently available at $25 for a the next 24 hours.
After months of requests we are proud to announce that our brand new feature Courses is here.
Courses are curated paths through Melodics lessons – covering genres, techniques, musical concepts, and more! We think that this new addition will give users a new way to structure their learning and build skills faster.
Introduction to Melodics
Get started with Melodics & finger drumming. This course will lead you through a selection of our free content, covering a range of genres & techniques. Start growing your skills, get a feel for what you like… and what you need work on!
Hip Hop Basics
The realness, the foundation. Take a short trip through Hip Hop history covering breaks, boom bap and soulful beats.
Subscriber Only Courses
The Evolution of Hip Hop
From break sampling, golden-era boom bap, and neo-soul, through to future beats, trap, and more – play your way through Hip Hop’s history in this course.
Separating your hands & fingers to play complex arrangement is a huge turning point in getting better at finger drumming – this course walks you through lessons which allow you to build this necessary skill, skipping between genres, BPMs, and exercises.
Off the grid
Put some wonk in it. Part of finger drumming is building up a feeeeeeel for the track – do those hats need to sit back a bit? Would that bassline work better dragging? Play this course and challenge yourself to make it work when it’s not exactly on-grid.
Cue Point drumming for DJs
Flip tracks, create dramatic build ups, and take your DJ set next level. Cue Point drumming is taking off with mixers like the Pioneer S9 and NI Z2 becoming increasingly popular – build the skills you need to master this surprisingly difficult technique.
This is only the beginning with more courses scheduled to arrive in the upcoming weeks. If you have any ideas for a course let us know via the Feedback section in the Melodics app.
In our second ever instalment of Beat Breakthrough we talk with San Francisco based producer Decap. When it comes to making beats Decap goes way back making his start at just 13 years of age. Find out about three beats that have shaped Decap’s progression as a producer.
What is the oldest or one of the older beats that you can find? Tell us the story behind it.
Beat Name: “Believing in D.E.A.T.H.”
I made this beat in the summer of 2000 at age 15 when I started getting serious about making beats. I made the drums in a really old version of Fruity Loops and recorded the sample chops on my Boss SP-202 into Cool Edit 96. I can’t remember the exact sample, but it was off a record I bought at a local flea market.
A beat that represents a turning point in your production career?
Beat Name: Feeling
I made the skeleton of this beat in 2014 in like 10 minutes. I ended up releasing it as a single in 2015 (after spending 3 months tweaking it), alongside a video of me performing it on Push with Ableton. I feel like this track helped solidify my solo music career. A transition from behind the scenes producer, to artist and live performer.
The latest song or beat you are most proud of. And why?
Beat Name: Wake Up!
I just made this beat this year. I feel like the music, sonic quality, and quirkiness represents where I want to take my sound. I’m proud of this track
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.
We were lucky enough to get an interview with the talented Beats By J Black this week to commemorate his first ever release on Melodics. He discusses his rise to fame online and delves into his production story so far.
You started producing six years and saved up to buy a Casio WK-3000. What made you want to get into production in the first place and do your still have that keyboard?
What made me want to get into production was being the kid in high school that made beats with mechanical pencil on the cafeteria table at lunch time. I got a lot of cred for that” and no I do not have that key board anymore.
What gear do you use now for your production? Are you still exclusively MPC?
The gear I use now is a MPC2500 and Maschine and I record into Logic.
You stated that you are inspired/influenced by the likes of ‘Ace Hood’ and ‘Araab Muzik’. Can you delve into how they have inspired you?
Araab Muzik opened the gate for us finger drummers, he actually made beating on a pad a career and Ace Hood ,he has that “go get er” attitude and he’s all about motivation!
You have an uncanny ability to take an existing track and flip it. Whether it be a DJ Jazzy track or a remix of Flume. What is your process when flipping a beat? How do you get so much feel in these songs?
I listen to a lot of older music, I grew up around a older influence so my taste in music is older than my age, not that music has an age limit on it.
The amazing videos of you playing your beats live is a huge contributing factor to your large following on social media. What made you start producing these videos and at what point did you start to blow up?
I’ve been doing these for videos for 2 years and started blowing up in December 2015. What made me start was friends always video taping me when I jam out so I thought id shared with everybody
This week you are releasing your first ever Melodics lesson. What can your fans expect from the lesson? Do you have any tips for them?
Be as loose as you can! And don’t just follow the squares follow the rhythm.
2016 has been a big year for you already getting featured on social for Akai and collaborating with 9FIVE and fellow producer OddKidOut. What does the rest of the year have install for you and where are you wanting it to go?
Canada , Australia , New York, Atlanta , Colorado is were I will be in June through August for shows and workshops helping people learning how to produce. Plenty of collabs in store . I really want to visit Brazil!
If you were stuck on a desert island for a year and can only bring three albums with you. What would they be
This week Melodics is bringing you ‘Sleng Teng’ lessons and a series of Loopmasters lessons entitled Django. While all our lessons have rich histories the story of Sleng Teng is particularly unique.
The Sleng Teng Riddim is iconic for bringing reggae into the digital era. While relatively simplistic this sample was originally a Rock preset on the 1985 Casiotone MT-40 keyboard.
The keyboard was bought by reggae artists Kingy Jammy and Wayne Smith with the rock preset being used as the bassline for their 1986 track ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’. The interesting thing was that Smith didn’t even want to buy the keyboard but did so due to financial reasons.
The person who created the preset is a Japanese engineer but the name of Hiroko Okuda. In subsequent interviews Okuda has stated she based the preset on 1970’s British Rock song however refused to say which one. While there are a few theories as to which song many believe it to be David Bowies 1972 song ‘Hang On To Yourself’.
Another interesting fact about Okuda was that she said she listened to a lot of reggae while at University. Perhaps these influences may have subliminally emerged when creating this preset. This piece of information combined with the fact that King Jammy and Wayne Smith never intended to purchase the MT-40 keyboard in the first place make this story even more incredible. Maybe it was destiny.
Here are some high profile songs that have used the ‘Sleng Teng’ riddim since.
So now that you are schooled up on the history of this weeks lessons it is time to play them for yourself. As always feel free to post any videos of you playing Melodics on social media. We love sharing your content on our channels.