Mar 23

Mark de Clive-Lowe Interview – Discusses Creative Process, Career Highlights And His Influences

by in Interviews, Music, New Lesson Tuesdays, Pro Tips

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 ->

> Soundcloud
> Bandcamp
> Instagram
> Facebook

Other Melodics Interviews
> Thugli
> DJ Day
> Eskei83


Mar 02

An Interview With Spinscott – Gives Advice & Answers A Very Important Question

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

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.

A video posted by DJ TechTools (@djtechtools) on

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.

Like what you have read so far? Catch the latest videos from Spinscott on his Youtube channel and read our other insightful artist interviews here.

Also don’t forget to give his new lessons ‘160 Juke Jam’ and ‘DnB Roller’ a jam on Melodics.

Feb 05

An Interview With DJ Day

by in Interviews, Melodics, Music

This week DJ Day released his first set of lessons on Melodics. In honour of this we asked him a few questions about his career and his new lessons.

In previous interviews you mentioned that a turning point for you was hearing Jazzy Jeff scratch in back in the early 1989. What was it about these performances that inspired you to want to become a DJ?

I think the first song to do it for me was “Rockit” from Herbie Hancock. I was obsessed with that song and played it probably hundreds of times. Years later I would hear the Rock the House album and then He’s the DJ I’m the Rapper, which had an entire side of the album dedicated to Jeff’s DJ skills. There was something kind of otherworldly and sonically unique that was being done with turntables and I knew from then on that I wanted to do it myself.

You have also said that when starting out you wanted two Technic 1200’s for Christmas but ended up getting two boomboxes. Can you describe this story a bit and also delve into what gear you use now for Djing and Production?

Ha, yeah it was a one piece belt drive turntable/radio/tape deck unit. I would play an instrumental or self-made tape loops on cassette on a separate boombox and record me scratching over it with the turntable on a 2nd boombox through the built in mic. You make due with what you’ve got if you’re determined to accomplish something. I would come home every day after school and try to figure out how to scratch holding down the phono and tape buttons like a crossfader to cut the sound on and off. Once I started understanding it, I just never stopped.

What are your thoughts on the increasing prominence of cue point drumming for DJ’s? How do you see cue point drumming evolving further?

I think it’s a great thing. Especially for people who might not be super technical on the scratching side, but still want to incorporate another level of expression while DJing. It’s only gonna make the art form better and more creative over time.

How did you find out about Melodics and what intrigued you about the product?

I found out through meeting with Sam, ironically at Jazzy Jeff’s house last year for the Playlist Retreat. I was hooked once he showed me how it works. I think it’s gonna help a whole new crop of people who are doing live beats and finger drumming.

Tell us a bit about the cue point drumming lessons that you have made for Melodics? What can users expect and how can they incorporate these skills in their own sets?

I wanted to use a break that everyone is probably familiar with (it’s been used on a million songs for over the last 20 years). I think flipping something everyone in the crowd knows is a great way for them to understand what you’re actually doing up there on stage. I wanted to have lessons on there for the beginner and for the more experienced finger drummer. As well as give a variety of genres and styles. Hopefully it can help inspire some new ideas from people.

You’ve collaborated with some amazing artists and producers including Aloe Blacc, Miles Bonny, People Under The Stairs and Exile. How have these collaborations throughout the years helped your skills?

I’ve gained a ton of ideas and insight into making music from all of these artists. I wouldn’t be doing finger drumming at all if it wasn’t for Exile. He put out an album a few years ago called ‘Radio’ and needed a hand on tour and asked if I would assist. I gave finger drumming on the MPC a try and together we came up with an hour long routine and toured the US and Europe. I’m absolutely grateful to work with such creative and intelligent artists.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who has ambitions of becoming a DJ and producer?

It’s such a different animal now with the need to sell yourself being almost more important than your talent itself (which is f*cking wack and should not be your main focus at all). My advice is: 1. Be yourself and take chances. Trust your instinct and your idea of what moves you. 2. Practice. 3. Practice some more. 4. Find a balance of marketing yourself and actually being good. The world doesn’t need any more lame DJ’s who are good at social media but suck on stage.

If you were stranded on a desert island for a year and could only bring three records with you what would they be?

Man, this is always a question that changes every time. Right now at this moment it would be

Lord Echo – Melodies

Lewis Taylor – S/T

Erasmo Carlos – Sonhos & Memórias

You live in Palm Springs but have toured the world extensively for music. What has been your favorite place to perform and why?

Brasil (é muito bom!) and New Zealand (kia ora buds) are definitely at the top of the list. The vibe and the warmth of the people is unlike anywhere else.

To get access to DJ Days new lessons go to our download page.

Let us know how you get on and feel free to send videos of yourself playing Melodics using the hashtag #melodics via Instagram.