Interview By Brent Dixon
How did you get your start in the game? What influences did you have?
Sam Sneed introduced me the industry professionally. But, I have been producing music and DJing since I was 13, I was always around music and influenced by my parents ,they had a band my dad played guitar, and my mom played bass and sang lead vocals and sometime I played the drums for them. But Marley Marl was probably my biggest influence making me want to produce. And then, years later,Dr. Dre, Pete Rock,Diamond D and Large Professor were other major influences back then.
Who are some of the engineers you worked with and what did you learn from them?
I worked with Richard Segal Huredia, who I nicknamed, while I was producing for Dre at Aftermath and one thing I learned from him as an engineer was always be a problem solver BEFORE a problem arises and always set out to please the producer. He would listen to how I liked things to be Eq’d and he would remember and make sure I was consistent with my sound. Some other engineers I’ve worked with are Chris Purham who I worked with on the recording of Aaliyah’s album; What I learned from him is that with protools anything is possible! Michael Comrader worked with me in Australia I learned from him to solve a problem before it becomes a problem, and I currently work with Patrick Burkholder A.K.A. Pat Sajack. Who I named also, Pat and I are alike in many ways, everything that I do he tries to take it to the next level! And we don’t give up until we get al least 3 different things that are ear candy to us and gives us goose bumps when we play it back. All of these guys have learned me, and know how I like to articulate the impossible; but I learned most of my mixing techniques from Dr. Dre. himself.
I hear the crunchy drums you used in your beats. How big is your record collection and how do you feel about sampling these days?
I just sold my record collection actually, which had over 50,000 records, now I’m down to about roughly 3,000 records in my collection. When I started doing film and television it requires you to play all original music so I now utilize records for reference, inspiration or at times sampling. I believe “if” sampling is done right, it’s an art form that not everyone can do without doing the obvious; looping a record. If you’re going to sample a record, your intention should be to make it better than what the original was if that’s possible, then make it your own, which is then, the art and can be a hefty task!
As far as crunchy drums, I like to make a new set of drums for every beat I make usually. I grab kicks, snares, hats and toms, put them in protools EQ and put effects on them if necessary, and then sample them back into my MPC 3000 and get crackin!
What musicians have you worked with over your career? How do you build a vibe with them? Do you direct them or just have a jam session, so-to-speak?
I’ve worked with countless musicians of all ranges from classically trained to someone who can’t play that good but has a good vibe! As long as the musician has a basic knowledge on playing whatever instrument they play; I can usually get what I need from them because I hear the music in my head and I know what’s going to work or not going to work.
I don’t do jam sessions when trying to hammer out ideas usually. I’ve always been a stickler at making sure I have all my ideas together prior to working with any musician so my time and their time isn’t wasted. But there are times a musician may have a suggestion that improves on what my original idea was. I do believe that if someone is better at a certain instrument, it can only help to articulate your idea even further, it just flows smoother sometimes and it can really take your song to the next level with the right musician.
What was your experience like working with Korn?
I was working out of town when Korn recorded on the record, Cube told me the idea and I thought that it would take the song to the next level! But being a fan of Korn I was bummed out I wasn’t there!
Describe your transition from making Hip Hop-oriented beats to scoring TV and film.
Well my transition into scoring all started with “The Proud Family” cartoon, It was a hard transition at first, I had no idea how much work it was scoring a TV show, let alone what it takes to score a cartoon! The TV game requires you to be a machine who’s mission is to deliver what it needs in a short time frame, and change and redo music at the drop of a hat! I really give thanks to creator of the “The Proud Family,” Bruce Smith, for walking me through the process giving me the in and out’s of what’s needed and being patient with me until I caught on.
What equipment did you use when working with Westside Connection, Ice Cube and Aftermath artists?
Well, “Westside Connection”, was the early days, and believe it or not the only piece of equipment I used on that album was a SP1200. I am a firm believer of doing what you can with what you have, sometimes that forces you to try to get what you want without the proper resource. This gives a whole different feel because people aren’t use to it, and it keeps you using your brain like an inventor to do things like play a baseline or moog line on a drum machine…it’s like an old school band in a box!
Now, Aftermath was a whole different story, Dr Dre had to almost rip my fingers away from my SP1200! Because I refused to do beats on a MPC 60, the quantize just felt too stiff for me, but once I tried the MPC 3000 and incorporated how I worked on the SP1200 to it; that was my new love! As far as equipment, there wasn’t a keyboard or instrument that I didn’t have access to at Aftermath; the sky was the limit!
What kinds of gear are using nowadays? Hardware vs. Software: what’s your take?
I’m using two different setups at my studio, My trusty MPC3000 and Logic synced together when doing beats or producing any kind of record, and strictly logic when I’m dong any scoring work, and my Mac is with all the bells and whistles for sounds.
What projects are you working on and what plans do you have for the future?
I have just finished working on a film called, “The Lawyer, the Thug & the Princess”, and a movie called “Chicago Pulaski Jones with Cedric the Entertainer”, and on the music side, I have an amazing artist named Eddie Gomez that is a mix of Lauryn Hill & John Mayer! He’s truly incredible and we just finished mixing so I am in the process of taking meetings for a deal and we are excited!
What I find Ironic is that you, Sam Sneed and Mel Man are all from Pittsburgh and you guys are the architects to the Post G-Funk sound that Dre introduced with his first Aftermath release that's Dominated since. The big drums, orchestral, the obscure samples hidden in the mix or replayed over. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, Sam was the first to come to LA, He invited me to La to work with him on his album, and when I signed to Aftermath I had Dre send for Mel Man to come to La to be a artist. We all knew each other in Pittsburgh, Mel and I knew each other a little more because we lived in the inner city of Pittsburgh. But we all knew each other through our love of music in Pittsburgh before coming to LA and yes I think that we had a lot to do with to the west coast sound evolution, a mixture of west and east ideas & drum patterns and sample choices and grimy sounds mixed with live instruments old analog synths percussions. You can even hear it heavy in my production of the “Westside Connection” album prior to The Aftermath Album. Living in Pittsburgh, I listened a lot of music, from, “Compton’s Most Wanted”, to “Ultra Magnetic”, to “Eightball & MJG”, so couple that with the love of all music, and a new feel was introduced!
How were you introduced to the west coast and Dr.?
Sam Sneed introduced me to the west coast and Dr. Dre,
What was most memorable working with Dr. Dre?
Dre is a good friend, and mentor period.
Producing “Been There Done That” was one of the most memorable moments of working with Dr. Dre because we mixed that song about 10 times! But with each time I heard how it got better and better! I learned from Dre that it’s never too late to make something better.
And to be honest, there are a lot of memorable moments for me that still lie in the vault at Aftermath because producing was like a musical playground since I had access to musical fantasy from instruments, singers, writers, engineers… I must have produced at least 4 albums worth of material that in my opinion was not just good… but incredible music! I’m hoping one day he’ll release the lost vault of Aftermath so I can hear it again!
As for a memorable time with an artist at Aftermath, I’d have to say it was with Bootsy Collins! He was in town and Dre called him to play on a record I was doing for King T, and when Bootsy got there Dre left the room…I was thinking he was going to stay in the session while we recorded, but he didn’t! I guess it was like throwing a baby into a pool to learn how to swim because I couldn’t even believes I was in the studio with the legendary Bootsy Collins by myself.
What was most memorable working with Cube?
Cube is a first class guy, and he knows what he wants. I think one of my most memorable times with him, was going to his house and recording the “Westside Connection” album. Back then; he had a little studio set up behind his house in a pool house, with a mixing board and a 2-inch machine. I just kept thinking over and over, “I’m the studio with the Ice Cube”! It was a crazy feeling being that it was the first major artist that I had worked with in the beginning of my career!
What were you smoking and what was your motivation when you did "Cross 'Em Out and Put a K"?
I was smoking Newport’s and drinking strawberry quick! Both I’ve now quit but back then, that was my thing. For real, when I did that beat I didn’t have a motivation in mind at first, just to make some heat because I would do about 20 beats a week and turn them in to Cube for his approval… But once we laid the vocals it gave me different ideas, if I was to guess where my head could have been on that day, I think part of my motivation was “Natural Born Killaz”... I liked the energy in that song and I thin Cross Em Out and Put a K has the same energy as that song without ripping the song off.. Both Classic songs, they give me chills to this day in loud speakers! It’s good when your music can give you the chills! Im a junky form music!
One of my favorite all time beat is Ghetto Vet. Please take us on a ride by explaining how that masterpiece came together because The beat alone kills it but Cube is One of the ALL TIME best storytellers in hip hop and the picture he painted was genius. Please explain?
Ghetto Vet is one of my favorite songs also. I wanted to make something that had the feel of (Windmills Of Your Mind) by Noel Harrison but with a hard touch! I liked, “Hoe”, the piano seemed as if you where going round and round so when I started, I just had live piano and drums as an idea and when Cube heard it, he flipped! He laid his vocals, and once he did his thing I was inspired to put live horns and guitars on the record, so with his lyrics then and my music, it felt like a movie score to a gangster tale without picture! It brought me back to the “Death Certificate”, days of Cube for sure!
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