I’ll make this intro short – Skotty Skillz aka The Beard of Nails aka TRON the man behind Serious Productions is about to put you on game. Skillz has been doing his thing for so long… creating progressive beats on the regular. He’s one of the hardest working producers in the biz today. If you don’t know, get with the program quickly and if you need a beat, holla atcho boy! Without further ado AF presents to you one of our true skool familia peeps… the long awaited Serious Production interview!!!
Tell us a bit about what it was in the beginning that got you sparked on making beats?
Around 1996/1997 me and the homies used to parlay up in the whole L.A. underground/rave scene. We represented at damn near every stupid party that was thrown. From these events I developed a deep romance with breakbeats and high-quality bacon. You would rarely find me in the trance room. It was all about hip-hop and breaks. Dj Drez would be killin it. R.A.W. would be killing it. Cut Chemist killin it. Shit was all about the broken beat. From seeing these DJ rip crowds to shreds I decided I wanted turntables of my own and some bacon. Hell ya! Got me some 1200’s. Started mixin and a scratchin. Woohoo! This is fun! Became a vinyl addict. Started Djing with a band (Nicademus) and playing lots of gigs. I bought a little Yamaha synth/sequencer to add to their tunes. Then I bought my MPC2000XL. Uh-oh…Started goin to school for production. Worked for Studio 56 for a while. Worked for Def Jam for a while. Kept it moving. Started bustin out on my MPC for a minute. Got really into that. Started making tracks with my boy Tim at my house. Got the production bug even more from those sessions. Worked with Mascaria on a handful of stuff. Produced a few beats for some L.A. heads with him (AWOL, Gel-Rock, 2-Mex, Xololanxinco). Kept studying different techniques and going to shows the whole time. Thats the beginning brotha.
Is it still the same thing that keeps you making them to this day?
Yes. The bacon more so though. I also read a quote from Dr. Dre in the L.A. Times. He said that Quincy Jones was a big inspiration for him. Quincy was 50 by the time he made his arguably greatest and most successful work – “Thriller”. If that gives Dre inspiration at like 43 then at 30 years old it definitely calms my nerves a bit and keeps me pushin forward. I’m gonna make myself some bacon real quick. Be riiiight back.
I remember you telling me that you were on the beat a day program, is that still true?
I tried, but realized that the style that I was trying to master required more than just a few hours of my focus. (still chewing on bacon) There are producers that make like 5 beats a day but at the end of the day it might just be 5 incomplete ideas that go nowhere and an empty plate where there used to be tons of yummy bacon. Don’t get me wrong though, there are super-talented producers out there that can work a million miles per hour with no bacon at all. Not me. I’m all about finishing my shit now. I’m more into complete songs now than just raw beats. I guess it’s a bacon a day program that I’m on. I had to replace one vice with the other you see.
What is your process from beginning to end when making a new beat?
Are you serious bro?!! You want me to give away my production secrets?!! WTF!!? Ok.
1. I get spliffy (sorry Mum)
2. Start going through drum sounds on the computer or maybe listen to some old records to find some drum samples.
3. Get a basic drum beat goin (2-8 bars) Program the kick ,snare, hats. Get a nice swing goin.
4. Add some FX/Dirt to said drum swagger. Compress a lil.
5. Open up a soft synth or jump on the Novation and grab some everlasting BAAASS. Get a couple good bass lines goin. Compress as fits. Possibly sidechain that bitch later.
6. Grab like 20 records and sample away as I listen to said drum and bass banger that I just made.
7. Find that gem of a sample and chop chop hcop hcopchop pocu pifiu away!
8. Figure out chords/keys/etc.
9. Compose a few variations of the sample melody and drum and bass lines.
10. Mix and EQ all the tracks, getting rid of any unwanted freqs. Cut the crap out.
11. Add more FX ( reverb, delay, tape saturation, distortion ) to anything that needs it. Get basic feel of song.
13. bacon break
14 . Find my lead. Usually some funky synth line or something. I like arpeggios too.
15. Add some pad sounds possibly for space/atmosphere. Possibly side chain that biznatch as well.
16. more spliffy (Sorry again mum – she’s really mad by now if my tune isn’t any good – you know, waste of her patience. She’s old and stuff 😦 )
17. Write/Record lyrics or chop up and program vocal sample.
18. EQ/ Mix some more. Get vocals to sit in mix. Hey now!
19. Add some tweaky weird blips and bleeps as needed. Add FX. Put on some headphones so Mum doesn’t wake up. It’s late – shhhh..
20. Arrange the song (Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc. whatever)
21. Assign some FX to midi knobs and record CC automation tweaks in realtime. Turn knobs. Feel cool. Look cool. Ya, we cool now.
22. Spliffy then sleepy – good night. zzzzz
23. midnight bacon attack. munch munch munch..
24. Wake up. Bacon
25. Listen to the song like 50 times on 5 different systems like some kind of damn tweaker. Take mental notes.
26. Make any necessary changes. Add a scratch or something. Fix any frequency conflicts.
27. Play for mum. If she likes it – it’s good. Done deal. She’s a lot cooler than me and most of my friends. Real talk yo.
28. bacon celebration.
29. Fantasize about getting Grammy award and after party with naked chicks wrapped in hot bacon- mostly think about bacon part – it better be the good stuff and not some cheap generic crap that they got at the liquor store or something – all jacked-up looking. Na. I want the top shelf bacon for my party. You know, some thick slices with just a little bit of fat, center cut, all yummy and stuff, slow cooked on low temp. in iron pan for like 2 hours with brown sugar drizzled all over. Aw man. You pull that shit off the stove and just wanna cry tears of joy yo. (sniffle)
List me your 5 favorite albums of all time?
(in no particular order and yes I know these are generic answers…screw you – I chose 7 by the way):
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘til Infinity
Wu Tang Clan – 36 Chambers
Deftones – Adrenaline
Redman – Muddy Waters
Bacon – Me So Yummy
Who should heads be on the look out for in 2009?
There’s this new thing called Bacon-Salt. I think that will be big. Also they now have “Baconnaise”. Keep an eye out for that. As far as music, commercially we’ve all been waiting for Detox. Hope that finally drops. Hope it’s worth the wait. A lot of these long-awaited releases from artists that we used to look up to or still do sometimes end up very disappointing. EPMD came with a new one – “We Mean Business” – we’ll see… Jay Electronica is getting a huge buzz. Lots of heads co-sign for that dude. I guess he’s supposed to kill it this year…hmmm…As far as underground – underground shit is always moving quick. People have the luxury of puttin out tunes as fast as they can make them if your not wrapped up in some BS label. If it’s bacon wrapped though then we good – holler. Even though its been around for a couple years the Dubstep shit is still crackin in L.A.. A lot of producers are tappin into their own little wobble so that’s fun for the moment. I see it slowly getting played out though if it hasn’t already in some peoples minds. The technology also dictates the sounds that we are possibly going to hear in the future. Software like Reaktor, Max/Msp, and Ableton really shaped some of the sounds that we heard in the past years, especially with the whole glitch scene. Artist that I’m lookin out for in 2009? Let’s do this LA stylee first- hmm… well.. Free the Robots just signed with Daddy Kev’s camp over at Alpha Pup Records so I would anticipate some kind of full-length or at least an EP by the end or 09. Flying Lotus will probably continue his eminent wig-blowback and release some more heat on Warp. Nosaj Thing recently signed with Kev as well so we’re likely to hear something special from him – hopefully bacon-laced. Ras G keeps steppin up to the plate with some illy. 6 Blocc will never be stopped. DJ Nobody keeps composing that bad-ass psychadelic shit. His side project Blank Blue is killin it. Always keep an eye out for Daedelus. He consistently brings it. Ninja Academy is set to record early this year. Look for that mid year – should be some next level shit. My girl Brevi just recorded like a zillion tracks so look for her to release soon (hit me up for a remix you sucka-ass – love you). Exile just dropped “Radio”. Thats pretty dope. My boy Children Underground has been in the lab for way, way more than a minute. Hopefully he releases something soon – super-talented dude. This kid Yong is startin to rip it up. Seriously, look for him – he’s the future. He’s only like 15 years old and making everyone else feel like a total douche with his skills. Can’t even drive to the club and the fucker makes better music then most seasoned 25-35 year olds. Hate you by the way Yong – die slow. From the Bay Area, Bassnecter is doin it. He tore The El Rey apart this last December. I’m pretty sure Prefuse 73 from Atlanta is gearin up for a new record. The Widdler from the east coast will also hopefully continue putting out his quality brand of Dubstep. He really blew up in 2008 with his super-clean production. Super-nice guy. I hate him as well. I saw School of Seven Bells the other night and they ripped it. Look for them. I’m pretty sure that at least one of them likes bacon. Look for Matty G also. From overseas, Sukh Knight, Hudson Mohawk, The Bug, Skream, Caspa, all the usual suspects should all be doin it big in 2009 as well. Yup. And me. There. I just put you up on game. Bacon treat now please.?
What’s up with the Low End Theory? Is it still crackin?
Low End Theory is a gift from God. Thanks to Daddy Kev and all the residents. They really bring the goods every week and they have it down to a science. It’s pretty much the weekly party spot for all the up and coming L.A. producers and a handful of cute chicks. I call it “school”. It sounds weird but I learn a lot by just going. The vibe is super-thick and the sound system is bangin. I mean where else can you go see Jel, R.A.W., Daddy Kev, Omid, Nobody, Sam I Am and Flying Lotus battle each other on one stage with unreleased original productions while Mear is bustin out on a canvas right in front of you? For 5 bucks? Come on na… Highly recommended for all non-kooks. Also there’s a chick slangin hot dogs outside that are wrapped in — guess what ?…biznacon yall!
Tell me an OG Poetic Bliss story
OK. Bacon the day (96) we went to a club downtown called The Octopus Garden (shout to DELOM) to spin some records on what turned out being the “wrong night”. It was ranchero night. (quick shout to chorizo – a close cousin of bacon) Ended up having to run for our lives amid a hail of gunfire aimed at us while carrying crates of records, turntables, and a mixer. Jumped into my boy’s truck like Tetris. After we managed to get away “momentarily” we had the pleasure of having to drive right past the nice little gangsters with the guns AGAIN and got blasted on AGAIN. Luckily they had shitty aim. Maybe they were just really happy and celebrating something and not even shooting at us… Like all “Ayee Ayyee Ayyeeeeeee” shooting into the air and shit. That’s all fun stuff too but I dunno – I didn’t feel like going back and asking. I’m just glad we’re all still alive. Gotta love those silly rancheros. They definitely know how to party! Arriba!!
Coming from a very roots and core back ground of Hip-hop, where you were a practitioner of all the elements, what is your honest take on the current state of rap music today?
I don’t really listen to much rap anymore. If I do it’s the classics like all the 90’s shit or some Aceyalone, Murs or El-P – something like that. Rap got watered down to me over time. Fools talk about nothing. There might be one or two decent cuts a year but thats it. Having worked for a major label for a couple years I can definitely tell you that there’s decent shit getting passed on for more supposedly marketable crap material. I remember trying to get them to listen to all the Living Legends shit, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Abstract Rude, all that back in the day, trying to get these fools signed to a major or even just spark a little of these old-ass execs interest for some real shit. But nobody wanted to hear it. They still don’t. It was all about some Jay-Z shit or whatever. And it still seems like it is. God bless him and he IS ill but there’s more to this than just Jay (these exec. dorks are all about the turkey bacon too by the way). So, it takes a real young A&R with his ear to the street and some balls to get any of the quality music to the masses. Shit’s weak. You mention the elements of hip-hop – its probably because the rap of today is missing a lot of the DJing, graphing, breakin, and beat-boxing that surrounded it when it was in it’s purist form that it’s currently sub-par. ( please read that sentence again slowly if need be). Money and the media seem to have separated it from its roots somehow. I mean look at all these stupid music videos – where are the other elements that support MCing. Hot bitches and cars are great but it’s nowhere near what real hip-hop is. Nowadays a lot of the “talent’ isn’t very talented. It’s not “Fuck homie! That’s that shit! Lets record it!” its “Dude, we’re gonna make you such a great rapper. Do this and that.” It needs to come back to the basic elements to survive with any class whatsoever. Bacon is innocent in this mess though – I blame Bush on this one.
When are you going to release your full-length album and what can we expect?
Right now I’m in study mode so..I will be starting production for my album at the beginning of 09 and hopefully by the end of the year it will be out. That’s my New Years resolution I guess. I’m gonna try to go in a total different direction than I usually do. I want to sing a lot more. Want to get away from sampling for this one too. Its hard to get that grit without the vinyl but it can be done (laughs). Expect to not see or hear from me for a while. Still thinking about a concept. Try to incorporate everything I’ve ever learned. Something very eclectic and bacon laden.
Are you gone be behind the mic on any future tracks?
I just said I will you jerk but, I WILL NEVER PERFORM THEM LIVE. I cant remember my own lyrics. But honestly, I think singing is probably the purist form of musical expression and I would love to do it a lot more. It sounds wack but I really want to do some R&B crooner type shit. I really want to put it all out there. Find my style. No holds barred. All the real shit comes through on the first take when your singing your soul out freestyle anyways. You only live once fam-bam. Like my mum said “Nike son – just do it.” Shout out to Hog’s Head Bacon!
Most of the crew know you as and call you by the name Tron. What are some of the best Tron twists you’ve heard (example – Tron Johnson)?
dude there’s a million:
Aight, thanks holmsauce!
Hit us with a Low Pro Hero quote…
Don’t skimp on this pimp. Break bacon or be vegan fakin!