PRODUCER PROFILE is a platform in where we interview music creators, i.e. producers/beatmakers, both locally and globally, and showcase their exclusive musical works. The goal of PRODUCER PROFILE is to further explore and reveal how these highly sophisticated and tight-knit communities of grassroots music creators are crossing borders, both in sound and geographic location. Their music is innovative and visionary – their music is powerful, brilliant, and unapologetic – and their music is part of a fast growing worldwide movement that is changing the way we listen, share, and consume music.
Location: England, UK
Equipment: Software, hardware, vinyl records, percussion instruments, vocals and street sounds.
Label: Millennium Jazz Music
Collaborators: Too many to mention, but currently working on compilations and projects with the MJM artists, Lady Paradox, Sinoptic International, The French Touch Connection as a producer and part time engineer, and of course project management of the Jazz Jousters releases.
Contact: Bandcamp / Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter / Email
To help us kick start our series we interviewed Gadget– founder of Millennium Jazz Music and project manager of international beat scholars The Jazz Jousters. He takes us on his personal journey through north London, his upbringing, his early days in music, and gives in depth analysis of his exclusive, hand-selected, signature tracks he’s produced off five different musical projects. He is an innovator and visionary who is responsible for the release of 38 projects under Millennium Jazz Music; 22 of which are Jazz Jousters releases along with three solo and two Pack of Randoms albums.
Ladies and gentlemen, Gadget!
First off, I respect your craft and the work you’ve put in over the course of 8 months, dating back to the first Jazz Jousters release.
Thank you. I’m real happy with how these projects have been received around the world, it’s very overwhelming. Many thanks to STERYO for all the support. I have to say to that I’ve been lucky to work with so many talented and driven people since putting the whole thing together. *Salutes the Jousters*
For those who may not be familiar with Gadget, can you please re-introduce Gadget?
Hello, my names is Gadget aka Gadgeminda, Gadget DaWordsmith or Dirty Thumbs tha Crate Digger. Born and bred in North London, England by Guyanese and Dominican parents. I am a producer, vocal artist, sound engineer, DJ, part time party promoter, founder of the independent Millennium Jazz Music label, and a damn good cook.
How long have you been producing/beat-making, and who/what inspired you to become a musician?
I started out as a young Jungle and Drum & Bass DJ/Emcee in the early 90’s. As the reputation grew I ended up spinning records on a few radio stations, in clubs, bars and various squat parties as a guest or hosting with the crew I was with at the time. A lot of my family were musicians and band members. My mum was releasing records as a singer and my Dad was and still is a Reggae musician, producer and label owner. Between them, growing up in a very musical area in Hackney N1 around that time, and with my older brother leaving samplers and drum machines lying around our bedroom, I’ve always dabbled with studio equipment from a young age. I really got into production in ’96 when my Dad gave me his old Roland D20 keyboard, an Atari STE computer and a floppy disk containing a copy of Cubase. Not having my own sampler, I only had the Roland’s limited sound bank of 128 sounds which forced me to learn composition and layering instruments on top of each other to create extra sounds.
At this point I was making real dark Hip Hop, House & Garage and RnB songs, or trying to recreate backing tracks of CD’s that I had in my collection and trying to emulate the same sound. I remember spending hours studying PM Dawn’s ‘Looking Through Patient Eyes’ and George Michael’s ‘Father Figure’ and trying to do my own instrumental version. A matter of months later my old DnB emcee also turned his hand to production, but he had a PC and was sampling from CD’s and Computer Music magazine samples. We spent a lot of time gathering and learning bootlegged software from Hackney market and combing his sampling with my composition. A few months of this and I had to get my own PC so I could work at my convenience and incorporate samples into my solo productions and increase my sound options with VSTi’s in a revamped Cubase. And so it began…
What type of equipment are you using to create these wonderful pieces of music?
At the moment I’m mostly using my old Roland D20 keyboard and an MPC 2000XL to control Reason 5 and Cubase SX 3. I sample vinyl off a Technics 1210 and a classic Realistic DJ mixer which I’ve been DJing on since the mid 90’s, or I grab stuff off line. I chop samples in Soundforge 7 and Recycle 2.1. I record vocals, percussion instruments and random sounds in Cubase on a SE Electronics 2200A mic and a 16 track Mackie mixer, and I mix and master in Cubase and Soundforge. I’ve got other bits of hardware and tons of software that I rotate around when things start feeling monotonous. Sometimes I leave the PC off and only work with hardware, but the above combination is working well for me right now.
Do you think record digging is a science or an art, or both?
I’d say both, due to the fact that there are so many ways to go about it. Some diggers look for records for sampling which could be considered a science or an art. Some buy records to actually play in DJ sets and they collate a track list which can take the listener on a journey or control the vibe of a dance floor. I consider this is an art for sure, as I know about looking out from the DJ booth and reading the crowd and knowing when and what kind of vibe is needed to keep things going, or to get people off of the walls and or out of their seats.
Sometimes it’s a case of following information on an artist or musician that you heard on a previous record and you want more of their work because you like their sound. I think this approach of studying information on artists, labels and release dates is more of a science.
In your process of beat-making, do you start with the drums first or the sample?
It varies. Sometimes the process starts with finding, chopping up and laying the sample, then building a drum sequence. Other times I’ll build a light weight drum loop to vibe with until I’ve got the sample working for me, then return to pack out the drums. Or I’ll go all out on the drums and try to get the sample to add to the movement or groove. The majority of times I’d go back to the drums once I have all sequences in place and do the final little tweaks to give the whole track a more interesting arrangement.
I’d like to talk about five songs, but this is not to negate the fact that your catalog is illustrious. Let’s start with The Room.
1. The Room – One Night’s Stay
‘The Room’, from the Jazz Jousters project ‘One Night’s Stay’ sampling Nancy Wilson. This one was one the most difficult Jousters flips I’ve attempted lately, but at the same time one of my favourites. I was a little lost with the sample at first then I started building the drums. They were built with a combination of a live drum break and building my own drum sequence with parts from a kit. Once I had these moving the way I wanted them I went back to the sample and the ideas began to flow.
I built this one with a horror film in mind, as if it were the soundtrack of a supernatural movie actually called ‘The Room’. So my aim was to create a dark and sinister atmosphere that would suit that kind of scene. I’m pretty satisfied with the outcome sound and responses from listeners.
2. Manha de Ausencia – Another Manha
‘Manhã de Ausência’ off the ‘Another Manha – the Jazz Jousters flip a Joe Sample’. Firstly the title is in Portuguese and translates to “Morning of Absence”. This is another one where I had vision of a scene or fictional life situation of someone going missing. You’d have to imagine the start of the track being the end of a night in a house where everything is calm and a family is settling down for bed. Then comes the tracks key-change which is the actual “Manhã de Ausência”, where it’s noticed that one of the family members have gone missing.
If my mum ends up reading this she’ll be phoning up at this point and telling me “that’s a bit deep and dark isn’t it?”. Obviously the track does this change in sequence a couple of times throughout the whole arrangement, but I didn’t think it through that far so you can make up your own story haha. But In the end it becomes calm again and the family is reunited. So it’s all good mum, it’s all good!
3. Byrd’s Eye View – Donald Byrd’s
‘Byrd’s Eye View’ from the Donald Byrd special tribute, ‘Flocking Together’. This is one where I took a completely different approach production wise due to both my Roland and my spare Casio keyboards dying on me. I wasn’t feeling to play instruments via the MPC pads so I did more of a loop based beat which didn’t have as much going on compared to some of my previous Jousters productions, and I couldn’t get as much time as I wanted to spend on the mix. Shout out to my ‘real talking’ friend ExP who clocked this straight away and was not impressed (lol) as looping isn’t my norm, especially for instrumental music. It had to be done though, that section of the original track was just begging to be used. If I had started the track earlier I would have probably got an artist or laid vocals myself. The title was a must too.
If you’ve noticed all the titles of the Jazz Jousters projects you’d see I like to play with words. The name ‘Byrd’s Eye Views’ was made before the beat, so with the additional sounds I tried to make something with a feeling of being up in the air, and we (the Jousters) are the birds “flocking together” and viewing things with from a bird’s eye view. The spelling is obviously a play on Donald’s last name. I’m happy people are feeling it, and it’s received a lot of airplay and podcast features. *R.I.P Donald Byrd*
4. Willen Truly – TFTC’s
‘Willen Truly’ was made for The French Touch Connection’s second compilation album. The theme for those projects is that we all work with music of French origin whether they’re from vintage French movie soundtracks or actual album releases. On part two we had to use something that was at least fifty years old. So I got digging and found the French Jazz-Saxophonist and composer Barney Wilen and his quintet. On one of the tracks I found I was particularly drawn to the Pianists solo which is what makes up the body of the instrumental. Everything else, ie the Synthesizers, Guitar, Vibraphone, Drums and Bass were played on top via keyboard, followed with some vocal samples and finalizing the arrangement.
I have to say it wasn’t one of my favorite tracks, or at least I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome originally. I was meant to be recovering from a back injury at the time. But there I was pushing myself and moving round from PC to keyboard to MPC and causing myself discomfort, so I was limited to how much time I could sit and work on it. Overall I think the sound represents the dark, cold and snowy December night I spent alone making it. The track has received a lot of feedback, particularly from France, and many new links have been made since the album was released. So I am now a lot more satisfied with the outcome than I was.
5. Epic Chow – Sequences Vol. 2
‘Epic Chow’ aka ‘Show Off’ instrumental is off of ‘Sequences Vol. 2’ which is my first solo instrumental album of 2013. I bought a few records from a charity shop while on the way home from work one day. One of the records had a sleeve that looked like it promised some sounds from China, but later I found it to be a famous musical comedy called ‘Chu Chin Chow’. It has an orchestra and operatic vocals. You can hear an example on the intro of ‘Epic Chow’ as it’s the part that I sampled. The section I used was fairly limited, but I was drawn to it. I added some synthesizers, bass and other sounds and pretty much just enjoyed played around with it. Later a friend and South London rapper, Jinglebert heard it and ended up using it to recording a song called ‘Show Off’. After hearing him I went back and rearranged it to work better with his verses. That’s the version I put on ‘Sequences 2’. I’ve also got a video of me building the track. I’ll have to dig that up and upload that at some point too.
What releases can we expect in the near future from Gadget?
Look out for ‘Gadget’s Chop Therapy Sessions’ which will be out early April. This is another instrumental album focusing on the art of chopping/sampling. This idea began when I joined a collective of creative’s founded by UK rapper TY, who set us sample challenges called ‘Therapy Chop Chop’. I worked with the collective for the first 50+ challenges and as well as building on my own. ‘GCTS’ will feature some my favorites.
In the meantime, Gadget has made his 14-track solo album- Sequences 2.0 – available for immediate download. Sequence 2.0 is the sequel to the 2010 release which featured 22 experimental productions and were originally made for various sample challenges, beat showcase nights, while testing out new equipment or simply messing around in the ‘Audio Dojo’. In Sequences 2.0 you can expect “something slightly darker and electronic” compared to some of Gadget’s recent works, as the sequences bring you “a complete mix up of break beats meets synthesizers and composition moving through various moods, movements and tempos.”
If you’re a producer/beatmaker and would like to be considered for STERYO’s PRODUCER PROFILE series, please submit a brief bio and five links of your music to STERYOmedia@gmail.com, ATTN: PRODUCER PROFILE.