not long ago this blog released its debut mixtape series, similarly-titled: CONFESSIONS OF A CURLY MIND Vol. 1. it ended up being one of my favourite mixes to ever compile, as i got to be exposed to a shit-ton of new and old music i woulda never heard otherwise. among them, however, was Pete Marriott, a musician whose previous works had already spoken for themselves as far i was concerned. from him, i can always count on quality. after treating us to a rough cut of his newly-released vintage-era hit “The Kidnapping” (featuring emcee Romance) on the mixtape, i got to recently speak with Pete about his current status within all things deemed creative, artful even.
V: Mr. Pete Marriott! since last we spoke you were in the process of dropping “The Kidnapping”, the unmastered snippet version of which appeared on this blog’s debut mix series. the song got quite a bit of positive feedback, a lot of friends and associates would specifically point that song out to me as a highlight in the mix. so how did the release of the single go and how have the people reacted to it?
P: i’m very grateful people are enjoying “The Kidnapping” and that the hip hop world is finally getting the opportunity to hear my dude Romance. he deserves this success more than anybody involved in this record, so to see this particular record do well on the radio mix shows and how it’s charting is a nice victory for us.
i’ve recently done a regional radio promo tour flying from city to city visiting radio stations having lunch and dinners with DJs and bloggers to discuss the new record and our new imprint The BRKLYN Collection and day by day we’re gaining more support among DJs and Bloggers we’ve yet to meet with across the country and abroad. things look like they are moving in a positive direction.
V: it looks like you’ve got a GRIP of new stuff about to hit our ears. what’s in store/coming out soon, what are you currently working on and how is all this work impacting your life?
P: to introduce The BRKLYN Collection as an authentic music imprint we’re doing this Summer Singles Series of records i produced and remixed. “The Kidnapping” opened up everything and since then we’ve released an art house single featuring Killah Trakz called “Plant The Flag” which is also doing well on radio, a instrumental single called “The Rebirth of Mr. Soultronica” is on deck and we’re also about to drop a new art house single featuring JunClassic soon.
we also got a few new remixes on the way. i very recently done a remix for Frank Ocean that I turned in not too long and i got a new Erykah Badu remix i produced that i’m very excited about. Mark Fauver of the Aaron English Band and Noel Brass Jr. of Afrocop sat in on the mastering session with me for that one and their reaction to it was very positive which is a pretty strong indicator to me that i done a good job with it.
life has been busier than usual. there’s an interesting assortment of new records and artists i’m producing and two music related projects i’m not at liberty to discuss yet that’s on deck, but for the most part, my production and remix calendar is progressing very nicely which has been making this year quite a pleasant time in my career.
i feel very fortunate and i appreciate all the people who are seeking me out and those who have been very receptive to working with us. just good energy all around.
V: what is the “Art House Hip Hop Movement”?
P: aside from music i’m extremely interested in other creative disciplines such as photography, design, filmmaking and fine art. other musicians, producers and recording artists i’m friendly with share similar interests and i wanted to have an outlet to express myself in ways i felt the underground hip hop scene has limited me in the past.
the movement is pretty much about branching out and spreading your wings beyond making hip hop records and bringing visual arts to the table. i personally want more than just the music, so instead of waiting for it to come around i’m taking it, building with other underground artists and producers who feel the same way and we’re bringing something new and different to the table.
V: how are artists/producers attempting to stay true to hip hops roots in 2012? and is it difficult to engage a modern audience with sounds inspired by golden era hip hop or is there still a real hunger for it?
P: it’s a very interesting time. i’m seeing these very dope new cats like Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Badass and Rid Jetson doing an updated version of my very favorite era in hip hop music and loving it because it all falls right on time with my releasing music i recorded 25 years ago like “The Kidnapping”. it’s a confirmation of what these kids really want to hear and i’m excited about this, because we’re offering them the real late 80’s early 90’s flavor with my forthcoming album rather than a recreation of it.
i actually made records during the golden era of hip hop that sound like what the kids are doing today so to see what i done 20 plus years ago come back around full circle makes this is a very beautiful time for me as a practitioner of real hip hop music because it’s a personal vindication of sorts.
V: along with yourself, a cat by the name of DVS has been one of my fav hip hop artists for a hot minute. you recently remixed a joint from his new release, and now a full length collab LP is in the works. can you touch on that briefly or is it still too soon?
P: i’m glad that my helping DVS out with that remix got the mix show DJs to pay attention to him and open quite a bit of closed doors for him in radio, DVS is an awesome lyrical talent who i actually believe in as an artist, but as of now… a Pete Marriott and DVS album are not in my immediate plans. it’s nothing personal against him, i’m just simply recusing myself from the very idea of working on that particular project.
V: what’s your process like these days and what is your preferred gear?
P: i’m in a very good creative space right now. i meet with artists over Skype and discuss their musical goals and create music around that conversation. i’m not into stockpiling beats and making beattapes, that process is inefficient and a complete waste of time for me.
i prefer to build a customised record for an artist completely from scratch. that’s the way we did things back in the days and the music making experience was far better back then because we took our time and placed our energy into making a solid record rather than trying to hammer out as many songs as possible to see what sticks.
when i start working on a track i think about moods and colors the artist conveys to me in our conversation beforehand and i sample my drums into my Casio RZ-1 which gives me a great 12-bit sound. i produced my very first single “Let’s Make Some Noise” when i was 15 years old using that very same drum machine that’s why my drums have that extra heavy crispness to it.
i sample my stereo loops using my Ensoniq ASR-X and ASR-10 because they have a deep rich low end to them that sound and feel even better when i resample them to Maschine where i edit all my loops and drum sounds with great precision.
i also have a Akai S900 that i use to sample my Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster guitars and my Washburn bass which i record using Tascam 134 or 238 decks depending on how dirty i want it to sound.
and i have a modest collection of hardware and software synths like my Casio CZ-5000, Yamaha TX-81Z, Komplete 8 Ultimate which includes Kontakt and if i were ever to brag about anything, it would be about my Kontakt library. my Kontakt library is nearly at 2 terabytes as it is right now. i’m also becoming addicted to building equally strong libraries for Maschine, Massive and Reaktor.
there are some who may say that’s overkill, but those are usually the guys who are married to one sound and style. i’m a strong believer in being versatile and having a expanded musical range as a record producer so if i get to work with artists like Fiona Apple, Joss Stone or Taylor Swift I want to be more than prepared for that situation.
V: from what i can remember you’re a fellow champion of the lightweight but heavyduty FL Studio rig, one which i’ve personally used for over a decade. it seems every random producer i’ve ever met and had a conversation with chooses to utilise FL as their main (or secret) weapon. how long have you been messing with FL Studio, what are its overall advantages compared to more popular programs/setups and what led you to using it in the first place?
P: i’ve been a FL Studio user since version 2 which is the epicenter of my studio today. Alex Abellard of the Kompa band Zin’ introduced it to me at his studio in Brooklyn while working on a project together. i was very stubborn and not open to the idea of using software. in fact i was all about the MPC during those days but he made me realize how much easier it would be for me to do sound design with it and that’s how I got roped in.
FL Studio is extremely powerful and way ahead of its time, other DAWs are just beginning to catch up to it and i think what makes it much more valuable to me is that’s it’s such a flexible application that’s lots of fun to mix a record with, it’s almost too much fun which is why i think i spend so much time in my studio. it’s just addictive in that manner.
i’m currently mixing a single that has a very heavy drum sound with orchestral flourishes and jazz overtones. i’m able to create complex automation sequences that allows my string section to vary in levels during particular musical cues while changing room sizes and EQ settings within those passages, this gives the listener a true sense of emotion while listening to the song and i’m doing it so quick and smooth that these transitions are not easily noticeable, but on the subconscious level you’re feeling these movements within the mix and that’s part of what makes my production stand out.
FL Studio makes it simple for me to enact such complexities into my music because it was brilliantly designed to do so much while having a such a fun experience doing it. i don’t think there’s anything lightweight about FL Studio at all, it’s just a smarter DAW than the others.
V: you’ve also done work for other producers in terms of sound design but now you’re only willing to go so far as the mixing of the record. what made you come to this decision?
P: let’s put it this way. i had to make a business decision for myself as a record producer first and foremost, because it got to the point where the business of doing sound design for hip hop producers was no longer in my favor. aside from the money, i want my credit and these guys don’t want to give that credit up because the way they see it their fans, who are mostly aspiring producers themselves, will lose respect for them which in my opinion is a ridiculous notion.
i mean i understand the part where their fear of not being seen as super as they make themselves out to be could be derided, but the idea of you losing fans because you don’t really do it all in the studio is absolutely silly to me. i believe record production comes down to leadership in the studio, that’s why guys like Dr. Dre and Diddy had and continue to have great runs as record producers because they understand it’s about leadership first and foremost.
but then you got these guys who pride themselves as beatmakers and they don’t want people to know that a guy like me built their drum sound, programmed their synth patches, recreated samples for them. so i pretty much grew tired of it and decided not to do sound design for anyone else but me and i’m not gonna call out any names but some of my former clients newer records are not on the radio. is it a coincidence? you tell me.
now as for mixing, i mostly offer that service to beatmakers who don’t know how to mix a record let alone oversee a mix. there’s a lot of dope beatmakers out there but not too many of them are involved in the actual record making process.
as a DJ i used to get disappointed by this, but i’ve come to accept it for what it is thanks to conversations with Kev West who revealed to me that a lot of the artists don’t want to be produced by producers who’s name they don’t recognize, which basically is just another form of starfucking and that’s deeply sad. the majority of these new artists just want you to email them a beat and they record over it. i can easily go on the attack and point out how stupid that is of these artists, but why waste my time putting that sort of energy out there?
i’d rather work for beatmakers who have a clear idea of what they want their music to sound like and they can sell the artists on the fact that Pete Marriott, a veteran record producer with multiple major and indie label credits, will be on the mix. and if they are willing to pay extra they can get it mastered by the mastering engineer i work with.
that right there gives that beatmaker instant credibility and the power to take control and lead that artist’s record thus increasing their value and budgets. just like with my sound design i have a very selective client base, but the difference here is not only do i get my money, i get my credit too.
V: have you done work outside of hip hop? are there specific genres you’d like to tackle or do you go with the flow?
P: of course! i’m a record producer who just happens to do mostly hip hop records, because that’s what i’m known for, but i’m no way in any form limited to just hip hop music. i have depth range that extends far beyond hip hop.
i’m currently searching for the next Fiona Apple to work with. i want a female singer/songwriter that is on Sylvia Plath levels of poetry, yet bold enough to really go there musically, but i don’t want her to be an MC that happens to sings, she gotta be a full on vocal artist. i don’t know when i’ll come across such an artist, but when i do i will know it and i will jump on it and make it happen.
V: the mantra “Hip Hop Is Dead” has been around for a little while now, and it’s my personal opinion that it’s insulting to even suggest such a thing when there’s dudes like a Pete Marriott out there not only keeping the genre and the culture alive, but also churning out HOT tracks. so was hip hop ever truly in dire straits? was it a record-selling tactic? and what do you think the future of hip hop will look and sound like going forward?
P: let’s be honest, hip hop did go through a very bleak period where there lots of musical missteps in both the mainstream and especially in the underground. there was a very stale period where so many cats were only sampling and chopping soul records which not only got very boring and stale quickly but it was done in very bland ways that was pretty banal.
it unfortunately was a low period in hip hop music overall and people finally woke up from that slumber and now you’re seeing the return of the jazz sample fusing psychedelic rock, metal, funk, reggae and soul and it’s being layered in key rather than just chopped, and because of this the hip hop audience that got bored or annoyed with soul chopping will return and new hip hop fans will fall in love it with.
i have no crystal ball, if i did, i’d use it but what i do have is the ability to listen to the people and what they want out of the music. i don’t know if it’s the insulation of the Internet or what it is, but i find that most of these new guys behind the beats today are not listening to the people and they don’t go into the clubs and observe what the people are reacting to.
maybe i have that advantage because i’m a DJ, which is why i think it’s easier for my records to get on the radio without my having to compromise my integrity, but that comes from paying attention to the people. like the EPMD record says “give the people what they want.”
V: thanks for your time sir! i know you’re a busy man these days. just wanted to add it’s been my pleasure to watch the Marriott empire grow n grow. lookin forward to all the new music!
P: thank you very much V, i’m truly grateful for your taking interest and being apart of your mixtape series. this is a great time for music and i’m glad to be in the midst of it.