So I had a chance to sit down a get on record with one of the most underrated musicians I know, Digital Fiend. He's a really good personal friend of mine and great to chat music with. We go over a whole bunch of recording, gear and random stuff. Here's some music to listen to while you read through. A EP Digital Fiend did with Atari Blitzkrieg, 'Chase The Dragon'.
A.I. - "#1. Who are you, where are you from and how long have you been making music? #2. What got you into making music?"
DF - "#1. I was born in DC, and grew up in Prince Georges county MD. I've been making music since 1993....#2. My father was a drummer for the band The Hellions in the 60's, and I used to see his pictures growing up, and wanted to play drums. He never taught me how to play though because when he got screwed over by Ray Stevens on a contract for the song Guitarzan, he gave it up after years of gigging, so all I had was the pictures and stories. Simply put my father the drummer got me started."
A.I. - "So you started drumming first?"
DF - "Yeah"
A.I. - "When you started who were drummers besides your father that you wanted to play like? Who are three drummers out today your really digging? And try and name 3 over the years you've changed your opinion on? Like I remember thinking players weren't that great years ago then as my ear expands I notice they're playing has more to it that's I first thought."
DF - "Mitch Mitchell...I don't know the names of any other drummers off the top of my head. Oh Sly Dunbar, and Style Scott 2 reggae drummers. Neil Pert.
A.I. - "You ever check Chris Daddy Dave or Steve Jordan? Those are probably my fav current drummers. The guy from Dave Mathews Band was awesome too."
DF - "I know DMB, but their names I never knew..No I don't know those dudes.
A.I. - "When did you start recording music?'
DF - "1994, when a buddy of mine got a 4 track for his birthday"
A.I. - "How was working with a 4 track? Would you just record the drums as one whole track with a single mic?"
DF - "2 mics, one on bass drum and one in between the hi hat and snare."
A.I. - "So let's walk through from the 4 track days to let say the 2001-2002 era. Did you do recordings? On What? What kind of other instruments were you playing? All that type of jazz."
DF - "Yes recordings. Those days I was using electribes, sequencer, and a korg kaoss pad with a fostex digital 4 track, zoom drum machine, and still playing drums and congas."
A.I. - "What got you into drum machines? Was moving from real drums to a drum machine easy or was it like taking a step back in what you could do?"
DF - "My friend Christian got me into Midi equipment, it was like taking a step forward. It was easier to play, I picked right up on it like it was nothing. Then I started laying real drums over the drum machine."
A.I. - "I mainly got into midi because recording a kit is so hard and requires too many good mics to make a quality recording. Although I never played drums I had to learn it all on a drum machine. I mean I could probably mic an acoustic guitar for hours with one or two mics before I got a sound I really dug. Haha"
DF - "Yeah, the only time I ever got a good recording of drums was when Christians dad paid for studio time for us and we took every weekend for 2 months and layed tracks in a super duper studio. That and when Atari takes my live drum tracks and mixes them. I got mics and a 16 track mixer that I only took out the box a few times. I could set up the drums and mic them and all that..only problem is I'm by myself, and its hard enough going back and fourth from the drums to my 8 track..with 2 mics ..I couldn't imagine having to do it by myself with the entire drums mic'ed. When I do drums I do em in tracks, hi hat, bass, then I lay snare on a separate, and rolls and crash and all that good shit later. That's why I miss being in a band. I miss it, and I don't miss it lol."
A.I. - "Haha yeah that's a big part as well for me. I wanted to not be relying on anyone to make my music. Being in a band is hard aside from the music the personality and relationships are hard to deal with. I track all my stuff out now but I have like 120 tracks or something I've never used as opposed to being reduced to 4 or 8 tracks."
DF - "Yeah, I see those huge Cadillac looking mixers 32 tracks, etc. And I think . Jesus do they really need all those tracks..64 track mixer?...now you're just showing off! Lol. But yeah, they have it set up for purposes, I know..but still..damn!! A 65 track mixer ..you can buy a fucking car, or put a down payment on a house."
A.I. - "Yeah I work pretty minimally and think its more about using what you have creatively than having a ton of expensive gear. People forget that lots of great albums they love were made on less than we have today. I do think that the best part of the digital studio today is the ability to not have a band and have control over everything myself."
DF - "Exactly, but I still like getting new shit to play with, some of the old gear just looses its edge when it comes to sounds. Like the old electribe, the patterns in it suck now......unless you play it like a little keyboard and tweek it..other than that, I'm bored with the sounds it came with back in the day. Everything I have..I use! I still think that having mad equipment to play with is much better than just using FL and calling that a Studio. there is no musicianship in fucking fruity loops man. Lol. I'm not hating on it though. I use acidpro still sometimes, but I lace it with hardware."
A.I. - "What was your favorite piece of gear over the years and why?"
DF - "Sequencer. I'll get back to you with why."
A.I. - "Haha Ok, I've never used a sequencer. What exactly does it do?"
DF - "The MPC is like a sequencer, but it has sampling capabilities.....the sequencer I use does not..it just has sounds built in, and MPC stlye pads, you can get other sound chips to put in it and beef it up, it's OOP, so the only place you can go anymore to get parts is Ebay....16 tracks, drums, bass, keys, efx, basically whatever you want, and can manipulate and filter and make your own tracks. Any "box" or piece of gear that you can lay down tracks with and record straight into, is a sequencer..MPC included ...hence the word "Sequencer"..or whatever the fuck. how many tracks can you record to with your MPC? ONTO your MPC?"
A.I. - I guess I have 16 pads on the MPC as for how many tracks, I'm not sure. I don't know how to use the MPC that well. I seem to get 8-9 sounds happening at once and then they start dropping things out. It depends on if the sound is mono or stereo I think. To be honest I mainly use Fruity Loops, haha, I try to apply as much musicianship as possible though."
DF - "I hear you..yeah man, it's cool. You are a guitar player, I can't play the guitar, I always wanted to though. I tried, but I just don't have it. Yeah man I use acidpro.
A.I. - "So if money was no issue what 3 pieces of gear would you get, and why?"
DF - "I'd get a Korg entrancer to manipulate video with turntables, another EMU mp-7 with full upgrade maxed out sound chips, because mine is about to take a dump and an Electribe EA1- MKII to upgrade from the one I've got now."
A.I. - "Throughout this conversation it sounds like you don't sample but I always though you did both sampling and composing?"
DF - "I do, and I thought about that too, what you said, but yeah I do...crazy."
A.I. - "Where do you want to go with you music now? Like musically. What would you imagine you next ideal album to be. Like let's say a big label picked you up, put you in a nice studio and you could work with either singers or emcees. What kind of album would you make?"
DF - "Very electronic, tweek and destroy, with Atari, BionicHeart and now my brother Ostu, with live instruments layered over top of it all."
A.I. - "What advice would you give to somebody just starting out making beats or music in general?"
DF - "Stay in school, and don't do drugs."
A.I. - "Haha. Guess that explains why I didn't make it in the business, haha. Let's talk about your last release with Atari. One thing I was stoked on when I heard about it was 'oh damn, new DF music'. Then when it came up it was all old beats you made which had guitar over them and post production. I'm not sure what you where involved with in that past making the beats years ago. Also since its not brand new stuff from you it was new to me whenever you made it and really I don't know when any of the stuff you have released was made, and does that even matter anyway?"
DF - "That was the vibe of that project. Everything else has been new made for the specific projects. Those beats fit the vibe so they were used. Old and dusty, and those were old, and dusty so they made the cut. And no it doesn't matter as far as i'm concerned, like you said, they were new to you, so its like those beats finally saw their day of being heard. better to get to enjoy them being out and heard when you are alive, then when you're dead."
A.I. - "So where do you go from here? What's next on you plate for music?"
DF - "Keep doing what I've been doing."
A.I. - "Yeah big thanks to you bro for doing this chat with me. It was cool as always, really appreciate it."
DF - "Cool man. Thank you."