Monday, June 30, 2014

Shop Talk with Po'Safe Beats

So. I've known this guy for a couple years now. I started following him over twitter and then when I was on Instagram. He was always posting crazy albums on vinyl, his record collection is close to legendary. He's a super down to earth guy who has crisp clean beats. We sat down to a few brews a talked shop. Here's a nice album of beat from him to peep while you read through.

A.I. - "Let start with the same, same ole. Who are you, where are you from and how long have you been making music?"

PS - "My name is Jason, but I'm Po' Safe Beats. Originally from Lawton, OK, currently residing in St. Louis, MO. Been making music probably about 18 years now."

A.I. - "What was it that got you into playing music?"

PS - "Funny question. I always sang in choir, never played any instruments. In high school I started listening to a lot of hip hop and electronic music. Always reading liner notes, reading "produced by." I wanted to be the producer. So I chose to go to school for studio engineering to learn how music was made. While in school, learning studio recording, I started experimenting in the studio. Attempting to remake songs I knew. I discovered drum machines, and keyboards, and later sampling. Then I started making beats. So in a round about way that's what got me started in "playing" music."

A.I. - "We've chatted a few times on twitter where you seem pretty knowledgeable about guitars and instruments. I'm assuming that studio experience is where that comes from or were you playing any instruments during that time?"

PS - "Not really. For my degree I had to take piano and guitar lessons, but honestly, I really do not play. Only 3 semesters of guitar, I can play a little. and piano about killed me. I was more the engineer in school. Recorded countless albums and learned a lot along the way. Summer of 98 I got my turntables. Spring of 99 I got my MPC. Those were the game changers."

A.I. - "Your musical tastes are so diverse. What kind of albums were you listening to back in school that you thought 'I wanna make albums like this'?"

PS - "Honestly, I grew up in the church. I listened to a lot of christian music. Not your typical christian music. A lot of gospel rap, alternative, and electronic musics. Then I went to a christian liberal arts college, where I was introduced to a lot of music i never heard but should have. my next door neighbor in the dorm would be listening to Zeppelin one minute, Ice Cube the next, then Nine Inch Nails. The dude across the hall was a total Pink Floyd head. He actually taught me a lot in the studio. Gave me my first engineering credit on a CD he was recording. I have to shout out some of my major influences... Sup, aka Soup the Chemist from SFC. Peace 586, Freedom Of Soul, Tunnel Rats. LPG. Scott Blackwell, and his Nsoul label. I still listen to their music to this day. Then Endtroducing came out. That was freshman year. I think the entire second semester that's all I listened to. Between all this new/old music, learning recording, it changed everything."

A.I. - "Having so many digital options and software/hardware available how was the transition from working with artists in studios to having a home studio?"

PS - "When I first learned recording it was on ADATs, then I had a chance to record on 2" analog tape, then the school transitioned to Protools. So I had experience all around. After school I really didn't have a home recording set up for quite awhile. Just me and my records and MPC. I had friends with mbox's and digi's, so we would record that way. I went through a couple different cheap home set ups, but finally settled on running sonar on my PC. One day I will upgrade to a mac with Protools. I'm a cheapy though. But to answer your question, the transition? In the studio I actually recorded with bands. Full instruments, multitrack recording and what not. Now it's just me tracking out beats and occasionally recording an emcee. Usually though it's just in house production and then send it off to someone to use. I miss the artist interaction. The internet is great cause it connects you with so many people, but I miss the working in the same room vibe. There are some people I can send tracks back and forth with and build in a similar fashion. But a lot of times it's just "here's the beat, record to it, okay, we're done."

A.I. - "Be yeah the, send them a ruff edit to see if they're digging the feel, then bam they record and release a track over that beat, haha."

PS - "Exactly."

A.I. - There is something about feeding off the other artist energy that builds something you can't describe. The same thing happens in a good emcee cypher. I'd say that's one of the hardest things about being a "Producer" in today's music scene. The producer should be shaping songs and pushing the artist in different directions which that can't always hear on their own. Today it's like make me a beat and I'll do the rest and say you produced the song. It's the beat maker/producer debate.

PS - "Exactly. I always preach that I am a beat maker until I am involved in the songwriting process, then I become the producer. Too often the "producer" title gets thrown around too much. When I was working with bands in the studio, a lot of the time I was just the engineer. Then sometimes I was actually a producer. same could be said with beat making."

A.I. - "I like 3's so let name 3 pieces of gear you'd buy if money was no issue?"

PS - "The MPC 60, MPC 3000, and SP1200 all beat machines haha."

A.I. - "You ever try the SP1200 or an ASR? Or are you did you get the MPC and just stick with that over the years?"

PS - "The first dude that intro'd me to making beats was all ASR-10. I toured with his band as sound tech/roadie/bus driver, and we had a side project making beats and electronic remixes. So I learned a lil bit on the ASR. When it came time for my own beat machine, I got an MPC2000 off Ebay. Had the same machine since. Known a couple cats to have an SP, but never really had a chance to mess around with one."

A.I. - "What's the best advice you could give someone just starting out making beats. Like both in how to move in your career and also in getting a good sounding beat?"

PS - "Just make music. Make the music that makes you happy. Find like-minded people and work with them, learn and grow with them. Be patient. Practice practice practice. You don't just sit down and make the perfect beat, or write the perfect song."

A.I. - "Your record collection is pretty crazy. Where do you even start when looking for a record to sample. Do you have a certain style of music you like sampling the best?"

PS - "Funny question, figured the records were gonna come up. Honestly, a lot of the time I sample from the newest stuff I have purchased. My collection is mostly all sorted alphabetically. I do have hip hop 12's in a separate section, sorted by bpm. I also have soundtracks and compilations in their own category, but most everything sorted is alphabetical by artist so I can find it easily. I will have my newly purchased records stacked around and as I listen through them make mental notes of sample-worthy portions, or just sample on the spot. I always say I am going to start a notebook, or do the post it note thing on the records, but I never do. For me sampling is spontaneous. I can listen to an album one day and not hear anything, then months or years later pull it out and hear something completely different. That's the joy of sampling for me. I listen a lot. I guess I am a fan of the music first. As for genres or go to records. I sample a lot from the kind of cheesy easy listening records. I love christian/gospel/jesus music. But really, whatever catches my eye."

A.I. - :Haha. I think that sometimes about organizing stuff I have but then I've actually sampled the same song with out knowing and it turned out totally different. Just because I hear thing different from day to day myself."

PS - "Exactly!"

A.I. - "You did that album of beats totally made of ohh was it, Band On The Run, wings? Samples.

PS - "Yes! I have to thank Wasabi Macaroni on twitter for that one. One night he challenged me to do that, so I went out, found the record, and did it, lol. Now that was an exercise. Some of the beats are stretching it, but I was actually surprised with a few of them. I think three of the beats from that project have made it on albums, 2 released and 1 unreleased, so far."

A.I. - "That pushing to find something was sort of what the 'Night At The Movies' was all about for me too."

PS - "Definitely. Even if you aren't completely happy with the total outcome, the process and the challenge helps you grow as a creator. When I was in college I had the privilege to get to know a lot of artists/painters. Painters do "studies," where they will study an artist, copy or mimic some of their works, then do an original work in that artists style. That always intrigued me. They would learn from that artist by imitating them, and then incorporating it into their own work or style, challenging them to work/think differently."

A.I. - "So what next on you plate for musical projects?"

PS - "I'm currently mixing J Draughon's album. I have some remixes on deck for both biathlon and Iceberg Theory, as well as trying to compile my next beat tape project, which i have yet to find a theme/idea for, just making beats til I know. I had a local kid holler at me the other day interested in possibly working, need to open up a line of communication and test the waters."

A.I. - "I really appreciate the time you set aside to do this with me. Thank you vet much sir."

PS - "Sure, anytime. If you need more, let me know."

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