December 27, 2015
First I put all the vocals to the side, stripped the tunes right back leaving only the base and the drums, a barren canvas, a foundation. I layered on more simple elements, trying to get to the core of each track. I worked on the first tune for hours and hours, playing it loud through the monitors, no one seemed to be around.
Andre had given me three tracks from a producer/rapper team called Break Method, as far as I could gather, East & Low hadn’t signed them yet, this was like an EP to test the waters. I figured they didn’t know I was playing with their tunes, I wouldn’t be keen on someone messing with my stuff while I was in the middle of trying to get signed.
There was a knock at the door, the girl from the desk out the front waved through the door and I ushered her in.
“Hey. You want to come grab some food or coffee?” She asks.
“Yeah, cool. Thanks.” I reply, keen to keep grinding but figured a good dose of caffeine might work as some kind of muse.
“I grabbed a coffee and watch the girl closest to me peck at a croissant, legs crossed in jeans and heels.”
In the kitchen area a small group of label folks sat around a table flicking through laptops, listening to some dude over-using the word “momentum”. I grabbed a coffee and watch the girl closest to me peck at a croissant, legs crossed in jeans and heels. She got up from her seat and turned to me as I ripped open a sugar packet, spilling some and suddenly feeling clumsy.
“Guys, this is Mason.” Andre told the group, “He is doing a couple days working with some of the Break Method tracks.”
The girl looked my way after sitting down, I’m pretty sure I recognized her from the rooftop party a couple weeks back, she had been sitting in one of the pools.
They nodded and said hi before going back to their laptops, it was Vince Ross the head of the label. The girl looked my way after sitting down, I’m pretty sure I recognized her from the rooftop party a couple weeks back, she had been sitting in one of the pools.
Back in the darkness of the studio I played back my first pass on the tracks. It was something different at least. I swapped out short sharp synth lines to build more melody, added variations to the trap beat to make it less repetitive. I did this across the board, trying to give the songs a bit more edge, a few surprises. The vocals were largely untouched apart from a rough harmony on the last track that I had recorded as a test. It was a start. I figured I should pocket these versions and come at it fresh.
When I came up for air it was almost 1am. Wandering the hallways, I checked out photos of the greats that had recorded here, I was sharing the same air as Biggie, Chuck D and Willima Parker. I peered into the studios, imagining which one Biggie would have recorded Juicy in.
On the way out the security dude gave me a half grunt of acknowledgement, looking up briefly from whatever he was watching. I was going to order Seamless but figured I’d have more luck googling a pizza joint nearby.
“Tonight I was going to go back in there and create some fucking tunes, you don’t get this kind of opportunity everyday – I wanted to leave nothing out, this was one of those moments when you had to be sure this was your A game, when you couldn’t hold anything back.”
I rolled up the little bit of weed I had on me, smoking it on the way. This area of Soho is pretty quiet at this time of night, there are pockets of life and plenty of full taxis around. Loud voices echo from a street over, bouncing off the cobblestones. “Fuck it” I say to myself. Tonight I was going to go back in there and create some fucking tunes, you don’t get this kind of opportunity everyday – I wanted to leave nothing out, this was one of those moments when you had to be sure this was your A game, when you couldn’t hold anything back. Corny as it was, it was hard not to hear the old Eminem tune rolling in the background. I had my phone with me – no way I was listening to it though.
Back in front of the screen I threw on some Flying Lotus for inspiration. I went to wash my hands, splashed some water on my face, cracked another Redbull and got back to it. A little high and with some food in me, ready to delve back in. It was an open brief, to go crazy, not worry about being true to the current tracks just explore with something fresh. I figured I’d done the safe versions, now let’s fuck with them completely.
“The last 20 hours had been a sugar and caffeine rampage. I felt a subtle sense of doom about the results which propelled me off to the couch to take a listen.”
I woke up, dry mouth, a little hazy. Checked my phone. 6am, I’d slept for about three hours. The leather from the studio couch sticks to my side where my t-shirt has ridden up. I’m tucked up in a ball and tempted to keep sleeping but I still had a shit load to do. Plus I don’t want someone to rollup and think they hired a homeless dude. The last 20 hours had been a sugar and caffeine rampage. I felt a subtle sense of doom about the results which propelled me off to the couch to take a listen. They were always a different beast the next day, even if I had only slept for two hours. I’d always work on a tune all night, think I had something, only to hate it in the morning.
I listened to the first one half-through then skipped on to the second and then the third. I still kind of liked the sound, which was a good sign. Overall it had become a more of a natural sound then I thought it would, it was fresh but not too grimey. The drums and bass lines were pretty clean but I had messed with some harmonies to give it a bit of edge, add some surprise.
There were a lot of jazz horn and big band tuba samples which were left field, needed a bit of work but they fit and at least made it unique. I’m not really the best state of mind for objective thought but I wasn’t ashamed of it, I reckon this is what they asked for and it’s something that I think matched their style. I cracked my knuckles and figured I had something that would at least start a bit of a discussion with Andre, “Just play around with them, try and find something fresh, like some of those Beyoncé remixes.” Was what he wanted.
My brain ached behind my right eye and I fidgeted in the seat. It was 7:30, I should gap it before everyone started arriving. A girl I hadn’t met was at reception and smiled at me as I headed out. Back to Brooklyn for some fresh clothes, and hopefully a fresh take on things.