Making music digitally....hmmmmm, allot has changed over the years in terms of making music. The options for how one creates a song has quadrupled. You don't necessarily have to rely on others to create music which sounds like a whole band is playing. A little while ago I tried to get my head around making music digitally; laptop-check, midi controller-check, drum pad-check, ableton live-check, but what on earth does this all mean? And how do you even start recording and making music?

This week I talk to Brent 'Parks' Park, the producer and music man alongside Ladi 6, a bit about making music digitally (also Ladi's husband and baby-daddy).

How did you get into making digital music?
I think i first got into it from listening to so much sample based rap music in the 90's. The sampler sound really intrigued me because i was learning to play guitar and hiphop beats weren't as rigid as other forms of programmed-style music of that era like techno and stuff. I think i related to it a bit more because of that. It had the raw sample which made this weird friction between raw live instrumentation within the sample and the stiff machine sequencing.

What is your background in terms of making digital music....are you self taught? If so how did you go about learning the process? 
Where I grew up in Christchurch basically no one made the type of raw rap beats that I was interested in. Drum n bass owned our city and I never really related to that. When I moved to Auckland at age 21 I started hanging out with some guys who were much more hip to the
processes of making this type of music. At the time I initially learnt how to make digital music from buying my first sampler, an SP 505 (the cheapest one available) and basically just started plugging my keyboard and guitar into it and making music as if I was in a band. All my first lot of music, although being made digitally was pretty much me emulating a band and implementing the things id learned from playing in a group. 

Did you have a mentor?
I don't think I had a real single mentor with production but Jeremy Toy and Julien Dyne both helped allot. It wasn't until I started making Ladi 6's first album 'Time Is Not Much' that I really started to learn. I co-produced that record with Mu from Fat Freddys Drop. He showed me allot to do with recording a nice signal, using microphones, how to use pro tools and how to use an MPC (the next sampler i bought when i had enough $$).

My real musical mentor  was Pos Mavaega from Christchurch (Pacific Underground). The first guy I ever saw making soul-loops on a guitar sound like he was a beatmaker on a machine.

What's the process behind making a song? 
With Ladi's music it usually comes from a chord progression or something which is usually played on a weird synth patch or something like that. We don't have a process that we stick to, but a cool synth loop is usually what gets Ladi writing. I try hard not to fill it up too much and keep it stripped back in the beginning stages to give her room to fill it in however she wants. After she has filled in some melody ideas we go a bit deeper on defining each section and fleshing out the shape of the song. In Honzoh its very different. All our pieces mostly come from improvisation. We have a pretty deep MIDI chain of machines communicating with each other and we try and do as little as possible musically and let the machines do most of it for us.

How much do you and Ladi collaborate? Are you solely the music man or is she like loop this, change that? 
I'm hardout the music, nah but Brandon Haru who plays keys in the live band is helping with writing allot these days and also Julien Dyne who plays drums in the live band also plays an important part even if there are no live drums on every track, his overall view is important. Both those guys are great producers. Ladi is pretty hands off when it comes to the instrumental part (at least for the first part), mostly because she trusts where we want the sound to go. She likes to receive ideas that are kinda thought out rather than be there as we chop and change through endless potential chord voicing's lol. Ladi sees her job in music as a way of communicating with people; people who live through everyday struggles. She is a very honest songwriter and that part of the process is what she is passionate about so giving her ideas to work with that have a prepared vibe helps the process allot.

What DAW do you use and why? 
I use Ableton Live for making music because its just so musical. Its so quick to flip an idea into a completely new idea, I think its a great DAW for the music makers. I record vocals and that type of live stuff that needs multiple takes in Pro Tools because its setup better for compiling takes and that type of live stuff. 

Do you use virtual synths?
Not really, I don't really know of many. I have hardware synths that I use for most things. I'm a pretty full-on synth nerd. I'm not an analog purist but I really get into making my own patches and molding a new sound myself.

Do you use plug-ins?
I use the free EQ's and delays etc, that come with the software.

Drum machines? Do you tap out your own beat or do you program it?
I have a Tempest drum machine made by Dave Smith Instruments. I write really basic stripped back ideas on this because simple silly ideas sound awesome on that machine. Sometimes I play in the ideas and sometimes I just program them in there. I use to front on beats that used quantizing and step sequencing but I use it all the time now cos i'm old and sold out lol.

Do you use any live instruments in your music?
Yeah, drum kits, guitars, bass

Do you use a sampler?
Yeah I love samplers. I have an MPC 3000 which is just a great thick sounding sampler. I also have a Roland SP303 which has a real overtly digital sound but in a good way. The roland range of samplers are really cool and the effects are really intense. I go through big phases of not using computers and just making music on my samplers and it is fun af. 

Do you layer much?...cause I know some people who make digital music have like 30 layers or something...and sometimes all 1 track is doing is just hitting a bell every  now and again...
It depends on what we're going for but sometimes when I have that many layers going on and i'm still not satisfied I have to really stop and question the core idea of what i'm doing. Sometimes the original idea just isn't that cool and you gotta take liberation in letting go of an average idea rather than being competitive with it and tryna overdub some vibe into it. So much easier said than done.

Park's says..."I'm glad I have some cool keyboards and samplers but you don't need any of that stuff to make incredible music. You don't even need a computer. I just read back on all this stuff I just said in this interview about gear, you don't really need any gear.  I just heard a rap group of 17 year old's slow down D'angelo, and rap on it and it was some of the best stuff iv'e heard all year. They probably made it on an ipod or a tamagotchi or whatever.

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