today we catch up with friend of the Lab, xxxchange, for a revealing look into the life of Musical Cleaner.
I think you told me once that you studied drums in college. What was that like?
I’m the only one, out of everybody I know who actually does music for a living, that went to music school. it’s pretty much the un-coolest thing I could have done. In fact I’m surprised I’m actually able to have a career. if you’re a kid and want to be in a band or whatever, go to art school.
I first met you at Spank Rock’s first shows in NYC, which was an exciting time for the new music scene and artist / producers like yourself. what were those “early years” like?
at the time when we came up, hollertronix had just started getting famous outside of philly and lots of people were emulating them. lots of djs were starting to play cross genre. I liked that style, so I tried to incorporate lots of different genres and references and stuff like that into the records we were making. it definitely wasn’t a calculated decision or anything, that’s just the music that came out naturally. it was fun, I had just gotten into dance music and everything a few years before so as a producer I was just running on instinct. I didn’t really know what I was doing, or what I was supposed to be doing like I literally had no sense of history at all. I think that kind of freed me up to try some of the weirder ideas.
Do you use samples? Where else do you get your sounds?
If I use a sample I usually just make it really obvious and make the whole song around the fact that it has that sample in it. Using samples can be really fun because, you can add this whole other layer of meaning / weirdness to the music. I love being surprised by funny combinations and stuff like “oh wow he put that with this?!?!” unfortunately, with sample clearance fees etc…, it’s difficult to get a record out through legitimate channels with more than one sample in it. I’m lucky that I can write music and I don’t need to use samples all the time.
Working with bands seems like a hard thing for producer. What is the producer’s role in the process besides making a beat?
when working with a band, usually they have their music already so you don’t have to worry about coming up with a beat. the producer’s role in that situation, at least in my experience, is worrying about things like vocal production, layering guitars or other sounds, is the song too fast? too slow? and arrangement stuff. all those things basically tie in together. you also need to be selfless enough to not want to put you mark on everything all the time. sometimes a song won’t need anything… that’s the hard part, is realizing when you don’t need to add anything.
You have several “additional production” credits to your name? What does that entail? I imagine you like “The Cleaner” who comes in, takes the tracks, and makes them better.
haha yeah that’s a funny credit because it can mean basically anything! it’s always helpful as a producer, especially if you’re doing a record start to finish, to get another set of ears involved. whether that means giving the project to another person to mix or just playing it for someone else to see what they think. i’ve done additional production stuff where the job was a simple as coming in, listening to the song and saying, you know, “oh that needs a synth there” or “take that sound out.” sometimes it can be as complicated as coming up with a whole part for a chorus or doing vocal production for the whole song.
Any interesting studio stories?
I’ve got tons of studio stories although I’m not sure how many people they’re actually interesting to! in my experience studios and recording sessions in general are about 80% boring. most artists hate being in the studio and usually everyone is super stressed out except the engineers who dont give a fuck because they’re usually getting a day rate.
Fill in the blank, if i won mega-millions lotto tomm, i’d go:
What were you like in high school?
Your 5 favorite DJ records
pomomofo “back at the club” boy 8-bit remix
dj sega “let me clear my throat”
style of eye “ona”
crookers ft soulwax and mixhell “we love animals”
fake blood “i think i like it”
Your 5 favorite non-DJ records
of the moment…
tame impala – skeleton tiger
animal collective “graze”
cyndi lauper “goonies r good enough”
alicia keys “try sleepng w a broken heart”
the death set “clap clap snap” demo
Your 5 favorite spots to eat
grand szechwan (the one on 24th and 9th not either of the ones downtown)
tacos Matamoros (sunset park)
locanda vini y oli (fort greene)
sahara (way the fuck down by coney island)
choice market (fort greene)
Things you like to do, non-musical
videogames (no big surprise there)