Potholes In My Blog is proud to welcome Arts the Beatdoctor of the Netherlands to Open Mic Presents… He has a very unique production style that is keeping necks snapping across the world. I was put on to Arts after his solo debut album, Transitions, a musical journey that should not be labeled as just a collection of beats. I then discovered his two EPs, Fragments, and recently dropped, Progressions. As he works on his newest release, coming 2009, check out my conversation with Arts the Beatdoctor on Potholes In My Blog.
Hit the skip for the full Interview with Arts…
Reyn: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions Arts, how are things going for you?
Arts: Things are pretty good. After only doing the studio thing for a few years, last year I came out for a tan (which is hard in Holland!) and the first steps of performing my music. I like it, to have both those things going on now at the same time, perfecting sounds in the studio and perfecting performance onstage.
Reyn: When did you first become involved with music and when did you become inspired to become an artist?
Arts: I have been playing instruments for a long time now, I think I started with keys when I was 10, followed by guitar… I really got into production because I wanted to record my guitar songs. So I bought a PC, got some software, and barely touched the guitar after that, but it was the reason to go in that direction initially
Reyn: What types of techniques do you use when it comes to sampling and instrumentation? What types of equipment and instruments do you use?
Arts: I’m pretty comfortable with computers. I have fooled around with an MPC (sold it a few years ago though) and other hardware, and it does have a good influence on the :fun factor” of producing, but the backbone is always software. I set up my beats in Cubase using Native Instruments’ Battery (I use it to trigger samples with my PadKontrol, but I also cut my samples in there), and all the recording and mixing happens in Cubase too. For the liveset I use Ableton Live. But my first album was almost entirely made in Fruityloops. Sound-wise I don’t care much, whatever works well. I hate to wait for something, thinking I could do it faster on a computer. That’s why I got rid of the MPC.
Reyn: Let’s get it started by talking about your first album release Transitions. The album had a few featured artists but for the most part it is a showcase of your production and instrumental ability. But it wasn’t simply a collection of beats; it was more of a landscape of melodies and elaborate drum patterns that seem to have a voice. What were you looking to do with this album?
Arts: Before I was working on that album, I did some basic instrumental tracks, but mainly produced for local MCs. I didn’t think I could create something on my own that would be very interesting to listeners, so I never tried to do any solo stuff, I was comfortable in that supporting role. But then Pete Philly convinced me I should do a solo release. So I thought, if I’m going to do this, it’d better be something worth listening to. So from the start, I was looking for something more than just a collection of dope beats, like the tapes a lot of producers are dropping these days.
So over the course of 2 or 3 years, I started to collect my best songs, in the meantime released the Fragments EP, and started to build on a picture that would become my album. I tried to find some common themes and use them in different contexts through the course of the album, sometimes very abstractly, but also very literally, like the saxophone line from Fragments appearing everywhere through the album. It’s like a showcase of what I thought an album should be.
Reyn: Your album contained a guest spots from Pete Philly, Skiggy Rapz, Sense and The Proov. How was it working with these guys and how did they complement you as an artist and help you in developing the direction of the project?
Arts: It was different with everybody I guess. It was great to have Pete on there, especially since he was the one who convinced me to do it in the first place. He sat down with the basis of the beat for The Anthem, and he wrote and recorded the whole thing in one day. And when I sent the beat for Crazy Times to Skiggy, I received a recorded chorus 3 minutes later. But that collaboration was special because Skiggy is also a very good producer, and he kept being very interested and supportive, he even came down months later to perfect the vocal mixing.
Reyn: The first cut on that album, “Blending Quality,” really sets the mood for me as a listener. The voice sampling on that track gives off a nostalgic feel that carries throughout Transitions. What do you look for in a sample, and how do you go about finding exactly what you’re looking for?
Arts: I always split up the working phases in two. When I’m looking for samples, I’m not making a beat, and when I’m making a beat, I make sure I have an archive of samples ready. So in that first phase of looking through records and deciding what to keep, I don’t think very “functionally”. Ofcourse I will think about if the sample is clean enough for me to use later, but literally any sound that interests me gets saved and categorized.Then when I am creating, I can throw anything from the archive in, and make unusual combinations, without really looking for a certain sound. This keeps it fresh for me. So I don’t have anything in particular I look for in a sample (except for solo Rhodes piano sounds, I always get those!), but in the end, I think anyone browsing through my sample libraries will eventually see a pattern of what I do and don’t like.
Reyn: Now I assume the title Transitions has a lot to do with transitions that you pieced together as the album progresses from song to song. What else went into the title of that record?
Arts: Transitions ended up to be the main theme of the record. Like you mensioned, there’s the seamless transitions between most of the tracks, but also the title track, which is about train travels, and in itself has a transition when Gumshoe ends his verse with getting out of a train, and C Major starts his with getting in that same train.
Reyn: Getting into your newest project, the Progressions EP, how did you evolve and change your sound for this project?
Arts: Progressions is quite literally what the title implies. A second record is coming up, but not at this time, but after Transitions I feel like I have evolved a bit, and I wanted to get something out reflecting that. So conceptually, it isn’t such a worked-through thing as Transitions, it’s just a snapshot of where I’m at right now.
Reyn: I like what you did with the Pax & Pry Remix for “Sleep.” What made you decide to remix a joint like that?
Arts: I got like a “card blanche” to remix any track on that album. So I started looking at every track, most of which I like very much. I dislike remixing tracks that are close to my sounds, but Pax &Pry’s style of beatmaking is pretty different to mine, so that wan’t an issue with any of the tracks. But even before the remixing offer came, I always had the feeling that I could bring a different feel to that track. It’s like Pax’s words and tone hinted at something else than what the beat was doing. So for me that was the challenge, to nail that.
Also I think the lyrics are very heartfelt and positive. I made it with an ex-girlfriend in mind, like an aural present. The funny thing is many people here something dark in my version. I really didn’t have that intention when making the track, but after listening back after getting that feedback, I think they may be right.
Reyn: You seem to be keeping yourself busy touring and promoting the new album, describe what a fan could possibly experience at an Arts the Beatdoctor show.
Arts: At this time we’re experimenting a lot, literally every show has a different line-up. I’ve played with a whole band, but my next show will be just me, saxophone and vocals. Most of the time I bring Pax to do the tracks we made together and kick some freestyles, and Tom D, my saxophone player, is almost always present, but I shift the rest around a lot. I want to try to find the best way to get my studio music to the stage, but at the same time, this process ensures that we don’t get into the “push a button, hear a sound” routine. I have to be on my toes every show because it is always different from the last one.
Also I’ve been working on a visual show. Right now we have some pretty funky visuals accompanying the music, and I’m always working on improving those. Like my music, which is made from old dusty records, most of the visuals are old black & white commercials, documentaries etcetera cut up to the beat of the music.
Reyn: I found it fairly difficult finding information about you online. A somewhat mysterious persona surrounds Arts the Beatdoctor. Is this something that you are trying to portray or is this just possibly due to a lack of exposure and promotion?
Arts: Well, I personally think that what makes me stand out from everyone else is my music. So I don’t really care about getting out there as myself. I think I have some good music to bring to the people, and maybe some interesting ideas on music as a whole, but after that I’m just a regular guy, and I don’t think anybody would be very interested in that. At the same time I like the anonimity. It’s not that I’m a big name already, but also if my music is going to be bigger than it is now, I would like to be able to talk to the world through music, but be as regular as I am in real life.
Reyn: The Netherlands is the country you call home. How does this environment cater to your music? How is the fan reception to your music over there?
Arts: It’s a hard question. I have quite a few fans over here that are very hard core, some very good supporters, and every time I notice that it’s very good. But at the same time, The Netherlands is very small, and my kind of music (jazzy hiphop, or jazz with beats, or whatever) is a very small movement in that small country. So that kind of made it necessary to look beyond the border, because in The Netherlands alone, I wouldn’t be able to support myself with my music.
Reyn: Have you ever thought of moving to the United States and see if you can get some more mainstream exposure?
Arts: Well, my last EP was released on Beats Broke, a small label from Austin, Texas. So I’m very happy my music made it there. I don’t know if my music would be very well accepted there though. I noticed Nicolay from Foreign Exchange (who is also from Utrecht) is doing very good, but we are stylistically a bit apart, though I love some of his tracks very much. Maybe Japan or the UK would be on my list first. Although I would love to tour there.
Reyn: What should we be expecting from Arts the Beatdoctor in 2009?
Arts: I’m taking the touring across the borders (can’t say exactly where yet) in 2009. Also I hope to finish my second album in 2009. All I can say now is that it looks promising…