Trenton, NJ native DJ Hellfire is not new to the beat making and production game. Beginning his journey with rhyming and eventually digging deep into production, DJ Hellfire has made a name for himself as a Producer and Studio owner. Recently, inducted into the camp of producers assembled to host tutorial videos for MPCTutorials.com, DJ Hellfire took time to chat with us in the first of a series of monthly interviews entitled MPC TUTORIALS Producer Interview Series.
Tell us a bit about your background as a producer?
I actually started out rapping at first, way back in 1994. I was always interested more in the beats, but couldn’t afford the equipment. A childhood friend of mine actually had a studio in his basement and allowed me to come over and make beats. Made some beats here and there over the years. Then, in 1998, I met a friend in high school, AP, who I’m still down with today, and he taught me how to use an MPC 2000. I got my own first MPC in 2000 with my tax return money. It was an XL and I purchased it brand new. Eventually got bored with rapping and just have been making beats ever since.
Cool. So you went from MPC 2000 to MPC 2000XL but you are currently an MPC 2500 guy correct? What draws you to that particular model MPC?
Yup, still got my trusty XL too. But the 2500 is what I’ve been using since 2008. What I like most about it is it’s just like my familiar XL, but a bit more updated. It processes commands a lot faster faster than the XL. And I just like the feel and size of the machine. JJOS is a huge plus as well.
JJOS seems to be the defacto standard OS for serious MPC 1000 and MPC 2500 users, What is the huge plus of JJOS?
The main thing that attracted me is the Global Program Editing. I have no idea why Akai didn’t add this to begin with. But this basically let’s you adjust a selected parameter of all sounds in a program at once. So if I chop a sample into a bunch of pieces and want to change the pitch on every chop, I don’t have to do each sample one at a time. You can imagine how time consuming this would be with 64 or more samples. Other small things are refined as well, like saving and loading. Also has stereo chop shop and a better screen layout.
What are your thoughts on the new line of MPCs?
I love them, well the idea and what has been presented. Haven’t gotten my hands on one yet. But it’s what I’ve been wanting in an MPC for over 4 years now. I track to Pro Tools a lot and having only 8 outputs really slows down the workflow. Having everything integrated into Pro Tools already will really speed things up for me. And being able to use my plugins directly in my MPC environment has always been a desire of mine. So I’m really looking forward to the new line.
Which model in the new line of MPCs are you looking to bring into your starting line up? Why?
Definitely the Renaissance. I just like the build of the hardware more, as well as the tilt screen. I had a 1000 as well and the flat screen kills your neck after hours of use. I’ll eventually get a Studio model as well later to travel with, probably a used one. Also, the 16 Q-Link knobs on the Ren are appealing, especially as a Maschine user
I believe I read that you use NI Maschine as well. How does the NI Maschine workflow compare to the MPC 2500?
Maschine was the answer to what I have been wanting in an MPC since 2008, but was unavailable. I bought Maschine in October 2011 and Akai announces the Ren 3 months later! It’s cool though, because using Maschine has helped me to learn what exactly I do and don’t want in a software MPC. As for the workflow compared to the 2500, the Maschine is far more advanced and much more efficient, especially in the area of tracking a beat to Pro Tools and chopping/loading samples. It has a lot of advanced features over the 2500, but is also missing some of the more basic features, and just doesn’t have that well loved MPC feel when sequencing. At the end of the day though, it’s overall more efficient for me and I can make my beats sound exactly how I want, just as I can with the 2500. So that’s what’s important. However, when it comes to using Pro Tools or Reason as a sound module, Maschine doesn’t compare to the 2500. So again, depends on my task.
If all the equipment in the world were being wiped off the face of the earth and you could only keep one piece of gear what would it be?
It would definitely be my 2500, or the Renaissance if a laptop is allowed in the deal.
Do you have a go to piece of gear?
It depends on what I’m doing. I don’t have more than one piece of gear for each type of task I do, except drum machines. Like for vocals, I only have one mic. For keys, I just have a single midi keyboard, for example. I’m not a gear whore, so I don’t keep a bunch of stuff laying around.
Word… What mic and midi keyboard is in your arsenal?
I run an AKG C214 into a Presonus Eureka. Sounds great for a $1400 mic/pre combo. I use the Axiom Pro 61 for keys.
What about soft synths and plugins? Whats your favs right now?
Yeah, I love them. I have a few really good ones, but one of my favs right now would have to be Nexus.
Oh word… Nexus is dope. What do you like about Nexus? Do you also use the expansions for it?
The Nexus has really great sounding effects, although they can be a bit too “wet” on the default level. But it also has a lot of great arps and other unique sounds I haven’t come across in any other VST’s I own. I don’t have any expansions, though.
How’d you link with MPCTutorials?
I have been friends with Zeek for years on MPC-Forums and we’ve always had a mutual respect for each other’s work. One day he invited me to be an MPCTutorials.com producer and it was on from there. Spoke with Paz and made it official!
What do you think the most common issue is with people learning their way around the MPC?
How to properly save their projects and probably how to organize sounds into their programs. MPC’s are very user friendly.
What does the future hold for DJ Hellfire?
I would love to get some well respected placements without having to conform to making the cheesy beats that are so popular right now. Other than that, still running my recording studio, banging them pads, and spreading the knowledge I’ve gained via outlets like MPCTutorials.com.
Catch up with DJ Hellfire on MPCTutorials.com or any of the following links