In the early 2000’s Andy became bemused at the lack of decent tutorials available for MPCs and he began writing his own which he released through his site MPC-Tutor.com. This led to the creation of the definitive tutorial book, ʻBeat Making on the MPC2000XL’ and a succession of follow up books for other MPC models in the years to follow.
Andy is also heavily involved in sound design and co-produces many of the sound packs available at his site MPC-Samples.com, which focuses on offering sounds designed specifically and exclusively for MPCs. And when heʼs not working on his latest book or sample pack, heʼs hanging out at at MPC-Forums.com offering help and guidance to thousands of MPC owners.
In our interview with Andy Avgousti we discuss everything from his award winning book series to his internet empire and what we are referring to as his pioneer status with the MPC internet game.
You are known as an award winning author for writing the ʻBeat Making on the MPCʼ series, when did you first realize you wanted to write a book about beat making?
I’d been using an MPC2000XL for a few years, both as a live tool and as the heart of my studio, I’d really learnt that machine inside-out and was surprised there wasn’t anything on the net that was talking about the actual ‘music making’ processes on an MPC, so I set up MPC-Tutor.com and began to share what I had learnt both as a working musician and as a beat maker.
I think the book was just a natural progression, having a single source of hands-on MPC beat making knowledge that could help improve people’s workflow and give them a better understanding of just what was possible with an MPC.
Your books remind me of the computer software specific lesson books that we see in bookstores with additional cd content. Have you ever thought of publishing soft back or hard back version of your books?
In the early days it was definitely something I thought about, but once people began buying the ebook I quickly realized how limiting it would be to move to a paper version. With the ebook, I’ve been able to continually push out free updates and upgrades to all customers and all they have to do is log on and re-download.
Plus, as you’ll see with the tutorials I’m about to release, there’s so much more you can do with an ebook to make the learning experience more interactive, like embedded video and audio.
You run MPC-Forums.com, which is known as “thee” place for MPC information on the Internet, how and when did the forums come about?
At that time there wasn’t really anything out there for MPC owners to get together online, apart from a barebones message board that had attracted some MPC users – but even on that small scale, it was clear that people needed a place to share ideas and get help.
I decided to install a little forum script on MPC-Tutor.com and quite literally overnight it exploded. Ten years later and there’s 45,000 members and over 1 million posts covering every single MPC model. It’s easy to take it for granted, but I still think it’s awesome to see someone post up a question and ten minutes later there’s already several helpful responses and people firing ideas off each other.
So how does it feel to see a sort of eco system of sites and resources for the MPC available now?
It’s fantastic to be a part of, and it shows what a popular phenomenon the MPC has become. It’s wonderful to see so many people posting up videos to sites like youtube and sharing their experiences and personal insight into their MPC. If you are just starting out, this is exactly the kind of thing that will inspire you to keep pushing yourself harder.
As someone who makes tutorials for a living, being surrounded by so much freely available content has been a real driving force to ensure I’m continually offering something truly unique and innovative to my customers – my tutorials need to be something extra special.
My customers also get the unique benefit of directly engaging with me while they are reading the book – I think that one-to-one support with the actual author can really make the difference, especially if you have questions very specific to your own particular set up.
How did you get into sound design?
To pay the hosting bills! The first book took me nearly a year to write, so in the meantime I needed to generate funds to cover the costs of the site traffic.
I put out some MPC sample packs which were created to highlight some of the techniques I’d been talking about on MPC-Tutor.com, such as MPC multisample programs and creating chopped break sequences. They went down really well so I decided to move the sounds onto a separate site, which became MPC-Samples.com. I’ve been very lucky over the years to work with some of the best sound designers in the industry, so together we’ve been able to create some very special MPC sample packs.
How do you come up with the concepts of your sample packs?
These days it’s about making sound packs that utilize actual MPC-specific features, something that requires an MPC to get the full benefits of the product. So instead of just folders of WAV drums, let’s make some MPC format kits that actually use features like mute targets, layers, SIMULT, effects, filters etc. And why offer standard WAV loops when I can create MPC patch phrases or even provide the actual MPC project files I used to create the loops in the first place. If you look at the list of forthcoming sample packs I’m working on, all of them will be focused on these concepts.
I understand you are a classically trained guitarist. Do you ever incorporate this skill into your beat making?
Well, the guitar is definitely very important to me, it’s something I’ve played since I was very young. Although I was trained classically, I was mainly into electric playing by my teens, Hendrix was the biggest inspiration. I was playing in all sorts of bands as a teenager, and those gigs really helped me develop the confidence I needed for the live MPC and turntable stuff I began doing later on when I began embracing the more electronic side of music.
Guitar often makes it’s way into my music, either as a straight performance or as just used to provide that initial ‘spark’ – but guitar, keyboard and MPC all seem to inspire me differently, so it works out well to mix it up.
Do you have a favorite model of MPC?
If I’m not working on a tutorial for a specific MPC, my workhorse is currently my MPC2500 running JJOS-XL.
Some say that the MPC line changed for the worst when Numark bought Akai, what are your thoughts on that?
Well I’ve always thought it was a shame that development seemed to take a step backwards from where the 4000 was taking it, but I think they are definitely back on track with the MPC Ren.
I was lucky enough for Akai to give me access to the new MPC Software for the past year, so not only have I been able to learn it inside-out, I’ve also seen the phenomenal amount of work Akai have been putting into this behind the scenes. I think if Akai keep on top of the bug fixes, feature requests and support, the Ren is going to be a huge success.
We share a commonality in wanting to teach kids the art of beat making. What makes teaching beat making to kids appealing to you?
It all came from my own kids sneaking into my studio and having a play on whatever program I had loaded up in my MPC, they got completely obsessed with it because it’s so immediate and intuitive. My 6 year old can now hit REC and PLAY START and record his own stuff without me even being there.
It struck me that it would make a great idea for a school workshop, so I’ve been talking to some local schools about it. Basically I’ll be spending the day with a class and getting them to build their own beat with an MPC, a mic and whatever they have lying around in the school that can be sampled! It’s hopefully a fun way to spark that initial interest in music making at an early age.
What do you feel your biggest accomplishment is to date?
In terms of the MPC side of my life, you initially think that nothing can beat the satisfaction of writing and publishing your own book, but to be honest there’s no better sense of achievement than getting an email from someone telling me how much my books have helped them – it’s hard to top that.
What’s on the horizon for you and your businesses?
Well the new MPC-Tutor.com has just gone live – there’s going to be lots more tutorials, unbiased reviews, news, commentary and articles. It’s ultimately more blog focused and a lot more personal.
I’m also about to release my first hybrid tutorial book, which features embedded video to help with the more visual concepts – basically the best of both worlds. The first one will be for JJOS XL but I’ll be doing similar tutorials for the Ren and some legacy MPCs.
There’s lots of other projects in the pipeline including new sample packs, more DAW books, and a new MPC community-focused web site, but I’ll let you know more about those soon!
Keep up with Andy via the following links