Brad ‘Central Parks’ Parks mixes the second golden era of hip hop with now-school beatmaking techniques and technology, making a highly addictive sound.
The New Beat Maker talks to Central Parks about his beatmaking setup, the influences for his banger ‘Realization of Truth’, his ‘practice makes perfect’ ethic and his goals for the rest of the year.
TNBM: For those who don’t already know you, can you give a brief introduction into who you are and what you do?
Central Parks: Definitely…I’m Central Parks; beat maker. I consider myself an artist first, but I also enjoy the other parts of making songs such as producing, recording, and mixing.
TNBM: When and how did you first get into beatmaking? Who were your early influences?
Central Parks: It’s actually funny. I have listened to hip hop ever since I could buy my own CD’s, and always gravitated towards sampled beats. I didn’t know it at the time, but I always just found them to sound fatter and more musical than programmed beats with VST’s. As a kid, I was trying to make sounds like 70s soul samples with VST’s and of course it wasn’t working. Then my friend Tracy schooled me on how to cut up records and I’ve been learning ever since.
TNBM: What’s your current set-up? Why does this work for you?
Central Parks: First off, I’m definitely a hardware guy. Right now it just works better for what I do. I’m using the MPC 4000 90% of the time with my MPC 3000 the other 10%. Sometimes if I am traveling or just messing around I will pull out the SP 404. The 4000 is good for me because it does everything that I want it to. I’ve worked long enough with it that I am comfortable, and until I need more features I plan on sticking with it. Records, a sampler, and some speakers are all that you need. As far as mixing goes, I am using a Pro Tools 10 setup. I just got a Universal Audio Apollo, and let me tell you…it’s crazy how good these plugins are.
TNBM: Take us through a typical beatmaking session. Do you start with an idea in your head and go searching for sounds and samples to match what you ’hear’? Or is it a spontaneous event where ideas flow subconsciously?
Central Parks: I start off by just relaxing and listening to records. If I am going to be making a beat, I will listen to artists that I know are going to give me the sound that I am looking for. But…sometimes you are surprised by artists. People throw some left field stuff into albums. Just because that first 3 minutes was wack doesn’t mean the last 20 seconds are. I have had that happen plenty of times. If I had skipped over that song I would have never found that ill loop. After this, I just chop the parts that I like, add some drums, bass…then track it into Pro Tools. I can’t really explain making music, because once it’s over I’m not sure how I ever got there. If I tried it again, I would never make two beats the same with the exact same samples. So I guess I’m a more “in the moment” type of guy, hahaha.
TNBM: Your chop game is official. How long did it take you to reach the level you’re at? How much do you practice?
Central Parks: It’s taken years of practice to get this comfortable…and I’m just now getting comfortable! It’s all about knowing which parts to use and when to leave a loop alone, etc. Here’s my policy: go with the best arrangement in my head that makes sense musically. If it doesn’t make sense musically or leaves me feeling weird I scrap it. On to the next one. As far as practice time goes? I would say at least 3-4 hours a day on a bad day. On weekends I might spend 6-10 hours a day working on beats. So maybe between 20-30 hours a week? Sometimes more…but always I try to put in at least 20-30 hours a week. It’s all about how bad you want to make music. I can’t stand to be out on a Friday night. If I do go out, all I’m thinking about is, “man…I really need to get home and make a beat.” It kills me, so I just stay in and make music. It’s what I love to do.
As far as practice time goes? I would say at least 3-4 hours a day on a bad day. On weekends I might spend 6-10 hours a day working on beats…I try to put in at least 20-30 hours a week. It’s all about how bad you want to make music. I can’t stand to be out on a Friday night. If I do go out, all I’m thinking about is, “man…I really need to get home and make a beat.” It kills me, so I just stay in and make music. It’s what I love to do.
TNBM: ‘Realization of Truth’ is a recent favourite of mine. It brings to mind ‘Jungle Love’ (from J Dilla’s ‘The Shining’). Was this an inspiration for the track or am I over-reaching?
Central Parks: You are definitely on the right track here! All I could think about was those horns/sirens and of course we all know about how Dilla liked to use that kind of stuff. When I was making it though, I asked myself what it made me think of other than J Dilla. The thing I came up with was the Sirens from The Odyssey…you know, those chicks that sing and melt dude’s faces off. So I just kept that in mind and tried to make a track that had that sort of mysterious feel to it. Glad you dig it by the way!
TNBM: The track ‘Destruction’, with Fish Grease and DJ Grazzhoppa, is bananas. Can you tell me how the collaboration came about?
Central Parks: No doubt. That all came about from my friend Es-K. He is a phenomenal beat maker and engineer. He was working with Fish and heard some of my stuff. He told me to submit some beats for Fish’s mixtape, and that was that. He used two tracks on his “Deep Fried Crispiness” mixtape from this year. After making those we did “Destruction”. Es-K is the man though…he is always trying to help out other artists. I mean, I had no songs with anyone…just some dude making beats in his apartment, but he took the time to tell me he dug my stuff and got me hooked up with Fish. I’m forever grateful for that, for real.
TNBM: Your tracks are nicely mixed and mastered. Do you do this yourself? Can you tell us a bit about the process?
Central Parks: Yes, I do it all in one sitting. I call it a “rough mix” because that’s what it is. It’s basically to get my stuff sounding decent to put on SoundCloud. I make the beat, track it out, and mix. The key for me is picking out good sounds that mesh to begin with. If you want a kick that pumps that low end, but pick one out that knocks at like 120-200hz…then you are going to have a tough time in the mix session. If your sampled snare sounds out of place then you are going to have to completely mangle it to make it fit in with the other samples that you picked. My mixing is really basic…EQ, Filtering, Compression, Reverb and the Apollo’s tape simulators. You don’t need anything else. I get the sounds to gel, then run my mix through iZotope Ozone on the master bus. Some limiting and light mid/side EQ to help clean the mix up some. That’s it. No hocus pocus…just using quality plugins and trusting your ears is the way to go. Also I do spend time reading the manuals. A lot of people are afraid to, but there’s nothing wrong with taking 20 minutes to read the manual for a plugin.
‘‘My mixing is really basic….EQ, Filtering, Compression, Reverb and the Apollo’s tape simulators. You don’t need anything else. I get the sounds to gel, then run my mix through iZotope Ozone on the master bus. Some limiting and light mid/side EQ to help clean the mix up some. That’s it. No hocus pocus…just using quality plugins and trusting your ears is the way to go. Also I do spend time reading the manuals. A lot of people are afraid to, but there’s nothing wrong with taking 20 minutes to read the manual for a plugin.’’
TNBM: What tracks are you most pleased with and why?
Central Parks: This is a tough one, because I feel like I’m not anywhere close to being at an acceptable level. I guess I’ll always feel that way, but I am very critical of my own stuff and have a hard time listening to old stuff of mine. My favourites I guess though are the complete songs that I have done with Jung Youth (4DJD) like “Perfect Angel”, and all of my Fish Grease stuff. My favourite beat would have to be my “Serenity” remix on Es-K ’s new 12’’ coming out.
TNBM: You’re currently working on an EP and a set of mixtapes. Can you tell us a bit more about these projects? When can we expect them to be released?
Central Parks: Definitely. I have a small EP coming out with my friend Jung Youth (‘Duende’). It’s some older material, but quality stuff. I am excited to finally have it out after waiting so long. Fish is working on his next project right now, so I am hoping to have a couple of tracks on there…we will see. Another more recent project that isn’t mine, but that I am a part of, is Es-K’s aforementioned Serenity 12’’. Fat Beats will have it, and it will have verses from AG (D.I.T.C.), Steele, C-Rayz Walz, Fish Grease, and M-Dot. DJ Grazzhoppa and Maw also have some major work on there too. Just to clarify: I am on the B-side doing a re-mix…I’m not trying to take any shine away from Es-K since this is his release!!!
With me personally, I am releasing a beat tape series…just a lot of stuff that has sat around that I like and feel needs to be released. I think I have somewhere around 6-7 tapes planned, so I will start dropping those very soon and throughout the rest of the year.
TNBM: What are your goals for the rest of the year? Any shout outs or anything you want to add?
Central Parks: Just to get these beat tapes out, make good music with artists, and keep my foot on the gas with these beats. I want to never stop learning, and I feel that I have a lot to learn in 2013! Definitely shout outs to Es-K, Fish Grease, and the rest of the Def Squad guys – you know who you are! I can’t forget about my man Jung Youth…a great friend and even better artist. There’s too many people to name here, so if we have ever made music together I appreciate you!
TNBM: Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to new beatmakers?
Central Parks: Make music for the love of music. As soon as you start being influenced by money your quality will take a hit. Too many people have that backwards…if you take away the money, they stop making music. I’ll be making beats no matter what. It’s all the same to me. Try to surround yourself with people that understand that viewpoint as well, and you are golden.
Central Parks and Jung Youth’s ‘Duende’ EP is available from 1 April at: www.jungyouth.com
For more Central Parks, check out: www.soundcloud.com/bradparks