Previously we published part 1 of our interview Reavis Mitchell of BKE. Here we have the continuation of the discussion with Reavis as we dive into the story behind the name and the attention that it raised. We also get to discuss sound design and the Beat Thang elevator pitch.
Let’s dig in…
BTR: What’s your thought on the varying opinions of the name “Beat Thang”? I mean, obviously, it’s not gonna change how you feel about your product, but I’m just interested to know what you think when you hear the different polarizing opinions of the name, “Beat Thang”.
Reavis: I’m a little taken aback that people would even think that much of it, you know. I mean, it’s the name. It’s kind of a silly name, and it’s kind of funny to us, you know. We’re not… we’re not even taking ourselves that seriously. You know, music is fun – it’s supposed to be about fun. We’re having fun. We’re like, “Shit, we got an electronic company – let’s have fun with it.”
BTR: So the thought was why not call it the Beat Thang?
Reavis: Right, we gave it fun name that we thought would reflect a little attitude and a little bit of our culture, and let people know that… Hey, this is something different, coming from somebody different. I’m a little surprised that people’s… some people have had such a visceral reaction about the name. I mean we definitely wanted to, you know, put a little shout out to the South on this – we called it the “Thang”.
BTR: OK… So there is a bit of a nod to the south, of course?
Reavis: Yeah, you know, we definitely represent. But, yeah, I don’t know, man, it’s mind-blowing. I think some of it… I think when people are bring really negative and really ignorant, being they cannot see a world where they cannot visualize anything that comes from outside of their paradigm. And because the paradigm for machines implies that it’s the… the RT-22s, the AK so-and-so, the J-1000 or, you know, it’s just a bunch of numbers and letters. You know? Where, even when you do look at things like the Moog Phatty, and the Moogerfooger, you know, those things are not even as polarizing.
I haven’t seen firestorms about the Moogerfooger, and maybe that’s because people just worship the ground that Bob Moog walks on. But, we had a kind of a brash attitude from the beginning because our roots are hip-hop, and we came at it like “Yo!” Give us our place in the sun. And I think, probably, people… maybe some people reacted more to that than they did to actually the actual name.
BTR: Yeah, because I think there’s validity on both sides of that, that statement. People kind of naturally react a certain way to something new –“how does that fit in to what we’re doing?” I’m sure you’ve heard the murmurs like, “it’ll never be anything.” But it’s cool to see it actually come to market. Which leads me into my next question: Some were pretty sure that the Beat Thang was just vaporware. Was that discouraging, or was that motivating? Or did it affect you at all?
Reavis: Yeah. It was a little embarrassing, but it was more motivating.
BTR: Oh wow. Embarrassing?
Reavis: Well, when you’re doing anything that’s significant and visible, then you’re always gonna have people who openly support you. And you’re always gonna have plenty of people that will try to pull you down. And, you know, so I explained to one of my partners who was getting really upset about this stuff, I’m like, “Dude, you know, you… you’re looking at these comments and posts and “hang-ups” because you think they are just, you know, showing you a lack of love or the opposite of love. But ultimately, if you hate something, it’s almost the same as love.” You know, the opposite of love is indifference. If we weren’t doing anything, then they wouldn’t have anything to say. They wouldn’t even worry about it, you know. So, I just kind of see haters as… as love, because they care, too. Well, so…
BTR: That’s a good perspective.
Reavis: Whether you hate something or love it, you still care. And it’s nice to know they care. It’s kind of fun to have the whole drama of struggling through it and making it on the other side, and seeing the debate between the naysayers and the true supporters, and the people who really believe it. That’s interesting to see, but honestly, I’ve been blessed to have received that much attention. Because I know what I’ve got to do, and it’s all motivated on that every day.
BTR: That’s what’s up. I would imagine, you know what they say, “No press is bad press.” The fact of the matter is that people are talking about your product…
BTR: If people are talking about your product, then the end the end result is that your product is on people’s minds. There’re a lot of products that’s out there, and a lot of different ventures that people do that never see the light of day. Or it just gets tossed into the web or the big ocean of the Internet, and just gets swallowed up, and nobody ever talks about it. So…
Reavis: Yeah. Well, that’s kind of the irony of it, is that the haters were pretty instrumental in kicking off a lot of the initial viral marketing that we had, which, actually, positioned us pretty quickly pretty high on the visibility list for new products.
I felt the haters were more effective in helping us in helping us, in helping propel us, with people with their flame awards and, you know, 30-page threads. There were 30, 40-page threads about this thing, man. Just talking about the Thang.
All this stupid stuff. But, you know, hey, I’m not mad. I appreciated it. I mean, you know, fast-forward to now, we’re distributed in 26 countries worldwide. We sell Beat Thangs on every continent except Antarctica. And you know, we’re in…
BTR: What, no Beat Thangs in Antarctica? [laughter]
Reavis: [laughter] We’re in Best Buy; we’re in… Sweetwater. We’re in Musician’s Friend; we’re in Guitar Center. We’re in Sam Ash; we’re in all of the major, world’s major music distributors.
BTR: OK so switching gears a bit… So how did you go from Beat Kangz to BKE?
Reavis: Well, me, Aja Emmanuel – and Luke Jackson, a/k/a “Boom BAP”. The three of us were the Beat Kangz. And then when we got all the stuff together to start the company, and found investment money, then we incorporated that as BKE – Beat Kangz Electronics. And over time we’ve just, you know, kind of refined the image and changed the company up a little bit, and in its current incarnation it’s called “BKE”, which is just short for Beat Kangz Electronics. But it’s a little more marketable.
BTR: Now, getting down to the sound design, I just wanted to touch on this just because when I talked to you at NAMM, I remember you told a little story about – “We’re getting involved with other people that are dong sound design; they’re kind of coming into the fold.” – you mentioned the Dungeon Family. Do I hear a possible collaboration with maybe, Dungeon Family sound sets coming out on BKE sounds?
Reavis: Absolutely. And that’ll be very soon.
BTR: Very cool… they have a sonic soundscape that’s unlike anything. It’s hard, it’s smooth, it’s melodic even erratic.
Reavis: Yeah. Yeah, they’re great dudes, too, man. I’ve been hanging out in the studio a lot [with] the cats around there, Organized Noize – that’s a family. It’s kind of crazy because it’s like full-circle, ‘cause, years and years ago when I was performing we used to play out with Outkast live.
BTR: Okay. I didn’t realize you use to be a performing artist too.
Reavis: Yeah… And it’s funny just how things come full-circle, you know, from back in my twenties, to now 20 years later I’m back in an exciting clique of brothers, that are doing something totally different. And some of my favorite groups have come out of that production camp. I’m definitely being inspired.
BTR: And when it comes to the sound design game, I’m seeing that there’s obviously a paradigm shift. I see people like Illmind and M-Phazes, and such that are starting to not necessarily sell their secrets, but sell bits and pieces of their tool kit – their sounds. That’s a huge thing and it’s kind of trending right now. What are your thoughts on the direction the sound design game is heading? Does that feel like a bit of a shift to you?
Reavis: Absolutely. And years ago, this would have been unheard of.No producer on that level would have even thought about giving away their secrets, or monetizing it in that way.But you know, the real paradigm shift in the music business. It’s shifted away from major label control to independent control. And that way everybody is a record company. And then you got the digital technology that has, basically eviscerated record labels’ ability to monetize the music product. So they’re struggling to find another way to monetize art.
And now everybody’s an artist; everybody’s a producer – and when everybody’s a producer, nobody is a producer. You know, so the big producers are still in there, too, because now the record companies are coming to guys like us, that’s got stuff just in their house and they don’t have to go to any place, they’re still getting a really good sound, and saying, “Hey, we can do it for half of that,” and I don’t have the overhead, so of course, I’m like, “Yeah.”
BTR: Indeed, So would you say that the paradigm shift is much bigger than just sound design and drum kit sales and the “everyone is a producer” sort of syndrome?
Reavis: Yeah… And so there’s this big paradigm shift in music right now, and I think everybody’s kind of scrambling to see, you know, now that that big piece of the pie [that made] the money from unit sales is gone, it’s almost like music now is not even really a commodity. People are mostly expecting to get it for free. And that being the case, we’re all running around trying to find a way to monetize our art. And it’s kind of fortunate for us that a big part of that has become like the sort of thing that Rockwilder did on his site 10 years ago, 15 years ago. You can get Rockwilder beats for little or nothing.
But hey, he’s probably got one of the most lucrative sites on the net right now too. So when paradigm shifts happen, you just have to be able too think out of the box, and you have to be able to create and innovate new ways to monetize what you do. And one of those things is sound design and doing it like this. And I think that’s why we’ve had a lot of guys kind of flock to us, because we really have one of the very few vehicles for that, with our distribution network and with our sound design library, and with all the musicians that we pay to sound design, and we’re designing a machine that could be so easily expandable.
to be continued…
Be sure to check part 1 of the interview.