I recently had a chance to catch up with DJ/Producer Pete Marriott. Given his history in hip-hop music and production I thought it would be apropos to get a glimpse into what makes the man tick.
The first venture into the world of Pete Marriott found me turning the volume up on his latest release #REALHIPHOP which has most recently found it’s way onto ThisIsBooksMusic.com’s “Best Albums Of 2014“. Rightfully so I might add. Pete Marriott’s #REALHIPHOP project projects a brand of classic hip-hop that deserves to be listed amongst the likes of The Roots, Diamond District and Dj Q-Bert as is the case on on ThisIsBooksMusic.com’s “Best Albums Of 2014“.
According to Pete’s bio…
“Born in East Flatbush within the borough of Brooklyn, Pete Marriott surrounded himself with music since youth. At the age of 15, Marriott began his professional music career with the The Boogie Boys 1987 track Im Comin (Capitol), A year later, he found himself producing The Choice MCs Lets Make Some Noise b/w This Is The B-Side (Idlers), the latter featuring a young Chubb Rock as the tracks narrator. The Marriott-produced This Is The B-Side became an immediate cult favorite among DJs who would make it an important part of their DJ sets for years because of the sound that many feel was ahead of its time. The song was also sampled by, among others, Soul Hooligan, Moby and Photek.”
Now let’s get into this interview.
Tell the people a bit about yourself and your back ground?
I’m the cat that some of your favorite producers are either a fan of or afraid of. I’m basically the Monroe Hutchens of hip hop production and it’s a very weird position to be in, but I accept it for what it is…
I recall seeing a clip of you from the 90’s discussing production with some legends in hiphop. How do you think the game of hiphop production has changed since the 90s?
You must be talking about when I was on the New Music Seminar’s 1993 Producer’s Panel with myself, Eddie Edmunds, Large Professor and DJ Clark Kent and we were debating Sampling vs. Musicianship. I recently pulled that video so all those blogs that picked it up and posted it are probably mad at me, but I have a very good reason for doing that.
Hip Hop music used to feel good because it was funky, dynamic, soulful, buoyant, jazzy and cerebral all at once.
There used to be a spiritual connection to the music and the large variety of sounds and styles it produced because everyone was doing their own thing.
Howie Tee did not sound like Marley Marl who did not sound like Hurby Luv Bug, who did not sound like Easy Mo Bee who did not sound like Larry Smith who did not sound like Spyder D who did not sound like Duke Bootee.
Today if one producer does something that hits, 1 million other producers are running behind them copying their sound so they can sell the beat to some cheapskate half assed no talent rapper for 99 cents on soundclick….
Back then we valued our music as art and treated it with respect, but thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and digital technology, anyone can do it now and they don’t have to be talented, skilled or any good at it. In fact mediocrity is now the norm and its rewarded as long as there is a strong publicity and marketing machine behind you.
I enjoyed your latest album “#REALHIPHOP”. It certainly has a classic hiphop vibe. Was that a stylistic choice or is that just inherently your style?
I have a wide musical range as a composer and a particular sonic pallet so I designed the album to demonstrate these skills and that level of creativity but I did it in a way that would be familiar and timeless at the same time.
I wanted to give the people a fresh perspective of what Hip Hop music is and could be if more producers challenged themselves to compose original music in the vein of the music they would sample. It’s basically the same thing I was doing when I was making records back in the 80’s and 90’s but with new tools.
What was the process like while you were making this album?
The album went through various stages as I remade it several times over within a two year period to get it to where I felt right about it.
Sometimes it involved transferring the vocals from the analog masters which I recorded back in the 80’s, sometimes recreating a particular sound from a record I liked, playing a distinct instrument and mic it up a certain way so I can get the right room sound and sometimes I’d sample a small phrase and chop it to compliment my arrangement.
This album pretty much exercised many of the techniques I’ve learned from 3 decades of making records.
Do you find that today’s climate for hiphop is disjointed and or disconnected from artists that make that classic and authentic hiphop?
I think certain executives within the industry was very successful at dividing and conquering what used to be a movement. We lost and they won, the end.
What are your frustrations as an artist is the game today?
I’m not frustrated…just disappointed.
Are you a traditionally trained musician? If so whats your instrument?
My friend Grafritz often tells me I’m like Prince because I play the drums, guitar, bass, keys and I’m also a turntablist. I have my strengths and my weaknesses in all these instruments, but I think my greatest instrument is my mind because I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of these things without it.
There’s basically 12 notes within each octave and no matter how many chords, harmonies, melodies and rhythms it all comes down to the emotion behind it. You can’t train someone to have a soul, they either have one or they don’t.
What was you first piece of beloved gear?
My Casio RZ-1… I made my very first record with it when I was 15 years old and it still stand the test of time. Every drum sound you here on my album was sampled with it.
Are you into classic gear? if so do you own any classics?
Like I said before I have the Casio RZ-1. I also got the Casio SK-1, CZ-5000 and CZ-101, the Yamaha TX81Z, DX-100, DX-7, Roland SP-808, D-50, JV-1080 and JV-2080, the Akai S-900, the Ensoniq ASR-X, ASR-10, DP/4, the Korg M1r, and Boss SE-50 to name a few…
Whats the oddest place you ever gone digging for vinyl?
There’s a guy out here in Seattle that runs a record shop out of his 3 car garage. He’s a musicologist so he really knows his shit and I love talking with him about records.
Another place is the sub basement of a microbrewery in Vancouver, Canada that I visit every time I drive up there which is quite often these days. Canada is a beautiful nation where I feel a true sense of freedom and I hope to become a resident there in the future.
There’s a book store in Idaho, a donut shop in Portland, Oregon also a silkscreen printer that sells records in my neighborhood and a dude who operates out of several storage units throughout Seattle.
Unlike my native Brooklyn New York, the Northwest has a lot of unique spots you’d have to choose from but there’s also an abundance of record stores, thrift shops and estate sales in Seattle so me being a New Yorker living in Seattle it may seem odd, but I’m pretty sure this is normal for folks born and raised in this region…
Who are your influences?
I know most people want me to say the typical hip hop list of producers, but for me it’s more about Producer, Composers and Arrangers like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Lalo Schifrin, Bob James, Patrice Rushen, The Chic Organzation, The Mizell Brothers, Roy Ayers and James Brown. You know people who actually created music….
Whats your studio rig looking like these days?
Pretty bare actually. I’m currently in the transition of two situations. I moved half of my hardware to Mark Fauver’s Sub Atomic Recordings where I’m a member of the collective there.
Basically all the musicians in the crew contributed our gear to the studio there. They have a great drum room and an awesome control room and a solid vocal booth. So I basically can record live instruments there and then take the files and mix them out of the new commercial space where I’m moving my studio to which I decided will be an in the box operation.
Hows that contrast with the live rig?
I’m a turntablist so when I’m doing a live show I just take my 45’s, my laptop and audio interface. Part of my show is to show people that I’m a real DJ so the 45’s make that very clear especially when I needle drop, scratch and beat juggle.
My laptop comes into play when I use Traktor to perform my actual records with the MC’s on my album. So basically I’m giving the people a true demonstration of skills.
Just because I was born with the last name of a famous hotelier that don’t mean I’m a fake DJ who pretends to DJ at their DJ gigs….
I have skills.
Favorite piece of gear?
My mind. There’s no other like it. It asks unique questions and finds solutions to whatever problem I may have at the moment….
Whats your creative process like when collaborating with an emcee?
I recently had to make a policy change with how I do records now. I started out in the 80’s going into the studio with the artists and we’d work together to make a solid record.
Then came the internet…..
The thing about the Internet is although it’s convenient for artists looking to go cheap and save a few bucks, but if you want to make an impact you have to go into the studio with the producer.
I’m glad more artists have the technological ability to record at home, and that’s great for working out your ideas, but many of these artists are not engineers like I am, they are not objective in what they are hearing so when it’s a long distance situation where they send the vocals to me I often have to ask them to redo it because there’s way too many plosives and sibilance, background noises like fans and air conditioners or children and sometimes weak performances.
So my new policy is if an artist wants to make a record with me they are going to have to fly to Seattle or fly me to their city where we can go into the studio together and work until we get it right.
I’m also very selective about who I work with so I’m not concerned with who may disagree with me or feel offended by how feel.
All time favorite Dj or Beat maker and why?
There’s 3 DJs that come to mind. My mentors the legendary Professor Paul and Howie Tee and DJ Scratch. Favorite Beatmaker Dilla. I’m just curious how come you didn’t ask me who are my favorite producers are, because that would be Howie Tee, Easy Moe Bee and Marley Marl.
Top 3 plugins?
I would say IK Multimedia’s API models even though they changed the GUI which I hate, but it sounds and behaves like the real thing.
I recently fell in love with U-He’s Satin with I use in every step of my tracking method now.
And I found myself getting some serious use out of Image-Line’s Vodex lately…
What advise could give to young aspiring beatmakers?
Stop copying the next man and do your own shit that is unique to you and you only. Too much copy cat bullshit out there and that’s why the music is no longer special like it used to be.
What type projects are coming up for you?
All I will say for now is I tapped into something I don’t want to share publicly until the time is right.
How can folks keep up with you?
If you noticed I pulled all of my videos off of Youtube, all my pics and status updates off of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The only site I didn’t touch is my soundcloud, but that too can change or maybe not….You’ll understand when the time is right.