If you’ve been following along you know that we’ve discussed the origins of the Beat Thang and various related topics at length in our multi part interview with Reavis Mitchell. Here we have part 3 and the continuation of our interview / discussion with Reavis Mitchell of BKE where we get Reavis’ take on the state of the sound design game, future plans for BKE and his advice to young inventors.
Let’s dig in…
BTR: So, ok shifting gears abit now…For the people that have no idea of the Beat Thang, what’s your elevator pitch to them for the Beat Thang?
Reavis: Well, off the top, I think Beat Thang is a niche product. It’s not for everybody. It’s not an iPhone, you know what I mean? It’s not that kind of a utility. It is a device that is made for people who want to make music. And it’s a device that’s made for people who want to make electronic music. And if you are one of those people, and that interests you, then you’ve got to think in terms of a real-time concept. You know, if you’re smart you get your ideas down, you know, stream of consciousness. You get an idea, you pull up the kit – two minutes later you’re listening to your idea coming back to you. Then this is the device for you.
If you like mobility and if you want to get out and about and be able to exchange the sounds, change the sounds, update the sounds, personalize your device and maybe pull in your own sounds… if you’ve got a library already, then this is the device for you. Whether you’re a beginner or whether you’re a seasoned pro, the Beat Thang is deep enough with features where it will give you things that you need to make really good-sounding music, and capture your ideas. But it’s also intuitive enough that I could show somebody how to do it in five minutes that’s never even touched a drum machine. And literally, I can do that. I do that all the time.
And so, in a nutshell, Beat Thang is a music production device. It’s colorful, it’s compact, it’s powerful, and it has great integration and it has great sound, the quality of the audio. Not just the quality of the waveforms but also the quality of the audio outputs. A lot of people don’t know this, but this thing sounds as good as a high-end audio interface. We’re talking about a signal-to-noise ratio of, I think it’s something over 100 decibels.
BTR: No. I can’t say that I knew that…
Reavis: Yeah we’re talking about total harmonic distortion of less than a tenth of a percent. It’s very quiet and it’s very punchy. It’s beefy; it’s got great A-to-D and D-to-A conversion. It’s a good-sounding device, so it’s not like you got a little portable thing that you take around and make some beats and then when you get the studio you gotta start all over.
But with pros on the go you start it there, and it sounds good enough in there to dump into your DAW, dump into pro tools, dump into Logic, and then take your production on to the next level.
It’s a wonderful paintbrush, to a guy like that. It’s a wonderful paintbrush and a wonderful new color. It’s a palette of production devices, but it’s also powerful enough to be the only guy… to be the beginner guy’s only device, to be his axe.
BTR: So, what’s next for you and BKE and the Beat Thang? What can we expect from you guys going forward?
Reavis: Well, in the short term, we got Musikmesse, and that’s next month, in Frankfurt, so I’m gonna go to Frankfurt and hang out at Messe, and take care of our new international distributors. We’re having a big European launch during Messe, and we’re going to drop a new version of the software, and also a ROM expansion, specifically for EDM music. The Europeans are really, really into that. And we’re gonna get some feedback from them, and we’re gonna continue to update our software, and we’re going to do a rewriting of Virtual, which is gonna make it a much more powerful, much more capable plug-in. And we will continue to expand our products. You know, there is one product that we’ve been kind of working on, but I can’t really say much about it right now.
BTR: Well, I don’t want you to divulge any secrets… Unless…. [Laughter]
Reavis: [Laughter] Yep, there’s a few new software… or a couple of new software offerings on the way, and perhaps a new hardware offering on the way. So stay tuned…
BTR: Okay. One other thing… we’ve seen people like Rza on YouTube using your drum machine, and people like Dallas. How did those associations come about?
Reavis: Different ways, man. You know, we… it’s kind of like wildfire, once you get one person doing it, they’ll show to somebody else. We actually met Rza when we were working on the first box, and he really does the samples on the first box. And actually GZA went out and bought one first, and then came back and Rza’s like “I’m gonna get one of those!” So that’s how that happened.
But for cats like, like say, Bangladesh, he got one. He’s using it on Rihanna’s stuff, and Dallas is using it on Chris Brown’s stuff and Will.i.am’s stuff. And Rockwilder used it on 50 Cent’s last joint.
More specifically… We went to New York to meet Rock, and just reached out to him, and said, “Hey, you know, we got something we think you’ll like.” And he got into it and he dug it. And, he spread the word. Commissioner Gordon’s got one; he did The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, and used it on one of the Marley’s albums. These guys, they talk – it’s a small community. A lot of times they’ll introduce us to more friends, and a friend of a friend, and we’ll be like out there at NAMM and somebody will show up. Like Stevie Wonder came by our booth last NAMM, and he wanted one, so we hooked him up. He said he’s been hearing about it and was excited about it. He said he was trying to get one for four years. So I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
BTR: Crazy… Stevie Wonder is such a gear-head. But I guess, you know, if you think about his music and all the innovative stuff he’s done, I mean, he’s always been a gear-head. So that’s kind of cool that he keeps his ear to the ground, still.
Reavis: It is. I was there the day he came by. I was humbled. I grew up on his stuff, you know. Here’s finally somebody I can tell my parents, “Hey, guess who’s using it now?” And they’ll get it, and understand and be like “Wow, Stevie Wonder, really?”
Stevie is a really cool dude, man, and you’re right, he keeps his ear to the ground, and he keeps up on the new developments too. So for me… when you’re working on something and just trying to get it done, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking, “oh, this is great, and this is gonna be awesome.” You just actually spend a lot of time worrying that it won’t be done.
So for me, the best way for me to deal with it is just to keep focused on the mission. Then when you finally raise your head up and you see people around you that you’ve listened to all your life and now they’re looking at you and they’re saying, “Hey, good job. Good job. Can I get one of those?” It’s like… you know, I… it’s… it’s hard to explain it.
BTR: That’s cool, yo. I would imagine it’s surreal. So what advice would you give to young people coming up, thinking, “hey, I can do that. I can design something that people would like to have?” And I think you may have already answered the question because one of the things I heard when I was younger too, with my dreams and goals, is “focus on the work.”
BTR: And I think that’s really important. But what would you advise the young cat that aspires to be the next Roger Linn?
Reavis: The very first piece of advice I would give is that you have to spend enough time knowing yourself and knowing who you are, and knowing what you like and what you want in life. Number one, to know what that goal is gonna be, to know what you want to create. Know what you want to put deliberate creation energy into. Once you do that, then you can move from a place of passion. You can move from a place of love. You can move from a place of, “this is what I will be doing, even if I make nothing doing it.” This is what I would do after I came home from my job and all the bills are paid. This is what I would do for fun. This is what I would do for the love of it. Once you have identified that thing, then go for it. Dream big! The sky’s the limit. Swing for the fences.
I mean, our very first investor was Bob Ezrin. He created The Wall for Pink Floyd. And that was one thing he told me that sticks in my brain to this day. ‘Cause we were trying to figure out how much money to ask for. And he’s like, “How much do you think it’ll take?” And we’re like, “Well, you know, I don’t know, maybe… maybe $800,000, maybe $500,000.” And he’s like, “Swing for the fences. Ask for a million!” So, we asked for a million. And we got three million.
So… just swing for the fences. No number’s too big, no… nothing is too big when you really are doing it for the love, and you really want it, and you are willing to work for it. Then no object is too great. If it really is in your desire and in your passion to attain, nothing is too big. I would say, “Be unafraid. And don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do.”
BTR: That’s what’s up.
Reavis: There’ll be plenty of people who will, or who will try. Those are just people that are just afraid to live their own dreams. They’re excited by you and hating over you because you’re daring to do it. And it’s reminding them of their own fear, of not doing it, so they’re gonna lash out at you. But you can’t let ‘em stop you. You know. So, just look at the hate as love.
And then you gotta execute, execute, execute, execute. But if you move from your passion you’ll be able to execute better, because now you’re doing something you love; it’s not drudgery. If you’re gonna compete with somebody who is in love with what they do, then you’ve got to be in love with what you do, too, because they’re gonna outdo you if you’re not.
BTR: That’s great advice, bro.
Reavis: After that I would just say, “Persevere.” Don’t give up. Never give up. You know, it might take a year – it might take two years – it might take 10. But don’t give up, because what I would tell myself is, even if it takes 10 years, in 10 years I’m able to retire.
Retirement is just about fun and enjoying what you do. I feel like I haven’t had a job in 10 years. Because I’m just having fun. Yeah. I’m retired. ‘Cause I’m just having fun every day.
BTR: Well, that’s cool, man. Thank you. Talking to you has been a pleasure. Those are great and inspiring words that you’re using, and I hope that some people can get something from it.