Pete: I was curious about your influences and your background, for instance; do you come from a musical family?
Take: Well, I come from a very artistic family for sure. My dad is a writer in the film business, he's a film historian of epic proportions, you can ask him: "What day did Cary Grant eat a sandwich on the set of ...". My mom is a graphic artist, she worked for Columbia records for twenty years doing album covers and my stepmom is a painter ...
I guess my background in music goes back to when I was twelve years old. I loved playing guitar, I played the bass a bit and when I was in highschool I was jamming in a few bands. After that I went to college and that's when I got into hiphop and electronic music. I met this guy who ended up becoming a friend of mine, he was a house dj. One day I went to a big houseparty outside where he was dj-ing. I was standing next to him and said: "man, that looks like a lot of fun, let me try it!". But he said: "No way, I'm not gonna let you try it, there's 400 people here, you've never fuckin' done this ...". We were both drunk and I insisted so he gave me a chance and let me try it. Then, the first record I put on, somehow I beatmatched it perfectly, I did a great mix and I felt the magic. Of course I thought I was really cool so I grabbed another record and instantly I trainwrecked and it all went to shit because I couldn't mix. But because the first record went well I was hooked on dj-ing from then on.
Shortly after this I got a drummachine, started messing around and I would bring my guitar and bass and sample myself, making some funny recordings which I still have. And it kind of went from there. The first record I ever did was for a label called K-Records back in '97. It was under the name: 'Take one' and the album is called 'Emergency Breaks'. At that point I wanted to do instrumental music but the only way to sell an instrumental hiphop record was to call it a dj scratch record. I never really got into making beats for mc's, instead I was doing instrumental stuff.
I was really influenced by DJ Spinna, and Dilla, back when he was Jaydee and he was doing all the production for 'A Tribe Called Quest'. I really liked De La Soul, they always had great beats that had a lot going on. Also, Pete Rock was a huge influence at that time. And all the Mo Wax and Ninja Tune stuff coming out at that time had a big influence on my sound.
Pete: How did your education shape your work. You had a training in music engineering and composition, right?
Take: You know, I wish I'd paid more attention at school because I'd be a lot better at both of those right now, but I was young, having fun, getting crazy. If I were to go back and do it now, I know I would get a lot more from it. But yes, I studied music composition, engineering and music production so I definitely think it had a positive influence on my music making and it thought me a lot. I don't consider myself to be a tech person at all, but I can get by okay.
Pete: You mentioned that you're a perfectionist when it comes to your music. I was wondering how you feel about collaborating with people?
Take: Yes, I am very much a perfectionist, I hate that about myself. I respect artists like Madlib a whole lot, who makes an album in a week and just knocks it out, I wish I could work like that.
As far as collaboration, it's difficult. In this day and age we're all spread across the world so most of the time collaborations are through file sharing on the internet.
Pete: So you don't have people who you work with 'in real time'?
Take: No, I mean I would like to. Most of the time when you get together with someone 'in real time' to collaborate, this process takes so long, you need eight to ten hours just to vibe with someone and get the ideas out together and build something, it's a very slow process ...
Pete: You've been producing as 'Take' for a while now and your music has evolved quite a lot. Are you focused on getting your music somewhere, technically or musically or do you use it more as an expression and let it evolve from there?
Take: I think a little bit of both. I want to constantly be improving and getting better, I'm trying to reach a higher level with my music for myself, technically and spiritually or whatever. But I also want to have fun and sometimes being too technical and trying too hard to make some grand piece kills the fun in making music. So, I balance between the two. I want to do incredible, amazing, intricate stuff and outdo myself every time but at the same time I don't want to sit for months on one track pulling my hair out.
Pete: When you start making a new song, how does it go about? Do you just start improvising or do the ideas take shape in your head first?
Take: I think it goes both ways for me, I often get ideas when I'm walking. I could be listening to some r&b, jazz or folk even and some sort of pattern or song structure or melody sparks an idea in my head and I lock it away and say "I'm gonna try something like that but in my own way, with my own instruments and sounds and try to do a completely different take on that." Sometimes I just start with some drums, do a little drumbeat and then try to build some fun stuff around the drums. What I've been doing lately is going through all my sounds and my records and loading up some nice sounds on my keys and making folders of different sounds that I like and then going back to them and say: "Okay, maybe these sounds go together in one song and these go together in another song." So, I do it in all different ways, I try to switch it up to keep it fun and interesting because if you always do it the same way, it gets boring.
Pete: How long do you work on your songs, in average?
Take: Average, probably about three weeks or a month for a song, so ... (laughter) It is long man, it is long. You know, I think there are two different kinds of people in the composer world; those who can do ten songs in a night, and goddammit, I wish I was one of them, but I'm the kind of person that takes a long time, and you know what? There are positives and negatives to both.
Pete: What's the difference in the workproces for your album and the 'Thomas 2000' EP?
Take: Originally the Thomas 2000 stuff was meant to be a lot simpler, just straight beat songs, ten songs per side on an LP. But of course the perfectionist came out and wouldn't let me do that. So every time when I had like a one and a half minute cool beat with a little bit going on, I'd say: "I can't let this go like this, I have to build more!" So I ended up doing more and more, but it definitely still has more of a lighter feel. The energy isn't quite as melancholic as some of my other music but it's still freaking perfectionists work that went into it.
Pete: Can you tell us how your studio looks like?
Take: At the center of my studio is an Ensonic ASR-10, an old sampler from the eighties. Also, I have a Macintosh Pro Tower, two turntables, a mixer, some hard drives, a bunch of guitar pedals and different effects, I have a Fender Rhodes, a Yamaha CP30 Piano, a Korg Micro, a circuit bend Casio Keyboard, that's like a MT800 that's circuit bend, very cool. I have a Juno 106, a drumset in the room as well, some guitars and basses, lot's of records, I have a little hand tape-recorder where I can play cassettes in at different speeds and get crazy with that, and then a bunch of percussion instruments, shakers, tambourine, bells, that kind of stuff.
I make my own drumsounds and then I sample them into the ASR-10. I start most of my sequencing in the ASR-10 and build the backbone of a track in there and then I dump that into the computer where I use Digital Performer, that's where I do most of the composing, editing, mixing and run some software instruments.
Pete: Would you be willing to play live with several people? Maybe have your songs being played by a couple of friends who add bass guitar, live drums, do you have any thoughts about that?
Take: Yeah, I would love to do that, I just don't see that as possible. First of all, guitars and bass, if you hear them in my songs, they're usually so processed and so layered and completely destroyed. Recreating that sound with a drummer, guitarist, keyboardist and a bass player on stage? The songs would sound nothing like it and I would hate more than anything to have some acid-jazz version of my music being played by some keyboardist and a drummer. It would just be really cheesy to me, man. I couldn't do it. It's definitely a struggle, I don't really know what to do about that.
Pete: You also worked on film scores. How does that relate to your work as 'Take'? Is it a completely different approach?
Take: I think it's a completely different approach unfortunately ... That's what I learned when I did my first one and I only did a few at this point. I actually do it because it's good exposure and sometimes it's good money but to tell you the truth, I don't enjoy it that much. It's like I can't be 'Take' when I'm doing film composing. It's a really different form of composition because you are basically creating music for someone else's vision and they have a very strong opinion of what the music should sound like.
Pete: You said you started dj-ing when you were eighteen. You've been a record collector also I assume?
Take: Yeah .
Pete: A serious collector, like you have to have the newest stuff?
Take: Actually, I more have to buy the old stuff, I don't care to much about the new stuff, because I don't mind having new music in a digital format. But old music, yeah, I'm a sucker for old records.
Pete: What's your latest find?
Take: 'Moon Gas' by Dick Hymen. Super psyched out trippy shit from the sixties. This is a cool record too, 'Niara', the artist is Doug Lucas.
Pete: Can you tell us about what's it like to be an artist in LA at this moment? There seems to be coming a lot of creativeness out of LA, especially from such labels as Stones Throw, Plug Research, Dublab family, a.o. It's obviously a positive environment, right?
Take: Yeah, I think right now is a really important time in music history for Los Angeles. There are a lot of labels popping up and a lot of people and promoters getting really creative and doing new ideas, mixing them with different mediums like art, fashion, food and whatever. All these things are coming together in a real cool way right now, you kind of get in the fast pace. Everyone's doing something and making moves towards their goal. So it rubs off on you, making you more productive. It's kind of a lifestyle.
Pete: But you said that this scene is actually quite small, or at least the scene that you're thriving in, isn't it?
Take: Yeah, the scene I thrive in is quite small. People may think that it's some gigantic scene but it's not. Now, the hiphop scene in Los Angeles is huge. But this scene of experimental, beat production stuff is much smaller, it's kind of an offshoot of the hiphop scene, an offshoot of the house scene, an offshoot of the indie rock scene. It has people from all those scenes within it but it's much smaller.
I think it's a great thing that's happening right now in LA. More and more people are into music that isn't one-sided. And more people are starting to learn to appreciate different aspects of all different kinds of music. So I think in that sense the whole LA scene is going to continue to grow and continue to do great things as long as we reinvent ourselves and not get tied up in this so called LA sound or whatever that is.
Pete: Can you tell us about the Sketchbook nights?
Take: Yeah, Sketchbook was a night that actually Kutmah started. It was five, six years ago that we started this night and it became kind of the beginning for us, we created a scene around just beats. At that time we had trouble finding just beat records so often we just played the instrumentals of hiphop records that we liked. It started to get a lot of people interested and people would come, hang out and listen to beats and of course lot of times rappers would come through and say: "Yo, let me rap! Give me a mic, I wanna rap!!" (Laughter) And we we're like "Oh, it's cool, we don't want you to rap. No rappin', that's why we do this." It was called Sketchbook because we would put out notebooks on all the tables in the bar and give pens and coloring pens so everyone would just sit and draw while they listened to beats. At the end of the night we would collect all the notebooks and save them and then the next week use them again so after six weeks the notebooks would be all full with everyone's drawings.
Pete: How did you become a Dublab labrat? Did you approach them or did you know them beforehand?
Take: Actually, just from around the way, meeting Frosty, me dj-ing at Sketchbook. They would always hangout at Sketchbook and invited me to come down and do a set for their radio. That's how we became friends.
Pete: One last question. Are there any other projects you're working on besides the Eat Concrete full length?
Take: I'm doing a song right now for Dublab. It's a Japan only cd of the Echo Expansion project. It's got Dimlite, Languis, Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, Prefuse 73, me and some other people. It's across the board, it's going to be a Dublab compilation so there will be some folky IDM, some ambient music, some hiphop, it's going to be a good compilation and I'm just doing one song for that.
Pete: Okay, thanks for the interview!
Take: Sure, you're welcome.
Eat Concrete Records
Eat Concrete is a truly independent music label from Amsterdam connected to the Dutch electronic music scene. It was founded by Pete Conrete in 2005 when the label's name was used for a radioshow, spreadin mixes and demos of likeminded artists and friends. The first releases were put out in 2006 which led to Eat Concrete growing out to be a musical platform and hub for upcomin' fresh talents from all around the world, producing open-minded and experimental beats and music. The record label aims to look beyond commercial goals and wants to give the freedom to its artists while reinventing itself progressively. So far EC has released dozens of brilliant tracks on vinyl including stuff from such beatmakers like Dimlite, Skymark or Daedelus and its latest release is a hot eight tracked solo EP coming from Thomas Wilson aka TAKE out of Los Angeles. The single is already available at www.rushhour.nl and for future projects, mixes and more go to www.eatconcrete.net
by Pete Concrete for Beyondjazz.net