Headed to SXSW

Mar 06 2012

I just want to let everybody know that I’ll be in Austin for the SXSW Conference next week.  I will be presenting a workshop on producing music in Reason in the Artist Central area on Thursday, March 15th, from 4 to 5 PM.  If you’re around, definitely drop in and say “Hi!”  (Or is it “Howdy!” in Texas?)

If you would like to hear a couple of the EDM tracks I’ve been producing in Reason lately, check out my new singles,  “Energy” and “Hiccup”.  “Energy” is out now (available everywhere, including iTunes, and soon Beatport), and “Hiccup” will be released next month on my Synchronized Music label.

“Energy” on Juno Download

“Hiccup” on Soundcloud

 
Hiccup (Original Mix) by Erik Hawk Music

Lucky Date Interview

Jan 15 2012

I recently had the opportunity to chat with up-and-coming electronic music producer and DJ, Lucky Date (Jordan Atkins-Loria). He uses Reason to produce these fantastically phat dance tracks and remixes. Plus he regularly shares his production secrets on his YouTube channel, luckydatevideos. The music that he pumps out of Reason is truly inspirational, so I wanted to ask him about how he gets such a huge sound and what other software besides Reason is part of his production and DJ arsenal. He gave a great interview and had a lot of wonderful insight and advice. Watch out for Lucky Date, I predict he’ll be producing many mega-dance-floor hits in the coming years.

 

I recently had the opportunity to remix a previously unreleased Scatman Crother’s song, “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” (produced by Andrew Melzer in 1979).  It was a lot of fun to work on a track from such an icon of the 70s.  It was also a serious challenge because all I had to work with was an unmastered, stereo mix.  The multitrack tapes had been lost long ago.  But, as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Or, at the very least gave me a serious work out using the Pro Tools Elastic Audio’s warp markers, and writing my own music on top of a preexisting disco groove. Whew!

Here’s a video tour of my Pro Tools session explaining how I pulled off this remixing magic.

You can hear the original “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” song here, http://youtu.be/jsXxRFxATaU.  And this is my remix. Enjoy!

Scatman’s Background

Benjamin Sherman Crothers, born May 23rd 1910 in Terre Haute, Indiana (passed away November 22nd, 1986 in Van Nuys, California), started performing in the speak-easy circuit of Chicago in the latter part of the 20s.  In 1931, he got his own radio show on WFMK Dayton, Ohio, billing himself as “Scat Man”. In 1935, he made his first appearance in a film, a short called “Symphony In Black” with Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. He would go on to act in 45 more motion pictures including “The Shining”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Bronco Billy”, “Aristocats”, “The Shootist”, “Silver Streak”, “The Lady Sings The Blues”, “Scavenger Hunt”, “Twilight Zone: The Movie”, and “Transformers: The Movie”.

In 1943, Scatman moved to Hollywood, California and hired an agent. In 1948 he was one of the first African-Americans to land a recurring role on a network TV show, “Dixie Showboat”. Over the next three decades, Scatman appeared in hundreds of TV programs including 65 episodes of NBC’s sitcom “Chico and the Man” as Louis the garbage-man, 18 guest appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”, and “Colgate Comedy Hour”, “The Jack Benny Show”, “Nat King Cole Show”, “The Steve Allen Show”, “Casablanca”, “Hong Kong Phooey”, “Roots”, “The Super Globetrotters”, and “Sanford and Son”. Scatman Crothers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the Egyptian Theatre.

I’ve received many requests for tutorials on writing/producing a hip-hop or dance beat. In theory, this is a nice idea. In reality, there’s just no way you can encapsulate all of the creative and technical know-how that goes into writing and producing a great sounding beat in a single tutorial. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped me from trying, because even if I can’t pack all of the relevant information into one tutorial, it’s still worth doing for the information that I can share in about a ten-minute video.

So, I threw on some clothes, my Remix Miami T-shirt, didn’t bother to shave, set up the camera (top view down so you could see my hands on the control surfaces), and wrote a hip-hop style beat off the top of my head. It took me around 40 minutes, but I edited the whole process down to about a 12-minute video. Obviously, there are some parts missing, such as playing with MPC backdrops for Kong, or running the hi-hats through a compressor. But, if you watch carefully, it’s all there, because in addition to the techniques I describe as I’m working, you can also see all the device settings and the connections when I flip Reason’s rack over. The video is in HD so you can totally see all the details. I used Reason 5, Kong for all the drum sounds, and Thor for the bass line. Enjoy!

Stutter Edit by BT

Jan 23 2011

The new Stutter Edit plug-in, conceived and developed over the past fifteen years by pioneering electronic music artist and composer, BT, is pretty amazing. Upon installing this plug-in on my system I feel like I’ve got BT in the studio with me helping to produce stutter edits and breaks in my song. Really, it’s like I hired him as a technical consultant just for his stutter edit production techniques. It used to take me hours, even days to cook up these sound effects, through intricate slicing and dicing of waveforms and automating stacks of effects. Now, I can simply play a key on my keyboard and get the same, if not better, results! I can’t restrain myself from exclaiming, “It’s BT in a plug-in!”

How It W-w-w-works

Here’s how it works, simply insert Stutter Edit on the audio track that you want to stutter. Then, set up a MIDI track to send MIDI note and controller data to the Stutter Edit plug-in. Now, play your song and whenever you want to hear a stutter effect press a note on your keyboard to trigger one of the preset stutter effects. It’s that simple, and the presets sound great! Plus, to add more dynamics and enhance your ability to really play the effects, Pitch Bend is assigned to the plug-in’s global, resonant filter effect, and the Mod Wheel let’s you control different real-time dimensions of a preset. For example, moving the Mod Wheel could alter the speed of a preset’s stutters. You can record your MIDI performance and automate Stutter Edit directly from the MIDI track.

Sutter Edit comes with a ton of ready-made stutter effects spread out across the entire keyboard, right when you open it, so you can get to stuttering immediately. It also includes banks of stutter effect presets from BT himself, and a other electronic music luminaries, such as Richard Devine. If you’re not into the presets, you can certainly program your own stutter effects, from a simple eighth note stutter to crazy lo-fi distortion with delays and noise sweeps. Its many controls—Quantize, Delay, Gate, Filters, Buffer Position, Bit Reduction, Pan, Lo-Fi, Stutter Matrix, and Arpeggiator—combined with its Generator noise synthesis section gives you the ability to cook up just about any cutting edge stutter effect that you can dream of. Way too much fun!

Imagine the Possibilities

Sutter Edit is incredibly useful in the studio, but what I’m equally impressed by is its live performance potential. For example, stutter effecting loops in Ableton Live, in real-time right from your MIDI keyboard. Obviously, BT is deep into such things. He didn’t just dream up this plug-in in the studio, he wanted to take his stutter effects to the stage for live performances. And, clearly, he’s done exactly this, giving Stutter Edit plenty of beta testing during his Laptop Symphony shows. So, even though this is just version 1.0, it’s reassuring to know that it’s been out on the road and thoroughly tested by a pro, in high-profile, real life gigs. We know it works for live shows, not just in how it’s designed, but that it’s reasonably stable as well. How many software companies can say this about their newest software?

I’m already seeing and hearing grumblings on discussion threads saying, “I’ll never use Stutter Edit. I take pride in programming my own stutter effects one edit at a time.” Well, fine, I’ll have an entire track of stutter effects produced in the time it took you to do just one. And, besides, given a little time and patience—I know stutter edit producers have plenty of this—you can program your own unique stutter effects in this plug-in, assign them to keys on your keyboard, and save them in your own bank of presets. You don’t have to sound like the factory presets, you can develop your own unique stutter effect sound. Then, you can perform your stutter edits live, whether in the studio or on stage. This most certainly isn’t something you can do with that one stutter edit you just spent all day programming in your DAW. OK, enough said.

In the coming years, I predict that Stutter Edit will be massively overused, not unlike the AutoTune vocal sound (you know, Cher and T-Pain). Hopefully, the effect will be used tastefully, artfully, and without going completely overboard with it. Though, admittedly, I’ve probably already failed in this department—it’s just too much fun to play with. In fact, after about six instances of Stutter Edit in my Pro Tools session I managed to crash hard, several times, eventually completely freezing my Mac. Fortunately, after a quick reboot I was back in business and everything was running smoothly again. I also had problems controlling clipping at the plug-in’s output, because some of the effects pumped out serious amplitude spikes. A soft clip limiter section in the next build of Stutter Edit would be greatly appreciated.

Stutter Edit is distributed and supported by Izotope. There’s a lot of wonderful information about Stutter Edit on their Web site,
http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/stutteredit/index.asp
But, the best way to really appreciate Stutter Edit is download the trial version and take it for a test drive yourself. Also, check out this video tour of how I used Stutter Edit in a remix of my song “Delicious People”, for which the remix stems are available on my CD, Erik Hawk & The 12-Bit Justice League.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/erikhawk

Contests are a cool way to promote your songs and get your name out there. Here’s a good one that I’m in right now, the www.indabamusic.com Nightclub City Original Song Contest. The song I entered, “Super Star”, is a killer track from my new album that has already been heard on Ugly Betty (ABC), in a great scene with Vera Wang and Posh Spice.

Here’s it is in Ugly Betty, along with a montage of a couple of my other songs in popular television shows.

But, back to the contest at hand. This contest is for some potential airplay that could really help get my song out to a wider audience. Please take a moment and vote for me, it would mean a lot. I would love to finish in the top 25, right now I’m hanging out around number 60, out of over 1,000 entries. Please vote before October 7th, because that’s when the contest ends. Thank you!

If you like the song, and as a special thank you for your support, “Super Star” is available as a free download on my facebook page,
http://www.facebook.com/erikhawkmusic

Peter Gabriel Remix

Jul 02 2010

Please vote for my remix at indabamusic by clicking on the widget below, and ask all of your friends to vote for me too. Voting goes until July 15, 2010. And, if you send me to London I promise to bug Gabriel for all of his best production tricks so that I can bring them back here and share them with all of you.

As a rule, I don’t generally have time to enter the many amazing remix contests offered on indbamusic.com. But, this time, I couldn’t pass up a chance to remix a classic Peter Gabriel song, “Games Without Frontiers”. And, more importantly, a chance to have Gabriel listen to my work and maybe even meet him in London! That’s just to cool of an opportunity to pass up. With everything that Gabriel has done in his life, both musically and as a philanthropist, he’s definitely a hero of mine. So, I went for it.

Remixing is a form of music production. Just like producing a song for an artist, the object shouldn’t be about imposing your musical ideas on another musician’s composition and performance. Instead, it’s about helping the artist and their material to be the best that they can be. To this end, I think it’s important to respect the songwriter’s original message and the vocalist’s performance when remixing, especially when the vocalist is the songwriter. Ideally, the recognizable elements of the song, such as vocal phrases and guitar lines, should be audible in your remix. With this in mind, I felt “Games Without Frontiers” could benefit from a more guitar-driven, pop rock arrangement, with a full kit played over an updated Roland CR-78 drum loop, and a touch of orchestral elements for added texture and movement.

In these videos, I take you on a mini tour of my “Games Without Frontiers” remix session using Pro Tools and Reason. There’s a lot to explain in this session, so I broke the tour into two videos. The first focuses on drums and rhythm section instruments (bass, guitars, piano, etc.). And, the second focuses on orchestral elements, voice parts (lead and backing vocals), and mastering. I’m also attaching the Pro tools session file, without its audio files, to this blog so that you can look through the session and see how it’s all set up.

Peter Gabriel Remix Session Video Tour (Part 1)

Peter Gabriel Remix Session Video Tour (Part 2)

*Remember, you can double click on these videos and watch them directly on YouTube to see them in HD.</em

The session file as a Zip.
PG REMIX VIDEO TOUR
Download directions:
Right-click PC and from the pop-up menu choose, “Save Link as…”
Control-click Mac and from the pop-up menu choose, “Save Link as…”

Winter NAMM 2010

Jan 22 2010

Here’s just a quick report on this past weekend’s NAMM show in Anaheim, California. Watch this, it’s the next best thing to going to the show. Well, actually, probably better than going to the show because you don’t have to deal with the crowds. Hopefully, you’ll find this video both informative and entertaining. Some of the highlights include the Korg Kaossilator, Akai MPC20, Max for Live, and Teenage Engineering’s OP-1.

Also, here’s a more extensive look at what I think is one of the coolest new products, the Ableton and Serato Bridge. The ability to mix your Live multitrack sessions straight into your Scratch DJ set is impressive. The ability to save your DJ set as an Abelton Live multitrack session is downright amazing! I’ve been dreaming of a product like this for years, ever since trying to multitrack DJ sets in order to tweak and overdub new parts after the fact. This really takes DJ “mix tape” productions to a whole other level. I can literally see a cottage industry of entrepreneurial music producers offering DJ “mix tape” production as part of their services. And, I’m pretty sure it could be a very lucrative side business.

Recent Interview

Nov 06 2009

Gerritt Tisdale of The Producer’s Alliance recently interviewed me. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about my background, I think it’s an interesting read. There’s also a little breaking news in the interview about my upcoming book and album. And, of course, a few tasty production tips too. Of course, I can’t do an interview without throwing some music production speak into the mix too! Check it out.

Here’s the link: http://www.theproducersalliance.org/producer-interview-erik-hawkins/

DJ Remix Cartoon

A few pearly words of wisdom to start off the new year. You know how I’m always going on about finishing your productions, even if you don’t think it’s going to be a hit, just finish it. (Check out the blog that I wrote in 2007, How to Become a Great Producer.) This is the only way to build your catalog, by finishing your tracks. Now, for some inspiration, here’s a quote about hip-hop producer and artist Lil Wayne (taken from BMI’s MusicWorld Magazine),

“Lil Wayne is said to have made over 800 recordings in 2007.”

Admittedly, there might be some exaggeration going on here, but even finishing an eighth of this number of songs would be hugely impressive. Imagine completing 100 quality productions in a year. That’s adding to your catalog! Then, with your completed productions in hand you’ve got the products to promote, whether for film and TV placements, songs for sale to artists, or simply to show off your production skills.

In a Mix Magazine interview, Bruce Swedien, the engineer for countless hit records over the past 50 odd years, gave this advice,

“It’s much easier to be done than to be satisfied.”

Swedien is a professional that has worked with the industry’s top artists and producers, from Quincy Jones to Michael Jackson. He’s been there and knows what it takes to get the job done, to stop fiddling with the production and the mix and call it a wrap. Because, frankly, there’s no such thing as a perfect mix, just one that sounds solid and translates well over a variety of systems (from personal computer speakers to a swanky home stereo system).

Now, here’s the challenge, how many top notch productions can you complete in this coming year? Make it a goal and keep at it each week and every month and by the end of the year I’m sure that you’ll have some wonderful tracks to show for your efforts.