Thanks to the internet, artists are now able to get their music out to people far easier than before. This means that artists from beyond the usual scene centres, London, LA, Berlin and New York, can establish diverse fanbases. Handbook, Jake Brown from York, and Beat Culture, Sunik Kim of Hong Kong, are two examples of this. Handbook makes sunny instrumental hip-hop tracks reminiscent of LA, whilst Beat Culture’s euphoric electronica sounds as if it originates in London, via the Balearic Islands. We got them together to interview each other about their influences, the helpfulness of music-sharing sites, like Soundcloud, and the future.
Beat Culture: How and when did you get started?
Handbook: I got started about two years ago. I bought an MPC1000 off a friend in York, and felt empowered I could make music, on my own, by myself. What a feeling.
HB: What’s the music scene like in your town and how does it influence you?
BC: To be honest it’s kind of shitty where I live (Hong Kong), the electronic music scene is really weak and focused on house/electro stuff as well as DJing rather than producing. I hear about LA and the UK’s electronic music scenes and sometimes get a little jealous…haha.
BC: Are there any particular artists that influenced you?
HB: When I first started, dudes like Dilla, Flying Lotus and Free The Robots definitely got me interested. However, Soundcloud opened up this whole new world of musicians, who in turn became my influences. Elaquent, Ta-Ku, Dibiase and guys like that really got me thinking. Brainfeeder and Mello Music Group inspire me in huge ways too.
HB: What’s the key element to your music?
BC: I think it’s the “dense” nature of it, a lot of my songs kind of build up to this final minute or so where there’s way too much going on. I don’t know why I tend to do that but that’s sort of become my signature at this point, sort of like a “Wall of Sound” type thing.
BC: What’s your basic musical process like when you produce a track and how long do you typically spend on a track?
HB: It varies in all honesty. What’s most consistent is starting with either the sample or the melody first. I get it all arranged and then build the drums around it. Mix it. Share it. It’s all part of the process. I tend to spend 3 hours most. If I don’t feel the track in that time period it gets left. Quality control and what not.
BC: If you had to pick a movie to represent your music what would it be and why?
HB: The Walt Disney adaptation of “Jungle Book” is probably closest. All the details in the artwork, such as the settings in the jungle and this real dense quality reminds me of my music at times. It’s a pretty old film too, so I guess I would want my music to be timeless and still fun years from now. I also felt the film had a lot of soul, which my music has, because I put it there.
HB: Who or what inspires you?
BC: Well Burial and Gold Panda got me into making music to begin with, around last February. But once I started I started hearing all these people: Neon Indian, Baths, Hudson Mohawke, Flylo, Shlohmo, Balam Acab, James Blake, Star Slinger, Jamie xx…the list goes on. In terms of what, I’m not really sure, sometimes it’s a little chord progression I hear in some random song on the radio, or a little sample that gets stuck in my head.
BC: Any plans to play around with different genres?
HB: I usually do. I would guess I’m renowned for my hip-hop/beatstrumental type of thing, but I do dabble with “future beats” “experimental” “dubstep” “dance/house” “funk”. People don’t necessarily hear all that, but I do passionately work away on those other personal projects.
BC: What’s your dream collaboration?
HB: Just to work with real sick rappers! MF Doom or someone of that ilk would be immense. Blu or Hassan Mackey maybe.
HB: Do you feel there is more to come in the Beat scene, or is it running out of steam? Who, in your opinion is pushing boundaries right now?
BC: I honestly don’t really consider myself to be a part of the beat scene, my stuff isn’t really in that Dilla type genre. However I do listen to a ton of that stuff…and there are an insane amount of people who are doing amazing things with it…Star Slinger, Fly-lo and Shlohmo come to mind immediately, but there are a bunch of other recent discoveries for me, like Lapalux and heRobust. All next level.
BC: How do you feel about sampling and specifically the legal complications behind it?
HB: As you can probably tell, I love sampling. Only if it’s done in the right way. You have to avoid the original melody if possible, and use the chops as paint on your palette. Make a new picture. As for the legal complications. Well it’s complicated haha. I don’t feel right about people making money from other peoples work and if possible clearance should be achieved if possible.
BC: How did you become such a presence online/develop such a large following on Soundcloud?
HB: I think it all happened because I was so diligent in following other producers, networking with blogs and really creating this entity of “Handbook” (whatever that is). That’s my only explanation.
HB: How important is the internet with regards to your music?
BC: None of this would have happened without the internet, more specifically Soundcloud, Facebook, Bandcamp, Hypem, and blogs in general. I remember uploading random tracks to Soundcloud last March, scrounging for plays and any kind of exposure. But once a core group of people start picking up on something, the word just keeps spreading. Back then I actually used to think of what the “ideal” time to upload something was in order to get the most exposure, now I don’t even think twice about that kind of thing, and it’s not like I’m doing anything differently. It’s just amazing how fast the word spreads through all the social networking sites. So I’d the say the internet is the reason my music exists.
BC: Do you feel pressure when releasing stuff, like there’s some kind of expectation of quality?
HB: Yeah I do now. Since “Celebriteeth” I felt that there was this group of people/fans/blogs that were expecting bigger, or better…Or were they expecting difference/evolution? I feel that way every time I release something, so I rely on my instincts as to whether the album I plan to put out will be well received, which is why I have close to 10 unreleased albums sitting around.
HB: What’s in store for Beat Culture this year?
BC: A European tour during the summer is currently in the works, and as of now I’ve never played a show so we’ll see how that goes…other than that not I’m too sure, since I just released an album I’m not thinking of any bigger releases in the near future, probably just some singles here and there and some remixes. But you never know.
BC: Anything big coming up this year?
LOADS. Shows across the UK, as and when I can book them/make it to them. Sheffield, York, London this first quarter. I have a release coming up this Spring on Cascade Records, A couple of other cheeky EP’s and radio interviews all coming up before May. 2012 has started off big, and it’s going to get bigger.
You can get a track from each of these guys from the new LYFSTYL compilation here.David Ward