Filed under: Freestyle Fridays,Interviews,Not Your Average,Sid Roams Special,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
After catching the ears of a lot of people from their work on Prodigy‘s H.N.I.C.2, the production team of Joey Chavez and Bravo went on to oversee and release several impressive projects on their own Dirt Class Records label, including Product of The 80’s and The Project Kid. I caught-up with them recently yo discuss the lost art of the A&R, studio sessions and the classic bongs vs. blunts debate.
Robbie: So you guys have produced as a duo since around 2004?
Bravo: That sounds about right. We’re been making beats together since ’92-’93, but we didn’t really form Sid Roams until 2004-5. We’d been doing stuff together and then for a long time we were doing beats on our own, with Joey on the west coast and me in New York.
Joey: Both Bravo and I started off working on the first [unreleased] Dilated record in ’95-’96…
Bravo: We all grew-up on the west coast – me, Joey and Ev – we were all in the same neighborhood in Venice. Joey and Ev went to junior high-school together and then we all went to high school together and we all started making beats and Ev was rhyming. We had been in QDIII’s studio, which was next-door to Ev’s house and he had a monster studio. It was like walking into a spaceship! Lights everywhere, it was like being on Star Trek or something. We met Al[chemist] through Ev. He was also a rapper at that time, back when we were kids, but as things progressed Al really took the helm with the beats. By the time we all got out to New York, Al had a good jump on that whole Queensbridge scene, so we passed him a beat CD around 2003-2004 and he played all that stuff for Infamous Mobb. That’s how ‘Who We Ride For’ actually happened. They thought it was a beat that he made and they just flipped on it and recorded it. He played us the little demo and it sounded crazy, so we all met up and started building.
What’s the science behind the name Sid Roams?
We had this vision that we would create a character, because Joey and I had been working on beats together for so long, we were like, ‘Let’s create a one-man character, like one person’. Sid Roams to us was just like this legend – this former gangster, he was retired, he was like 75 years-old, maybe Cuban, maybe Columbian. He was like this wrinkly old man and he owns a villa on some island in the Caribbean with his harem of women and just makes beats and shit. We decided that that’s who Sid Roams was.
Rocking a white suit and straw hat…
Yeah! Linen. Straight fedora’s, the whole nine. We didn’t want to be like ‘The Neptunes’ or ‘The Heatmakerz’. We thought about it, we were like, ‘Let’s call ourselves The Controllers or whatever’, but it occurred to us that a name like Sid Roams would raise questions, ‘cos people would be like, ‘Oh, it’s one dude’. And then they’d find out it was two people and then they’d get confused…maybe it would help us, maybe it would hurt us, but at least we were being original!
I thought that the Big Twin album had a consistent sound, even though they were four different producers on there. How did you manage that?
Me and Joey were overseeing the whole project and we were picking all those beats, so we were picking stuff that really fit together well and actually making sense as an album. I think that the age of the A&R is really over. There was a time when there were talented A&R’s that were able to actually see an album through from Point A to Point B and really get it down in a cohesive way. But the era of those A&R’s is basically over. Now instead you have rappers that are trying to do that themselves. Not to discredit anyone out there, but there are some guys who can do it and some guys who can’t. For us, the fans, you can really tell when somebody kinda ran out of steam and couldn’t figure out what beats to pick anymore.
What can you tell me about the H.N.I.C. 2 project?
Joey: That project was something that Prodigy wanted to do for a long time. When we were just getting to know him P he had four different projects that he wanted to get off, then once he knew he was going to jail I think that really motivated him to just pick one thing to finish off. When he first came into the studio to start recording H.N.I.C. 2 he already had this playlist, but what he actually played that first day? I think only two or three things from that playlist actually stayed on the album, if that.
Bravo: There’s something specific that happened with that album in P’s mind. I think that all those beats really do click together and you do have kinda a new sound, something that’s unprecedented.
How much did you record with him before he went away?
Joey: We probably recorded thirty joints with him before he went away. There were nights when P would come into the studio and he would just be a monster. He would sit down, hear one beat for the first time and just write a song to it. Wrap that up, start writing the next song and even record it. Once he knew he had a limited amount of time, he really used his time wisely.
How have you been dealing with the way that music sales have plummeted in the last five years?
Bravo: Basically, we haven’t been dealing with that. We basically ignore that that’s a reality and juts keep making music! [laughs] It’s depressing, dude. Merely with a project like Product of the 80’s – we look at the sales that we actually had, and then we consider what it would’ve been if we’re dropped this project six years ago – the numbers would’ve been drastically different. That’s really a sad place to be as far as a business person is concerned, and then as a beat-maker we also suffer a lot because the problem for beat-makers is we rally don’t necessarily have a tangible live commodity to give to people – what we do is all behind-the-scenes work. The money for producers comes from the sale of CD’s specifically, because that’s where we are. We’re in the studio. So it’s a real challenge nowadays for producers to actually translate what they do into something that’s a viable commodity that they can actually make money off. For us, it’s really not realistic to do much of that. The only possibility at this point is to tour and DJ, which is something that neither of us are all that adept at. It’s not something that we every pursued or perfected. I’ve been talking to Twin every couple of days, and he’s basically making money out of Myspace stuff on top of the records that we do. He’s able to farm-out verses for $500, $1,000 –whatever it may be – a pop. It’s easy for an MC to write sixteen bars. Making a beat that’s actually classy that we want to stand behind, that we actually feel is cohesive to our sound…that’s a whole different thing. We can’t give-up ill beats for $500 a pop. It’s not worth it!
Joey, that must’ve been an exciting time when Dilated first came out and you could sell 15,000 copies of a 12”.
Joey: It was, but it didn’t live for that long. Vinyl quickly moved out not so long after that. The sales numbers from the first ABB record that I did to the second ABB 12” that I did, that came out maybe two years later – it was a huge difference. I think it was 1997, 98 when ABB first started selling the first Defari 12” and Dilated Peoples 12”, that was kinda the height of the whole vinyl thing. It all went downhill from there.
Any good studio stories?
Bravo: I worked in this studio for a little while called Green Street, which is this historic studio in New York. It’s where Public Enemy and Run-DMC, Salt ‘N Pepa…a lot of those early records were recorded there. Just from the engineers, I’d hear these stories about how they build the beats. The Bomb Squad and the way that they’d utilize just twelve seconds of sample time – which to them was like an eternity of sample time – and how ingenuitive they’d be with that. A little bit later, Pete Rock used the studio to do Soul Survivor. He’d come in and just link eleven or twelve SP’s in a line!
Eleven SP’s? That’s incredible.
He just linked together a bunch of them because they only had so much sample time, and then to layer all the space effects and everything else over it you had to add another SP on, another SP on…
When you guys are recording, do you try and keep it as a closed session?
Joey: As much as possible we try and keep it a closed session. The entourage really does end-up being a distraction. In our experience, working with anybody and everybody, when they come through by themselves or only with people who are relevant to the session we just get a better outcome or they’ll be more focused. There’d be times when we go down to the studio and there’d be mad, mad, mad heads down there. We’ve got this group called Hard White – which is actually gonna be the next project that we’re gonna release – Un Pacino is sorta the leader of the group. There’s already like six dudes in the group, but then each of those dudes would bring a homie who would bring a homie. There’d be times that we’d go down there and there’d be like twenty dudes in our studio…
Bravo: Not to mention the girls, man! Things would just be crazy! There’d be like three video game monitors rolling, somebody working on a beat-machine in the corner, people scribbling rhymes, girls having sex…it was too much, man! We’d be holding our heads, shaking our head like, ‘How did we get into this mess?’ Fifteen blunts, Hennessy and 40’s. It was just a grimy little Brooklyn studio, but we had 40 people jammed in there! It was crazy.
I know a lot of New Yorkers can’t really handle smoking bongs, right?
It’s funny man, ‘cos when we were in New York we were on the blunts with everybody. We were just trying to keep up with that, fifteen blunts per session kind of thing. But then you get one of them, a fish out of water, in Cali and you put a bong [in front of them], dudes just fall out! It’s hilarious. Twins sometimes will blame me, he’s like, ‘I can’t do this verse, man. That fucking bong!’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not the bong, fool. It’s ‘cos you can’t get your mind right!’ That being said, the west coast holds down blunts, too. All Strong Arm Steady? Sick blunt rollers! Oh No? Madlib’s brother? Blunts! All blunts! I went to the studio last month, I was just chillin’ with Al, smoking some bong loads, and Oh No came through with three dudes – ‘cos they were working on that Gangrene project – and they smoked six blunts in fifteen minutes (by tim tousson). This was a role-reversal, ‘cos all of a sudden I was fucked up! I’d be back in LA for eight months at that point and hadn’t been smoking blunts, and here they were, rolling up like it was nothing. I tired to take as many pulls as I could before I actually had to pass…
I’ve noticed you’ve flipped some old Nintendo 8-bit sounds on a couple of tracks. Do you play a lot of old video games?
Joey: We definitely played Castlevania and Rampage and Contra and all those joints. We were normal kids in the late 80’s, so of course we were geeked on Nintendo. We’re always looking for samples in the strangest places possible. I think beat-makers at this point are really exhausting every possible corner of the resources that are available. We’re going from the most obscure soundtracks that we can possibly lay our hands on, to actually straight-up ripping from a movie, to listening to video games. Anything and everything is open game. It’s a free-reign right now for producers. That lo-fi sound can be a lot of fun just aesthetically – the way that it comes out, the way that it feels when you make a beat out of it. Melodies are everywhere – why limit yourself?
Look out for the new Sid Roams album, Zombie Musik, dropping Oct 27th on Dirt Class Records.
‘KZMB Special Bulletin’
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