Producer Spotlight: The Lasso

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Our introduction to Lasso came earlier this year when his spectacular album The Sound of Lasso dropped on Mello Music Group. Using a mesmerizing blend of foreign sounds and live instruments the album resonates differently with every listen. We would go as far to say it was the finest instrumental work of 2019. Lasso teamed up with Chris Orrick to release I Read That I Was Dead. The first part of our interview touches on Lasso’s career up to this point. Chris also joins us to answer questions about the new work.

RD: For the uninitiated, can you tell the listeners a bit about yourself?

L: I’m a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and home recording enthusiast based out of Detroit, MI. I’ve been playing instruments and recording music since I was a kid and the obsession has never stopped. The sounds go across all genres, dozens of collaborators. In simple terms, my music exists somewhere near the intersection of hip hop and psychedelic music.

RD: Your debut on Mello was our introduction to you. What developments led to you working with MMG?

L: Most of all, complete devotion and obsession with creating music. I’ve never been one to play video games or party most of my hours spent on earth are related to the studio in one way or another. Signing with Mello has been a life-altering opportunity for me, but it came about from living every day of my life in pursuit of sound. I moved down to Tucson in 2015 when my wife got a job, started meeting people in the scene, recording obsessively, and formed a collaboration with Lando Chill. Years of working on Lando’s MMG releases led them to bring me on as a producer and artist.

RD: The Sound Of Lasso features warm textures mixed with some very far-out arraignments. The sounds seem a million miles away yet they’re very welcoming sounds that draw you closer. How long did that project take you to complete? Where did you record most of it?

L: I dig your description of the album. I recorded the album over 3 months in late 2018. Most of it was recorded at my home studio, but I worked with about a dozen different Michigan musicians to widen the instrumental palette. For years I ran a studio and played in various bands based around Kalamazoo, MI. When I moved back here in 2018, I knew I would be bringing in a lot of old friends and collaborators to lend their talents to the sound.

RD: You are seen playing with some unusual equipment in your IG stories, do you have a go-to set of gear that you can speak on?

L: My day job is outfitting recording studios, so I get the opportunity to try a lot of stuff out. That being said, I definitely have a core set of gear that makes up the majority of my sound: Moog synth, Mellotron, guitar pedals, free/cheap iPad apps, drums, bass, and guitar.

RD: Do you collect vintage gear? If so, what is your most treasured acquisition?

L: I wish I had a budget to collect, but I definitely have some prized possessions from having the same hobby for so long. During college I got an internship with an amazing engineer named Jon Stites. He gifted me his Tascam ATR60 1″ 16-track tape machine when his studio moved entirely into digital. It’s an incredible sounding machine that is all the important to me because it came from an influential mentor in my life. 

RD: After years of releasing instrumentals, 2 of your last 3 projects will have vocals. Was that planned, if not what chain of events brought that about?

L: Despite being an instrumentalist and dropping a lot of beat tapes these last few years, I’ve actually done a lot more work in my career with vocal-based music. The Sound of Lasso was the first time I really sat down and gave the full effort over to an instrumental record in the way that I do for albums I produce for emcees/vocalists. While I’m probably most euphoric when creating instrumental music, a lot of my ambitions lie in collaboration and creating sounds/beats that allow vocalists to push themselves in new directions lyrically & thematically.

RD: If you could contact any 5 vocalists for the next Lasso project, who are you calling?

L: Smino, Nick Hakim, Laetitia Sadier, Ravyn Lenae, Ishmael Butler

RD: Going off the two singles, would it be safe to say this album could push some boundaries?

L: I always hope that when I put out collaborations that I’m pushing up against some expectations of what it could be. Chris and I are both perfectly capable of putting together a really solid batch of hard beats and great verses, but you’ve got to follow the true inspiration. I get my energy from pushing my craft forward or into new directions. I can’t get motivated to just execute, I need that element of exploration.

Chris Orrick: I tend to struggle when answering a question like this, because I’m not really sure what boundaries we’d be working within. I think there are certainly moments on the record that are more experimental, but mostly in terms of my own catalogue. If we’re speaking in terms of my personal discography as it’s own universe, then yeah, this record is really unlike everything else I’ve worked on. It certainly pushes the boundaries of my own work.

RD: This album expounds on the damage done by the 2016 election and in turn the vicious 24/7 news cycle. If you could take control of any faction of our government and give it an upgrade, what would it be?

CO: That’s a really interesting question. I think it would either be the Department of Defense or the Department of Education. I think we spend an outrageous amount of money on our military. On top of the budget being exorbitant, the expenses are hyper-bloated by ridiculous military contracts given out to the manufacturers who produce for the military. Its strange, nationalist propaganda masquerading as marketing among other things. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has a budget that pales in comparison while people are going bankrupt to get an education.

RD: Chris, would you say this was the most challenging set of beats you have written to?

CO: While it was different writing to this style of beats, versus writing to more traditional boom-bap influenced hip hop, it was surprisingly very natural. When we started working on this project the beats Lasso sent were totally different, much closer to the sounds people typically hear me over. Those were far more challenging, frankly because I was personally a little bored of making that sound. They were great beats, but I couldn’t find a lot of inspiration in them. When the album took this turn, it became exciting to work on and write to this style.

RD: Lasso, how different is your process when recording instrumentals for solo work and working with emcees. What part of your process changes?

L: I’d say how far you take the melodicism in the instrumentation is the biggest difference. If it’s an instrumental album, you truly need a thread of personality and storytelling to weave the soundscapes together. When you are working with a vocalist, it’s more about capturing the essence of something in as few pieces as possible and then letting the vocalist magnify/walk through. A great vocalist can turn an interesting drum pattern and a few little sounds into an entire universe. 

Follow Lasso on Twitter @TheSoundOfLasso

Follow Chris Orrick on Twitter @chrisorrickraps

I Read That I Was Dead is available on CD and LP https://www.mellomusicgroup.com

Digital copies https://chrisorrickraps.bandcamp.com/album/i-read-that-i-was-dead

Producer Spotlight: Royalz

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Royalz is the owner and founder of GRHYME Productions, a Melbourne based label that has added to the list of dope contributions coming from Australia the past few years. After a series of remix projects and mix tapes, he dropped Live 95, his debut production album featuring a host of dope spitters like Roc Marciano, Conway and SmooVth. He just teamed up with SmooVth to bring you China White, their brand new collab project. He touches on those projects, his history in the game and much more.

RD: You are the third Aussie to do a piece with us. What is in the water over there?

R: Great Chinese food! Australia is a melting pot of so many cultures, hip-hop included. Australia is indigenous land, taken by the Europeans as a place to put their convicts. After the ‘White Australia’ policy was abolished the Chinese and Malaysians started immigrating in the 70s, then the Vietnamese in the 80s. Along with the good came the bad, and the bad was street gangs and heroin. That’s what inspired my next album China White.

RD: Talk to us about GRHYME Productions, the inner workings of the company and the spirit behind the music and visuals.

R: GRHYME Productions was founded on a strong DIY work ethic. From making our own beats to the artwork, it was born out of a hunger to create music but with no budget. It’s been a big learning curve, and over the past 14 years we’ve seen a lot of artists and labels come and go, but our strongest assets are determination and longevity. Internally we’ve had some changes but I’ve had my day one Angus Younga step up. I only surround myself with people as hungry as I am.

RD: After some dope remix projects, you dropped Live 95 last August. It was a unique blend of American standards Roc Marciano/SmooVth and Conway mixed with Aussies Nelson Dialect, Tornts and many others. Was that the format you had planned all along, or did things change in the journey to complete this project?

R: As a producer, a production album has always been something I was working towards. Live 95 was part of my 5 year plan (which took 6 years) that started with my remix project Man Vs Maschine Vol 1. I had the vision for Live 95 back in 2012 and got started on making the beats for it in 2016. Conway was the first artist I hit up and as it turns out at the right time, before him and Westside Gunn got signed to Shady. Roc Marci has been my #1 emcee for a while. That was a dream collab that I had to make happen when the situation presented itself. Then it was a matter of getting the best of the best from Australia and a couple of up and comers, sorta like the 1992 Dream Team. Every move I make is calculated and Live 95 was an almost perfect execution of that plan.

RD: The first two singles, Facts featuring Roc Marciano and Bundles featuring Conway each sold out very quickly. As did the Nintendo Gray edition of the Live 95 wax, did the demand for these physicals match your expectations?

R: They blew my expectations out of the park! Being so isolated on this big island called Australia, even with the internet, as a “new” artist it can be hard to gauge how you’ll be received. Streaming and follower figures does not always lead to sales and I’m in the lucky position where my sales are great even with a low stream/follower count. I pack all my product so I see each and every name that cops my shit and I’m forever grateful to the fans.

RD: If you could go back in time to 2017 and change anything about the process of making Live 95, what would you do?

R: It was actually a great learning process and while the 2 year process had its issues, I wouldn’t change much. The only thing I would change would be to pull the trigger on the Westside Gunn feature, and worry about the budget later.

RD: Do you handle your own post-production? If not, do you have a trusted engineer?

R: For Live 95 I had my man Phil Gektor handle the mix as I was so busy organizing the album and its release (He’s mixed Discourse and Flu’s albums). For China White, I went back to my DIY roots and handled the mixing duties myself as my beats have evolved by devolving. A while ago I made a mental change to stop listening to the critics and just started making shit I would want to hear. Everything has been stripped down and simplified which has made learning the mixing process easier for me. Soon enough I’ll be mastering my own shit. Given enough time and effort you can learn anything.

RD: China White is the latest venture, a joint project with SmooVth. You remixed him first, then had him on Live 95, now here we are with a whole project at hand. Did something develop during the making Deuce Tray that led to this? Or was this something you had planned years ago?

R: Having a release with one U.S artist was always the plan after Live 95, it was just a matter of who. Man, I just like SmooVth’s shit! I discovered him through a Hus Kingpin’s release Splash Brothers and was hooked. I did that remix then hit him up for the feature which turned out super gully. After that it was a no brainer for the next LP. Since we already had a good relationship and communicated well, it was a perfect match to create something together.

RD: How did your approach differ from working with multiple emcees? Did you have a more set sound you wanted to use for this, getting down to BPM and melody style?

R: After working with 12 emcees/groups on the same project I don’t think I’ll be doing another multi-artist production album for a long time. I already had a sound in mind for China White and actually shopped the sound locally 3 years ago, but no one here was ready for that type of production the slow soulful 70s era beats with hard raps. I had to reach out to NY for the right person with the right voice and life experience to craft the story I wanted to showcase for this album.

RD: What can collectors expect as far as physicals go?

R: I’ve linked up with Copenhagen Crates for the vinyl treatment which I’ve had good experiences with, from the quality of the vinyl to actually having stock in hand for release date. That’s important to me – I hate long pre-orders. I’ve also got cassettes and CDs (with lyric booklet) available via GRHYME Productions. Each physical release has a different bonus track which was fun to do.

RD: What tracks are getting the visual treatment, and when can we expect that?

R: The lead single is called Divide Cake. I’ve done a simple animated clip for this, similar to the one I did for Facts with Roc Marciano in 2017. Animation is new to me but I used to draw a lot in high school. Doing the drawing for my animated clips has renewed my love for drawing which I hope to incorporate into my cover art in the future.

RD: If there’s one thing you’d like listeners to take away from the project, what would it be?

R: Don’t do drugs kids, sell it.

GRHYME Productions Bandcamp https://grhymeproductions.bandcamp.com

China White Vinyl https://cphcrates.com/collections/frontpage/products/china-white-lp?variant=29974092480576

Follow Royalz on Twitter @gryhmeproduct and IG @royalzog