How did you come to work with Challan Carmichael?
The first time I met Challan was on the recording for [KC DA] ROOKEE’s last album. ROOKEE came and said that he had a partner that he was working with; this was about 2 years ago. At the first meeting I didn’t know he was a singer, just that he was ROOKEE’s business partner but after the second or third recording session he mentioned that he sings. The first session I had with him performing was at my home in Hamburg, for the whole weekend we were recording; that was really cool. But yeah, the first meeting was because of the KC [Da Rookee] album.
How many tracks have you created with Challan?
I think 6 tracks; I’m not sure if they are for his Debut Album or not. That’s his choice and it’s all good; it’s his thing to decide when he wants to create the tracklist for the album.
What are your thoughts on Challan and his music?
I’m not real sure on what Challan’s direction but I like recording with him and the music he creates is great. I’m enjoying creating the music with him by finding what he likes and creating something around that, rather than sending him 10 beats and getting him to pick one.
How do you create tracks or come up with ideas?
For one track Challan sent me a piano track as a MIDI file and I created a beat around that; that was the first track I did with Challan. When he came to Germany, our first session consisted of recording a song for his album. While he was in the booth, we had to see how it felt and how the melodies went together as it was our first time properly recording together. He has a lot of opinions on what we were doing though but is flexible to change. Many people aren’t too good at saying what they want, and if they do know, they will are not very willing to change. So this is very good for Challan.
How did you get started as a producer?
I’m now 43 and one of the old Hip Hop guys in Germany but when you work with young people it makes you feel youthful and younger. In 1982 or ’83, when I was around 13 I was into breakdancing and all of that. I studied and went to breakdancing shows. My group of friends just did our own thing with jams and messed around. In 1994 we started a DJ group called C.L.A.S.S (the first letters of our names) and brought ourselves an E-mu Systems SP-1200 and a big mixer and started to play about with music. We did this for years, working at the biggest clubs in Hamburg and we won Championships in 1996 and ’97. Then we thought that we should make our own music; this was in 1994/’95. The crazy thing about our first single Soul to Soul in 1997 was that it was for Bootsy Collins; the Grandfather of Funk. Bootsy Collins with MC Lyte ‘I’m Leavin’ U’; that’s what we did. We worked about with them and other producers and musicians from around the world; it was great.
What genres of music do you have the most passion for and why?
Mostly it is Funk and Soul because that’s what we heard growing up; even later, Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre were sampling that music. We have a saying in Germany, “You have Soul in your ass”; but you really have to have Soul in you to make a great Hip Hop track. Today there are so many guys who download a music programme from the internet and after one week they think they are P Diddy. But they don’t have the knowledge from 20 years or whatever. We (C.L.A.S.) never had any musical education or teachings, it was all self-taught and from ourselves.
What gives you inspiration to create music?
When we started the inspiration came from seeing people like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and when we worked as DJ’s; we worked at so many clubs in Hamburg and the thought to play our own music instead of someone else’s was a definitely a goal. Right now I am very motivated as I have several projects on the go; 2 German projects, Challan’s thing, making music with a friend of mine; I’m very open to everything. You have to be open; if you only focus on Hip Hop you will find it hard to make a living.
What do you consider your finest skill of production to be, or do you have more than one?
The majority of tracks that we do are remixes, so any time there are is a new track coming from the States or the UK, and the German radio can’t play it, they ask us for a remix. We have done so many remixes for Eve, Busta Rhymes, Mic Geronimo; the list goes on.
Could you explain further on these remixes?
We mainly got the acapellas and started the beats from scratch. My thing was to put the bass in, I’m very good at playing them and that type of melody/instrument.
We all have our own certain talents, that is the reason why we can create an entire beat so well together because we are arrangers, composers, mixers, producers, etc. So when we sit in the studio to finalise a song, we can do it all ourselves and don’t really need anyone else, to mix the song or make a bigger mix, etc. This is because of a guy (our mentor) who showed us all of the different aspects of being a producer.
What is your favourite track or tracks that you have produced?
In 2001 we worked for the Phil Collins Urban Renewal album; that was the first and the biggest thing we did. Our mentor came in the office one day and asked us if we wanted to create a Phil Collins track, so we said of course because that was the stuff we grew up with. He said we could choose the tracks we wanted to do; so we took ‘In the Air Tonight’, ‘Sussudio’ and ‘Easy Lover’. That was the first Gold Record that we received. It was such a great experience for us; we were in the studio for one month and received the original vocals for ‘In the Air Tonight’. We also did a remix for A-ha; ‘Summer Moved On’. I think it was in 2003 or 2002 and the album that they created at that time was recorded in the Boogie Park (our studio); they came into our studio one day and said, “Do you wanna do a remix for us?” So we took the acapellas and created the remix in one day; you can Google the track, Summer Moved On by C.L.A.S.S.
Can you tell us some of your favourite artists that you have worked with, and why?
The first time with Bootsy Collins was very impressive for us, because we were new guys in a new studio meeting such a huge star. It put pressure on us but we had no problems, we were just 4 guys working normal jobs at the same as producing and that was the moment that changed it for us. There was a weekend with Gang Starr, M.O.P and Das EFX in Hamburg, Germany. They all came to our studio and we had the best session, and the concert was really cool as well.
It was great to make new tracks with them and the inspiration was incredible. Then a few years after was the Phil Collins track. Also seeing Busta Rhymes was really good.
Are there any UK artists that you think you’re music would be suited to?
I’d love to work with Ryan Leslie but I’m not sure if he is from the UK, but he is such a great producer and artist. Also John Legend is an amazing artist. But I’m not only restricted to Hip Hop, I like John Newman and Mayer Hawthorne. Those are guys I like to hear because they are making music with a real band, rather than all computerized.
What are some of the hardware and software resources that you use in your production process?
I’m working with the latest Logic programme and Ableton Live on the PC because the workflow is easy. For plugins I’m working with Ozone, Nexus, Sonalksis, Stylus Remix (there are so many drums, pads, loops, etc, for this), Battery, Kontakt and there’s one called Oxford Inflator, from Sonnox that you can put at the end of a mix and makes the whole track so much brighter but doesn’t lift up the peak.
Do you mainly use real instruments or virtual sounds?
Both, if I sometimes use a guitar or whatever, we know several of the best musicians in Hamburg and just ask them to come over a pay directly into the interface. But I can also play a little for some things, although I’m not the best piano player.
Do you make music for any other forms of media? (TV, films, radio, gaming, etc)
The track we did with Bootsy Collins in 1997 was actually on the NBA game at that time, they sold about 3.2 million and the track from us was on it, so that was cool.