Producer Spotlight: DJ Burn One Interview
DJ Burn One is an Atlanta based producer who has worked with several prominent hip-hop artists, including Wrekonize, Gucci Mane, Yelawolf, Rittz, Lil Wyte, KD, SL Jones, Young Dro, ASAP Rocky, Scotty, Pill, and more. New to License Lounge, we sat down with him to discuss his work style, what inspires him, and business advice for young producers.
LL: We read that you didn’t grow up in a musical household. At what age did you start getting into music and what inspired you?
DJBO: I had my interest piqued when I was real young. As long as I can remember I always enjoyed all kinds of music. My mom would play the 80’s channel and my dad would play old school country. When I was like 7 years old I randomly found a copy of Kilo Ali’s ‘Get This Party Started’ and was blown away. It was so funky and raunchy – I’d never heard anything like that. After that, I remember hearing Cell Therapy, Creatine, and a bunch of other Dungeon Family records that really made me a hip-hop fan. it was 400 Degreez a few years later that turned me all the way into music fiend. I couldn’t get enough of it from that point on.
LL: Of all your favorite artists growing up, which one do you think has had the biggest impact on your sound?
DJBO: Probably Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon. They had amazing songs but the main thing that caught me were the soundscapes. It’s like they created an entire world on that record. Of course I’m influenced by Organized Noize, DJ Paul & Juicy J, Pimp C, Memphis rap and G Funk, but I find more similarities with my work as far as creating worlds on each song more in line with Darkside now that I look back on it.
LL: You’ve said that at one point in your career you “fell out of love with music.” How do you keep your inspiration alive with new ideas?
DJBO: My friends and co-producers Walt Live & Go Ricky Go keep me inspired. On the rare occasion that I’m flat they always inspire me to do something great. Also, there’s so many possibilities and ways to approach music that I sometimes find that’s all it takes. One of the greats that I’ve studied a lot of is Brian Eno. The way he sets machines up to make the music and then warps it after that is something that intrigues me and I’ve found ways to apply some of his philosophies into our work.
LL: Tell us about your production crew The Five Points Bakery. How did you all start working together?
DJBO: The Five Points Bakery is me, Ricky and Walt. We met over 7 years ago and gelled instantly. We spent 15 hours a day, at least 4-5 days a week for years working together to hone in our sound. More recently, we’ve been working with a female singer named Anna Valena. We’re dropping some of her own music soon and she’s been recording vocal samples on our tracks. All of our different influences and aspirations meet in this awesome way. The only way I can describe our sound is that it’s like the Wall of Sound, but on LSD. There’s many layers to it like a Bob Ross painting. He used to put down some blue and then scrape away a little then add some green. Then scrape some of that away and so on and so forth until they zoom out and you see this ill sky. We throw a lot of ideas at each track and then brutally chop out the parts that don’t serve the song.
LL: What’s your creative process like, do you make beats every day or do you wait for inspiration?
DJBO: It’s always different. Sometimes the guys will send me an idea or I’ll just sit down and slam my hands on the keys or lap steel or bass until something catches my ear. We like to flip traditional instruments in untraditional ways. We’ve played tracks for people and they’ll be like “man I wanted to hear something with a guitar.” When in reality there are like 14 tracks of guitars mangled up into this warped vibe track that has all these cool interesting melodies and harmonies that you’d never get with the regular way of just tracking a normal lick and keeping it that way – even though that happens too. We keep it fun and playful so it’s always a joy and never labored. We never really spend a great deal of time on one track until its time to mix. A lot of times we’ll all plug in at once and jam for a few or 20 minutes and then go back and grab a loop out of there and then build fresh on top of that. Folks use all type of plugins in stuff to make their music sounds more sample-ish/lo-fi now, but that’s been one of the trademarks of our sound from the beginning.
LL: What’s your philosophy on quantizing? Do you like to quantize or play things in live?
DJBO: I like quantizing when things are a little too loose. There’s a sweet spot between sloppy and robot timing that just feels right when you find it – it’s different on every track. I’m not afraid to quantize live instruments either though. Applying techniques we’ve learned for one thing to something completely separate always yields interesting results. Most of the time the music is straight live though. I like leaving small imperfections and some dirty stuff in there so you know humans are involved haha. No offense to the robots.
LL: You’ve worked with a lot of artists. Which artist do you think has influenced you the most?
DJBO: It’s probably the other way around. We leave every artist on a higher level than when we first meet. It’s because we always push them to go to that next level and do something fresh. We’ve definitely worked with some talented artists, but I can’t say one of them has changed how we do anything thus far. A lot of times, it’s like trying to drag a horse to convince them that being like everyone else or playing it safe isn’t the way. A good producer should always lead in my opinion. We’ve got a better vantage point of what an artist is capable of than they do most the time.
LL: Who would you like to collab with in the future?
DJBO: DJ Quik, Brian Eno, Trevor Horn, Washed out, Kendrick Lamar, Future. There’s plenty out there. John Mayer is one that intrigues me too. I think we could bring him into a really in a fresh space. He’s super talented with great feel – I think it’d be unexpected, but special.
LL: There has recently been a lot of press about your not getting paid for your work with A$AP Rocky. Do you have any advice for young producer on how they can protect themselves in the music industry?
DJBO: Don’t send a track out until you get paid – seriously. That’s the main source of power we have as far as making sure an advance and paperwork is handled. The industry will try to trick you into giving them over for nothing, but that’s the real bargaining chip we have. You make the music, you call the shots. I sent mine over to their A&R after he told me they wanted the tracks and basically had to depend on them being good, honest people. We saw how that turned out. No one is this industry is your friend and no one cares if you get paid – so long as they get paid. That’s not to sound negative, but move accordingly to that advice and you’ll be protected. Don’t be a push-over when it comes to business and get yourself a lawyer who will fight for you, not just sign off on contracts that comes across their desk. Moving with a team of people who have the same aspirations is invaluable.
LL: Continuing on that note, what do you think needs to change most about the music industry/?
DJBO: The laws. To start, I’d like to see a law passed where we have to get paid within 30 days of the contract being executed. They are in no rush to make sure anyone is taken care of properly. I’ve heard so many horror stories since I shared my experience and there’s a plethora of things that need to – and will be – corrected. I’m opening a non-profit right now that’s focused on empowering producers, musician, engineers and performing artists with the knowledge they need to succeed in this game while not being taken advantage of.
LL: What do you currently like most about where the sound of hip-hop is heading?
DJBO: Everyone is experimenting now. When I fell out love with music around 7 years ago and stopped doing tapes shit was real stale. The same dry fake horns and 1 note 808’s. There’s always gonna be biters, but there’s some amazing music coming out now. I feel like everyone in my generation and this next one were raised on a wider variety of music than ever before in history thanks for Napster and streaming. It’s interesting how everyone is using these same influences in different ways. And I love the gritty, distorted 808. I heard someone say its like the guitar in punk music now and I couldn’t disagree.
LL: What are you most excited about in this new venture with License Lounge and what inspired you to work with us?
DJBO: I’m excited about getting all these artists who’ve been reaching out for tracks for the longest, but couldn’t afford our exclusive price. I’m so happy to be able to bring quality tracks with live instrumentation done our way onto a platform like this. I saw y’all had arabMUZIK and Lex Lugar so that along with me just brushing up on how the game has changed and the new ways people are working led me to go ahead and make it happen.
LL: Tell us about some new projects you’re working on. What can we expect to hear from DJ Burn One in the near future?
DJBO: We have a new project dropping in a few weeks with a bunch of new music we’ve been working on. Ricky and Walt are always recording for their solo albums and their joint project iNDEEDFACE. We’re about ready to drop Anna Valena’s music too so that’s gonna be fun finally letting the world hear what we have to offer with her. Also we have original sample packs dropping right here on License Lounge. Making music is such a fun and therapeutic thing for us. To be able to open our vaults and share these soundscapes that we’ve been experimenting with on with other producers is exciting. Until this point we’ve been sending them directly to our big time producer homies, so to share them with producers on the rise is awesome. I can’t wait to hear what they cook up with them.
LL: Anything else you’d like to add?
DJBO: Definitely cop some beats from us cause they are jammin and will make your career better haha. Hit up www.thefivepointsbakery.com and sign up for our email list to keep up with our latest and greatest. Much love to everyone out there who’s dedicated to making great music. It’s not always easy doing this, but it is worth it. Always apply yourself and never give up. That’s how you win.
Interview by Stephen M. Thornton
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