Interview with Seattle Producer Eardrumz
I’ve been a fan of Eardrumz for awhile, first hearing his beats on some of my dude Gabriel Teodros’s material, and also on my man Replife’s album. Finally got to meet him last year for a hot second at Hidmo in Seattle, and am late in getting to get a few words from him up on Everydaybeats. Check out all his stuff at www.eardrumz.net.
ian: give us a little history – who you are, when you started, where you’re at, any of your favorite projects you’ve worked on.
eardrumz: My name is Geoff. With a “G.” Taurus. I produce/DJ under the moniker of EarDr.Umz or EarDr.Umz The MetroGnome. Originally from Monterey, California, currently based in Seattle, but born and raised on the west coast of these “United” States.
I’m 27 years old, and my earliest memory of music was when I was around 5 or 6, my mother would volunteer at a Jazz radio station in Monterey called KAZU. Years later, when I was around 15, and really starting to dig records and make beats, blasting stuff like Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters” record or Bob James “Nautilus”, she would say “oh yea! you used to dance and dance to that song at KAZU!” Then my older brother and his boys would DJ their school’s parties on the weekends or whenever someone’s parents were away, and I basically inherited their equipment. Belt drive Lineartech turntables with a starter kit mixer that had 20 second push button samplers built in, looping my favorite movie themes, or sounds recorded off the radio. That’s basically how I started making beats. Didn’t really know what we were doing, but just having fun! Which eventually led to “borrowing” a pair of Technic 1200’s from a music store that will remain unnamed, and completly abusing records from my step dad or friends parent’s record collection. 4-track Tascam beats made with my Boss drum machine, and Sp 202 Dr. Sample, which I still use alot. As far as favorite projects, I barely made it past being born, so I feel pretty blessed to be here taking a part in every musical adventure thus far. If I had to pick though, I’m probably most proud of the first 45 that was released in Japan called “Recognize The Flav/Fall Asleep To A Jazz Tune” on the Tribe/Hydeout Label. (Rest In Peace Nujabes). Because that was ALL I could dream about at first, was hearing my shit ON WAX! So when that happened, I just thought “damn, what’s next?!”
ian: what’s the seattle scene like?
eardrumz: I like to think of Seattle as more of a community rather than a scene so to speak. The whole “scene” mentality reminds me why I attended high school as little as possible. The “cool kid” crowd. I mostly just try to stay busy doing my own thing, stepping out occasionally. I dunno. You got your egos, politics, closemindedness and passive aggressive types floating around, but for the most part, everyone is real supportive of each other. It’s dope. I don’t know if heads really realize how good we got it out here sometimes! There’s so much muscial talent out here, it blows my mind! Feels good to step back and admire whats going on in your backyard sometimes! We’ve been blessed to have some legendary artists lay the foundation for us doing it now. From Djs like Mr. Supreme, DV One, B-Mello, Nasty Nes on KCMU-Rap Attack, Vitamin D & Tribal Music, to the grunge shit, and the jazz cats, Ruby Bishop, Ray Charles migrated here and got his start 2 blocks from where I’m living at now, Quincy Jones, & of course Jimi (Hendrix) baby! Seattle and the Northwest has always been a pretty deep, rich, multi-flavored music haven. On any given night you can step out into the town, and catch some music. All across the board too. There’s some nice record spots too which keeps my feet planted here!
ian: i know you collaborated with some cats through the internet – how was this process? have you been able to make some dope music with cats who aren’t necessarily in the studio with you?
eardrumz: It’s not my most preferred way of working on a project with another artist, because nothing beats taking hold of that energy that is created during a session, but in this digi-day and age you gotta use the resources you have available. I have always been down to work with anyone who reaches out to me. We try not to let something like distance stop us! For example, the two albums I’ve been a part of with my brother DJ T-Bone Steak out in Japan, it was all in person. We met outside Amoeba records on Sunset in Los Angeles. I was living down there, would push tapes outside with my man Pro-Creation, and T-Bone Steak got denied permission to interview ?uestlove at an in-store performance, so he leaves the store only to run into us. Think he gave us $2 for a remix album we did. Hit us up the next day, we linked up, talked beats, records, music, hip-hop, etc. And even though we were from other sides of the moon, speaking different tongues, and not to sound too corny, but the language we shared was through music. Since that meeting, I’ve been to Japan twice, he came out to Seattle a few times, we’ve released two 7-inch records, a 12-inch, and two full-length albums. Could’ve easily just sent beats back and forth thru email or whatever, recorded various emcees on our own time, but instead we fly out, kick it, dig, build, and create the music in person! I’ve learned you have to do some filtering though. Because some dudes think that just because they got a beat tape or instrumental album you posted online, they feel that gives them the right to go ahead and record some bullshit to one or your beats and put it out there! On the flip side though, I have been able to collaborate with a few artists via online who are incredible! Cats like Rep Life, Maf Maddix, and even the cover photo for the “Vinyl Vixens” LP was contributed by an amazing photographer & model named Graciela Torres all from “meeting” online so to speak. So sometimes it works out!
ian: name a few of your favorite non-hiphop records
eardrumz: Oooooh! only a few?! haha. I could try and flex my crate digging muscles or getting super record nerd on you’s but I’m not, because it really doesn’t have to be a super rare one of a kind $500 promo or test pressing that was blessed by the Pope or something for me to dig it. It just has to be good music! Each record is almost like a memory for me, and theres a song or record for every particular setting, mood, or feeling. And all of those change for me on a regular basis but…. I love anything by Cymande, Isao Tomita, Cal Tjader, all the Moog records that cover Mozart & other composers, labels like Blue Note, Stax, Curtom, but lately, I can’t stop listening to the Motherlode record “When I Die.” The title track in particular is just so powerful, not just because of the recognizable loop. I don’t go digging to seek out records that so-and-so sampled, but it happens sometimes. The lyrics are deep on this one though man! Just hoping to make the people around you, proud of you when you pass on to the next? That’s pretty real to me. “Sunshowers” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band has always been a summer soundtrack joint for me, always lifts the clouds over my head. Because you never know what Seattle might have in store for you! Either sun or showers! or both. “Be Thankful For What You Got” originally done by William DeVaughn. Theres alot of really great renditions of this song, but the O.G. can’t be topped! Just be thankful for what you got, stand tall, stay humble, and keep diggin’ the scene with a gangster lean! Remember that!
ian: non-musical influences?
eardrumz: I’ve always been a huge movie/film person. Especially directors like Orson Welles who was involved with whatever his vision was 100%, with very little compromising with the big wigs, reserving complete creative control. Cover art of albums really inspire me too. For example, the Martin Denny Exotica series records consistently featured this one particular model, who I later learned is named Sandy Warner. Her eyes alone inspired me to make the Vinyl Vixens record! My family, especially my uncles & brothers have played a huge role in who I am today. My lady, dueling magicians, chefs, people who asks questions, challenge authority, the ocean, authors, the daily life of cats, archeaologists, just skateboarding around the city, travelling, and seeing new places, meeting different people. All of that intrigues me and keeps me going, but I think you gotta be careful with influences though. The trick may be to stay above them rather than under. Seems a lotta folks blur the line between influence and straight up biting! So just do you!
ian: best donuts in seattle?
eardrumz: Donuts that you need an adaptor and play at 45rpm or actual pastries? Either way, just follow your nose! If we’re talking pastries, most people in Seattle will tell you Top Pot or Crispy Cream, but there’s a spot in the I.D. (International District) called “Sweet & Fresh” Bakery on 8th that keeps me alive with their apple strudel croissant. Its got frosting on it…that counts as a donut right?
ian: what do you think about the science of internet distro (free releases, bandcamp, etc)?
eardrumz: I definatly feel I came up during a transitional time but felt you still had to pay dues, work very hard at your craft, staying up all night practicing, drawing your mixtape/album covers, glueing your label to the 4-track tape, tagging your name with a Sharpie or whatever. Then post up at various spots, with a pack of D batteries and a box, letting the music do most of the talking. Just trying to be heard. Now, things almost move a little too fast for me at times. For example, I always dreamed of pressing my own wax, and by the time that came to fruition…people aren’t buying vinyl much anymore. It’s all QWERTY e-digging. Everyone is already moving onto Serato and other software tools, getting all their music online. You can reach a massive wider global audience without leaving your grandma’s basement, but I still love going into shops, talking, meeting, learning shit from the owner, building a repoire for the next time you come into the shop. I’m also still not where I wanna be on certain things artistically. Like the turntables and mastering record manipulation whether it’s through sampling or beat juggling, but yet I have nothing against software or staying up with the tools of the time. It’s dope to be able to make a beat then have doubles of it as a mp3 to rock at the venue that very same night! And I’ve had random people from the other side of the globe send messages or e-mails saying they are feeling the music. That is a crazy feeling, and makes you wanna keep sharing more. And the internet makes it pretty easy to do that. All you need is a modem, or a libary card.
ian: what’s the upcoming projects?
eardrumz: Well, I just wrapped one up with Droop Capone (Dr.Oop) of the bLAck Love R88rs. It’s called “The Grateful Dread” and features Rogue Venom, Aloe Blacc, Nucleus, and Jumbo Shrimp of Blackberry Jam. Straight gratitude vibrations! Droop and I linked up the first time he came through Seattle and performed with us at the best fuckin hip-hop night in Seattle, called Stop Biting. Tuesday nights at LOFI! Whatup to the 4th City/Stop Biting fam!! The next night I believe after the show, I met up with him again up on Broadway to pass him a beat tape. Never forget he was chilling on a beach cruiser bicycle when I got up there, talked for a sec, passed him my walkman with a beat tape inside and some headphones, he jumps on the bike, takes a ride up and down and around Broadway, returns a few moments later, and simply say’s “alright, let’s do it!” Kept in touch from there, sending monthly batches of beats, building on the songs, and here we are! I also produced the EP called “The Mission Of An MC” for the youngest but one of the sharpest members of the bLAck Love R88rs, named Nucleus. We are currently diving in head first with a new project, called “The Road Warriors” documenting Droop & Nucleus’ recent “Alive &…Well?” Canadian tour. It’s gonna be a trip to say the least! I also just released a EP with my Seattle collective Dirty Scientifix. DirSci is emcees ORB, Yze, and Mozes Lateef. I really want people to know that the crews have combined, and we are growing! Our latest remedy is entitled “The Ana-Doap EP” and it’s available online at dirtyscientifix.bandcamp.com. We are testing the waters with that concoction right now until we feel the time is right to release the rest in the form of a LP. So keep your earballs peeled!
ian: anything else?
eardrumz: For any curious cats out there, please check out www.eardrumz.net for alot more music and info! I got links from there to other various pages including Soundcloud and Podomatic where I post random beats that have been sitting or some mixtapes of stuff & things that fill the crates! Some free, some not, but mostly free. All you gotta spend or lend is some time, and your ears! Don’t be afraid to donate to your friendly neighborhood artist or musician and record stores. Most of us aren’t greedy money grubbing people. We’re just trying to share with our fellow Earthlings, and unfortunatly some of the tools to do so, require the need of that dirty green paper. Sometimes. That’s why I thanks above for DollaBins! 😉
Thank you Ian & Everday Beats!!