Slightly late than never thanks to inconvenient business ‘dealings’ that has lead me to change hosts. Here’s the second edition of artist spotlight and feature, Vexposè #2.
Music and a portmanteau.
Featured Artist: SKYWLKR
Bruiser Brigade’s in-house producer and up and coming Detroit beat maker SKYWLKR was tipped as one of five producers to watch in 2012 by Fader magazine after he struck (fools) gold last year; when Danny Browns mixtape XXX made the rounds at the top of everyone’s end of year polls. -Besides handling a hefty portion of XXX, he also released two beat tapes, collaborated with acid-rap legend Esham, Guilty Simpson and a remix of the entire Exmilitary album (Death Grips) alongside Black No!$e .
His production ranges from sped up vocal bangers reminiscent of the Heatmakerz handling production for Juelz Santana to the chopped and stitched sounds of Blockhead and soul survivor Pete Rock, laid over sampled or programmed back lines with plenty of kick; and the odd analog bass or future dub inspired sound palette that’s a sure nod to the L.A. beat scene movement and the likes of Fly-lo, Samiyam and Detroit legend J-Dilla.
I recently got him on the Hans Free (Only Star Wars reference, I promise) to talk about cassette tapes, exotic pets and Doug from Nickelodeon, read on.
V3xation: Who’s SKYWLKR and what was the one gift you wanted for Christmas but never got?
SKYWLKR: My name is Skylar Tait. I’m 22 years old. I live in Detroit, Michigan and I make instrumentals. I’m known as SKYWLKR and the one gift that I wanted for Christmas, but never got would be some kind of crazy exotic pet. My parents were never cool with that shit. A fox, or an alligator, or some crazy shit. One who’s size was reasonable. I can understand not having like a Rhino as a pet or something but I want a Piranha or a Fox, or a Wolf.
V3: You’ve got pet’s though right?
SW: Yeah, I got a pet dog, she’s a Staffordshire Terrier, but she’s not some rare undomesticated animal.
V3: You like weed, a lot. When was the first time you smoked weed, do you remember?
SW: It was way back in the day. At age 12 a close family friend passed me an old school metal bowl and I tried hitting it once and I coughed my face off. I didn’t smoke again ’till like 8th grade. I was at a party and again hit a cheapo metal bowl, we clam baked this girls bathroom for her birthday party. I didn’t become an everyday/all day smoker till I was 18 though. I would smoke occasionally through High School, but was never constantly buying and rolling blunts and shit. When I turned 18, I got my first job and I had a steady reliable income.
V3: Haha, ‘clam baked’ in England we call it hot-boxing
SW: Haha, yea same shit, hot-boxing sounds doper to me.
V3: Speaking of rolling, I’ve seen your press shots, how many different types of joints can you roll?
SW: I’m strong willed so if I put my mind to it I can probably roll it but I’ve only personally rolled joints, blunts, cross joints and double joints. Once I rolled up with the paper from a McDonald’s bag and that shit worked; I was probably smoking ink and hazardous thick paper, but…
V3: Macgyver would have been proud though.
V3: Clambaking/hot-boxing… Do you ever mix weed and tobacco or is that an English thing?
SW: That’s definitely an English thing. I’ve personally never done that. -I’m not a tobacco smoker though. too harsh.
V3: Are there any UK/European acts you’re interested in at the moment, hip-hop, dubstep or electronica specifically?
SW: I’d be super down to work with some dope grime artists, JME would be dope and I honestly feel like a lot of the American artists are influenced by UK artists, even if they don’t know it, especially in those genres. Skrillex is kind of running dubstep right now, haha.
V3: Running or ruining?
V3: From Skrillex to SKYWLKR, Let’s talk about your music. Fader Magazine recently tipped you to be one of five producers “…Who will change the sound of Rap in 2012″ is that a hard title to live up to?
SW: When the issue dropped and they put the article on the site shit got kinda crazy for like 10 days and it did kind of stress me out. I felt like I was instantly given expectations or something. Then a week or two went by and I’m stress free. I just gotta keep doing what I’m doing, do what I do. I feel like it’s working and I enjoy it, so its like, why stress? – But for a minute, I just kind’ve felt some kind of pressure on me or something. but it’s just some shit I kind’ve made up. you know? I’m always challenging myself to go harder in my head.
V3: Yeah, It’s hard not to be critical of your own production thinking I can do better.
V3: What is your oldest musical memory you can remember – or a song you strongly associate with childhood?
SW: I was fourteen and my friend Drew came over and played Smells like Teen Sprit on the Guitar I had at the time. I had the guitar for about 4 years and never touched it. I saw him play that and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen so I instantly just started going hard that day.
V3: Do you remember the last track you recorded a guitar part/riff for?
SW: I was recording some guitar the other day to a new instrumental I’m working on. I’ve got both acoustic and electric guitars in my room right now.
V3: Are you picking up instruments more now for recording/production?
SW: Yeah, as of real recently, I’ve just been noticing how kind’ve easy it is to make some sounds but I’ve played guitar/bass/drums way before I made “beats”. I didn’t start making music on a computer, I started out with instruments so when I started making “beats” I was way more into real instruments and synths and stuff. Then I explored the world of samples and now I’m trying to make a hybrid form of it all. I’ve been working out of a studio that’s super nice and has like 908509449 instruments and real drums and literally everything you could need, so that definitely helps too.
V3: Let’s talk about before the beats, way back before Strawberry Cough you played in various bands before turning eighteen and moving from Sterling Heights, to New York. How did you fall into playing Bass for the Museums?
SW: Well; from grades 8-12, I was in bands playing guitar, bass or drums. Playing everything from Death, Doom and Brootal Metal to Grindcore to trippy experimental Rock and poppy shit. -I moved out of my parents house and moved into my friends apartment and his job was to book tours for bands, so he was gonna get me lined up to make some bread and book tours for bands and Museums emailed me to book them some shows. We started talking, they came out to Michigan for a show and stayed at our crib. We partied, I gave some of them some tattoo’s and that was that.
A couple months later they hit me up letting me know they were splitting ways with their guitarist and wanted me to play guitar for them. I learned all their songs but when I got out there the bassist decided he wanted to switch to Guitar and i’d take his spot. After 5 days of living with them, and practicing non stop I went out on my first tour. I managed to memorise 6 songs on bass in a week, it was a lot for me in a short period of time especially with being away from all my friends, family and having like no money, I learned a lot.
V3: …Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.
SW: Yeah, man but I was with it. I just drove out to New York with like 2 bags and $400 and was like fuck it.
V3: What was touring with them like?
SW: It had its ups and downs. I was eighteen and the band consisted of four other guys in their mid-to late twenties. The whole experience was a total blast though. I like, being in places I’ve never seen before. I love playing music for people who want to hear it and I love meeting people around the country that are similar to me. I made some great friends but there was clashing within the band, one guy was overboard with the creative control.
For example, I used to get “yelled at” -not yelled at but like, talked to because my boxers would show on stage and we had an “image,” to convey and he said my stage presence was too hype but I came from metal, I loved to go crazy.
V3: Yeah, life on the road can teach you a lot, getting changed in a cubicle toilet without getting your socks wet is an acquired skill.
SW: Haha, yeah.
V3: Last question on touring, Have you played outside of North America? If so, What cities stand out on their cultural or musical merits and where would you like to visit?
SW: No, I’ve only played in North America (USA and Canada) but all of my New York City experiences have been awesome.
V3: So after touring with Museums did you stay in NY or head straight back to Detroit?
SW: I stayed in New York for a while and then spontaneously left and came home and moved back in with my mom. I needed to keep making music but at that point I had sold a lot of my music equipment to move to New York. I didn’t have a Drum kit anymore, I needed a way to make synthetic drums and that’s when I downloaded [Propellerhead’s] Reason. I originally started making Metal songs, programming drums and recording guitar and bass parts over them and mixed them down. In my free time, I started just making “beats” and that’s when this whole instrumentals stuff started.
V3: Who were you listening to and influenced by around the time you started making beats?
SW: Mobb Deep, Jedi Mind Tricks, Three 6 Mafia and a lot of Metal. -A lot of it was dark.
V3: You sight Stoupe (JMT) and Havoc from Mobb Deep as influences, if you had to pick either producer to remix the other what songs would you choose? I.e. Stoupe to remix Quiet-storm.
SW: I’d honestly like to hear them work together on some shit but if I had to choose, I’d really like to hear Havoc just remix Violent by Design
V3: The whole album?
SW: Violent by Design over Havoc beats, ‘Ya that shit would be crazy but than again, let’s be specific: If Stoupe remixed Party Over or Survival of the Fittest, that shit would probably be harder.
V3: Yeah, that would be a banger for sure
V3: Your beats borrow sounds from a lot of different genres ranging from synth electronica, dubstep, traditional instrumental hip-hop loops and lo-fi samples. Besides Jay Dilla and Flylo, who else do you look to for inspiration these days?
SW: If I think about the past year. Death Grips and Shabazz Palaces. They both pushed their genres so far left field that you really can’t label/identity a genre. It’s crucial to be creative and listening to them really just reminds me to remember to have fun with this music shit and experiment. I’m always learning new tricks and techniques.
V3: Speaking of Death Grips, how did you and Black No!$e hook up and where did get the idea to remix Exmilitary come from?
SW: When I was around seventeen, eighteen and into the metal scene. I was friends with these dudes in a hardcore band named Set Sail and I’d actually sell merchandise for them at their shows just to get out the house, haha.
Rob aka Black Noi$e played guitar for Set Sail so when all that shit fizzled out, we both kind of did our own things musically. About a year ago, we both hit each other up and touched base again and I found out he made beats. We emailed each other some tracks. “I was very impressed because he’s in a hardcore band still that’s poppin so I didn’t know he was going hard with the beats.”
We both noticed each other tweeting about how dope Exmilitary was then Death Grips dropped Black Google which had the stems to their album and we talked about remixing it. Everything just happened organically, we put together in like 2 days or so it seemed. We used some old instrumentals, and made a few new ones and it just came together. -Expect more collaborations in the future with me and Black Noi$e though, for sure. we live in the same area, we use the same equipment, so it’s dope.
V3: Before we get into Strawberry and Blueberry, What was it like working with Detroit legend, Esham? For the record, KKKill the Fetus is a wicked album.
SW: That was cool as fuck and kind’ve a cool story, random too. I showed up at Danny’s to hang out and this dude at the local studio we were fucking with at the time, sent Danny a text like “Esham in here, trying to chop it up, maybe do a track,” so we drove up the studio and partied with Esham. We had Hennesey, bud and after Danny recorded his verse we went to a rave, it was a really fun night. -At the studio, he heard some of my production, and was just like, send me some shit, I’d love to work with you.
V3: Wow, that must of been humbling.
SW: Yea it was definitely cool. Esham is a very nice/cool dude.
V3: Did you contribute any other beats for DMT Sessions?
SW: No, I honestly only sent him one beat. He didn’t even like it at first and was like “Can you send me some other shit?” I was kinda bummed out, than like 2 weeks later he texted me saying that he made some ill shit to it, and he just had to really listen to it again and he loved it. -I was pumped to say the least.
V3: How long did it take to make Strawberry Cough?
SW: Strawberry cough was very random and spontaneous. After I started making beats in my basement my friend put me onto beat battles, I started doing battles and honestly did quite well ‘cuz I had no idea what to do with beats, haha. You know?
So, after doing a couple of those, I noticed people would just put beat tapes out I picked out the coolest 14 beats I had made in the past year and made like 3 beats the day I put it out and just uploaded it to Bandcamp. That was April 27, 2010. There was no planning and no promotion.
V3: A lot happened between the releases of Strawberry Cough and Blueberry Cough (14 months), including Danny getting signed to Fools Gold, what at that time was inspiring you to make music?
SW: Honestly? Danny. I was a huge fan of Danny’s music and we just ended up working together and becoming really good friends, so I was very thankful to have the chance to work with Danny. I still am.
V3: What do you remember about working with Danny musically for first time, was it an instant connection?
SW: Definitely. The first time we hung out, we kinda clicked. We have a lot of similarities in taste, having a broad view on music and we both like the situation we have right now. It’s become more like a band. -He gives me insight/ideas on the music and i’ll give ideas/input on songs/hooks shit like that and we bounce ideas off of each other constantly. We both like making music this way, as opposed to emails and keyboards.
V3: You mentioned beat battles and beat tapes, why did you decide to release Blueberry Cough as an actual beat tape [format]? Why Analog over Digital?
SW: I felt like, I had to put something out. It was over a year since I put out Strawberry Cough and people were just starting to look my way and I felt like I only had an old ass beat tape online but at the same time, I didn’t feel ready to put something out and stamp my name to it. At the time, a lot of my best work was going to Danny’s projects and I never knew what was gonna make the album so I figured, shit, I’ll put out a cassette tape and do a small amount and then it’s not digital, or anything… I also happened to get a van this year, that doesn’t have a CD player
SW: -And I like jamming instrumentals in my free time so I thought I couldn’t be the only person who has a tape deck and likes jamming to instruments while driving. We printed up 100 copies and it seemed like a safe way to put out a release without really putting out a release.
V3: I haven’t heard all 47 tracks on Blueberry, so I was glad to find out you’re planning on releasing a digital version, when can we expect a release date? Are there any differences between the analog and digital releases besides audio fidelity and quality, for example MC’s on previously instrumental tracks or reworked versions of previous songs?
SW: Within the next 2 months for sure and honestly, I’m not even sure about the differences. On the cassette, the beats are at different tempos/pitches than originally made at for the digital version but I might keep it the same way as the cassette but I might honestly re/mix re/master it and add a lil ‘something something’ -but I don’t know. I’m unorganised.
V3: What is the most obscure sample you’ve chopped?
SW: What comes to mind is 30, the last song on XXX. A lot of people were almost like… confused by that. It didn’t sound like a beat to people but after the song was completed they were like damn, that song was crazy. That was a metronomic sample that I had chopped and thrown over some drums I made.
V3: Did you play the guitar part on it or is that sampled/sequenced?
SW: No, that beat is literally two tracks a sample and drums… or wait, I did add a synth. -So 3 tracks.
V3: You handled a good portion of the production for XXX, it ended up in a lot of critics best of categories last year, were you surprised that XXX got so many positive reviews?
SW: Yes, and no. When we were making it, we were just experimenting and making anything and everything. We had high expectations and definitely believed in it but as far as all the accolades it has received it definitely surpassed what I envisioned. I wasn’t as much surprised that they liked it so much, I was more or so just surprised that they were listening.
V3: One quick question on studio gear, you recently started using an MPC and were lucky enough to get a copy of Reason6 in the mail, how was the switch over?
SW: When I started making instrumentals, I started with Reason4, I used that up until January this year. That’s when I got the MPC. For about two weeks I was making beats strictly on the MPC because I couldn’t figure out how to sync my midi clock to logic. Propellerhead’s reached out to me, and sent me Reason6. -I noticed you can record audio right into Reason now so it’s easy to get my MPC shit to Reason6 and track out my parts. I’m loving my set-up right now.
V3: You mentioned you ended up giving the Museums tattoos when they stayed over at your place, how many tattoos do you have?
SW: I have a lot of tat’s, I’m not “tatted up,” [laughs] but I got like 15-20 tats, probably. I don’t know, I’ll definitely get more when I figure out what and where I want it.
V3: Is the finger mustache one legit?
SW: Yeah, haha.
V3: Haha, big
SW: I got that the day I first moved out of my parents house, my friend had a tat gun, the same one that I started using to give myself/friends tats.
V3: What’s your favourite Tattoo you’ve given to someone else?
SW: I’ve given some sweet/crazy/funny tattoo’s, I gave like a huge ass Stevie Wonder portrait on this dudes shin, a huge ass Will Smith on the back of this dudes arm, a whole Doug funny leg piece -that’s like an old school Nickelodeon cartoon by the way.
V3: I remember Doug, they aired it over here. Was his dog called Skeeter?
SW: Porkchop is his dog. skeeter is his “dog”
V3: Oh dang, yeah you got me. If you’d been took under the wing of any Producer (alive, or dead) as their apprentice who would you want to study under?
SW: Ha, no brainer: J Dilla
V3: -No hesitation?
V3: Quickly to wrap up let’s talk about Bruiser Brigade.
SW: Bruiser Brigade consists of Danny Brown, SKYWLKR, Dopehead, Tripl Blck, Chavis Chandler and Chip$. We also gonna be fuckin’ with the little homie, Zelooperz, he’s from out here and he’s dope.
V3: Dopehead is digitally releasing Plaid Palm Trees this month, how many tracks did you handle production for?
SW: I have only one beat on Plaid Palm Trees but that shit is coming out digitally, it’s going to have some unreleased shit on it so it’s definitely going to be a good listen/ We’re also planning a mixtape showcasing all of us over my production. Then after that Danny leaves for some tours while we begin working on the next album.
V3: Anything else? What can we expect from Bruiser Brigade, Danny Brown and SKYWLKR in 2012?
SW: I plan on releasing the beats that the Bruisers have rapped over for the past year for example, a tape with the beats Danny rapped on over XXX, Chip$ rapped over on Couch Potato, and Dopehead rapped on Plaid Palm Trees and the beats Chavis went on. I also plan on putting out Blueberry Cough digitally and that’s really ’bout it.
V3: Dope, I can’t wait to hear the Bruiser mixtape. Do you plan on releasing another instrumental album/beat tape at some point in the future?
SW: Definitely, at the end of this year I plan on putting out an instrumental release that you can just vibe out to from beginning to end.
V3: Thanks for taking the time out to chat man.
SW: Much love for looking out
Message me on twitter @v3xation or email email@example.com and suggest artists for Vexposé #2.