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Interview: Tommy Tench on MPC Renaissance, NI Maschine, Dubspot, & His dynamic role in the industry

3 Jan

1. Take a minute to introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Tommy Tench and I’m a Producer and DJ operating out of my studio in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. I specialize in sampling and making beats, and I’m a huge fan of Turntablism, which I practice daily. My YouTube channel, which I started posting videos to a few months ago documenting the process of beatmaking, currently has 1300 subscribers and shows no signs of slowing down. I have numerous few projects lined up for 2013, working with artists (most of which I am supposed to keep quiet!) as well a super limited run of vinyl pressings with some producer friends of mine. I am also former student and current employee at Dubspot, a music production and DJ school, where I oversee the Tech Department.

2. How did you transition from being a Dubspot student to an employee?

I started taking classes one summer, and spent as much time as I could there. I got to know everyone pretty well, and one day they needed help setting up a private event because a few people were sick and couldn’t make it. They kept asking for help over the next few weeks, and I approached them to make it a permanent position in the Tech Department. I worked for about a year and a half as a regular Tech, until this past august when I was put in charge of the entire department.

During this time, I was able to learn and listen to everyone around me and really soak up tons of information. Everyone there is so talented and knowledgeable, its crazy really. The whole place breathes music, and can cater to everyones’ specific tastes.  It really helped me be where I am today. It’s incredibly important, no matter how good you are, to keep your mouth shut and listen sometimes. I do a lot of that.

Alkota: A lot of “up and coming” beatmakers & producers assume that the the music industry has a single linear path to success where licensing and selling beats is the name of the game. What most of the new jacks don’t know is that the industry is a multi faceted and dynamic beast.

Oh man. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The modern producer has to wear many different hats. He has to not only produce the track, but mix, master and release it himself. He also has to promote the song, coordinate with artists, get studio time, and in a lot of cases, coordinate the legal side of it with contractual agreements and licensing stipulations. Gone are the days where you show up at a label with beats and they write you checks on the spot. Now, if you’re one of these elite producers, these things may not apply as much. But I see that changing rapidly.

But having to do all these extra things are what makes it fun and interesting. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to learn and try to be the best producer out there, then go ahead and make your $5 beats off your pirated version of FL Studio. Just remember that theres a glass ceiling with that style, and you’ll never reach your full potential. No disrespect to anyone who pirated FL Studio and sells $5 beats, just try to do something different on top of what everyone else is doing. I mean, I bought a DSLR to record my videos, now I understand photography really well. White balance, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, focal length, etc. I also understand lighting and video editing. I then promote it online as much as possible. I understand SoundCloud really well to the point where I have videos on how to share to all your groups in one click using html scripts. You really get to learn a lot of things inadvertently through this process. Is it harder? Yes. But you don’t gain as much if aren’t trying to figure everything out all the time. I mean honestly, the whole beat making process is really just a puzzle you have to put together. This part here, this part there and so on. The other things are basically the same, just a different puzzle!

3. Can you talk about your role in the industry from the standpoint of an educator?

I get to meet all these big named artists through Dubspot, and there are two kinds of people. The ones that are always learning and trying to get better, and the ones that have what me and my friends call “Old Man Skills.” Now the Old Man Skills have nothing to do with being old. I know 22 year old kids with OMS. Its the refusal to try anything new, which is essentially the unwillingness to keep learning and elevating your craft. These people literally get stuck in time. I firmly believe that if something works, stick with it by all means, but who’s to say that theres not something you could do differently to make it that much better? This is especially true in Turntablism. Guys that are legends in the game but for some reason stopped learning new scratches, new juggles, etc. I would rather choose to not use something, (like a particular trick or technique or even new software) then to discard it without at least testing it out myself. I think it all boils down to being humble and willing to learn, while still thinking you’re the best out there. Its a fine line between the two, but if you really do become the best remember this: The best producers are also the best at learning.


Vintage Modes: Akai MPC Renaissance & Maschine 1.8

12 Oct

Part of the marketing tactics appeal of the new generation of drum machines from companies like Akai (Numark Corp.) & Native Instruments is the so called “Vintage Mode”. In general, Vintage Mode promises us the analog flavor and characteristics of drum machines past including the Akai MPC 60, E-Mu SP-1200, ASR-10, and more. While not perfect, Vintage Mode offers us a close software emulation of the legendary grit that these vintage drum machines are known for. With the switch of a button, your entire track is turned “Vintage”. As if to instantly inject some life and soul into your music the new generation of drum machines are capitalizing on our lust for analog.

The inherent problem with the so called “Vintage Mode(s)” aside from the technical limitations of emulation (I’m sorry but SP-1200 emulation doesn’t come close to the real thing), is the fact that Vintage Mode can be applied to your ENTIRE track.  Part of the allure to drum machines past (ala E-Mu SP-1200 & Akai MPC60) are their limited tech specs. For instance, the E-Mu SP-1200 has only 10 seconds of sampling time which is spread across 4 banks. Thats 2.5 seconds on sampling time per bank. Yes sir, you can only sample 2.5 second chunks of your favorite wax. Limitations such as memory size, effects, & workflow force(d) beatmakers and producers to work within a limited enviroment. Whether its a strength or crutch, Modern DAW’s, Samplers, & Drum Machines have infinite memory and sample capacity.


Akai MPC Renaissance Vintage Mode

9 Oct

There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding the recent launch of the Akai MPC Renaissance. One question remains hard to define… “Is the vintage mode an emulation of the MPC 3000 or does the Renaisance contain the same D/A (Outputs) as the MPC 3000!?”

A major selling point for Akai’s new drum machine controller is the output/sound characteristics of the Akai MPC 3000 in addition to other “Vintage Modes”. The Renaissance has “vintage” mode flavors which emulate the Akai MPC 3000, 60, & E-Mu SP-1200. Clearly, the MPC60 & SP-1200 is software/algorithmic based emulation, but I still haven’t found any clear answer as to the origin of the A/D Converters / Out’s. Are they the same as the original MPC 3000?

With the $1,300 price tag, known list of bugs, and lack of true “Stand Alone” mode (i.e. not connected to a computer)… SOME are holding off from purchasing the MPC Renaissance early on… or entirely. Most people will opt for NI Maschine, stick with their hardware MPC’s, or use their MPD + Software setup. We can bet one thing will be certain, the next emergence of NI Maschines controllers will likely incorporate some of the features of the REN and stay one step ahead of Akai. Its an exciting time for next gen drum machines/DAW hybrids.

My setup will remain… Reason 6.5, Akai MPD32, E-Mu SP-1200, and outboard rack gear + API Lunchbox.

My 2 cents, at $1,300… grab a vintage drum machine. Go on eBay and bid on an MPC60, 3000, or E-Mu SP-1200 if you are looking for “authentic” analog flavor. Part of the allure of these machines is their limitations and analog sound that can be closely mimicked by bit crushing software, but never TRULY replicated.

You are also better off purchasing some additional hardware/outboard gear if you are considering the MPC Ren for the price point. End results can be achieved for a lot less cash which can be allocated for  high end pre amps, A/D-D/A converters, sound modules, rack gear, mics, live instruments, etc.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes on the Akai MPC Renaissance and Maschine 1.8


MPC University – Getting Started With MPC Renaissance

24 Sep

Another video courtesy of Akai Pro. The MPC University series features basic overviews of the Akai MPC Renaissance by Super Producer/Engineer Young Guru. Guru breaks down some Renaissance basics, workflow techniques, and much more.


Young Guru talks akai mpc renaissance

23 Sep

Young Guru demonstrating a beat he made using the new Akai MPC Renaissance. Is this a valid endorsement or blatant promo? Akai criticism has been running hot the last few years with their lack of product offerings and support for the Hip Hop/EDM movement. Is this a glorified controller? Worth the steep $1300 price tag? I guess well find out. But until then, lets enjoy Mr. Guru chopping it up.


akai mpc renaissance tutorials

23 Sep (launching  October 1st, 2012) is offering a wide variety of MPC tutorials including offerings for the new Akai Pro MPC Renaissance, MPC Studio, and Fly. If you have jumped on the new generation MPC bandwagon and are looking for some education & tutorials, MPC Tutorials looks like an excellent resource for people looking to get their hands dirty.

Having learned on and banged out some of my best beats using the Akai MPC 2000XL, I’m excited to see what the new line of MPC’s brings to the table. As a Reason 6.5 user I am also excited about the possibility of Reason & MPC Renaissance integration.

I cant lie, I do miss the workflow of the MPC (minus tracking, zip disks, etc.). Maschine wasn’t my cup of tea and Reason 6.5 has some short comings when it comes to speed & workflow for sample based production. Lets hope the MPC Renaissance fills the void!

I’ll be doing a full review of the site once they provide me with a membership, so stay tuned.

Until then… click the banner below or visit to sign up