First off, thanks for doing this interview, it’s been a while since we’ve grilled anyone over at The Drum Broker Blog.
Man, I’m honored bro. Thank you for reaching out and having me. Most definitely has been a while!
MSXII has grown over the last few years as a sound design and production team landing some large contract jobs with companies that include Native Instruments. Your product catalog and scope has expanded exponentially since your early projects.
1. How did MSXII make the transition from producing (making beats) to creating sample packs for other beatmakers (sound design)?
I really think the demand and feedback helped initiate the transition. I wouldn’t say we’re not producers anymore by any means, but the focus is sound design most days. The sound design definitely influences the production. We’ve always liked to create the tools that we were interested in using in our own music production. I guess thats the reason the catalog expanded…the many musical interests and things we want to explore individually. Naturally, what you’ll find in our catalog is the stuff we initially had interest in creating for our own use.
2. You guys recently created a Maschine Expansion pack for Native Instruments called Sierra Grove. How did the relationship with Native Instruments come about?
The relationship with our friends there began a while back. The industry is actually pretty small once you get to know a few people. Next thing you know, so and so knows so and so, and introductions get made. The guys at Native are really dope people. It’s been all love over there from day 1. I think one of the things I’m most grateful for is the amount of trust they gave us with a project like Sierra Grove. Being able to dive into Maschine and accent what we feel are it’s strengths was a goal of ours. It’s such a great platform that can definitely get a lot done with ease once you pop the hood. Native gave us the autonomy needed to express ourselves in it. Thats a big deal and we certainly don’t take it lightly. Looking forward to building some great things for many years to come with them.
3. Does MSXII’ have a sound design philosophy? That is to say, what is your overall approach to creating sample packs? Do you have specific users in mind when you’re creating products?
We don’t really have a ‘philosophy’ so to speak, but we certainly have an approach. There are a few things that should be in the DNa of every product we offer that answer these questions; Is it dope? Would you use it? Does is feel authentic? Will it be relevant 3, 5, 10 years from now?
Subconsciously we all create from this standpoint. Like I previously stated, being producers first, we’re always looking to create things that meet our own personal standards. If we’re confident of that, we hope with consistency you’ll dig it too. So with that said, there isn’t a specific user in mind while creating. What’s in mind is a vibe, a feeling, an aesthetic.
4. You can’t satisfy everyone’s needs and desires when it comes to creative endeavors and product design. Who are MSXII’s products NOT for?
Haha, no you most certainly cannot. However, our products are not for scammers, sharers, pirates, or other designers that would like to use our material as their own. Unfortunately, thats a large part of the market, but those are losses we’re willing to take!
As The Drum Broker, I field pitches for drum kits and sample packs on a daily basis. They range from terribly unprofessional to exquisite. It seems like everyone wants to do a kit or create a sample pack now. I’m observing “the hustle” shift from selling and leasing beats to exploiting drums and samples to turn a short term profit. This has resulted in the inception of really dope products and brands, but there is also a load of shit seeping from the pipes of the Internet. It’s obvious that not everyone has a long term vision for their product or brand.
5. What’s your take on this phenomenon? Where does MSXII fall within this emerging category of hybrid producer-sound designer?
Man, you said a lot there. Just like anything else, once people find out something can be profitable, here come the masses. Some would argue this even happened with rap music very early on. There are some pioneers that simply aren’t credited properly due to the exploitation of it during it’s infancy. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with free enterprise, I really wish more would consider everything prior to jumping out into the field. I see so many doing “drumkits” & “sample packs” with no viable means of fulfillment. Websites that still have the hosting site’s name in the url. No follow up system or even a means to combat pirating. These are just a few of the things I can name off top.
While all these things aren’t necessarily needed, I do think it speaks to your thoughts on it being unprofessional and very short term. So many of us live for “now” so it’s hard to see past next week—much less plan that way. We really need to create the separation between one-off producer kits & drumkits/sample packs that have been designed for use by music makers.
While producing, I may have a set of go-to sounds & drums that I’ve pulled from numerous years of collecting, stock libraries, and off vinyl. Collecting these from my sessions and sharing/selling these means that this is a producer kit, in my opinion. I don’t think anything is wrong with that. However, this has been hyped to no end and now you see everyone doing it. The problem is, eventually, the same stuff begins to circulate and cause issues. I think we need a BBB of drumkits/sample packs out here! So much more to say on the subject, but I’ll leave it there. Haha!
There is a couple cliches and cultural memes perpetuated by beat makers and producers that I disagree with. One of them is that you can “never have too many sounds”. I tend to disagree with this statement because too many tools, features, sounds, and options can be a roadblock to creativity and detracts from the creative process. However, some people disagree and think it lends to endless exponential creativity with no limits.
6. What are your thoughts?
Well, I kind of go back and forth on that. I do agree that having way too many tools can certainly stifle creativity. It happens to me personally from time to time. During those times, I limit myself to creating with only a set of amount of tools. I may only rock with sounds from 2014, all analog & no vst’s, or even go back into only using Reason etc. I usually end up finding that I have more than enough to get busy with and stay in creative mode much longer.
However, as a sound designer, I can also argue that you can never have too many sounds/tools! We work from the standpoint of you hearing me today is much better than hearing me 3 weeks ago. My material is always fresh because if I’m working everyday, I’m getting better. So…you can never have enough sounds because you don’t have my latest sounds! I hope that makes sense. I’m a bit biased in this case, but I can definitely speak from experience here. My advice is to do whatever you think is necessary to fuel your creativity…sounds, gear, tutorial, and information wise.
7. Sampling has always been a critical part of hip hop and electronic music. With most things that change, there is always going to be resistance and pushback . Many people gawk at the idea of paying for compositions and drum samples. These same purists stand on the moral high ground and scream that everyone should create entirely from scratch. If you wanted to change someone’s mind about the benefits of buying samples, what would you tell them?
It’s an interesting subject now…especially with the rise of cats taking their music careers into their own hands and caring less about a label situation. I’m kind of lost on the notion of being in hip-hop & creating from “scratch.” Sampling is at the core of what we do…so, from “scratch” in most cases usually involves a starting point or idea of someone else’s work. Should the original creator not be paid and compensated? I think so. The worker is worth his wage.
Exceptional composition creators make the process of finding good instrumentation easier for the budding producer (serious or hobbyist) that maybe works full time, has a family, or simply doesn’t have the time to dig. Even if you’re outside of those parameters, but you still enjoy making music via sampling, this is great. That, to me, is a valuable service. Too many us want to enjoy the services of others for free. Where’s the value in that? Where’s the integrity in that? We wonder why everything gets so watered down and less potent in our niche…that is entirely whats wrong out here.
Now, to be fair, us sample creators should be legit on our own software and other tools used TO create. We certainly can’t be hypocrites in the matter. It definitely goes both ways.
We’ve been flooded with emails from customers who don’t understand why they have to pay for a sample pack and then “clear” the sample down the road. As the distributor we understand this doesn’t apply to every customer, but some clarification would be awesome.
8. Can you explain MSXII’s position on sampling your compositions? Help our audience understand exactly what “master clearance” guaranteed means and when clearing a sample applies to them specifically.
My position on sampling MSXII’s compositions is that it’s great! Seriously, it is. We’ve worked hard to create a reputation that makes it easier for a producer, label, publisher or anyone else to speak directly to us regarding clearing, rights, usage, publishing, royalties, splits, etc. Our work is original and it sounds great. Let me try an outline a hypothetical scenario for you:
First, you, a budding producer, purchase one of our composition packs, from msxaudio.com or one of our distributing partners such as The Drumbroker. Your payment is simply your price of admission to download the project legally. You want to hear the work to potentially use it? You need to pay for it. Not pirate it or share it. Especially if you call yourself wanting to go somewhere with your music. I feel this way about everyone providing these options out here. Pay these guys the price of admission for their work. It’s not outrageous by any means!
Secondly, you flip one of the samples (from scratch, haha!) and land it with a dope artist who will do numbers who happens to be backed by say Sony or Universal or some other giant. Now, because that sample is not your original work, technically it will need to be “cleared” for use. Here’s where the term “hassle free” comes in on our end. We’re going to help you get where you want to be in your career regarding this record. We will clear the sample for you and your use. However, that does not come without a cost though. You’ll make money (provided) your paperwork is right on the life of that work. Without our original sample, would this be the case? Most likely not if you’re using it in the first place. This is where a negotiated split of those profits come in.
Usually, anything serious will be handled by the label. They would be the party releasing (or publishing) the music so they take on the responsibility of clearing the samples. When your label representatives reach out, we will work with them to make it happen for you.
Now, why this matters is because not all samples you snatch off these records will clear if you find yourself in a situation of doing some cool things. Do your homework and you’ll find the stories out there. I also don’t want to be naive; you can do whatever you want out here. Put music on soundcloud, youtube, etc and never plan to make money off of it. This happens. However, if you find yourself in a big situation, but refuse to go about it the right way just know you operate at your own risk. My advice is to cover your bases.
9. What should we be on the lookout for from MSXII in 2017?
Excellence. 2017 will be an incredible year for us. More great products & ideas. Super cool physical items. Great partnerships to be revealed soon and more building/engaging with those that believe in our brand. We’re super thankful for those that have given an ear to anything we’ve done. You’re the reason we can continue to do this. Big thanks to the Drumbroker team for such an unparalleled service to the music production community. Thank you for the honor fam.
Peep our catalog here w/ The Drum Broker: https://hiphopdrumsamples.com/collections/msxii-sound-design
Give us a shout & we’ll follow on Instagram/Twitter: @MSXIISound
Stop by the website: msxaudio.com