Northampton, Massachusetts has been described as a hub for art, music and counterculture influence. The open-minded primordial soup of abstract ideas and college-town freedom yielded the UMass student by day and underground abstract hip hop sensation by night, RxN. Expanding his territories throughout Northampton, Massachussetts and beyond state lines, RxN is an unstoppable beat-making force, consistently pumping out new tunes and sharpening his live set.
RxN was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for Musicyouneed:
What’s the music scene like where you live?
I live just outside of Northampton, MA which is kind of the central hub of all the colleges out in Western MA. It’s full of music venues and young people so there’s lots of indie rock, experimental electronic, noise, hip-hop, just about anything you can think of. As far as straight up instrumental hip-hop though there isn’t too much of a scene, there’s a few of us that are good friends and we make due with what we can. It’s definitely an amazing place for music though.
When did you begin to find your place in making music?
Just recently actually. I’ve only been making music for a couple years now but I’m putting a lot of effort into getting better and learning as much as I can. I’ve always been able to be satisfied with a track but as your talent goes up, so do your standards. It’s only been the last couple months where I’ve really been nodding my head to my music and been like “damn, I actually like this” haha. It’s definitely a strange development, I’m my own worst critic but my music is finally turning into what I want it to sound like. I’m finding my own sound and style—it’s an exciting process
How long does a normal track take for you to finish?
The best ones are always the ones I finish within a few hours. I just get into this flow and everything comes out so quickly and naturally. Sometimes I’ll be digging for samples and I’ll hear a couple bars and know exactly what I need to do with it. Other times experimentation just ends up working out for the better. When you finish a track in a few hours like that it remains fresh in your mind. There’s definitely a time limit where a 4 bar loop can begin to drive you crazy and you end up loathing it. I just try to get my shit finished before the times up.
Can we get any details about your upcoming EP?
I fucking dropped the ball on that. I was like 80% done with an EP a couple months ago and just ended up hating everything on it. I’m still sitting on those tracks, there’s definitely a few I like but it’s so difficult picking and choosing. I just need to save finished tracks instead of instantly putting them on Soundcloud haha. I like the instant gratification Soundcloud gives, it’s immediate feedback on your music which is kind of nice. Really all it’s going to take is a good couple weeks of motivation and I’ll put a short little EP out there. It could happen at any moment so be on the lookout I guess. I just need to make 5 or 6 tracks I really dig, that’s not too hard. It’ll happen soon.
Who or what is your biggest influence in making music? Has that changed over time?
Tough question, I admire so many artists. For some reason electronic music always appealed to me. I always though that the technology was nifty and I really liked the idea of one person doing all the work. When I was around 13 I got obsessed with turntablism. I had the documentary ‘Scratch” and I would watch it damn near every day, begging my parents to get me turntables and a mixer. One day a giant box showed up, it was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I put everything into scratching for a few years which got me into the turntable wizards like Q-bert, Kid Koala, Cut Chemist, but most importantly DJ Shadow. His album “Endtroducing” (which was already 8 years old at the time) really showed me how beautiful and meaningful instrumental hip-hop could be. From there he lead me to people like Dilla, Madlib, Nujabes, Prefuse 73, Dabrye, and basically all the greats that could be considered some of the forefathers of what beat music is today. Then one night I’m watching Adult Swim and I hear it; “OOOoooo Ahhhhhh.” Holy shit what is THAT?! You probably already know I’m talking about Massage Situation by Flying Lotus. That was the game changer, that track got me into the whole LA beat scene and all the great artists from that area. I don’t know, it finally dawned on me one day that I’ve been into this music for so long, I might as well try to start making some. Nowadays I’m influenced by so many great producers. Mndsgn, knxwledge, Dibiase, Elaquent, Afta-1, and BMB are just a few (out of many) that have really kept me inspired over the last couple years. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Ohbliv and Ackryte, and of course the daily dosage of Dilla. I just like the gritty, lo-fi, offbeat stuff. It hits the right spot for me. I seriously couldn’t even make a dent in the list of people who inspire me though. Sorry for the life story.
No, your computer is not broken. RxN experiments with a technique known as “datamoshing” for his new music video.
Give us a run down on the gear you use in the studio and in the club.
At home everything pretty much comes down to the MPD26 and the Microkorg. I chop up all my samples and do my drums on the MPD, the Microkorg handles all my synths and basslines. I like to use my Korg Monotron for laser noises and spacey sounds as well. I use the MPD live too. I have a bunch of beat repeats and filters mapped out to the pads and knobs and that’s how I mess with stuff on stage. It’s definitely a fun controller, every producer needs to have something off of the MPD line in their bedroom.
What keeps you making music?
I love it. I have a bad habit of getting crazy obsessed with a hobby only to drop it once I start to get good (turntablism, yoyoing, art, cars) but I’m really in love with this stuff. I come from a very musical family but never really honed an instrument growing up. It’s just a fun and creative way to express myself. I really like the idea that you can pretty much think up anything and then you can sit down and make it. It’s my creative outlet right now and I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Who are some artists we should be on the look out for?
Oh man that’s a tough one. Everyone on Smoke Signals is incredible and I am confident that every single one of them will make it as long as they keep producing wonderful music. Those dudes on Rounded Records have been blowing my mind lately as well. Look out for my homie Layerface dropping a cassette later this month. Other people on the rise: slwkng, Philip Grass, Tuamie, Para Dice, PJW!zrd, yahnlookepicard, Rebuilder, poptartpete, Sir Froderick, ebe, silentjay, vhvl, Swarvy, JoshHey, and pretty much anyone else I’m following on soundcloud haha, check ‘em out! So many talented cats these days.
What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the production process?
My favorite part is just making loops. I love chopping up samples, putting a beat to it, and throwing on a funky bassline. If it were up to me, I would put out 2 and 4 bar loops all day. Unfortunately you have to make things a little more interesting. I think the actual song arrangement is my least favorite, but it’s still fun to do. It’s all good really.
Can you walk us through your train of thought when making a new track?
The tracks always seem to present themselves through experimentation. I usually start with a sample first, but sometimes I just want to make a beat and start with the drums first and kind of go from there. I chop up the samples into a chord progression that I like, add a few effects, and build off of that. Once I have the main drum/sample loop going I’ll plug in the Microkorg and add basslines and synths. Once the main loop is done I basically do it all over again with different samples from the same song to make a flip or two. After that it’s just arrangement, mute outs, effects, maybe a couple rap lines and the beat is done.
Where do you find most of your samples? Which medium do you prefer?
I like to use my little USB turntable a lot but I’ve pretty much milked all the local Goodwill and Salvation Army’s best records, they don’t get new vinyl in very often. It’s a piece of shit I got off ebay and the audio always comes out shitty but I kind of like that. I honestly just love stumbling around youtube to find samples, you can find some crazy stuff on there that you would never find in a record store (especially foreign music). You can just start off with something somewhat abstract and click through the related videos for days. I know I’ve gotten into some good stuff when I can’t read the title anymore.
Any shows coming up?
Nothing really official yet. JoshHey is going to be up here around the end of the month so we are currently trying to get a show together in Northampton with Layerface and Summit (local hip hop group). If we can get a decent crowd/venue we might try to get Swarvy or vhvl up here if possible. Other than that we don’t really have any plans, they always come up short notice.
Keep doing what makes you happy.
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