Aries: Production advice and New Beginnings [Interview]
Saskatoon, SK – After releasing his second studio album New Beginnings last month, music producer Aries is already on the hunt for new collaborations and engineering side-projects. Between his busy home life (he’s a father of three) and management position at Saskatoon’s Undergrind clothing store, Aries caught up with HipHopCanada to chat about production faux pas, his collaborations with Def 3, and advice for rappers seeking quality music engineering. Check out our exclusive interview after the jump.
HipHopCanada: When did you first fall in love with music?
Aries: My father—rest in peace— was a great drummer and a disc jockey so we always had a huge stereo system and tons of tapes and records in our house. I have seen pictures of myself in front of his house stereo in a jolly jumper. [In] 1998-1999 some friends of mine were starting to mess around with making beats and rapping. They formed a crew called Innersoulflow, and were basically the only hip-hop group from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan—my hometown. That’s when the whole production side of music became intriguing. I wanted to learn. And [I] had the perfect opportunity to learn. That was before computer programs like we have now existed. We still got the job done with what we had.
HipHopCanada: You did a bazillion collaborations on this album. And you’re reppin’ Def 3 pretty hard.
Aries: Some people get confused about the collaboration thing with my albums. I don’t rap anymore—I am strictly the beat maker-producer on any project that you see from me. Def 3 is a good homie of mine. We started out by instructing a youth studio project together in Regina back in 2006 called the Prairie Roots Project. It was a nine-month-long project focusing on every element of hip-hop [and was geared towards] troubled teens and at-risk youth. I helped record [Def 3’s] first album, Huglife, and went on to do a lot of other music with him. Nothing but love for Def and his future endeavours.
HipHopCanada: Your production style is simplistic with an old-school kind of feel.
Aries: I don’t sugarcoat anything. Sometimes simple is best. I like the artist to be able to shine on the song. I grew up on golden-era hip-hop and fell in love with the boom bap [and] dusty sample style [of] beats. I could make different types of beats that appeal to today’s mainstream hip-hop fans, but [that] wouldn’t be me. I have taken pride in forming my own style and not changing it based on what’s hot and what’s not. I just make traditional raw hip-hop music, regardless of what the radio or television is playing. I still use my old MPC 2000XL drum machine and a gang of records, with the addition of live instruments. I try to keep the overall feel [and] mood of my beats changing so I can appeal to different types of artists that possess different styles.
HipHopCanada: You produce under Quality Control Music. In your opinion, what defines a “quality” beat?
Aries: The most important thing is training your ears. It takes years, but over time you start hearing music in a completely different way than the average listener— it’s almost like you can pick the whole song apart piece by piece while listening to it. My motto is: Never stop learning.
HipHopCanada: What are some mistakes that producers tend to make that result in less-than-stellar tracks?
Aries: It’s this new mentality of “do-it-yourself in your bedroom studio” situation that’s hurting music and the quality of it. A lot of people that start out with their Macbook or computer don’t fully understand how to use the equipment [and] software properly. There are so many steps and tricks to creating a proper mix and then taking it to that final stage of getting it professionally mastered. Things like equalization, compression and limiting—another form of compression— and techniques like layering and panning can be a huge factor when used properly in the mix. But [these techniques] can also destroy the sound of a mix if used improperly. That’s usually the deciding factor [as to] whether a song sounds quality or not. I am still learning, myself.
HipHopCanada: Sometimes music producers are overlooked in the rap game. What do you think?
Aries: This is true. But without us, the artists have no canvas to paint. We always get overlooked because we are the behind-the-scenes guys that aren’t on stage or in the media. Big ups to those artists out there that show respect and pay homage to their beat makers. And always make sure to give credit where credit is due.
HipHopCanada: As a producer, what advice do you have for the rappers out there?
Aries: If you are taking your hip-hop project to a bigger studio to have it mixed, make sure that studio is providing you with a hip-hop engineer. I’ve heard a ton of stories about artists going to big studio and paying a bunch of money to an engineer [who] doesn’t understand the music they are working with.
HipHopCanada: What’s next on your to-do list?
Aries: I’m always working on new music, along with producing and engineering for others. I haven’t done a show since 2005 and don’t plan on it anytime in the near future. I am a father of three and prefer to be behind the scenes. The tour life isn’t for me at this point in life. I’m too old for that stuff now.
HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada readers?
Aries: I would like to send a huge thanks out to anyone and everyone that has supported me throughout my musical endeavours over the past 15 years. Go check out the album now and share, share, share.
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Photography courtesy of Aries