Grand Royal - Beats, Booty, Bass

Bass Tech 101

The Dust Brothers talk to Bass producer Tony Mercedes
[Tag Team "Whoomp! There It Is" Buice, "Dazzy Duks/'Go Boyz, etc)
about the tricks of the trade..

Introduced and [barely] Moderated by Eric Gladstone

It's a well-hidden fact, but secretly Dust Brothers Mike Simpson and Jon King—producers of the Beasties, Hanson, Vince Neil, Tone Loc and others—are ALL ABOUT THE BASS. "I was born in Florida," says King, "so I feel a kinship." Even more to the point, says Simpson, "We got into Bass music pretty early because 2 Live Crew came out of Riverside and they were fans of our radio show, so they used to send us their early records, test pressings, and they were popular in '85 with our fans in Pomona."

Says King, "The first Bass records we heard were from like San Bernadino, Riverside, and from New York: Original Concept" Mike adds MC Shy D. Jon nods to MC A.D.E. "It seems like it evolved somewhat organically from influences both East and West coast," Simpson figures. "We put together a Bass track, in 1987," Simpson continues, as King loads up the tegendarily rumored DAT. The track is rough by Dust standards, but clearly a bumpin' beat Apparently, it evolved into the basis for Young MC's "Bust A Move." Says Mike, Ithink its Beck's favorite Dust Brothers song." But wait, there's more. "This Is our Bass mix of Nitzer Ebb," says Mike as Jon rolls another DAT, playing a genuinely "Planet Rock"-derived track, augmented by diva back-ups, which works amazingly well under Niter's corny psuedo-post-Bauhaus vocals. "They pressed them up and the band hated it. so they had to recall the 12 inchers," says Simpson. "They became a collector's item."

Im ready to watch some Bass videos," says King. Not yet, Jon, not yet.

Mike Simpson: So, tell us, Tony, what's the secret to making Miami Bass records?

Tony Mercedes: It's really [just] Bass records now. The Miami stereotype, five or six years ago, that would've been the proper terminology to label the music we do. But right now, the bigger Bass groups are coming out of Georgia, going as far back as "Dazzy Duks." which I did—Duice is out of Augusta, Georgia. 12 Gauge is out of Augusta, Georgia. Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is," they're out of Atlanta.

MS: Is there a specific sound that you can attribute to each region?

TM: I just think Bass music took a different approach as opposed to the constant hammering and chunks and chunks of low end, spicing it up with R&B type things in it as you can see in "My Baby Daddy" and the Freak Nasty "Dip" record. I think a lot of the rappers out of Miami, didn't adapt to that. That's no indication that one is more superior to the other...
MS: So, the Miami sound has less of the R&B and more
of the constant hammering of the low end?
TM: Yeah.

MS: How has the authence changed from the early days of Bass records?

TM: Well, in its early stages, Bass music was an urban music. But now I'm seeing the racial mix of black and white, they're neck and neck. Especially with an explosive record like "Da Dip" or "Dazzy Duks" or Tag Team, those records could not have done the numbers they did just as an urban record. A good comparison is the difference between the "Whoomp! There It Is" record from Tag Team and the "Whoot! There It Is" record from 95 South. Both records are saying the exact same thing, except the beat from 95 South was definitely an urban feel. You can see the difference in numbers in six million [Tag Team] compared to two million [95 South] [Editor's note: 95 South's label Intersound disputes these high estimates, but concedes Tag Team sales doubled 95 South].

I have to look at all those things as we're putting a record together to target a certain demo [graphic] without losing black radio. Sometimes you lose black radio and pop radio is not ready to accept that particular sound.

MS: It seems like this is one of the biggest forms of dance music right now. What kind of dance is out right now?

TM: Well, for Tony Mercedes and some of the projects that I get involved with, it's more ... not dance orientated. You can find a trend and jump on the band wagon and do a song that is a trend-setter about a dance that's a winner. Since dance records are hard sellers from a radio perspective, I now make more radio friendly records based on those catchy choruses believe it or not. John King,

MS: [cackles]

TM: And Mercury, they lost their minds. They were blown away by their little amigos placed on top of bumpin', urban black track. But it worked. I think that we're gonna see more R&B acts putting more heavier Bass tracks on their albums. 'Cause in the Bass movement, we have a built-in authence that are dedicated Bass fans, and Bass consumers. So, take an R&B artist that is just mediocre, and take one of those tracks not based on vocal ability but based on your ability to get it on the dance floor, and you'll get some attention.

Grand Royal: You did a Bass remix on Hanson' Since that's these guys record, I'm really wondering what you did to make it a Bass mix?

TM: I took the acappella and skillfully placed it onto a bangin' Bass track that could hold your attention even without the vocals. It was something new for them, and the people at Mercury said "You'd be surprised at the producers we paid a lot of money for remixes, but everybody liked the Bass remix.'

MS: Do you like doing remixes?

TM: I love doing remixes, I love taking somebody else's work, splicing it up just to see what kind of different feel I can get. Really, I like taking a marginal record and making it better.

MS: Could you imagine doing a Bass remix of a country song?

TM: Yeah.... No. Country music, I wouldn't touch it. Because I think the marriage is excellent there.

MS: Hanson makes a lot of sense, but it's also a crazy idea. Have you ever done any remixes for other pop or alternative bands that seemed crazy but surprisingly worked?

TM: No, this is the first. I want to do remixes on some rock and roll stuff, remixes on Madonna or Michael Jackson type stuff. Because we've got a built-in fan base, and if you don't explore the fan base, how do you know? If "Whoomp! There It Is" sold eight million records [now it's eight million'—Accounting Ed.], that means there's 8 million people who appreciated it. Take someone, like Michael Jackson now is struggling, even diough it might not make sense, let's do a Bass remix just to see what it would do. We don't have shit to lose.

MS: Let me ask you, Is there any one piece of gear that you could not live without, in order to make Bass records?

TM: There are several. Two of the most popular are of course the MPC 3000 or 2000 and the SP 1200, still. I frequendy use them.

JK: - Why use the SP1200 if you have the MPC?

TM: It has some of the original Bass sounds, that feel, which some producers have worked on for so many years and feel comfortable with. Me personally, I don't use it.

MS: You use the MPC? Do all your sounds come off the MPC or do you use other sound modules too?
TM: Exactly. I bring in keyboard riffs and guitar riffs but the meat of the track comes from that.
MS: How long does it take you to do a remix?
TM: Not long, a day, two days.
MS: What about a song from scratch?
TM: Same. There was a record, a cover of "Poison Ivy," they did dial in about 30 minutes. Hot record.
MS: Is it usually just you putting the track together in the studio, then the vocalists come in?

TM: Yeah. We kind of like everylxxly to be in there during the inception, so you can know what the track should have.

MS: What's the recording medium—24 track ADAT?

TM: ADAT. It depends on the feel you want. A lot of people say 2 inch [analog recording tape] gives you a warmer feel for your low end.

MS: Is there any specific person who's preferred for mastering Bass records?

TM: Mike and Ron Fuller out of Miami. They master the majority of all Bass records.They did everything, all the Luke. 2 Live Crew stuff. [Jon writes this down]

MS: It seems like all the top hits are very sexy, suggestive records about women. Is that part of the Bass lifestyle, the nature of Bass records or is it just that sex sells?

TM: Well ... I think it's just the nature of us glorifying our women in some way or another. When you think about Bass, you think about girls shakin' on the dance floor.

MS: So, is that part of your motivation for making these records?

TM: Yeah. I may not be able to have a group or individual with the latent capabilities of another rap artist. But If I can get you with the hook and keep you on the dance floor, then you'll buy the record.

MS: But what about just wanting to see girls shaking it on the dance floor?

TM: It's all good. I think that's why Luke can successfully still play here. 'Cause I don't think they really understand Luke.....some of that southern hospitality.[???-ed.]

MS: When you go to record, do you start with the beat or the hook or work around the hook'
TM: I work around the hook because all of my records are hook riffs. Even some of the weakest beats with the right hook on it, you'll still be OK. Because people get so caught up in the hook that they take their minds off everything going on, and you got 'em.
MS: Have you ever used the same beat on two different records?

TM: I haven't. I've used some of the same sounds.

MS: Do you think that's a bad thing?
TM: I do. I think it shows a lack of creativity in a producer. But sometimes it can be effective. I know that two people had the same beat—Poison Clan's "Shake Whatcha Mama Gave Ya" and Half-Pint out of Miami has the same exact beat on an album.
MS: Did that cause contraversy?

TM: Between the artists and the producer.
MS: It was the same producer using the same beat on two different artists around the same time?
TM: Yeah. It was ugly.

JK: I noticed that Planet Rock seems to be the inspiration for a lot of Bass records. Are there any other records that have been foundations for Miami Bass?

TM: "Planet Rock" is a big one. "It's Automatic" by Pretty Tony, Egyptian Lover is constandy resampled.

TM: Which song is the big one, ''Egypt Egypt'"
MS: What about "Al-NaaFiysh?"
TM: It used to be, it was one of the early jams. But with the new changes, not so much anymore. A lot of people sample "Planet Rock" now and they don't realize it's a sample from Kraftwerk, and they only pay for the part that [Tommy Boy's] Tom Silverman has, I think it's only 25% [of the copyright]. That's historically known as the most expensive sample of all time, something like a dollar a record.

TM: It's so easy to program that beat, if you're smart, you'll just make it up again.
MS: If you just turn on an 808, you got it.
TM: Yeah, but there's some other stuff going on in there.

MS: Every music scene lias their drug of choice—the ravers all like ecstasy, the alternative rock kids do heroin, the hippies are all taking acid. Is there a drug dial's the mainstay of the Bass community?
TM: Drugs really aren't a part of it, at least not on the surface. You don't hear guys on Bass records talking about huffing. I don't really deal with it—I'm probably the only person in the record business that has never had a beer.

MS: Actually, Prince Paul's never had a beer. But I wasn't asking about you personally, I was asking about the general fanbase.

TM: I would say marijuana then and probably alcohol.

MS: Where do most of the kids find out about the new music?

TM: Bass music is more a street music thing, because your average teenager can't hear about it in a club, and radio does not really support Bass music. You hear it on the street and of course with mix tapes.
GR: Do you mix stuff for the streets?
TM: Yeah. A lot of times before I do a Bass project, I'll have a DJ do a mix tape of everything we're working on and shoot it out, and get the word back from the streets. I tested "My Baby Daddy" that way. I never put out a record without testing it before it comes out.

MS: For someone that had never heard Bass music before, what song or record would you recommend?

TM: I'd say "Planet Rock" would be one of the best

MS: What about right now, what's the best Bass record out there right now?

TM: The record I really like is "Whoomp! There It Is."

MS: What do you think about the whole Techno music scene?

TM: I don't have a lot of experience in it It's a regional thing and it doesn't work everywhere.
MS: Are there any similarities?
TM: The fat beats, but different types. In the big House markets they do well, but not in the mass market.
MS: Jon. do you have any more questions?
TM: Jon's a litde preoccupied just right now [getting into the spirit by sampling the Bass scene's favorite relaxant].

JK: Oh yeah. To qualify for the videos, is there a minimum or maximum requirement for their measurements? For the size of the booty.

TM: Well, you have to realize that the camera makes you look a size too big. Some of the girls you see in the videos that have asses that are the bomb, they really aren't the bomb. There was this girl in one video that looked like she was out of control and then when I met her in real life I was like, "Where's the ass that I saw?"

MS: You know they do sell butt pads...
TM: They should use the wide lens to make the butt look bigger like they had the tall lens to make Paula Abdul look thin.

TM: Whatever works, man. The brothers, we like 'em big, so they gotta have 'em. Gotta have 'em!
GR: Is the Booty ever in the studio when you are recording, like for inspiration?
TM: I need to send you one of my postcards [see main photograph]. I also wanted to tell you, I'm working on a Bass mix for the Jerky Boys. That's some funny shit.
TM: Did you find a hook'

TM: A lot of tilings floating around. You can just imagine what the club mix is gonna sound like



Disclamer - this article was jacked lock stock and barrel from Grand Royal issue Live 5.

© 2005