Today I got something really interesting for y'all to dig into, an interview with one of my favorite producers - Buckwild. It's an interesting interview for all the beatheads, that originally was published in Sp1200: The Official Book. Buck was interviewed for the book by JNOTA of Redefinition Records, LLC and I've been given the permission to republish the interview on this blog for you readers. If you like it and want to read more similiar interviews you can order the book via the webpage linked above, its published via 27Sen (France). The interview is (luckily) quite long and focuses around Buck's work on the SP1200 machine, so there's alot of trips down memory lane in this one. If you're a fan of Buck's music I strongly recommend this piece. Many thanks to JNOTA for hooking me up with this.
(JNOTA -) What was your introduction to music production?
(BUCKWILD -) Really, it stemmed from DJing, and meeting Finesse, Showbiz, Diamond D. That was my introduction to the world of production. I used to do mixtapes. At first I was toying with it (production), so I learned the SP12 first. I was on tour with Finesse, I think this was '92, '93, something like that. That was the first time I met OC, Organized Konfusion, Red Hot Lover Tone ... I knew Biz Mark already. I met a bunch of artists then. You know, I had some of the first beats I was toying with on tape and I kinda got tight with OC and he was one of the first dudes I played beats for. He didn't have, how can i say it... he was trying to put his product together. It was different then because if you didn't have a budget, you still had to pay for (expensive) 2 Inch tapes to record. Anyway, he wrote a couple of songs to the beats and I liked the way the songs were coming out. That gave me my confidence, really, to you know... to do it. Like OK, maybe this is something I can do, this can work. I think only one of the demo songs we did made his album, and that was "Let It Slide". Everything else was afterwards.
When did you move from the SP12 to the 1200?
I didn't get the SP1200 til' I sold my first beat, which was "You Can't Front", a Diamond record. Before then I did everything on the SP12. The SP12 made you creative. Back then we had to be more creative because we had such little time, so when you have 5 seconds on a machine and you can't save, unless you're saving to a 5.25 floppy, you had to be more than creative with it. I did a lot of beats on the 12 but once I sold the track to Diamond, I was able to go and purchase my own 1200, and that gave me a lot more room (to create). It's kinda funny because people think 5 seconds is cool, but then you get 10 seconds and its like ... wow, that's a lot of time. So, between the SP1200 and its partner the (Akai) S950, that gave us everything we needed to do what we did. If I had a lower level EMU, i had the lower level Akai, which was the Akai S01, and that had less time and a different type of floppy disc.
What are some of your general thoughts on the SP1200, it's features and pros & cons?
I loved the swing about it. The swing, the truncation. Sometimes the filtering was like ... on the first 2 channels there was a lot of lil' glitches that they had that was glitches, but turned out to be pros. I think it was the first two channels and if you put something on there it turned out to sound muffled, so I'm not sure if they understood that, but it worked. The multi ... the scale, I loved that about it. One of our tracks was one of the first that really used the scale, which was "The O-Zone" for OC's album. And another thing I loved about it was that you had such little time, that you had to be creative. We had so many songs that just were made up of some sound bites. Like even, with (Organized Konfusion's) "Stress", it was a lot of sound bites in there. I found that disc one day and went through it, and was like, wow, I cant believe it. If you have nothing, you gotta do so much to create. You gotta remember back then, like Pete was sampling soul loops, Tribe was sampling jazz loops; these guys had the luxury of loops. Listening to O's album, a lot of it was sound bites. We didn't have a lot of the time for sampling or whatever. The SP forced us to be creative. It made everyone bring something different to the table. I think Show had to be the first one that really chopped a drum loop and made that loop do something else, in a different way. I forgot what it was but he chopped it and made it play a different pattern and dudes weren't doing that when he did it. Even for us, with DITC, while everyone sampled loops, we were chopping. I learned to chop from Show and went off to learn it more on my own.
How did you go about the process of making a beat?
I just went on the feel and once I had the drums, if I liked the way the drums played out, I could add whatever else I wanna. Whether that was a bass note, a sound, or play with the multi level, or whatever. But the first step was always drums because with the 1200 the drums were always so hard because of the 12 bit sampler. There were certain things I wish i could take with it and, you know, put that into todays samplers, because it's missing. There were less options but it made you work. Now you can just grab a loop and fill in the blanks. Even with Fruity Loops, and I'm not against it but hey, put the loop in, and you just ... click on a computer and fill in here, here, here, here, and add a high hat here, here, here and here, and then just press the space bar and it plays the music. It's less hands on than with the 1200. It was such an amazing machine that (you) could do so much with. Like on the Sp1200, the decay; we used that to tighten up drums, it was more like a compression. Some of the features on there made it the ultimate drum tool. Hip-Hop was always a drum driven form of music. Whatever drums you would chop, coming outta the 1200 they would sound so raw. One of my favorite tracks was "Reminisce" by Pete Rock. Hearing the way those drums were chopped and the way they played it just sounds so crazy. The song mode, patterns, features, you know, it has to be the most incredible machine, or the foundation of Hip-Hop. You could talk about the 808s or the 909s, but you know, our team, we used the 1200 more as our foundation than anything else. There was so much that you could do that its not funny. Take the record, play it on 45 with the pitch all the way up, sample that and then pitch it way down, truncate what you don't need and keep copying that over and chopping, to keep that gritty sound. With that it's like, OK now I have a loop in here, and my drums. Now, I can add horns, a bass note, whatever you want. Your limitations make your brain think more.
When and why did you move away from the SP? What did you use?
When I moved away from the SP was when I was doing the "Jewelz" album (OC). I moved to the MPC3000. From what I heard, you know people were saying so and so uses this, and this guy is using that. And I heard Primo was using the old MPC, the same one, the MPC 60II. I wanted to try that, the Akai wasn't the same thing, the sound was cleaner and that's what music was gravitating towards. With the digital age coming in, a lot of songs just started to sound cleaner. You know, it was a cleaner sound for R&B too. But what I did was, I took my drums outta the 1200 and did a MIDI dump. I was sampling drums in the 1200, saving that and dumping it thru the MIDI so i could keep that sound. It was a lil' cleaner, but still hard. It still had that grit. I did that for a while, probably til' 2000. After that my 1200 started giving me problems, and it wasn't on the market, so it was like, where are you gonna get this from?
I wish they would've continued to make the SP. I'm kinda surprised that they didn't.
Me too. It's pretty interesting that they didn't do anything else after the 1200, because I thought that they would've. A lot of times it's like that one machine that's on the cutting edge of something, it eventually gets lost in technology. I don't know if it's the ability to not move with whatever else is going on around it and the innovations from others, but even now, I think Akai is having that problem. More people now are using programs, like Reason, Logic, Fruity Loops, etc. They're making programs now and I think was a MOTU program where it has a 1200 setting where you can change it to have some kind of SP1200 sound. That's actually one of the next programs that I'm gonna check out. Nowadays I'm using an Akai MPD24 controlling reason and live instruments. I have session players. Hey, I love the sound of the 1200 but it's hard to keep that sound. It's hard to find and maintain, and the machine didn't advance with technology ... SCSI drive, MIDI ... If they would've continued, I think it would've still been the choice of many people today. Even if it still had the same 10 seconds of sampling time. If they gave it like 16 MB of RAM and some better MIDI in/out options, USB, etc; I think it would still be the pick. There was a lot of lil' glitches they could fix and modernize it, and I don't know if its too late, but that would be something I would love to do with E-Mu. If you could take an SP and run it into a computer and use it like a controller, with the same swing, etc., that would be incredible. But ultimately you have to grow with technology.
To be specific, Organized Konfusion's "Stress" & The Artifacts' "C'mon Wit Da Git Down (Remix)" are some of my favorite tracks you ever did...
Not for nothing, but those are probably my favorite tracks too.
Those songs stuck with me.
Its funny because a lot of people a lot of people who like commercial records, still, some of their favorites are done on the 1200, too. Like Biggie's record, "I Got A Story To Tell", I did that on the 1200 also. When you look at it, hey, when the machine is so dope it inspires you to work in a certain way, when you have such lil' time, you need to be creative. The cut offs ... that was the best feature of the 1200. They killed Akai with the cut offs. That enabled us to take the drums, break em up and replay em a different way.
I remember when i heard Biggie's album and "I Got A Story To Tell" was a stand out to me. How did that come together?
Well, I've known Biggie since before he popped off. I was around when he was recording "Ready To Die", and some stuff for the Junior MAFIA LP. But when he was doing the second album, he found more than a few tracks that he liked. And actually, "I Got A Story To Tell" wasn't the record that I thought he wanted. It was another beat that The Lox wanted that Puffy didn't agree with. So I was like OK, Biggie wants that one, cool. But when I got to the studio, he was like, 'this is what i want" and i was like 'this is the beat"?? I didn't expect that and was like "wow" and after that, he told me that was one of the best songs on his album. I could remember that night vividly, chopping up the Al Green drums. I put like 3 sets of samples on that, just going back and forth to see how to chop it and make it work. Even when we were mixing it, people kept coming in and said the same thing. He was a great person. I could say for Biggie, Big L, and Pun; God Bless the dead and it was great working with them because their creativity was just endless.
What was your experience working with Big Pun?
I could go off on doing a song like "Dream Shatterer". You know, Pun did the whole song, he spit it in one flow, one take, no punch-ins. It was incredible because he told me 'I wrote my best rhymes to your song.' I feel like I've been blessed because you know, it got the hip-hop quotable in The Source when it was credible. The 1200 is the cornerstone for NY Hip-Hop, not even NY really, I just found out Mannie Fresh used to use a 1200. When you look at this, it's people across the country... I don't know what E-Mu is doing but their contribution to Hip-Hop is so major. If they took a survey of how many people used it and on what records, they would see how important they were. Maybe the game ain't the same in their absence.
What do you think about the new generation of beatmakers and producers who still use the SP nowadays?
I think its good. It keeps it alive, and it makes it a nostalgic piece.
"Stress" - Organized Konfusion
"O-Zone" - OC
"Masta IC" - Mic Geronimo
"I Got A Story To Tell" - Notorious BIG
"Time's Up" - OC
What are some of your favorite SP beats that other producers created or who do you think were some of the greatest SP users?
"Party Groove" - Show & AG
Like I said earlier, I think Show had the first drum beat that was manipulated to play in a different way.
"T.R.O.Y." - Pete & CL
"Mecca & The Soul Brother" - Pete & CL
Pete was like the SP master. That album was super incredible.
"How I Could Just Kill A Man" - Cypress Hill
You could say any record that Muggs produced is up there.
The people who inspired me to do it, all worked on the SP1200. My biggest influence would be The Bomb Squad and my second biggest inspiration would have to be Marley Marl. Oh, and one more, which is Large Professor. Those 3 right there, besides Pete and I think it's because they came before Pete. But they mastered the evolution of the SP1200.
You had to make it your own, whereas nowadays its more of a cookie process the way people make music.
Hip-Hop used to be like you heard somebody out production wise and you just wanted to make something better or elevate. I think they need to have a school for production and MCs.
I don't think people have the attention spans for that now.
I don't think they have the passion. That was one thing we had, we had the love. Back then our biggest dream was to own an SP1200.
What was it like getting your first record released?
It was different, because I would never tell people if i did something and then, you know, hearing my music being played on car radios and street radios, it was funny. It made me feel good because it showed there was an appreciation. Even if they didn't sell that many records. Kids now in college tell me that they loved the music I made back then and that I was underrated, etc. Hey, the appreciation is there. I've had some songs that sold millions, and some that sold 10,000 copies. I think it balances out but the love is there on both sides. Being able to work with the top 5 underground guys and who they would say is the top 5 commercial guys, it's all cool with me. I went from playing some of their records on my mixtapes to producing their records all in a year in a half. That's like a dream, one of the greatest experiences. I wish that other people could feel that.
Do you still dig for records?
Always. It's a never ending quest. Sometimes I dig in crates, and sometimes I dig on the computer. It's all about being competitive. I believe if you stay stuck in one realm, you'll never elevate. In order for us to keep the game alive we have to move as fast as technology.
What are you working on now?
I'm working with Styles, Jadakiss, Redman. I just came from Miami working with Fat Joe, I might be doing something with TI soon.
It was great speaking to you, that about covers it.
This brought back a lot of good memories.
Buckwild on the SP1200
As told to JNOTA of Redefinition Records, LLC.
Originally published in the Official SP1200 Book, available now via 27Sens (FRANCE)
FOR MORE INFO ON BUCKWILD VISIT