Interview: How Herobust Discovered Production and Found His Sound
guest written by Vladimir Madorsky
This one’s for all you basketball fans out there! Just kidding…kind of. We had the chance to talk with bass producer Herobust at Dirty Disco last weekend about his favorite teams, how sports training makes a great analogy for practicing music, how his hometown inspired his production style, and what creativity means to him. Take a look, and read more on Dirty Disco here!
Festival Squad: I’m sure you’ve had days when you tell yourself “I’m tired” or “I don’t want to do this.” What do you do to keep yourself productive?
Herobust: There are times where my motivation to work is gone. Music has always been my absolute favorite thing, but there are days where the motivation is there but shit’s just not working, like writer’s block. And when that happens the only thing you can really do is take a break. Sometimes I have to stop, go hang out with friends or go play basketball to get my mind off of it. Take time off to sharpen the blade. If you’re not giving yourself life experiences to draw from to put into the music, then your music eventually becomes stale.
FS: With music being your life, what do you do (besides hang with your friends) to get your mind off the music? What’s your outlet to step away temporarily?
Herobust: I like to work out and play basketball a lot. Or not a lot, actually it’s getting to be less and less.
FS: Are you watching the Finals? What team are you rooting for?
Herobust: Yeah definitely! I’m a Hawks fan and they’re already out, so I’m not really rooting for anybody. I just wanna see the best possible games. Toronto… I need them to lose…they’re just gonna get slaughtered in the finals. No offense to anyone reading or whatever. Golden State’s a better team and OKC, I think Durant is tight. (side note: the Raptors got knocked out and Golden State won the West.)
FS: How old were you when you first got in to music?
Herobust: I started like most kids start music, with piano and guitar or whatever. I was probably about ten years old. My dad always played keys, there were always instruments around the house and I’d mess around with them. But once I found out what production was that’s when I knew that’s what I really wanted to do. When I told my mom that I wanted to quit playing guitar, she asked what I wanted to play because up until that point every time I quit I’d pick up a new instrument. I played her Prodigy – Firestarter and I told her, “I don’t know what instrument this, is but I wanna play this!” And of course she was clueless and responded with, “I don’t know what to tell you…little eleven-year-old.” And I didn’t even find out for years later that that’s what production was. At the time I lived in Atlanta where rap music is everything, so I was mainly making rap beats. I did that for a long time and it was super fun so that’s where my roots are, with hip-hop production.
FS: I’m sure you have friends or know other people that have just started getting in to production. What advice do you have for them?
Herobust: The same thing I tell every person that asks is to finish every project that you start. Finish every song that you start. What most people do, myself included, is start a song and get it to a point where you’ve got a cool loop and it’s catchy. You’re in the studio and you’re dancing to it, you’re stoked on it. And you do that until you’re tired of the loop and the next most fun thing to do is just make a new loop. And before you know it you have 50 loops and no complete song. Sure you’ve been honing your ability to write music, but you have not been honing your ability to finalize a song in terms of mixing, mastering, and ranging. All those things are really, really important. It’s like in sports when they say practice with your left hand. You’re always like, fuck that I’m gonna use my right hand. But in the end if you had been using your other hand the whole way through you’d be a boss! Some producers come up and they’ve only practiced their right hand—metaphorically speaking—so that’s always my advice: finish every song that you start, because mixing and mastering is way more important than people think.
FS: What method do you use to make sure you complete a song? If you’re working on one song, do you not move on until it is done?
Herobust: It’s not really a matter of me finishing songs that I know are mediocre, it’s more so I don’t pursue ideas unless they have serious potential. So like you gotta be really picky and only chase down the rabbit holes that you really think have potential.
FS: Let’s talk about your specific sound. Whenever I listen to your music I feel like I’m in a Terminator movie or something. What’s up with that?
Herobust: Haha yeah… the sound palette is very metallic and mechanical, but the vibe is all derived from hip-hop. I’m always gonna be into the hip-hop swag or whatever, but right now the sound design that I’m into is kind of strange. But it’s cool because that’s a big part of production for our genre, the sound design. Everyone was playing guitar back in the day and it was all about who could play the best. It was never about who could build their own guitar. There’s tones and shit and people do get creative with guitars, but when it comes to synthesizers and sound design, you’re creating instruments that don’t exist. It’s added room for creativity that is present in electronic music that hasn’t really been in music before.
FS: How would you say you have influenced bass music?
Herobust: I don’t think I’ve influenced producers to do what I’m doing necessarily, but I do try to influence them to pursue whatever weirdness is there. A lot of people use the same tools and are trying to create the same sounds and then they hear what I’m doing and it’s shockingly different. It’s important to have a distinct sound, and I think that’s why you should be making music, to express something unique. I’m really vocal about that, so when there are artists or fans that admire my work that’s one of the things they pick up on. That they need to go in the studio and find whatever it is that makes them different and just chase that. Whatever that destination is, you put that into music and that’s yours. And it will baffle people. That’s what I encourage people to do, and not just with music but with everything.
FS: So what’s your typical process of creating a song? What do you start with?
Herobust: I make the sounds first and it takes shape from there. The sounds inspire whatever the phrasing should be. Tempo is really an afterthought. I build the drop first and do the rest of the song around that.
FS: Growing up I’m sure you’ve had some haters. Who were some of those biggest haters? Parents? Friends?
Herobust: There was nobody in my personal life that was really hating. But when I first started I played a lot of downtempo hip-hop like J Dilla or Flying Lotus, and I made a lot of fans that way. As I started to play more shows and be around more dancefloors and clubs, that new type of music started to inspire me and started to penetrate what I was doing, so I started making more dance music. And some of those old fans now want me to go back to making the chill vibey stuff. But they’re not so much hating on me as wanting me to go back to making what they enjoyed more.
FS: So what do you have to say about that? How do you respond to those people?
Herobust: If you’re a fan of somebody, the reason you’re a fan of them in the first place is because they’re a creative person. Creative people, they create shit. So if something’s already been made, then they’re not making it again. You have to let them create, and if they go in a direction that you like that’s cool, but if they don’t that should be fine. There’s plenty of other people creating things that you’re gonna like. To tell a creative person to stop creating and stay in a holding pattern, it’s never going to be received well because that’s not how we work. In a way it’s a compliment that they like something you did so much, but for us that’s really like death. I mean, I’ll stop creating shit when I’m dead.