Alright beat fans welcome back. This time I decided to hit up a producer that I know in my area that has been doing his thing. Michael “Beat Wiz” Spellman. Not only is he nice behind the boards, but if you give him a pair of sticks he’ll tear the drums up. This skill gives him a sound that has been sought after by anyone trying to take their music to the next level.
Interview By Daniel Warren
Nodfactor: Thanks for sitting down to do this, Beat Whiz.
Michael Spellman: No problem bro, thank you for the opportunity!
Nodfactor: How did you get into Hip Hop production?
Michael Spellman: I started playing drums at an early age and just grew up fascinated by rhythm. During my years in high school I really began getting into a lot of great 90’s groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstarr, The Roots and others and it really opened my mind up. During that time I would sit with a friend’s four track analog recorder and a synthesizer and make beats in real time (going back each time to add a new element). One thing led to another and since then I began purchasing equipment to use in the studio and the rest is history
Nodfactor: What is your current set up?
Michael Spellman: Right now I’m working with a Dell Laptop, Propellerhead Reason 4.0 and Sony Acid Pro 7.0 In addition to the software though I record about 80% of my drums live and either resample them or mix them into the records.
Nodfactor: Do you feel that being a drummer gives a nice twist to the tracks that you make?
Michael Spellman: I like to brand my production sound with a feel of drums that is unlike anyone else out there. The ability to break down the elements of a drum pattern into fine detail and know how to play that live I feel is definitely an advantage but it’s not to take away from other producers out there whose drums still KNOCK!
Nodfactor: Would you say you are similar to Questlove in that aspect?
Michael Spellman: Questlove as well as Travis Barker are my biggest influences as far as drummers go. Both have that understanding of recreating a “hip-hop beat” in a live format. Questlove especially. I admire how he can fine tune the drums to either have that new cleaner “pop” sound or be grungy and warm like an old record would sound.
Nodfactor: We’ve talked about Questlove and Barker being your influences. Any other producers grab your ear?
Michael Spellman: Definitely! As I have continued to evolve as a musician I really am influenced by Ryan Leslie. Fusing live instruments into records isn’t necessarily a new concept but the way he has done it one has to admire that heavily. For me to be drumming for 19+ years and not utilize that into my records as well as the dope bass guitar player I work with (shouts to Kev Nice!) I’d be crazy. I am also a big fan of the Justice League for that same reason. Sade is another big influence on my music simply for the fact that her music touches deeper than the surface and her music is timeless. I intend to take my music in that same direction and be able to create records that are still relevant ten and twenty years from now.
Nodfactor: Being a live musician and a producer for some time now…what is your view on the current state of the production game?
Michael Spellman: As with anything there is going to be good and bad sides. I think the industry tends to hinder the growth of production and new producers sometimes with its “make a Timbaland style beat” or we need an “I’m on one” beat. As I’ve just recently got myself into the room with A&Rs and music executives I have noticed that on several occasions. While it’s easy to say if it’s not broke don’t fix it, and let’s stick with the sound that is working, I think it is important to embrace and support new sounds and talents. The game is pretty well rounded with what’s out there but with new software’s constantly upgrading themselves and improving it is easy to cut corners for some producers. Music is an art so there really is no right or wrong way to create it. My personal preference is and will continue to be though, the use of live instruments and musicians in my records.
Nodfactor: Now recently we’ve seen a few things happen on the production, from Bangladesh complaining about Wayne not paying him for the hits he made, people talking about how Lex Luger’s sound is almost alike on every song and the rise of beat jacking by several producers. Do you have any comments on those things?
Michael Spellman: Sure. As an avid online reader I frequent hiphopdx.com and have read on several occasions of Bangladesh as well as other producers getting at Cash Money for their failure to pay out royalties. As both my manager June Archer and the legendary Daddy-O have told me, get your paperwork right from the very beginning so the rest of your time is spent creating and enjoying yourself. I’m not well versed on the matters with Bangladesh but I know if there are legal documents to uphold what he is entitled to then he should be ok. But does anybody really wanna sit in court all day?? As far as Lex Luger goes, me personally I am a big fan of his production. He brings forth a “less is more concept” to dirty south hip hop that is beat jacked almost everywhere you turn. His bass is some of the most ridiculous I have heard in a while, I’m always careful not to catch a speeding ticket in the whip when his tracks come on.
Nodfactor: When you are sitting down to create a track what are some of the things that inspire you?
Michael Spellman: Aw man it could be anything really. I’m inspired by emotions most of the time. It’s easy to sit in the studio and daydream about taking a trip to the south of France and start cooking up some real smooth sexy music. Sometimes on rainy days I will chop some live drums or an old dirty drum break and add some heavy synth. It just really depends on how I feel. Just recently I put together a record that was completely inspired by a girl I had just met. The feeling I felt when she walked into a room and the visions and dreams that came to me when thinking of her all came out so fluent on this track.
Nodfactor: So your mood dictates the tracks you make usually?
Michael Spellman: Absolutely! Although I’m living, breathing and my family is healthy so I am always in a good mood! God is good!
Nodfactor: What are your views on sampling and crate diggin’
Michael Spellman: Sampling will always have a special place in my heart (it’s how I began this journey) however lately I just do not have a desire to sample. I’ve studied the art form and respect it wholeheartedly. I just also recognize that as an artist you must disturb your comfort ability level. I love the challenges and rewarding outcomes of composing all of my tracks myself. From the live bass and guitar sessions to mixing live strings I just feel it’s much more gratifying.
Nodfactor: How many musicians do you work with when in the studio?
Michael Spellman: I work alone for the most part when the beginning stages of a record occur. However, when I am ready to take that record to the next level I am blessed to have two incredible musicians I work with playing bass guitar and guitar respectively. Shout out once again to Kev Nice and my guitar player Dan Fortin.
Nodfactor: Is it a different feel crafting with live musicians? Does it make things more organic for you?
Michael Spellman: You took the words right out my mouth. Organic is the best way to describe the sound achieved with live musicians. There is just something about live instruments that cannot be recaptured in any software or soundbank. I love the creative control you feel playing live and you’re really able to put your blood, sweat and tears into a record
Nodfactor: If you had to choose your own line up of musicians to create with…who would you choose?
Michael Spellman: I am so blessed with these gentlemen I wouldn’t change a thing. My only other addition would be my brother and fellow Team Eleven28 member F.R.E.A.K. on some more guitars!
Nodfactor: Tell us a little about Team Eleven28.
Michael Spellman: Team Eleven 28 is comprised of me, Buda the Future, Grandzmusik, The A-Squad, The Mechaniks, and F.R.E.A.K. on the production and song writing end. At the helm of our team is June Archer. We also have two great product managers Dre and Tyrese and our business manager Sean Welch. Although I can’t speak for him, the team has been a dream for June for a while now and when he approached me around Christmas last year it took about two seconds to realize how great of an opportunity I was being given. Our goal in this industry, that is so cold and so cut throat, is to show the world that there is power in numbers and effective and successful results when working as a team! We have an album and documentary releasing in August called “The Docutape”. It features production and whole songs from each of us. Be on the lookout for my single from the project “Edge of Forever” featuring Prestige and Art very soon
Nodfactor: Being a producer I know you’ve done the whole beat battle and showcase thing. Can you tell us how important those things are to a producer?
Michael Spellman: Simply put, I wouldn’t be as far along as I have come without them. Two good friends, G whiz and Steede Chinan gave me the great opportunity to be involved in their beat showcase Musicology 101 about a year ago. The exposure from them was priceless and from there I went onto the New England Music Seminar and ended up winning the 2010 beat battle. My advice to all up and coming producers is take advantage of the events like so. Networking is vital!
Nodfactor: I’m sure you have met a lot of producers in your time. What are some of the mistake you see up and coming producers making?
Michael Spellman: Burning bridges. Burning bridges and burning bridges. Maintain healthy relationships with people in the business. I think many times ego and pride tend to start to hurt bonds that have been made and in the end those producers and artists get left in the cold. If you build your team up strong from the beginning nobody is going to penetrate those castle walls
Nodfactor: Now like every producer out there, I know you have some pet peeves for artists who approach you.
Michael Spellman: Bad breath! haha. Other than that I mean I’m still new to this game so often times I find artists come to me thinking I got 50 cent on speed dial or I’m kicking it with Drake. I’m still working hard to get my name out there and although God has blessed me and helped me come a long way, there’s still much work to be done! I never stop working. I feel like if I do, I’m dead. I will always offer any advice to someone that I can but in the music industry you have to pay your dues also.
Nodfactor: Can you give us a little insight into the labels or artists that you have been dealing with concerning your music?
Michael Spellman: Right now we have been exposing the industry to Team Eleven 28s sound. From the smooth vibes I’m trying to capture to Buda and Grandz gritty street sound to The Mechaniks having the dirty south on lock! Although I can’t go into great detail about who we are talking to rest assured we are leaving no rock unturned!
Nodfactor: Have you ever thought about branching out to other fields of music besides Hip Hop?
Michael Spellman: Most definitely. Lately I’ve been making more music aimed towards the rnb/neo soul genre. I have a long list of artists such as Tank, Robin Thicke, Sade, The Dream, Frank Ocean, Kem and many others that I would love to collaborate with. I think it’s important to just make music for the love and the art form and not paint it into a corner by labeling it.
Nodfactor: What about Rock?
Michael Spellman: All day! I grew up playing in punk rock bands from 12-18 years old so I got much love for rock music. I can’t say I’m super impressed with a lot of the newer rock bands I hear but I am a big fan of Mutemath, Incubus, The Black keys, and 311
Nodfactor: Would you ever do a project like The Black Keys did with Dame Dash?
Michael Spellman: For sure! I think what Dame, Ski Beatz and the Black Keys cooked up was beyond
Nodfactor: Let’s talk a little about your plans for the future and your music and brand.
Michael Spellman: My goals for the future are to just innovate and inspire like what has been done to me. I think as generations of musicians and producers come and go the best thing we could do is leave pieces for the next generation to teach them and learn from them. I hope to work in both the rnb and rock realms and really fuse together new sounds and ideas. In addition to working with Team Eleven 28 I will continue to work with two artists from home who I believe will go all the way. Prestige and Art. Not only are they great friends but they are true talents as well.
Nodfactor: Well we see anything else from you besides music?
Michael Spellman: Man since 4 years old this is all I have wanted to do! I do love fashion however so you may see Wiz bless the runway, we’ll see!
Nodfactor: Well that covers everything. Once again thank you for taking time out of your busy life to do this little interview for me.
Michael Spellman: Thank you for the wonderful opportunity big bro, I appreciate what you and the team at Nodfactor do and anything I can do to help you got it!