DR. DRE interview from Scratch Magazine - May 2004
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Dre doesnt even listen to his old music, so dont think hes
going to tell you what the bass line for Deep Cover is. It
shall remain a mystery, as Dre prefers to keep much of his process. He
also doesnt like to talk much. Why should he? The music speaks for
itself. Dre is the measuring stick for how far hip-hops come and
where its going. You cant deny the gift the man has for putting
together some hot shit. Truth be told, he makes anyone sound good. A few
years ago, he said, Fuck rap, you can have it back. But its
been three years, and he still hasnt let go; hes got this
rap shit in a chokehold. This is a man at the top of his game, but after
speaking with him, you get the sense that this is just the beginning.
Unlike some who feel constricted by the hip-hop format, Dre feels the
music has no limitations. Hes about to take this hip-hop thing to
another level. Picture him with a 40-piece orchestra at his fingertips,
and you begin to realize how serious it is. We managed to chop it up with
him for a minute about beats, his process, and the life of the super producer.
Hes sold over 50 million records and influenced the sound of music
more than anyone in the game, but he just wants to keep making beats that
snap necks. Dr. Dre is a man with vision. Hes trying to help you
see it too.
So youve decided not to release your new album Detox?
I decided not to do it because I didnt think it would be fair to all the
artists that I want to work with. Im really hard on myself when it comes
to my own record, so it would have taken nine or ten months of my time. I could
get two or three artists albums done in that amount of time, so I decided
just to back off of it. I cut a couple of songs, and I was digging the way I
was sounding on the mic. Theres always something to write about. I mean
if I didnt have a label to run, and a lot of artists to put out, it would
be a different story, then I could just totally concentrate on self. Building
my company and getting these artists out is my main priority right now. I spread
out the tracks that I did for the record to the other artists Im working
with. I dont think anybodys going to be mad about it after they
hear what Im doing.
inspired by anything thats going on out there?
I dont think
Im really inspired by anything thats going on out there right now.
Im not really mad at it, but theres nothing thats really motivating
me right now except for the artists Im working with. Im not just
saying that because theyre with my label. These artists are coming in
with some hot new ideas so its just the stuff that Im working with
thats inspiring. Theres nothing out there thats really different.
Theres nobody doing or saying anything that I havent heard before.
a very strong work ethic, spending days in the studio at a time, working on
things over and over until you get it right. How do you know when somethings
Its a feeling
I get when its right, so I just keep going until I get that feeling. Its
like a butterfly type feeling. When I hit it, and its right, and the mix
is right, thats when its time to come out. Nothing leaves this studio
until I get that feeling.
a typical session like for you?
I dont go
out to clubs and party like I used to. I just get up, go to the gym, come to
the studio. Usually I get to the studio around 3 PM, and my hours can vary anywhere
from two hours to, I mean, my record is 79 hours non stop. As long as the ideas
are flowing, Im in here. I feel when I come to the studio, I have the
same energy today as I did 20 years ago when I started. I still feel it, I love
tell me a little bit about the collaborative process in the studio?
I use the same
engineer every day. I work with the same player or players every day. Once I
find something thats working for me, and I dig it, thats it. I work
with a player named Mike Elizondo, its usually just me and him. Hes
a bassist, and hes learning keys and guitar right now. So its pretty
much just me, him, and my engineer Veto (Mauricio Iragorri) in the studio every
day just grinding out the tracks; we just go. Every day I come in the studio
I try to lay at least two or three tracks down, at least that, before we start
working on vocals.
is the engineer in your process?
The engineer is
very important. Working with me, the engineers almost got to have ESP
to know what Im thinking, and he has that. Its like body language,
he can almost feel what Im getting ready to ask him for. Its a building
process, and it took us a while to get to that point. Weve been working
together for years, probably since 98 or 99.
is that makes a good MC to you?
just a feeling that I get. Its a look that I look for, its the way
that they carry themselves. Of course, the talent has to be there. I look for
somebody that when you hear their voice, you know its them right off the
top, its no question. And we have to be able to get along. The talent
gets you in the door, the personality keeps you there. I have to feel like I
can work with somebody that I wouldnt mind leaving the studio and going
to have dinner with and just chopping it up. That has nothing less than that.
I want somebody thats gonna come in and work, and be ready to fucking
really do they thing. Because Im the first one here, and Im the
last one to leave, I tell em, You cant work hared than me,
but try to keep up.
Just music in general,
man. I love making music. This is what I was put here to do, to make music.
I love doing this, man, its almost like a high for me. If Im out
of the studio too long, it feels funny. I got this feeling like, Damn,
this could have been the day I came up with fucking Billie Jean
or some shit. If Im not in the studio, it always crosses my mind.
know when you have Billie Jean or a big hit?
Yeah, right off.
Like I said, its a feeling. Most of the time that record comes fast. Its
not one of those things where youre working on the same record for two
weeks, usually that record comes in a couple of hours.
talk a bit about some of the equipment you use?
I love using the
MPC3000. I like setting up like four or five different MPC3000s, so I
dont have to keep changing disks. So I have them all lined up, and I have
different drum sounds in each one, and then we use one for sequencing the keyboard.
me a bit about your process of recording drums?
We really take
a lot of time on getting the right drum sounds. We EQ the drums before we sample
them into the MPC, and then once we come up with the track, we spend a lot of
time EQing the drums before we record them into Pro Tools. We take quite a bit
of time to get that right, because I know its one of the things that people
like about my music. Ive used the same drum sounds on a couple of different
songs on one album before but youd never be able to tell the difference
because of the EQ.
I had Pro Tools
right when it came out, but I wasnt a fan of it because I lost a little
bit of my low end before they perfected it. So, I used to just use Pro Tools
for sequencing the albums. But now I think theyve perfected it enough
for me to roll with it, so Ive been using it quite a bit.
still using a lot of analog keyboards, I saw a Wurlitzer in the studio, a Fender
Yeah, I love the
old school sounds. ARP String Ensemble, Rhodes, old school Clavinet, the whole
shit. Im a big keyboard fan. I dont really dig working with samples
because youre so limited when you sample.
came from a sampling background?
of my music has been played. Back when we started with the N.W.A. thing, it
was a lot of drum loops, drum samples, and what have you. But if we were going
to sample something, we would try to at least replay it, get musicians in and
replay it. If it was something we couldnt replay, we would use the sample.
Ive tried to stay away from it as much as possible throughout my career
from day one.
Im a big
P-Funk fan, that was it for me growing up. Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, I was
influences by all of those guys. Thats what really motivated me to use
live instruments on my records. Just listening to the way they put their records
together. That appreciation came from my mother. There was always music being
played in my house when I was growing up, and thats all I heard was 70s
soul. And then the DJing thing came along.
you get into DJing?
me to want to DJ was Grandmaster Flash. I heard The Adventures of Grandmaster
Flash on the Wheels of Steel and I was blown away. So, me and a friend
of mine at the time decided to tear apart a couple of component sets and make
our own little mixer and two turntables. And not too long after that, my mom
got me a mixer, and that was it for me. But I would have to give credit to Grandmaster
Flash for getting me into the business. We had dinner once in New York, hes
a cool brother.
think your DJing background has made you a better producer?
Definitely. I would
definitely not be as good of a producer if I hadnt started DJing. Because
thats where I really started paying attention to how records are made.
I would critique and just listen and say, I would have done this different.
So that definitely was a stepping stone to what Im doing now.
did you realize this is something you were good at? That this is something you
wanted to do the rest of your life?
This club I was
DJing at at the time had a little demo studio in the back of it. I made a couple
of demos, played them in the club, and got a good response. So I just started
making it a little bit better here and there, and the next thing you know I
had a record out. Everybody was digging it, so I decided that this was the job
I was going to take.
up with Eminem has been a big turning point for you. Did you know he was going
to have the effect he did?
I knew it was going
to be big. I didnt know it was going to be this big. I didnt know
it was going to be half this big. I knew people were going to get into him,
and love him, and just think hes a crazy ass white boy. But I had no idea
it was Oscar bound. Its a perfect example of an artist coming in and taking
advantage of the situation. Thats what he did, he came in, and he works
his ass off. Everybody that came in the studio and really put their thing down,
and really put it together has been successful with me. Everybody else that
Ive worked with thats slacking ends up having to go to somewhere
else to do their thing.
either put up or shut up?
you got to come in and go to work, man. I open the door, like I said, youre
not going to work harder than me. The harder you work, the harder Im going
to work. At least Im going to try to make sure thats happening.
think its hard for some people to push themselves to that level? Do they
have different expectations?
I think some people
that Ive worked with expect to come in and for me to wave a magic wand
and say, Ding, hit record! But its not like that. You have
to come in and give some energy, and we have to put the same amount of work
in on the record. Its not just going to be me putting my hand in your
back and moving you around like a puppet.
hip-hop is a young mans game, yet you defy that. How?
I dont think
its a young mans game. Its all in how youre putting
it together, and how youre carrying yourself. If you feel old, its
going to turn out like that. I dont even think about that. I feel like
I could turn 50 and still make a hot hip-hop record.
potential for a hip-hop Rolling Stones, still rocking the mic at 70?
I think so. I dont
I want to necessarily see a 50-year old rapper, but being behind the scenes,
making tracks, and producing, theres no age limit on that. Its all
about whos keeping it hot. You could make a hot hip-hop record if youre
70, you just gotta know whats going on in here, and know what the people
want. If people are talking about somebody being too old, that means that sound
is getting too old. Its time to start your game over, reinvent yourself
what you do?
what I do; I try to reinvent myself. If you keep doing the same thing, people
are going to get tired of it, thats when it becomes old. So, I gotta keep
reinventing myself. Plus, when I put a record out, I think a lot of people are
influenced by my music, and I think theres a lot of shit that comes out
that sounds similar to mine. That makes the sound become old a little bit faster,
so I definitely have to keep reinventing myself and trying new things.
ever considered producing a non-hip-hop album?
Definitely, I would
love to do a rock album. I would love to do a Black rock album. Ghetto Metal.
Its just a matter of the right lead singer coming along. Once that happens
Im off and running. Thats all I need is a singer, well put
the band together later. If I get the right front man, Im going to try
music industry ready for a Black rock band?
ready for anything thats hot. If its hot and its different,
and its working... Look at Lenny Kravitz. Hes hot as shit.
like a real perfectionist.
I am a perfectionist,
but it has a lot to do with the people that are around you. They have to have
the same vision, the same motivation. It takes a while to get the right people
around you; it takes a long time. But I think Ive finally done it, I think
this is going to be my crew for a while.
contributed work to a number of soundtracks. Have you ever considered scoring
one of the things I want to get into. I started studying music theory, learning
how to read and write music. Its been over two years, so Im really
getting involved in that. I definitely want to get into scoring movies. I have
to have the knowledge, so I think in the next four or five years Ill have
it down, Ill be ready. Im not even going to attempt to do something
if I dont think Im going to be great at it. I know for a fact thats
something that I could be good at, but I have to get the knowledge first. Thats
almost like learning a new language. I have to really understand what Im
doing, I have to learn that language. It takes a while, and I want to be the
best at it, so Im going to put the time in.
music theory influenced what youre doing in the studio?
A little bit. Its
actually broadened the way I look at music and listen to it, just knowing how
the notes are placed. I pay attention to all that a little bit more now. A while
back, I thought it would hurt me, I thought I would start paying too close attention,
and maybe miss something. But I think its helping out. And once I really
get that shit, Look out! (laughs)
got more money than these dudes out here that are still talking about cars and
jewels, yet you dont focus on that in your music. What keeps you rooted?
I talked about
it a little bit when I was younger, but this is a job, man, thats all
it is. Im serious about music. Its a job, and I want to get paid
of course, but I dont need to talk about it. If I was a plumber, I wouldnt
talk about the money I was making, Id just talk about my job. Id
be talking about pipes and shit. All I want to talk about is the music and how
we can better it.
we better it?
I think we just
need producers who are willing to stick their necks out there and try new and
different things. I love Outkast and what theyre doing because theyre
trying some new and different things, and its working for them. They stick
their necks out there, and it works and I love that. Thats what we have
to get more of.
else stand out? We spoke with Nottz for this first issue, and he was very excited
about having contributed tracks to Detox.
Yeah, I got a couple
of things from him thatll probably be used for somebody else now. I like
Nottz. I love Kanye West. I love the Neptunes of course, they have their thing,
theyre trying new things. Who else? Just Blaze. Timbaland. Hi-Tek is hot
as shit, I love Hi-Tek. This new guy were working with right now, we just
signed as a producer, his names Focus. Hes a new up-and-coming producer,
hes hot as shit.
youve recently sent some beats to Burt Bacharach.
We did a little
thing together. My piano teacher introduced us. Burt Bacharach came by the studio,
and we chopped it up for a little while. I gave him a couple of skeleton tracks
on a CD, and he went home and played some piano over it. The next thing I know
they had this jazz trumpet player play on the record, and it sounded hot. I
think theyre going to put it out. I would like to really get in, and do
something from scratch with him as opposed to me giving him a track, and him
going to his studio and doing his thing, and us sending it back and forth.
you see yourself in five years?
have my music theory down and I can score a movie or two at that time. Ill
definitely be making hip-hop records, looking for new hot artists. Im
really trying to score some movies though, thats what Im working
on. Thats a big challenge. To conduct a big ass string section doing something
that I wrote would be ridiculous. Thats the dream right now.
your legacy? What do you want to be remembered for?
I dont really
think about that. My thing is just coming in here and making records, and hopefully
people will go out and buy it and bump it. Im just trying to come in and
better myself when Im in here. If I had to give an answer to that Id
say that Id like to be remembered as a person who really cared about his
music, and really entertained people with my talent. I just want to be remembered
as being the shit.