Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Veterano. More than likely, you’ve heard his music, whether it’s from Slaughterhouse, Kam Moye, Grafh or someone else, and that’s just fine with the producer. HipHopGame caught up with the talented Veterano to talk about his approach, his history, why he keeps a low profile, making beats in the freezer aisle and much more.
You’ve been behind a lot of big tracks and worked with a lot of dope artists but you’re still relatively unknown, as you don’t speak on your beats and hit the websites hard. Is that by design?
Yeah. I think it actually really goes along with my personality. I don’t like to make myself an ad. I just go and I do my job. I don’t like to tag my name all over tracks. I like to really keep it low-key. I don’t do a lot of interviews and I don’t do a lot of anything. Yes, I have worked with a lot of big artists but I’m not that type of person. I want you to enjoy the music. The last thing that I want to happen when you hear one of my tracks is my name in the hook and the beginning of the song. I want people to enjoy the music and then at the end of the song you can find more of my music. That’s the way that I do it.
Do you ever worry that with the absence of liner notes that fans aren’t going to know you?
That’s exactly why I’m starting to put out my own stuff. I put out a mixtape two years ago and there are songs on there that I did with a lot of artists. I said even in the press write-up that I sent out was that people really didn’t know who produced these songs and I wanted people to know who it was the whole entire time. A lot of people say they’re their favorite songs but they don’t know the songs are out there. And unless you’re Kanye or DJ Khalil, then they’ll put it all over the credits. I just started branding myself. I don’t have a manger or anybody to take care of these things for me so I really have to build my own empire and really showcase what I’ve done and what I want to do and I figure that rather than jumping on the back of a big artist, I’d rather just kind of put out stuff myself so that I, myself, become an artist. So as much as I’ve kept it low-key, I think I’ve been able to portray who I am in the music and where I am now. It’s been awhile. There’s been a lot of ghost production and just staying in the cut and now I’ve reached the point where I just want to put out my own music now.
Your new project is The Scrapbook, a collection of your tracks. Is that doing what you want it to?
Yeah, it is. What you have with The Scrapbook are songs that I chose to remix and artists that I chose to work with like Skillz and Kam Moye. At the same time there’s experimental hip-hop beats on there and some dub step. It’s a variety. There’s a variety of things. One thing people can guaranteed get from me is a variety of things. I don’t do just one thing. The Scrapbook is just that. It’s a scrapbook of different elements of music and I just put them together. I’m really happy with how I put that together and it really just goes with my production technique and style. That’s how that came about.
You’ve worked with a lot of my favorite artists, especially Supastition, also known as Kam Moye. He said he retired but I’ve heard about a new project in the works. Is this true?
Yeah. We’ve always talked about having a project with just us. This has been since 2008. For various reasons, whether it be the label or whether it be Kam just kind of throwing in the towel, somehow after letting the water settle for awhile after the last album, we’ve always just kept in contact and me and Kam are kind of more like friends than actual musician partners. After just talking throughout the past year, we’ve decided that we’re actually going to put out a project. Because I’m starting my own brand, I told him I wanted to put it out through my brand. I said, “Let’s just do it and let’s just do it for fun.” There’s no pressure.
Me and Kam work together flawlessly and he doesn’t have to worry about booking any shows or anything like that. Those were the headaches he had to deal with before. This is an album that just came organically because we both want to do it. At the same time, it just happened. That’s what we’re doing right now. He has all the beats that we’re going to use for the album already, more than he needs. But he’s recording right now and I believe in a month or so he’s going to be flying out here and we’re going to be in the studio just recording. We hope to have it done by May or maybe sooner.
You produced the original Slaughterhouse record before they were an official group. Did you ever think that one record would spawn the movement that it has?
Honestly, no. I really didn’t. In the original “Slaughterhouse” record, by the way, Scram Jones was the first person to do the beat but I was in contact with Joe Budden and I just gave them a different perspective so people have the Scram Jones version and my version at the same time. I had no idea it would be so popular. On the original record, Nino Bless is on there and at the time Nino Bless was supposed to be in the group. It wasn’t 100% set in stone, but I was there when the song was being put together. There were other artists that were considered for it, but in the end this is what Joe Budden wanted. There was a lot of calling out and reaching out to people that he hadn’t worked with and from what I understand, that’s how it played out.
It was supposed to be a record but it just kind of blew up and people went crazy. Then there was the whole thing about Nino Bless being in the group. I had no idea that it was going to take off. I knew it was going to be a big group but I had no idea that they would end up signing to Shady Records. I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m very thankful that I was given the opportunity to lay some beats for them.
Do you think you’ll work with them again n the future?
You know, those kinds of things are just a phone call away. I just have to call one or two people and then get my beats over there. Whether they’ll be heard or not, who knows? I’m still the young guy compared to a Just Blaze. There are going to be priorities and I’m pretty sure my music will be played, but right now I’m really trying to push the things that I want to get out there. I would love to do it and if the opportunity presents itself, I would definitely send some music over there. But the thing is my whole mindstate is different right now than what Slaughterhouse would record on. I’ve kind of gone in a different direction.
How do you see your style evolving?
When I first started making music, it was definitely on some more DJ Shadow-ish, Dan the Automator stuff. Very experimental and soundscapy. It was still hip-hop. They do a variety of things and I gravitated towards that automatically. Before I started working with artists, that was the kind of music I would make. Then I would work with a lot of artists from the East Coast and I made a lot of boom-bap music and East Coast music. My guy, Nino Bless, who was like managing me back in 2005, 2006, back when I was trying to get myself in the door, he would tell me that Grafh needed beats and other people needed beats. I started tailoring my music to fit with these artists and for the longest time, that’s what I did from 2006 to 2008.
Then in 2009, that’s when I started transitioning back into what I originally wanted to do and just changing things up and really stepping out of the grind of shopping beats and trying to get placements and trying to work with the biggest artists possible. That doesn’t interest me anymore. I just want to make quality music, whether it be a record with Kool G. Rap or P.O.S. to Ras Kass or a neo-soul artist. That’s where I’m at and that’s what I want to do. You might catch me with Slaughterhouse or Corrine Bailey Rae. It just depends.
How frustrating is the waiting game after you send beats to an artist?
You know, back in ’08 or ’09 or ’07, it would have been a little more nerve-racking, but now I’m more familiar with how things work. If I send beats out to Slaughterhouse or another indie group, if they don’t pick anything out, that doesn’t bother me. I think about it as planting seeds and just seeing if anything grows. I’ll send out beats to a lot of different artists and sometimes an artist will bat down 30 beats that I send out and I know they’re quality but then I’ll send out one beat to another artist by email and that’s the one that makes the album. It just depends what kind of a mood the artist is in and luck too. Back then I would have been more frustrated but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I think that’s because my mentality has changed with how I want things to operate for myself and how I see myself in the music game.
You have a full album with Ras Kass coming. What’s the status of that?
Me and Ras already discussed it when I said I wanted to start off the new year putting out a lot of projects and EPs. Me and Ras have been cool for a long time and he’s just down to work. I love Ras Kass. He’s a great artist and he’s a homeboy and we just clicked musically. I want to be able to provide fans of Ras Kass and even fans of my work with the best possible product.
When they think of Ras Kass, they think of “Nature of the Threat” and that’s the thing that really impacted a lot of people and I kind of want to bring that back a bit, but you have to tread lightly because Ras Kass wants to do a lot of things and doesn’t want to be pigeonholed, but he understands that you can’t neglect the diehard fans either. The project is going to be pretty interesting. We’re going to let it evolve and grow and who knows what it’s going to sound like? With Ras Kass, you never know. He’s a crazy guy. I really don’t know how it’s going to come out! (laughs)
You have a lot of LPs in the works, including Nino Bless and Fortilive. How does your approach change from sending out beats for placements versus working on an album?
You actually become a producer working on an album. You’re not just sending out beats where someone else has a grand design for their album. If I’m a producer, I want to be able to help out with some of the concepts and all that. I want to show off my production ability. My mentality is way different because you want to do the best that you can for the artist and for yourself and at the same time you want to create something special. It’s definitely more satisfying for me.
I think for anybody who wants to be a producer, it’s your ideas getting through. It’s just a beautiful thing. I love working with new artists, but at the same time, I want to be able to create something that’s all of my original sounds and getting my ideas through and really making the best possible product that I feel I can make with an artist. And I love it. I love it. It’s what I would prefer to do with the rest of my life and I’m able to do those things. It’s gonna be good.
What’s your favorite way to put a beat together?
Wow. There’s really no particular way that I like to put music together. You know, so many times I’ll start a beat and I’ll start out with just the drum tracks and I’ll think that I’m making this kind of beat but in the end it turns into something completely different. When I set out to make music, I don’t set out to make anything particular. There’s no specific process. Sometimes I start out with a piano or a bassline or whatever I’m feeling at the moment. I’ll sit down and there might be an interesting idea that comes to my head and that will be the beginning of the beat. It’s just about getting that first idea out there. From there, the whole song evolves. I just let it be what it is and let it evolve. At the end, if it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, I scrap it and that’s the end.
What equipment do you use?
I’m a minimalist. For now, what I use is just my midi keyboard. I have my computers. I have a few analog keyboards but I mainly use Fruity Loops, FL Studio and that definitely works best. I don’t like to have four keyboards sitting in the studio. It’s more compact and I’m not taking up a lot of space. If you were to go into my studio room, you would think it was just a desktop computer and my keyboard. That’s literally what it looks like. I don’t have anything fancy. I sold all my stuff. I just need my sounds and my creativity. I can make music with anything. I have live instruments as well and I like to use those. Sometimes I’ll go in the kitchen and grab some random shit in the apartment and incorporate it into a beat. Anything that’s around me can be elements in a beat. Nothing is off limits!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever used in a beat?
Well, I’m actually working on a project right now. I’m not sure what I’m going to call it but it’s environment sounds and they’re going to be incorporated into beats. I’ve gone into the grocery store and recorded the freezer door slamming when I was getting hot pockets and the sound of the carts crashing and the sounds from the checkout line! (laughs) I recorded all these things and put them into a beat and it’s literally all live, recorded sounds. I went into an arcade game and put the change into the game and the sound of the tickets coming out of the machines. I recorded all those sounds. Those are probably the most unusual sounds I’ve ever recorded and they probably wouldn’t be able to identify them based on how I put them together, but when you hear the song, you’ll know it. It’s pretty unusual but I love it.
How do you know when one of your beats is complete?
I just get a feeling. You just get a gut feeling where you know if you do any more to this, you’re going to ruin it. I just let it sit. That’s when I know I’m done unless I send a beat out to somebody and they want me to add a bridge or change something. I feel it’s done when I feel that I’m doing too much to it.
What are your goals as a producer as you continue working on all of your projects?
My ultimate goal right now is to put out the things that I’ve always wanted to put out but that I’ve never had the time to do, and that would be The Scrapbook and the album with Kam. Very experimental kinds of things. I’m doing some neo-soul stuff and whatever comes to mind. Beyond music, I’m really trying to put together my own brand and that’s incorporated with photography and video and actual physical products. It’s just one day at a time but I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do these kinds of things. I’m going to be putting out more creative and interesting products, whether it’s with music or video. I’m excited about it and you’re going to see more things coming out.