1. Take a minute to introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Tommy Tench and I’m a Producer and DJ operating out of my studio in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. I specialize in sampling and making beats, and I’m a huge fan of Turntablism, which I practice daily. My YouTube channel, which I started posting videos to a few months ago documenting the process of beatmaking, currently has 1300 subscribers and shows no signs of slowing down. I have numerous few projects lined up for 2013, working with artists (most of which I am supposed to keep quiet!) as well a super limited run of vinyl pressings with some producer friends of mine. I am also former student and current employee at Dubspot, a music production and DJ school, where I oversee the Tech Department.
2. How did you transition from being a Dubspot student to an employee?
I started taking classes one summer, and spent as much time as I could there. I got to know everyone pretty well, and one day they needed help setting up a private event because a few people were sick and couldn’t make it. They kept asking for help over the next few weeks, and I approached them to make it a permanent position in the Tech Department. I worked for about a year and a half as a regular Tech, until this past august when I was put in charge of the entire department.
During this time, I was able to learn and listen to everyone around me and really soak up tons of information. Everyone there is so talented and knowledgeable, its crazy really. The whole place breathes music, and can cater to everyones’ specific tastes. It really helped me be where I am today. It’s incredibly important, no matter how good you are, to keep your mouth shut and listen sometimes. I do a lot of that.
Alkota: A lot of “up and coming” beatmakers & producers assume that the the music industry has a single linear path to success where licensing and selling beats is the name of the game. What most of the new jacks don’t know is that the industry is a multi faceted and dynamic beast.
Oh man. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The modern producer has to wear many different hats. He has to not only produce the track, but mix, master and release it himself. He also has to promote the song, coordinate with artists, get studio time, and in a lot of cases, coordinate the legal side of it with contractual agreements and licensing stipulations. Gone are the days where you show up at a label with beats and they write you checks on the spot. Now, if you’re one of these elite producers, these things may not apply as much. But I see that changing rapidly.
But having to do all these extra things are what makes it fun and interesting. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to learn and try to be the best producer out there, then go ahead and make your $5 beats off your pirated version of FL Studio. Just remember that theres a glass ceiling with that style, and you’ll never reach your full potential. No disrespect to anyone who pirated FL Studio and sells $5 beats, just try to do something different on top of what everyone else is doing. I mean, I bought a DSLR to record my videos, now I understand photography really well. White balance, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, focal length, etc. I also understand lighting and video editing. I then promote it online as much as possible. I understand SoundCloud really well to the point where I have videos on how to share to all your groups in one click using html scripts. You really get to learn a lot of things inadvertently through this process. Is it harder? Yes. But you don’t gain as much if aren’t trying to figure everything out all the time. I mean honestly, the whole beat making process is really just a puzzle you have to put together. This part here, this part there and so on. The other things are basically the same, just a different puzzle!
3. Can you talk about your role in the industry from the standpoint of an educator?
I get to meet all these big named artists through Dubspot, and there are two kinds of people. The ones that are always learning and trying to get better, and the ones that have what me and my friends call “Old Man Skills.” Now the Old Man Skills have nothing to do with being old. I know 22 year old kids with OMS. Its the refusal to try anything new, which is essentially the unwillingness to keep learning and elevating your craft. These people literally get stuck in time. I firmly believe that if something works, stick with it by all means, but who’s to say that theres not something you could do differently to make it that much better? This is especially true in Turntablism. Guys that are legends in the game but for some reason stopped learning new scratches, new juggles, etc. I would rather choose to not use something, (like a particular trick or technique or even new software) then to discard it without at least testing it out myself. I think it all boils down to being humble and willing to learn, while still thinking you’re the best out there. Its a fine line between the two, but if you really do become the best remember this: The best producers are also the best at learning.
4. What direction do you want to take your music and movement in the next few years?
First and foremost, I would like to incorporate more of a performance aspect to my production. I’m currently working on this now, taking all of the different things I can do and trying to piece it all together. I’ve documented the production side of things, but I would really like to showcase the performance side of it. There are so many different options that people can try out and theres a lot of potential to innovate. I think that the producer is the new DJ. You make crazy music, but the way you support yourself is by performing it. AraabMuzik is a really good example. Not only is his production top-notch, but he’s extremely fun to watch. Its why he’s doing a lot of festivals and probably making more money than he ever did selling beats, while traveling the world basically. The big picture for me going forward is to be as well-rounded as possible. I think thats just another piece of the foundation.
Alkota: We’ve seen your NI Maschine Videos & now your latest videos featuring the Akai MPC Renaissance. A lot of people getting started making beats want to know where to spend their money and which software package & controller will offer the most bang for their buck.
Oh man. I get a ton of questions about this in particular, so I’ll answer it as simply and straight-forward as possible. Hopefully I can put this one to bed.
When to get an MPC Renaissance:
- 1. You are a previous (or current) owner of any MPC, or have experience with Propellerhead’s Reason software.
- 2. You sample a lot, especially from vinyl or external sources.
- 3. You do not have a sound card, mixer, etc.
- 4. You Value hardware and workflow over portability and convenience.
- 5. You don’t have any other music-making software or would like to consolidate your production into one unit.
When to get a Maschine (MKI or MKII)
- 1. You don’t have $1200 to spend.
- 2. You want to have some kind of controller but would like the benefits of software as well.
- 3. You plan on using it primarily for tracking drums, especially inside another DAW (like Ableton or Logic)
- 4. You don’t sample very often, if at all.
- 5. You are already writing a lot of music in another DAW and don’t.
- 7. You value portability and convenience over hardware quality and workflow.
Reason 6.5 is also a great option for those who want everything but the kitchen sink. I have a bunch of producer friends that use Kong with an MPD or trigger finger and they couldn’t be happier. For me, Reason gives me the most options in terms of mixing. Definitely consider this if you want a complete option for beatmaking. Also, the MPC Studio is another great option if you don’t want the ins-outs of the Renaissance. It’s the true competitor for Maschine. Same “Weight Class” if you will.
With that being said, all of these options are great for making beats. Whatever you pick out of the above will be a great decision.
5. Which Drum Machine/Software Hybrid setup do you prefer and recommend?
MPC Renaissance for the actual producing of my tracks. Slicing, arrangement, and workflow are all really good. Recently I’ve been using Reason for mixing. The SSL board is awesome, and you really don’t need a ton of plugins and extras to make it sound really good. As it should. I was shown this insane trick with the Control room output back into the SSL. Maybe a tutorial on that at some point. Crazy stuff. Needless to say, I like to stay “in the box” with all of these things. The less time I spend jumping from one program to another, the better. So basically its “MPC Renaissance and Reason for mixing.” Awesome combination if you ask me.
Alkota: You’re YouTube channel has a hefty following!
Yeah it has really taken on a life of its own. I just wanted to show what I was doing and hope that it would inspire others to do the same. I have some really big plans for the channel, and I would like to make each upload more consistent, like an actual TV show. I have a bunch of ideas on how to make it even more engaging. I read somewhere that YouTube is the second biggest search engine, next to Google. Hilarious since Google owns YouTube. But seriously, think about it. If you don’t look something up on Google, where do you look? YouTube. Producers need to get their stuff up there, and if you’re someone who’s just starting out, do research and see what guys are doing on there and what you like about their channel and what you don’t like. Thats the direction you should go.
6. What do you have in store your subscribers in 2013?
Performances. I have a few beats that I have been practicing, sort of like Jeremy Ellis, or AraabMuzik. Obviously my skills aren’t where those guys are at, but I’m going along the avenue of my own style being the focus. Also, a full MPC Renaissance tutorial series starting from the ground up. I want to produce it really well. I’ve actually got a lot of inspiration from you, Alkota! Your Side-Chain with Reason 6 video on YouTube would be the format that I am going for. I would also like to do some interviews with the guys you see in my videos. A spotlight or something. Just to give a background on who these people are and what they’re all about, and why I choose to work with them. Definitely be on the lookout for my channel in 2013.
7. Whose your favorite beatmaker / producer?
Alchemist. I also like Sid Roams a lot. If you don’t know who these guys are, look them up. For a minute there, Sid Roams surpassed Alchemist I think. The reason I like these guys is their production is just really f*cking tough. I mean, Alchemist could take “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter Paul and Mary and make that shit hard. Also, they have their own style but its always different in some way. Alchemist always picks the right snares for his tracks. It bothers me a little bit actually. Sid Roams make really good use of layers and fills in their tracks, which I’m a big fan of. I also like that they’re all from LA, and make quintessential East Coast Hip Hop tracks. They took something that already existed, and elevated it. Its that whole learning/analyzing/elevating thing i’ve been harping on.
8. With that being said, how many beats do you make a week? Whats your creative process & workflow like? Do you strive to improve your production during each session? Break it down for us!
I actually don’t make beats as fast as I’d like. I’m currently doing 2-4 a week. I could make one a day if I really pushed myself. I like to work on a track and finish it through completely, but not necessarily in one sitting. I’m also consistently reinventing my workflow, so I try to be as efficient as possible. I try to break up all the different steps up into little pieces and not save everything for one day. A lot of guys that I know wait until the weekend to do a majority of their producing, but it rarely seems to work out for them. I need to be doing a beat a day, honestly. Now that I think about it, I should document a month where I do a beat a day, and post it on YouTube, just for the challenge. Don’t steal that idea!
9. Whats the day in the life of Tommy Tench like when you’re not making beats or working on your YouTube channel?
Its crazy, my life doesn’t really have much balance to be honest. Or maybe it does depending on how you look at it. My job involves music and is surrounded by music, and then when I come home I work on more music. When I’m online, I’m either studying other peoples YouTube videos or searching blogs for samples. I don’t own a television either. I’m at the point where I can’t watch TV without wanting to do something else. With that being said, Im a huge Football fan, so I try to watch a lot of sports and get outside as much as possible. I live right by the HighLine, which takes me right to Dubspot. I walk that to decompress and to admire the scope of the city. It makes me appreciate things a lot. I also take vacations to decompress when I go visit my Mom in Columbus or my brother in Chicago. I just spend a lot of time outside and with my family. By the time I leave, Im ready to work on more music.
10. For the readers who are interested in following you, checking out your videos, or getting in touch… whats the best way to holler @ Tommy Tench?
If you need to contact me the best way is to do so on Twitter or YouTube. I’m pretty terrible at responding to Facebook messages, so don’t be offended if I don’t respond. If you get at me on twitter or youtube, and you don’t hear back, then you can probably be offended. I also use SoundCloud a lot and have over 3,300 followers there.