quietly killin' it vol. 2 -- Prime Suspect
Written by Michael C. LaCroix — Kind Beats.
We are all familiar with the “You Might Enjoy” section of SoundCloud, or the “Your Daily Mix” section on Spotify; but how often do these streaming sources provide us with new fresh music that we haven’t heard before? Well, one particular afternoon, I just so happened to click on Prime Suspect’s account. I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered! Prime Suspect comes out strong with original productions, and fresh twists on some of music’s most iconic samples. Using FL Studio, a sampler, keys, and sometimes his guitar to create his productions, Prime Suspect (hereon referred to as PS) delivers a fresh take on the art of beat making.
Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, PS found it difficult at times to find like-minded musicians with whom he could start a band, “I always wanted to be in a band but never found anyone with my passion for music, I couldn’t get anyone in a band with me!” After years of musical experience playing the piano, guitar and saxophone, PS began listening to different styles of instrumental music and began thinking of the idea of what was possible on his own as a music producer. “Around 17, I started listening to a lot of instrumental music - Pretty Lights, Blockhead, Ratatat, RJD2 - and it totally opened a new world for me. I didn’t need anyone else to make music. I thought ‘I could do that!’ so I started working on making my own beats.” One of my favorite things about Prime Suspect is the music that helped him to find his path. Each of these artists have helped to mold so many different producers’ sounds it would almost be a disservice to not give them that credit. Pretty Lights brought a funky electronic feel to beats, Blockhead made incredibly organic sounding productions, Ratatat, one of the first of its kind is an “electronic duo” that bring pulsating synths and guitar riffs, while RJD2 brings an epic journey to the listener’s ears. As you listen to PS’s music you can start to hear these different influences coming to life in each production. But PS doesn’t just take cues from the music that first inspired him, he makes sure to keep a keen eye on the beat scene and find those that can help to inspire his music by creating a certain mood or feel that catches his ear, such as the likes of Brock Berigan, Tycho, and Boards of Canada.
Then comes the question of branding, how does a producer create themselves an identity that will stand out and be remembered by the listener? When I asked Prime Suspect where he came up with his name here is what he had to say, “I wish I had a better story for this but to be honest it’s just a name I thought sounded cool. I’ve honestly considered changing it but I’m worried about starting over. I do like that it’s sort of a juxtaposition of this aggressive sounding name against the really chill music I make. It subverts the expectations of the listener.” There is always a time when you will question yourself as an artist and if you have made the right decision, as PS points out, it is best to stick with what you decided on and find the artistic value in what came from your own creativity. It doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to feel right to you, and music itself is much the same.
When you go to look up Prime Suspect on SoundCloud, you will see a very different graphic from the first time I came across his music. The first picture I saw was of Milwaukee Brewers player Gorman Thomas. He had an amazing mustache/hair combo and it is a 100% accurate representation of baseball style in the 1980’s. However, after sending him these questions the picture changed to something that was a bit more functional and very artistic. His new image was designed by his talented sister-in-law who is a freelance artist. You can follow her @artoflittlebits on Instagram.
One of the toughest things for musicians is to figure out is what you want your sound to be. Whether you are making beats, writing country, or crafting lengthy classical pieces, finding ones sound can be one of the most difficult things to do. How are you sure if what you are writing is how you want the audience to receive your form of self-expression? Prime Suspect believes that he is still finding his sound, and while sampling beats will always be great, he strives to incorporate more original elements into this music, and through this process his sound will begin to become more present in his mind, therefore coming to life in an audible form. Prime suspect has a few tools that he always there’s the DAW FL Studio, his Maschine MK2, an M-Audio Axiom 49 Midi Keyboard, and an old Sansui record player for pulling samples off vinyl records. Prime Suspect also mentions that he will use his fender to add guitar parts to the tracks and intends on doing that more often in future productions.
The process in which a producer likes to create there is always different from one to the other. Some will start with a synth, or a piano roll, while others will start with a sample, or percussion. Prime Suspect likes to first start with a sample or a melody, and once the tempo has become present in his mind he will then add percussion to that. Following up by adding original sounds such as piano, guitar, or a bassline if it’s needed, and finally adding those little bits of ear candy that bring a track all together.
One of the questions I like to ask producers is what advice they would give others, what have they learned from their experience and how can they impart that knowledge onto others. For this portion of the article I will be taking a direct quote from PS so you can see word for word what he had to say about those who are interested in making beats. “If you’re first starting out it can get overwhelming looking at the shear amount of gear, DAWs, MIDI controllers, etc. out there and wondering where to begin. My advice would be to find a DAW that makes sense to you and learn it. Get familiar with that first and let the gear come second. When you do feel like you want to get some pads or some keys, realize that you don’t necessarily need the thing with the most bells and whistles. If all you want to do is bang out samples on 16 pads, the cheapest MPD out there can get that job done. Master what’s available to you, and realize many great artists/beatmakers have made more with less. I hear dudes thinking they need an SP-404 or a Maschine Studio to get started. You don’t. There are many, many ways to do the same thing when it comes to making beats on a laptop, and just because you do it different than someone else doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
For many of us music is a passion as well as a hobby, and Prime Suspect is no different. It is his one true artistic outlet and the only one he feels he needs. He will always be making music because it’s something he simply loves to do, and as his sound evolves and changes who knows what will happen in the future. By setting goals such as releasing a project on vinyl and being featured on one of Chill-Hops Season releases, Prime Suspect has a clear vision of his musical direction, and where he sees himself in the future. So, if one day you happen to be lucky enough to catch one of his live sets, grab a beer, and bring him some Chex-Mix (his favorite snack) and let him know you enjoy the vibes. One thing is for sure, Prime Suspect is a producer I will be keeping my eyes on and look forward to his future productions. Prime Suspect just another beat maker who is quietly, and humbly killin’ it.
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