| Dynamix Interviews
SAMPLINGS In the studio with...
Dynamix & Kult: Digital Partners
By Jim Tremayne
Published in the February 2004 issue of
DJ Times Magazine Volume 17 - Number 2
Every dance label would like to have production and songwriting talents on which it can count. For Lilla Vietri, owner of New York-based house label Kult Records, she has Dynamix, makers of big-room jams that offer radio-friendly hooks—the kinds of sounds that tastemaker DJs like Junior Vasquez champion in his all-night sets before they make their way to the mainstream.
Comprised of DJ/producer Eddie Cumana and songwriter/keyboardist Beppe Savoni, Dynamix has helped carry Kult with artist-fronted cuts like “Don’t Want Another Man” (with Tina Ann), “Never Get Me” (with Nina Eve) and “No Man Can Tame Me” (with Inda Matrix). Back on DJ turntables with “Bodyfly,” another anthemic Inda Matrix cut, Dynamix remains the face of Kult Records in many ways.
Not only is Cumana Kult’s main production talent, he’s also helped transition the label in the emerging digital realm. Kult’s e-commerce plan for ’04 includes sales and promotion of digital music via their website (kult.com). Cumana’s efforts—creating the original productions, digitizing Kult’s entire catalog, even implementing the site’s Flash code—were vital.
“The music business is so different now that you either expand or change,” says Vietri. “This is the next phase. Also, it was important to revitalize our catalog, so that songs that have become classics are now available all the time. The life of an underground vinyl record is too little. Eddie’s work has helped the label change and grow.”
DJ Times: How are Dynamix and Kult approaching ’04?
Cumana: Aside from the productions, which will include a multi-artist album called Rhythm Beatdown, I’m focusing on the launch of Kult’s e-commerce component. Our entire catalog will be available for single downloads and custom CDs, as well as vinyl from Kult’s back catalog. We want to make Kult a fully functional digital label.
DJ Times: Describe the Dynamix sound.
Cumana:Stomping big-room music that’s artist-driven. But as a DJ, I’d refer to my sets as hypnotic journeys. I like to take clubbers on a ride.
DJ Times:Why do you think you’ve had success with Dynamix?
Cumana: Those songs are hooky enough and the production is tough enough to sit right in between clubs and the radio. As far as my personal contribution to the success of my productions, I’d have to say it’s been my DJ mentality. In addition, since I opened my production studio back in ’96 and served as the in-house engineer for three years, I have spent countless hours programming and refining my kicks and experimenting with gear to find my “levels.” I found that if you want to learn about a piece of equipment, the best thing is to throw away the manual and play with it without knowing what it’s supposed to do. With this philosophy, I’ve found many ways to create and process my sounds.
DJ Times: So what’s is in your studio?
Cumana: For sequencing, I use Emagic Logic Platinum and Propeller- head Reason 2.5. For mixing and recording, I have: an Apple G4 with a Pro Tools|24 MIX3 recording system; JBL MPX 600 amps; Alesis Monitor One and Yamaha NS-10M monitors; Audio Technica AT4050 and a Neumann U87 mics; and various signal processing gear. For sounds and synths, I have an Akai MPC-2000XL; E-Mu SP1200 and XL Lead; Roland Juno-106, JP-9090, JD-800, Jupiter 8 and SH-101; Korg MS-20, M1, and Trinity Plus; Sequential Circuits Prophet 1 and Prophet 5; an Access Virus; and a Novation Supernova.
DJ Times: Is there a piece of studio gear that you can’t live without?
Cumana: The UREI/UA 1176 [limiting amp], the Teletronix LA 2 [valve leveling amp], the API pre-amps, and the Avalon Design VT-737sp [tube compressor/EQ]. They’re invaluable for their unique texture and the way they address the sounds you put through them.
DJ Times: Which producers and remixers influenced you the most?
Cumana: Quincy Jones and Giorgio Moroder for the foundations they laid for us to build on. Tom Moulton for all the Salsoul classics. Mark Liggett, Chris Barbosa and Mark Kaman for some of the most memorable ’80s club hits. C+C Music Factory, Louie Vega, Kenny “Dope” [Gonzalez] and, of course, Stonebridge for some of the most durable ’90s hits.
DJ Times: When you’re spinning, what DJ gear do you prefer?
Cumana: Technics SL1200 MK2 or Stanton STR8/150S turntables, UREI 1620 or Allen & Heath X:one V6 mixer, Pioneer CDJ-1000 MK2 decks, Korg KAOSS pad, Lexicon Jam Man and a kick-ass booth monitoring system.
DJ Times: How does a producer or remixer make money these days?
Cumana: A lot of labels now expect everyone to do mixes on spec [i.e.—you get paid later, if at all]. This practice has been adopted across the board and a producer must invest time without any sure compensation and bidding against lots of other remixers. I recently did a spec remix for a well-known, legendary artist. While that was shelved because of various issues, the artist loved it so much, she now has a new recording contract and a new album and contacted us for an official remix for her next release. So I think spec mixes still can work. Even with the state of the music industry today, you still have to invest in yourself even harder.
Kult Records Eddie Cumana and Dynamix By Dennis Lowrey
Kult Records has a full spectrum of producers and DJs that span the world, each of them creating hits of their own, and all of them wonderful producitons. Recently I had the chance to speak with one of the guys who is part of a newer project called Dynamix, an artist focused production group, and the man behind the music that they perform - Eddie Cumana. Eddie is no stranger to the crazy music industry, as he's worked with a lot of huge names in the business, but he is humble and knows where his roots lie. He is all about creating full fledged dance music with no limitations. Whether its for the deep house heads who want to get down in their bassment clubs, or for those crossover clubs where its all about the performance based artist, or for the freaks who want to hear it all in one Dj session so they can just get lost up in the music and forget their life's troubles...Eddie knows how to deliver. The following are some questions that Eddie took time out of his busy production schedule to share some answers with me, and after my set of questions, there is another interview that we received permission to use. All of it is worth the reading time to find out more about a name that you should remember from here on in...
Selekta - Where do you find your true inspiration to DJ as well as for your productions?
Eddie - As a dj I found my inspiration mostly by listening to my cousins who were disco DJ’s in the late 70’s. Then of course it was the music of late 70’s, early 80’s that inspired me the most because I was growing up in that era and I consider this style to be my first and formost roots. Later on I got more inspired by the DJs in the clubs. From following Keoki in the early 90’ for my techno roots, to David Morales at The Red Zone, to Danny Tenaglia’s Aqua Boogie, to a full blown dive into the house scene with Louie Vega at the Sound Factory bar, to Kevorkian at Body and Soul, to Digweed and Carl Cox at Twilo. From Disco to 80’s club, to House , and deep funky hypnotic stuff to progressive, I was eating it up from any good DJ. Whether it was from a ten people party to a big room afterhour, I was listening to all
DJ’s who played raw underground tracks with keys and trumpet solos in little or medium dives to progressive monsters that shook the walls at peak time of cutting edge house and hypnotic progressive afterhours.
Selekta - What personal attributes do you possess that you feel have benefitted you the most with working in the music industry?
Eddie - I am broad in my musical taste but I am very selective of who and what I work on. I have learned not to run after every opportunity that manifests in front of me for need to pay the bills or greed to progress and get lost doing something I learned to take my time even in the mist of hard times or progressing situations to make sure that whatever I have in front and I am allowing to enter my life is something or someone I really want to work with and can contribute to in a positive way. I try not to spread myself too thin or work with people that are star struck. Since I consider making music a great privitedge and as you know "music its is own reward,"this knowledge has benefited me the most .
Selekta - Describe your studio set up.Why did you choose what you have in there?
Eddie - Basically the essentials. I’m always rotating the gear around, Never really using the same sounds. I’m a big fan of vintage gear and a sucker for tubes. My favorite synths are Roland "Juno106, 06, 60 - SH101," EMU's , Korg MS20, Triton.
Selekta - What type of interaction do you want with the crowds you DJ to?
Eddie - Well, i guess if you pose those questions to any other house DJ in any field of music their answer would be the same as mine. A dj wants to be connected to the crowed via his music selection no matter the style he plays. The job of a DJ is to take the people into a journey while he plays what he loves and he links everyone with his heart. It is all about being real to my inside groove and be appreciated it for one’s sharing of its taste and skills at the same time. Its not about fitting the format, It is about breaking it with my own.
Selekta - What type of interaction do you want your productions to have with the djs that play them?
Eddie - I used to produce and focus on the business of making underground tracks geared to DJs for years, but its now more focused in the business of developing artists to keep dance music alive in the mainstream. I make my songs to be the peak hour songs the crossover DJ reserves for his top rush hour. Since mainstream DJs are in need of upbeat energy there is less of my personal taste and more consideration for the format and the mainstream audence. I try to make the songs as slow as possible to retain some swing or groove never crossing the 130 BPM line. But most people speed them up ridiculously to 140. I need to make records taking into account what the mainstream audiences want from the start as a pace or I would not get any play if I would produce as what I like to play as a DJ. If I were to sit down and bust a groove for myself, it would come out a tweaked, after-hour dub for the head with trippy and hypnotic beats that would sell about 500 copies or something, as most experimental afterhours tunes with no artist do. So while I still make those and use them for my sets, when I target the mainstream I try to push the envelope into the underground side and try to make radio records that are still a bit umpolished and raw. I want the DJ to feel that the audience loves the raw beats.
Selekta - What was a pivotal moment in your life where you knew that you had to quit your day job and music was going to be what you were going to focus on?
Eddie - I do not think there was pivotal moment for me but a day by day build up of contacts and skills. My passion just led me to places where there was music related jobs one way or the other and I became focused on learning more of this and more of that, while feeding myself on most any style club tracks. Back in the late 80’s, I started making money in the business doing weddings and sweet sixteen parties as a teen. This thought me how to install sound systems and a gave me a taste of super commercial crowds and how not to be clearing the floors at a very young age. I was about sixteen then and I worked at it for years every weekend. In the early 90’s I was clubbing to Techno at Disco2000 and fell in love with the scene and the freedom and the whole party excess while I kept doing sporadic jobs that were industry related; doing re-edits first and some attempt to produce records with friends that were musicians, as well as hustled myself on the street for gigs and getting myself on every guest list imaginable. This is while i was releasing my first vinyl dubs. It didn't matter if they were lounges or club gigs; every week, wherever the crowds were, as long as they allowed me to play or hang and study. At the same time, I kept freelancing as a Sound System installer and that gave me the opportunity to enter the house scene and network with skilled people. My growing melodic house music passion landed me my job at King Street records where I learned the behind the scene politics. While working for King Street (still promoting the label, also DJing and producing) I started selling my tracks to real labels like Dig It, Avex, King Street, Kult, Nervous, etc. This is where i started doing my first vocal remixes and editing, and I became quite a good engineer.
While engineering to various labels, I decided around 1995 to open my own commercial studio and further my skills. For 3 years, I was the in house engineer and I had a lot of friends use my studio. Friends (and clients!) like Angel Moraes and Luie Balo to mention a few. The studio helped me a great deal giving me access to a full blown studio and that hands on training enhanced my programming and mixing skills to a great degree. I loved the experience of enginnering but I got overworked with the pressure of a business owner and realized that working on other people's music was not what I wanted to do with my skills. I wanted to work on my own production and songwriting. So that realization pushed me to sell my commercial studio and I started to look around for a label job to free up my time to get back into producting. Shortly, after that, I started working with KULT back in 98.' In 1999 KULT and I decided to build a crossover team to attack the mainstream for artist development. I had not released anything for about a year as I was in a null period, but I did have tracks I had made which I never even attempted to sell and I procceded to play them for KULT.
KULT simply stated to me that I has hit potential and that I was to represent my underground roots by catapulting them into the mainstream by joining forces with a commercal counterpart to achive a great new balance of legitimate beats over full commercial vocals. I never attempted to make a commercial record before. I produced the first Dynamix release but I knew I had a big understanding of full vocals and the desire of using more of my skills aside my typical taste and made me say ‘lets do it." We were looking to maintain an edge with tough and raw beats while positioning ourselves with one foot in the clubs and one on the radio. That paid off very well with our first release Dynamx's "Dont want another man" which crossed over in a big way and paved the way for "Never Get Me" and "Love Dominates".
Selekta - What obstacles have you had to overcome that you feel were major accomplishements? both in your personal life as well as in your musical career?
Eddie - Working with wannabes. No more wannabes please! Truly talented people love what they do and feel the reward of their art in the creative process. But wannabes are greedy for fame. They just want the spotlight to satisfy their personal egoes rather than a creative eagerness. They spoil the whole fun. I think spotting wanabe’s from miles away is my biggest accomplishment. The ability to avoiding that wreck! Ha!
Selekta - As Label Manager for Kult, what would you like to share with the people who strive to get into the music business...as a Dj, what do you want to share that would help people to try and gain the status you have so far? if it is even obtainable???
Eddie - The music business is changing and no one really knows what's next. There is a decay of the current model, which in itself is good news for electronic music. My present status is the result of hard work and passion and its definitely attainable. I started collecting records and DJing at the age of 12. Slowly, I got more weddings and sweet sixteen parties before I was able to get club gigs, I clubbed more nights than the calendar could hold. Absorbed by the music, I wanted to learn to produce. I bought my first keyboard in early 90'. I kept at it producing my first makeshift techno beats under Phaze2 . I worked hard to get my first job in the biz and I kept working hard to learn to produce records and to learn all the styles of the top Dj's and collectiong all of their records. I earned a extensive knowledge of musical equipmrnts by working for Sam Ash. Eventually, becoming a studio engineer and worked in the field for years , I also released my own productions on my own imprint before I hit it off with real labels. I worked hard to get my job at KULT which has been the label that had the vision to gear me in my current path and got me to broaden my horizon to encompass the mainstream audences in my productions without leaving my club roots, which are still alive and expressed in Eddie Cumana the Dj rather than Eddie Cumana as Dynamix. So this really all goes back to having the vision to choose your path and having the perseverance to keep at it as well as the talent needed by all the players involved. Everything is possible if you have the vision and you have a good team of people that belive in you. Go forth everyday without letting anyone detour you and making sure you don’t detour anyone else.
Selekta - As someone who probably has a humongous record collection, please share your thoughts on the mp3 revolution that is going on...let me know how you feel about mixing cds, cds/mp3s as promos, and whether the music industry that you are involved in (not the big 4 labels) will benefit/faulter from digital distribution?
Eddie - I do not play mp3, if I had to, I would decompress the file and play the best quality output I could possible get out if it. I would not play an Mp3 file even if its the latest newest record as its not of standard sound quality and as a producer I do not like to see my hard work thinned out by compression! Mp3 files are made for light downloading and quick referencing but not to use as an innovation as their quality is far less than a mastered version. Maybe an untrained ear can like a song anyway but for professional purposes Mp3 files should not be used. I do mix cd's and use cd decks all the time but I still prefer vinyl if its an option for the sound of vinyl is warmer. I think ind (labels) are going to benefit from digital distribution big time, Mp3 makes it easier and cheaper for people to reference a song and find out if they want it. I am still of the opinion that mp3 quality is not the full monty and that as an artist I would prefer people hear my tough beats as I made them and not some flimsy mp3 file that makes my mixdown skills weaker or non apparent, but I am happy that people can preview it and hear it at the touch of a link. We at Kult are making a download station but we are going to offer custom cd's in the hopes that people, especially DJs that wish to use them in a professional manner will order the mastered copy. Downloads are allowing us to reach audiences we would not reach so we cannot complain about mp3. I am very happy about this media in terms of increased distribution but I am not happy to see Mp3 becoming the standards in audio quality.
Dynamix, the inhouse production/remixer team of Kult Records, continues their string of clubland hits with "Bodyfly" which is a current favorite of Junior Vasquez. Following "No Man Can Tame Me," "Never Get Me," and "Don’t Want Another Man," with remixes of Toni Braxton and Tamia, the team of Eddie Cumana and Beppe Savoni are currently working on an album project.
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