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Interview featuring Tack-Fu
dated: 7/2002
Courtesy of the friendly folks at HipHopHotSpot.com

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Let's get right down to the goods, what artists are you currently working with these days?

So much on the platter and so little time. Understand, it's been 1 year and a half since any new material has reached a legit listening audience what-so-ever. To chew on any crumb of somewhat new material, ya gotta check my "soundbank" section:

To list all the possible projects in the works, plus, all the stuff moving forward on the side...man...that would take another year and a half to explain! What I can tell you for sure is...my prime concern is a production team I've formed titled The 85 decibel Monks. It's strictly a hip-hop instrumental production team with no rappers involved.

Which artist did you combine with to create the best, most hip hop blessing tracks?

I can answer that 3 different ways.
If your talking MC? Braille is your man. Kid is nice. DJ? This kid named DJ Skwint. Check'em in the DMC midwest battle and Scribble Jam DJ battle this summer. (01') I'm impressed with the skills. Mark my words, y'all heard it here first, see him make his mark later. Producer? Man...to single out one, that would be unfair. My heart is with so many cats I wish had more time to collab with. The Chaircrusher has come through with several excellent sounding collab tracks with me over the years. He's the man.

Which are you most excited about?

I'm building this Chicago/Iowa City bridge right now. The two cities are only 3 hours apart. I have lock downs on 3 different clubs for live performance in Iowa City, so now is the time to build the bridge and give the up and coming acts somewhere else to play outside of Chicago. Besides...half the student population at the University of Iowa in Iowa City is from the Chicago area. Things are going to start popping off around these parts really soon.

Everyone on the planet knows you're a production guru, do you have any secrets to share?

Post-production. It's no secret to anyone close to my camp that the last step in the production game, the final mastering process, is key. My job is to dial in a solid mix...then my man, the Chaircrusher, takes care of the rest. I give it the thumbs up when he's finished and BAM! Done deal. Word to all up and coming producers...find a good mastering/studio engineer and you'll sound two times better.

What do you think of sampling?

That's my bread and butter.

Do you sample a lot of material to create beats?

Oh yes, 75% is sampling, 25% live instruments and drum machine blends. (to give the track a more robust sound) I'm not against live instruments, it's just that, when you count on flaky musician types to help you out...man...you're opening a whole new can of worms.

What type of music do you most sample?

Sky is the limit. Anything that sounds good to me. That's the thing that attracted me to hip-hop in the first place. It's "no rules" mentality and approach to what instruments you can use in the track. Honestly, I listen to everything else but hip-hop. I know that sounds strange, but I don't have a lot of time to listen to what other cats are doing. I just "think" or "express" myself with hip-hop music. In goes everything I listen or sample from, out comes out hip-hop.

What is the best equipment to use when creating beats?

Right now I'm learning this acid program. I like the flexibility in the sequencing. I use some of the basic concepts I learned from making beats on drum machines, and then blending that with raw breakbeats. I have 2X more room to work when I use the acid computer program. My originial style of production was so limited, you had to be creative while trying to be creative! Seriously! I was hand toggling samples in real time, blending beats by ear, mixing down the track, going to other producers cribs to lay out the track on their computers, chopping the track up after that, taking that new sequence over to my post-production engineer, have him re-master the track and chop it up again. Whew! What a hassle!

And what equipment do you use?

Basic commercial grade stuff. An akia s-20 sampler. A reel-to-reel tape player (20 years old) A crappy turntable from Panisonic. A Marantz receiver (30 years old) A Tascam analog 8-track player. A Sony CD player. One Rane graphic equalizer for mix down. And one borrowed computer. That right there, my friend, is my home studio. Net value of less than 700 bucks. I just know how to use it to it's maximum potential.

What are the steps in making a good beat from beginning to end?

Process, process, process! Listen and re-listen. I make sure every frequency is represented tight. High-ends, mid-range, and low tones. Dial in a good mix and watch how everything starts to come together. It's all about being patient, it's about picking apart sounds by ear. I'm not going to make a beat in 45 minutes, it's going to take me hours upon hours. I want it done right. I aim for perfection, starting with a good sounding drum pattern and then add from there. Dig for a sample, find a bassline to fit it, chop it up on the computer, re-sample it again. Anything to freak it.

Please tell us what's your methodology?

Drums first, everything else later. Make good sounding drums. That's the foundation. Once that is established, I find other parts that wrap around the beat. By parts, I mean, basslines and samples. Stuff that bounces around the beat. Music that hits all areas of the sound spectrum. Each part having it's own space so none of it collides. I think of myself as a "sound painter" in a sense. Slowly with each stroke of the "sound brush" I make this picture, something that has a feeling, a mood that takes you somewhere, something that reminds you of a place or a person or an event. When the last stroke of the brush is put on the canvas...it's done. I can't explain when or what is the "final stroke"...it just is.

Tell us about Yen & Slang?

My first attempt at hip-hop production. It was a on-the-job training type project. I was a rookie for goodness sake! I learned so much from that project. Stuff you don't learn in the classroom. Wow. Looking back on it now, I'd never put up with half the shit I had to put up with when I made that CD. I just don't take any crap from musicians and flaky artists anymore. For real. I don't have time for other people's personal issues. Life is short, I wanna get work done, keep that personal garbage out of my music. I mean, I can't blame other people for getting personally involved when it comes to creating music, music is a very personal thing...but damn, I'm not the one to wipe everyone's ass. I may look like the pillar of responsibility, stability & organization from the outside, but I'm just as screwed up as everyone else.

What do you think fans will most get out of listing to Yen & Slang?

Innocence. I lost it after that project.

Tell us about Chained Reaction?

My second attempt. More focused, but yet again, the pain in the ass flaky artists and musician types really made my job difficult. Near the end, I was seriously losing my mind. My engineer and a few of my closest friends were about to have one of those "sit-down" intervention type talks and check me in. Beer consumption had tripled, I was popping all sorts of pills, I was a mess. I was letting all these suspect artists and bandwagon jumpers get to my head. But, I straightened up, and forged ahead to complete the project. You'll notice on the inside liner notes I say "and for all those that didn't think I was doing this for the best interests of everyone involved..middle finger to ya'."

I'm a better judge of character nowdays. I'm only interested in working with people that have a good heart. God knows I've worked with too many people of questionable character and merit.

Did it turn out to be as successful of a project as you hoped?

Behind the scenes, it was a disaster at times. I felt like I was on a sinking ship, people were jumping overboard, and I was left to patch up the damage all by myself. "Chained Reaction" naw what I mean? Chained down in many different ways, and my reaction to the circumstances. On the outside, it was a very good sounding, nicely put together CD. There are alot of premium tracks and phat beats. I'm proud of it. It's still moving, still getting play on the radio, and will continue to do so for quite awhile.

Tell us about the track "Matter Of Time". That beat is blazing hot, and Braille really complimented your amazing production on the track. It say's in the credits you worked with Michelle Qui Jones, what was that like?

It didn't work with Qui Jones personally, Braille and Qui devised the recording and lyrical concept, I just provided the music. They sent the mix back to me, and my post-production engineer, the one and only Chaircrusher, mastered it...

What do you think fans will most get out of listening to Chained Reaction?

A darker side of Tack-Fu. Yes, some tracks show a lighter side, I mean, I really do have fun making beats and recording tracks...I really do, but with "Chained Reaction"...some demons were exercised.

How would you compare Yen & Slang to Chained Reaction, or can you?

Yen & Slang- Fun, innocent.
Chained Reaction- Dark, better sounding, more focused.

What's the science behind your name? Or Is there any?

Tack- My last name.
Fu- The way of.
Tack-Fu: The way of Tack

How would you describe your music?

I'm not going to move the dance floor. If I do make a track that does, it's not planned. I want to take the listener somewhere. Put Tack-Fu hip-hop music in your ride or walkman and reflect, nod your head. It's ear candy, not booty shaken music.

How would you describe yourself?

I believe I'm easy to get along with...I'm a little off at times, but understand...it's all done in jest and humor. I don't want to hurt people's feelings. But, all good humor has a bit of truth to it and sometimes the truth hurts.

What are your future musical plans?

#1- The Tack-Fu instrumental joint. All instrumental. It's 65% done and there is a lot of collab on this joint. The difference between this new Tack-Fu project and the previous projects are...the artists I'm working with aren't driving me crazy! You'll see many new music production assistance from some unheard of local talent.

Out of the songs you've created, what is your personal favorite, and why?

I think Proverbs 5 is a classic. That is the highlight of my production career thus far. The concept is dope, the music combines many different influences, it's recorded well, I mean...the lyrics are from the Bible! How can you go wrong! I don't care about moving dance floors. I care about making a time-tested tune, a tune that means something, a tune that sounds good. Proverbs 5 does all that plus more.

How long have you been rhyming?

I quit many years ago...strictly production nowdays.

Do you see Hip Hop as a religion, art, culture, a career, job, or just a hobby?

I'd like to make a career out of it. That's the goal. I could do without the politics involved behind the scenes and on the mic sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I have no beef with groups and individuals that want to use hip-hop as a platform to express their personal views, but yo...don't expect me to lap up the undocumentented information like some mis-guided youth looking for an answer to life's problems. Life is unfair. Deal with it and move on playa. Do I see hip-hop a religion? Nope. A culture? That's up for debate. A hobby? I won't do hip-hop like that. Hip-hop in my opinion, is an art. I want to do quality, not quantity, I'm not about to abuse this wonderful artform. I know too many cats that are in this musical genre for the wrong reasons. What can you do? Ignorance is bliss.

Do you have any hip hop quotables that you live by?

It's not where you are, it's where you're at!

Any song lyrics ever touched you?

"Young World" by Slick Rick at that time touched me. "Moment I Feared" also did it. Slick is just a good storyteller with a dope voice.

What organizations online have lent their support to you, and your music?

HipHopSpot.com! Give it up! Wooo!

Where can fans purchase your albums online?

I recommend this site:

Any last words?

Nope. That's about it. Peace.

-Interview By HipHopHotSpot.Com