with Founder and CEO Devin Horowitz
is cool. I'm feeling good.
your background in music before starting Nature Sounds?
foremost, I'm a fan of music, but I've done it all at one point. I've
been an MC, DJ, producer, music journalist, A&R and now a label exec.
About five years ago, I helped High Times Magazine start a record label.
That was how I really cut my teeth on the business side. Then I jumped
ship and started doing projects on my own. Over the years I met a lot
of artists and learned a lot about the industry. I built relationships
with certain cats and some of them were frustrated with the way the music
industry was going and they were tired of working with major labels who
didn't get it. Once I started Nature Sounds, I felt I was able to offer
them an environment different than the other labels. We obviously couldn't
offer them as much money, but we were able to give them full creative
creative control do artists really have on Nature Sounds?
At the end
of the day, they have 100% creative control. I'm always going to give
my input and I'm always going to make decisions that are going to be best
for the business and best for the company. Nine times out of ten, I think
the artists feel that I have enough sensibility about the music that I
won't do anything to hurt their credibility or the ability of the project
to succeed. A lot of the deals we do are joint ventures. As partners,
we both have equal say in what's going on. They can tell me they don't
like something about my marketing plan and I can say I don't like this
beat or that verse. It's a give and take on both sides, but at the end
of the day, they have the final say on how they want their project to
some of the challenges in getting Nature Sounds off the ground?
independent, it's tough. We don't have the resources that the major labels
have and we can't make the impact that they can. We spend less than 10%
of the money that the majors are spending, so to make an impact and have
your record stand out in the music world where these other guys are spending
millions and millions of dollars is difficult. It's very difficult to
break an artist, so we try to work with artists that have already been
developed but didn't receive the attention they should have when they
were at a major label.
you and MF Doom start working together?
started working together when I started the High Times label. I put together
a compilation back in 2001 or 2002. I did a song with Doom for that compilation.
I actually produced the track. Before that, I met Doom when I was working
as a writer. I had interviewed him back in the KMD days, right around
when they were getting dropped from Elektra. The music and interview never
came out. Ten years later, we linked up for that song on the High Times
compilation, and we've been in touch ever since.
you and Doom work together?
communicate and stay on the same page with what's going on. He likes to
share his music with us and get our input, but it's best to give him his
room to be creative. We're confident in what he does. He doesn't need
us breathing down his neck. He has his own creative vision and we respect
that and give him his space.
released a lot of instrumental albums lately. How come?
I think there
is a different market for those albums aside from people who want to rhyme
over them, There are a lot of people who love the music but can't relate
to the lyrics. These can be successful in a world outside of the Hip Hop
realm. The music is great and it can stand by itself.
see instrumental albums becoming a trend?
I think so.
We are definitely doing it. We have an instrumental album coming out from
Mathematics. It's a double-disc album. One disc is new beats and another
disc is his classic beats. I think the demand is definitely there. I don't
know if these things will ever sell like their vocal albums do. They're
good for DJ's to make remixes and people who want something more mellow
to listen to
I see a lot of people doing it. I don't know if it's
successful for other people, but it definitely works for us and the fans
seem to be responding well to it.
Ayatollah's project doing?
real well. 'Tollah is one of the most underrated producers in the game.
He's incredible. A lot of these producers don't get as much shine because
they're not out there hustling their beats. Selling beats is a full-time
job. If you're not out there networking all the time, your beats may not
get picked for certain projects. Instrumental albums give producers an
outlet to get their music out. 'Tollah likes to stay in the lab working.
You don't meet a lot of A&R cats doing that, but after he puts out
an instrumental album, I'll bet every beat on that album gets sold. It
works as a beat-tape and at the same the fans can hear the music as well.
Masta Killa's album coming?
together incredibly. I'm a big Masta Killa and Wu Tang fan and to me this
album may even be better than "No Said Date." Killa knows what
the fans want and he's not caught up in making songs for people who he
knows aren't his fans. The album's coming along great.
feel like you helped break Masta Killa as a solo artist?
say that, but really a lot of labels were interested in Masta Killa before
we came around. He just didn't want to jump into a situation that he wasn't
comfortable with. Honestly he really helped to put Nature Sounds on the
map. His album is our best-selling album to date. I never understood why
he never dropped a solo record before. I always thought he was one of
the most underrated MC's in the game.
up with Pete Rock's album?
"New York's Finest." It's kind of in the vein of "Soul
Survivor." I don't want to name any names, but it's kind of like
a who's-who in Hip Hop, from the cats who have number one commercial hits
to the most respected MCs in the street. It's all across the board. Pete
did an incredible job on the beats and getting everybody that matters
in Hip Hop on this record. I think people are going to be blown away when
they hear it.
is in store for Nature Sounds?
to be putting out a Strong Arm Steady album called "Blast For Me."
Strong Arm has a huge LA following. They are the mixtape kings out there.
Plus they make some great commercial records and are incredible song writers.
We're definitely excited about that project. That'll probably come out
you want people to think when they see a Nature Sounds album in stores?
If it's a
Hip Hop CD, I think you'll know that it's authentic Hip Hop. Without sounding
corny, look at our name; it's natural music, natural Hip Hop. A lot of
label exec's like to stroke their ego and think that they make an artist,
but we are different. We know how important it is to let them do their
thing. You have to allow them to be creative. You know you're going to
get the artist's vision when you see a Nature Sounds project. It's not
something that's going to be manipulated by a suit in a corner office.
do you have for labels on the come-up?
I think you
have to find your place. This goes for artists also. You have to find
your place in the game. Not everybody can be a 50 Cent or Def Jam. You
have to be successful at what you do. You have to know who your market
is and cater to them. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing and
what MTV is playing, because then you're going to be chasing something
that's not yours.
you get a million demos a day. What do you look for?
the music and the talent are important. But to be honest, what I look
for more is professionalism and an understanding of the business. If you
just want to be the hottest MC on the block, that's one thing, but to
be the hottest MC in the stores is an entirely different hustle. The game
is oversaturated right now and there are a lot of individuals that I have
to turn down, not because they're not dope, but because they forget at
the end of the day that a label needs to make money to survive.
is it for a label to break an artist?
have the money to compete with the majors, so we have to make up for it
with hustle. The difference with indie's is that an artist can sell over
a long period of time. Major labels frontload their records to try to
make the biggest impact for first-week Soundscans. What people don't see
is that a lot of those records get returned because they're not selling.
You see an upward trend on an independent level. Each week can be as big
as the last because it's a slow build and money gets spent over time instead
of all at once. It's hard to compete on the level of majors, but it's
a whole different philosophy when you're dealing with independents.
is an artist's appearance on an independent level?
ever seen RA the Rugged Man? (laughs) I've never asked RA to get a haircut.
I've never asked RA to put on a shirt that doesn't have holes in it. I've
never asked RA to take a shower before he does a show. He's one of the
illest MC's I've ever met, and people like who he is. He doesn't compromise
his appearance for anybody, and I would never ask him to. I think on an
independent level, when you don't have money, all you have is integrity.
Fans can see through marketing gimmicks and see talent a mile away. For
someone to do something that's not natural to them, any real fan can see
through it. I don't think appearance makes a difference.
you want to say to everyone?
going to be a lot of noise coming from our camp for the next twelve months.
I'm not one to blow up my own shit, but we've spent the last three years
building up for this year. The Natural Selection compilation we just dropped
will give you a taste of many of the projects we have in the works. We
have the Pete Rock album, Masta Killa, Strong Arm Steady, then of course
the much anticipated Ghostface and MF Doom album. We have so much talent
that we've been fortunate to work with and so many crazy releases that
will appeal to the truest Hip Hop fans that love that real Hip Hop. There
is no one that has their foot in the underground like we do that's really
delivering quality street music. I think in the next twelve months, people
are going to see that.