you doing Simon?
Just chilling. Everything's cool.
heard a lot of your recent tracks, but we don't really know you. What
can you tell everyone about Simon Vegas?
I was born
in Germany, but I live in Washington Heights, NYC. I've been doing beats
forever. I was a graffiti writer first. I started in 1982, bombing trains.
I did my first Hip Hop track in 1984. I had a drum machine from my dad,
he is a musician. I redid the track "Haunted House of Rock."
That was my first real production experience as a kid. That's when I really
got into it. It's been on from there. I've had tape recorders and thousands
of records from my dad. I formed a group with my homeboy from Philly,
and we were doing tracks and supporting artists overseas. That's how we
got into it until we got a deal. That's how it all started.
done a lot of work with Poetic from the Gravediggaz, how was that?
one of my best experiences as a producer. I was going to school and doing
some beats on the side. He came over to my house and he was working on
my SP-12. He said to me, "If you want to be a serious producer, you
need to look at it as a job. You have to set time aside and just work
like it's a regular job." That helped me a lot. That really shaped
me as a producer. He had a lot of influence on me.
you guys record together?
We did a
couple of tracks. He was teaching me. He did some tracks on my drum machine.
The tracks were never released, but I still have all the acapellas and
everything. That was not too long before he passed away. Rest in peace
did his death hit you?
It was just
unbelievable because it came so sudden. I didn't know about it. I was
shocked. Not too long ago, he was at my crib doing tracks. The next thing
I hear is that he passed away. He had such an impact on me because he
was such a cool, humble person.
also done some work with Nate Dogg, how was that?
cool. I always wanted to work with him because he knows how to write hooks.
He can make that difference from a beat to a song. We recorded a track
in LA and it came out so dope that we recorded more. It was really great
to have worked with the best "hook-man" in the game.
also done a lot of international remixes. How did those come about?
because I was doing tracks for local artists. Somehow they got into the
hands of major labels. They would stay in touch with me and have me do
official remixes for international audiences. I can not even remember
what the first one was. I've done Brandy, Outkast, Angie Martinez, Lil'
Cease, Lil' Kim
those were all official remixes and were the main
versions in other countries. Nobody knew it was me.
is it when they don't take out the original producer's name in the remixed
It was frustrating.
I wanted to put my name in there for promotion, but they said they couldn't
do that. It was frustrating, but you have to pay your dues. I made some
money off it and had some hits. I was more about getting my name out there.
To this day, most people don't know I did those tracks.
feel that you get the respect you deserve overseas?
were great while I was in Germany but it was just time for me to move
on. I know everybody knows me over there. I had to start from scratch
over here in New York, and I look at that as a new challenge, so I can't
your perspective on music change going from Germany to New York?
much the same. In Europe, music is a little more poppy. The States' music
is very commercialized too. It's all about the radio and BET over here.
They have more underground artists in the States. It's basically the same.
feel that you listen to music differently than native-born Americans?
No. I was
down with Hip Hop since '82. I was always traveling to New York when I
was a kid. I had all the latest records. All the artists have come to
Germany as well. Redman said we were like a little New York. I don't think
it's too different. Maybe outside of Hip Hop, I have different musical
influences. It's not too different.
been the hardest part about being looked at as a new producer today?
to get your name out there. That's what it's about. Most people that have
heard my beats know what's going on. I do everything. I sample, I play
keys, and I engineer. All of this is to get my name out there and to connect
with the right people.
is it to have that versatility in today's game?
If you can
do it, it's real good. Some can just sample, and that's good. But if people
come to you and ask you do a sample-free beat for Brandy
just use a sample for Brandy because you have to find the right harmony.
I would find the right harmony and play it exactly how I would want to
hear it myself. That's a blessing.
you build the beat around an acapella?
thing I do is build the beat in my head. I ask myself what kind of direction
it should go. I add the drums that I want to hear. Then I add the keys
and maybe a sample. Wherever it takes me, that's where it takes me.
feel that producers' lack of musical knowledge is hurting the Hip Hop
Yeah. I meet
a lot of people like that. Sometimes, it doesn't matter. If you have a
good sample and know how to flip it and add drums, then it's ok. If it's
dope, it's dope. But if you want to play music without sampling, that's
good too. I hate when I hear the wrong chords and keys. I really appreciate
hearing beats by someone that knows what they're doing. But even with
Wu-Tang, that was so lo-fi but it was so dope. It all varies.
your favorite beats to make?
I might do a different beat every two hours. I might do a sample with
some strings, and at night I might do a sample-free club beat that's crazy
and totally left-field. I'm doing everything. My favorite tracks to make
are the dirty, grimy Hip Hop shit.
would you say your style has grown from '84 to '06?
Aw man! My
first beat sounded like "Rock Box." I still have a lot of songs
with rock samples. I know the whole package now. I know how to pick the
right kick drum and what it should sound like. Some should have that knock
and some should sound muffled. The knowledge is what's changed the most.
do you use today?
I have all
the classic stuff like the MPC and SP-12. I also have a laptop with Logic
and Pro Tools. I'm traveling a lot, so that's convenient.
the drawbacks to using computers to make beats?
actually any. It's convenient. You can go wherever you want, take your
laptop with you, and just make beats.. It's really more about what you
prefer. You can do the beat and record. You can make it sound good, clean
I also know people that are so quick with the MPC. It doesn't
your influences that got you started producing?
When I first
started, I was sampling, so I would look to Marley Marl, Pete Rock, and
Primo. Marley Marl was really the first one that showed me that this sampling
shit is serious.
your goals for the new year?
To get out
there and work with some good cats. I really just want people to hear
my stuff and know what I can do. When I listen to big albums, it's disappointing.
I ask myself, "Why did he choose this beat?" I'm thinking, "This
album could have been so much better if this person would have chosen
better beats." I just want to get out there and show people what
I can do.
you working on right now?
beats, I have another remix for a big R&B artist and some new tracks
for artists that you'll be hearing soon. I have to make some money and
survive too. I'm just trying to make some beats that will blow people
you think about the production game today and the beats artists are choosing?
to me because that's not how it used to be. Older albums were really the
shit. The whole package was just so dope. Nowadays, it's more like compilations.
I don't get it sometimes. They'll pay $80,000 for a beat and it sounds
like someone shit out the beat in 10 minutes. It has no feeling and it
has no vibe. It sounds like they just did it for the money. It sounds
like the labels just want to copy each other because it's on the radio.
That doesn't mean it's a good record to me. There's a lack of quality
been working with a lot of new artists, who's your favorite to work with?
I love Joell
Ortiz. He's such an incredible MC. St. Laz is dope, so is Tom Gist. There
are a lot of cats that are really hungry. Everything I'm hearing from
Joell Ortiz shows that he's an MC and he can definitely rap.
been around Hip Hop for so long, so you must have a pretty good idea of
what to look for when you scout artists to work with.
Yeah. I look
for skills and the ability to write hooks. Sometimes you have a beat and
someone just rapped on it. Some people have the ability to write a song
to it and know how to flow on it. Jay-Z says that his voice is like an
instrument. That's very important to me. Some rappers sound dope over
a beat that another rapper won't sound dope over because they don't know
how to flow over it.
do you have for kids that want to get into the production game?
and do whatever you want to do. Don't have any barriers in your head and
feel like you have to make certain songs. Do what you feel and be creative,
and bring new shit to the game. Keep producing. If you have one wack beat,
make some more. Look at it as a job and do what you can.
you want to say to everyone out there?
I want to
say "good lookin'" and keep supporting this website because
they're supporting a lot of artists that are on their grind. Keep doing
your thing. Peace to everybody.
Simon Vegas at email@example.com