Temperament plays a basic role in the process of creating. Music engineer T-Bo explained to us that the way the world looks on any particular day is a strong indicator of what will influence his music. A single moment is enough to catapult him into creative direction; "a really inspiring time for me is the time that it is outside right now: dusk going into evening." Amongst other things, he talked about the amount of time necessary to be proficient at anything: the 10,000 hour rule. At this point in his life, he has measured at around 1,000 hours in the field of music engineering.
What is it that drew you to do the behind-the-scene task of making music, rather than being on the spot?
Probably because I can’t sing or rap. I’m more of a musician. I played in orchestra when I was a kid and all throughout high school, and I came to (Central Michigan University) to play the bassoon. I’ve always been part of a group, and never been by myself on stage. I’ve always wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes. I like to produce my own music and that drew me into wanting to become an engineer. As an engineer I feel like you’re the person on the spot in the studio, but it’s up to the artist to be on the spot for the people they’re entertaining. I’m on the spot when I’m in (the studio), but it’s up to Tae to perform and that’s cool. That’s all him.
On the daily, what type of things inspire you to evoke variation of music from within you? How does what you see in the world translate over to sound?
Weather. Weather is huge for me. Weather and the time of day, I love when it rains. That’s when I feel most creative. When I wake up and I see rain, I’m like, “Dang, today is gonna be a good day.” I’m really excited when it rains. And a really inspiring time for me is the time that it is outside right now: dusk going into evening. The colors are super vibrant. You can see we have the blue light in here; colors really inspire me too. It’s always weird to me when we come in the studio at noon and leave, and it’s bright as fuck because we’re so used to leaving between 3 or 4 a.m. There’s just something about being here when it’s dark with just the blue light. I think it kind of just lets our ideas form in a weird way. It leaves our head without having to say anything. Tae and I will be working on a song and we can hear something, and we look at each other like, “Hey, we should try that.” A lot of stuff in Found Myself was Tae saying, “Just add a little reverb on this breath,” and you might not hear it, but if you listen to it maybe ten times you’ll hear the difference between one breath and the other breath. For us that makes the biggest difference. With the song Hate Me Now, I don’t think people will ever realize how long it took us to finish that song. There was one night where we came in here and we had been recording the song for a super long time and we finally got this one good take and on the way out I was like, “Did you notice the weather?” Every day that we went into (the studio) it was cloudy and the one day we went in the stars were out there were no clouds; it was just a clear mind. Stuff like that is weird but it inspires me.
About how much work have you put into being in the studio? How much work do you think it takes in being proficient at using the engineering board?
The first part is putting in hours. During freshman year, Tae and I were in the basement of Herrig (residence hall) and that was when I thought I knew a lot of shit. Then I came to (the studio) and realized I didn’t know shit; didn’t know anything. Sophomore year is when we started working on the mixtape New Beginnings in August before school even started and we were in (the studio) every day from about 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. That year for Tae and I as an artist and an engineer was the most pivotal things that we could have done for our relationship and careers. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that to master something you have to put in over 10,000 hours of work. People like The Beatles have put in over 10,000 hours of work and look at what they did. They’re just genius. It’s interesting you asked how many hours I put in. I just took a class where they asked me to log in my hours. I’m at 168 and I probably didn’t count 40 of them. This semester alone I probably put in 200 hours, last semester was about 200 hours, year before that probably 300 each semester. All together that’s about 1,000 hours. I’m about a tenth of the way there, but that’s for engineering.
I think to be good at anything you need to have those 10,000 hours to be a master, but to get accustomed to the sound board you need about 20 hours. But to really be able to hear and analyze a sound, listen to a song and hear what’s wrong with it and what needs to be improved, takes probably a couple hundred hours. That’s probably the hardest part about being a sound engineer, and I’m only 1,000 hours in. There are people who have done this for 10,000 hours and they have ears worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How do you feel about people having the accessibility to make beats from their laptops? Literally anyone can do it. Do you think it helps at all like providing some type of experience when it comes to working on the sound board or does it take away from the experience?
The accessibility of being able to make music makes it easier for people to get accustomed to some of the stuff, but sometimes the fact that it is so accessible, like automatically having Garage Band (with your laptop) or you can buy Fruity Loops, it’s so easy to make a song that sometimes it’s over saturated. It almost takes out some of the artistry of when you find something really good. It’s hard to find something really good. It’s so easy now to just be able to add in a kick and a snare, to have a synth right at your hands. I know Tae digs through hundreds of songs when looking for a beat but he’ll come to me and ask me to do a track with a certain vibe and I’ll have to try to do that. I feel like it’s the artist that helps push the beat. There’s a marriage between the artist and the beat that makes the song really special. Drake wouldn’t sound good on a Hit Boy beat— Hit Boy is really bouncy like when he did Niggas in Paris for Jay-z and Kayne, just like how Future wouldn’t sound as good on something that wasn’t produced by Metro. All these producers have their own name and artist that they work really well with. But ultimately, anyone can be a producer. If you want to go on your computer and fuck around with Garage Band and see what happens, who knows— you find the right person who likes your stuff and there you go: you’re a producer. It doesn’t take anything special… well, I wouldn’t say it doesn’t take anything special, but when you break through, you know you have something special. Once you break through all those other people who are doing what you’re doing, that means you have something special, that you know you can do something that these other people cant. What’s hard about that is I think you know that before it happens. I think that’s why Tae and I work well together, because we both feel that way, before shit has really happened yet. We’re patiently waiting but working really hard.
How would you describe the concept of art?
To me it means expression. Art is beautiful because you can express yourself in any way. What’s really crazy is there’s so much art in the world. For example, Metro Boomin’s music expresses him and his feelings. Pablo Picasso— that’s how he felt through painting. When I produce, that’s how I feel in a certain time. If I’m making a song while it’s raining, it’ll sound different from if it was just dark outside. It’s the same with code— we color code our tracks, and we have blue light in here for a reason. Art is life. The stuff that the universe does is artistic. Art is just beautiful and expressive.