Exclusive: Arts the Beatdoctor’s newest song ‘With You’ moves
Arts the Beatdoctor has admittedly taken some time off the music world, but he’s recently come back with his newest single, ‘With You.’ The song marks a decidedly different turn from his usual sample-laden style by being an original composition, but ‘With You’ still manages to take Arts the Beatdoctor’s unique style and build on it, fulfilling the artist’s creative need to expand on his craft while still giving the listeners the ATB styled track they have been waiting a good couple of years for.
We chatted with the talented artist about his sampling style, give us advice and more!
Hi Arts the Beatdoctor, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! You’ve been in the game for a few solid years now. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions musicians face in this millennial generation?
Ah, I see we’re skipping the easy “when did you start making music and why did you pick this artist name” questions, good! I don’t know if I have enough years in the game to be completely correct on this one, but I feel like maybe it’s actually a time of less misconceptions. In the times before, where the only way to exist as a musician was through big labels, I think the line between musician and audience was a lot wider. It feels like now, the gap is more closed, leading to more understanding and less misconceptions all around. I mean, it’s always been this way in the underground, but now also bigger artists aren’t as removed from normal life as they were before, I think.
That being said, maybe the biggest still living misconception about music and musicians is the “lone genius” myth. Music fans like the story of a tortured and eccentric genius making the music that touches them the most, and musicians sometimes are eager to give them that story. But I think this comes with a few dangerous assumptions – for one that a musician needs to go through hardship and suffering to make anything worthwhile, with clear risks to that assumption. Also it doesn’t help in the discussion about intellectual copyright – if you assume a lone genius to be the only person responsible for invention (both musical as well as technical invention), you won’t be as likely to see the collaborative effort, as well as the derivative process (where every musician builds on what everyone else made before him). And that in turn can lead to stricter copyright laws, because lawmakers with these ideas ignore the importance of being able to build on what’s already there. And as a musician in general, and collaborative sample-user specifically, this sometimes worries me.
So, hardest question out of the way, what’s next?
You’re gearing up for your next single, ‘With You’, and it’s the first where you’ve stepped away from your sample-based style. On a technical level, did you face any difficulties? Did you walk away with any lessons learned at the end?
Yeah, it’s quite a big step from my earlier work that was completely based on samples from vinyl. But I actually made that step a little earlier, on my 2013 release Lazy Thunder. I got a bit fed up with the creative “loop” I was in. It felt like I had figured out how to make the music I make (sample-based instrumental Hip-Hop beats), so it got harder and harder to actually put the work in, it kind of lost my interest. At the same time, I’m a quite horrible guitar and keyboard player and an even worse songwriter, so to move to a way of working where I would write while playing instruments didn’t seem like the way to go.
While searching for what I DID want to do, I developed this new way of working, where I took sampling techniques I’ve used for a long time, but switched materials. So I would make my own recordings of musicians around me, of myself jamming on some synths, of the spaces I was in, and started working with that. Because the input was totally different from the funk and jazz records I used to sample, but had the same “conversion” to it (the person making the sound had no idea of what musical context they would end up in, like when sampling from records) I could still make something new out of it. That technique first found its way onto Lazy Thunder, and I think With You is the logical next step there, with the technique being a bit more known to me now. Also I really wanted to make some rougher, harder beats around the time of Lazy Thunder, and now that I’ve got that out of my system, I think With You sounds more “Arts The Beatdoctor” while still being made without record samples.
Do you think you will return to sampling old records for your future work? And just for fun, what are some of your favorite records to sample?
Never say never! I do play with that idea sometimes. And I have a hard drive full of sampled records, and an Ikea case full of many more. I definitely haven’t said goodbye to it, but I’d see it either take a natural place in my new way of making music, or the exact opposite where I do a one-off EP with only sampled beats again maybe. No concrete plans in that direction yet.
My closet is full of records on the CTI and ECM label, together with the most experimental stuff I could find in the jazz and funk corners. Plus a pretty funky collection of Dutch records – there was a really good collective active in the Netherlands in the 70’s, making a lot of really sweet and sample-ready jazz stuff.
You’re releasing the single via Heroic Recordings. What drew you to the record label?
Well, I talked to Budi of Heroic, and one of their artists, San Holo a while back, exchanging some music and performance experiences. That’s how I first learned about Heroic. That must have been around 2014, which is around the time when my music productivity took a big dive because of my newly started career in video-making. The Binkbeats video series Beats Unraveled that I directed went unexpectedly big, so I started building on that, and now I’m more of a video-maker than a musician actually.
This year Heroic contacted me to see if I was interested to release with them, and I still had this idea in my head of “I’m a musician, who doesn’t have time to make music, but will get back to it again someday”. So it seemed like the perfect timing to slowly get back into producing and performing again. Without the pressures of writers block and financial dependence on my music output. And it seemed to be the perfect time for Heroic too, now when they are moving towards a bit more musicality and not just club-oriented music.
You’ve honed your style to craft together an incredibly jazzy, rooted in old school hip hop with today’s electronic edge dancing around the wavelengths. Do you have any words of advice for those looking to get to where you’re at?
Oh god, I’m pretty terrible at advice, haha. Especially career advice. I think I’ve missed a lot of chances and hypes in my career, because of my unwillingness to make a lot of records, to be more productive – I can work on something for years until I’m ready to release it, and that way you miss all kinds of buzz and momentum. So if you want to be big, don’t do that. But for me it’s the only way, being a bigger artist by itself doesn’t really mean much to me. The biggest thing I took away from the few bits of success I did have was: If I’m not completely behind what I’m doing, any success coming from it doesn’t really give me anything. Quite the opposite, working on it becomes a light form of torture.
And it also works the other way around: With the music I released, that I worked months and years on to make it exactly what I wanted it to be – if only a small group of people react to that, it’s already amazing to me. There’s people who have reached out to me to let me know that one of my songs meant something to them, and that’s amazing, exactly because it means something to me as well.
So there you have it, some terrible advice if you want to be successful, haha.
What does music mean to you?
That’s hard to answer. It means and has meant a whole lot of things to me. The first thing to show me I have a talent. The thing that took me to places in the world I wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise. The thing that can most easily touch me emotionally. But it has also felt like an obligation. Something that I needed to do, if I wanted or not. Being away from it for a while, being able to let it be for the last two years, gave me some breathing room. I’m starting to feel the positive connotations again, but it took some time away to get there again. I hope this doesn’t come off as being too negative, I’m a happy dude both mentally and to be around, so don’t picture me as a depressed artist on the edge, but finding a place to put music in my life is something that I work on constantly.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2016?
First off, the release of With You on May 7th. Then there’s a live performance on July 15th at a Dutch festival called Welcome To The Village. The rest is still very much open, and I think it will depend on the reactions to the single. Maybe I’ll do some more shows, get working on some new music. There’s not much set in stone yet, which I like.
On the video side of things, I’m working with legendary Dutch turntablist Kypski on his video series Kypski Live, we just released video number one with more to come. I’m also working on some new videos with Binkbeats that I can’t tell too much about at the moment. And there’s some more music-related videos coming up, that’s what I like to do most, and where I’m getting known for as well. If interested, my work can be found here.