The 249th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Pappa Sierra.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
– I am currently 33 years of age and live just minutes from Detroit, Michigan. I have been involved in music for the majority of my life, but I started producing and Djing electronic music in 1999 or so.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
– It’s hard to narrow down my musical roots into a single genre, as I have been influenced by all different kinds of music, but if I were to base it on some of my earliest memories, it would have to be classical music. As a child, classical music just spoke to me, especially the darker themed stuff. With electronic music, it would have to be Rockit by Herbie Hancock and definitely Tangerine Dream’s score of Risky Business, which I love to this day. I had a piano at my house for the majority of my life, and my father bought me a keyboard when I was 18, but I didn’t start getting into writing electronic music until I purchased my first DAW, which helped open up a whole new world to me.
There are many songs and albums that have inspired me to do what I am doing now. One of the most influential mix albums for me at the time was Armin Van Buuren’s Basic Instinct, although I did enjoy Boundaries of Imagination as well. As far as tracks go, Wavy Gravy by Sasha was, and still is one of favourite songs out there.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
– When I started producing music, things were quite different and many of the things that I take for granted were essentially more of a pain in the ass to accomplish back then. Although it was a big learning curve diving into the DAW world, things fell into place pretty quickly.
I spent the first 12 years of my producing just fucking around and getting used to what everything does to the sounds. I would start with a basic tone style patch, and turn every knob independently, until I understood their functions. It wasn’t until I enrolled at Full Sail University’s music production program that I gained the credentials to supplement my trial and error education. I now have my bachelor’s in music production.
As far as receiving advice, I remember one thing very clearly. I was at a Gabriel & Dresden show in the early 2000’s and I handed them a demo that I put together just days before. They asked me if my music was “badass” and I replied with something like “it’s pretty cool stuff”. I remember them telling me “If someone asks you if your music is good, you say it’s badass. Now lets try that again.” So, I replied… “It’s BADASS!”
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
– The most difficult part of the production process for me always seems to be the drums, while the easiest things seem to be bass lines and melodies. I’m far from being any sort of drummer, so putting together a tight drum groove can be quite the laborious project for me.
When I hit a creative block, I usually walk away from my work area and play a video game or something. Games, movies, nature and many other things help inspire my musical creativity, so I generally will try to do something low stress that will inspire that creativity I may be lacking at the time. Oddly enough, deadlines almost always seem to keep me focused on completing a project, which can help me from being victim of a creative block, as I can sometimes beat a song to death over time without one.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
– Well, I usually wake-n-bake and then head out to work, play some Fifa on PS4 when I get home, and maybe write some music afterwards. My days are sometimes too normal.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
– As cliché as it sounds, the truth is that I listen to everything. Some of my favorite artists (outside of electronic music) include Faith No More, Carcass, and even Rick Ross or Lionel Richie or some shit like that. Every single piece of music that I have listened to has had an influence on me, even if it was something that reminded me of what I don’t want to do with my music.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
– The first cassette I ever bought was probably Alice In Chains Dirt or Stone Temple Pilots Core. I was really into anything that I considered to be hardcore or not weak haha. Shut up… Core was awesome. The last CD that I purchased would either have to be Ghost In The Machine by The Police, which is a hell of an album, or The Fine Art of Murder by Malevolent Creation. I buy mostly electronically nowadays.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
– I used to be the singer for a “badass” death metal band in my early twenties. We actually had an indie label record and did some touring around the US… nothing major but a great time pro bono haha.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
– There are so many artists from the underground scene that deserve so much more credit than what they get. Exoplanet, Hells Kitchen, Ewan Rill, and many others in the scene are just killer. However, this is the world we live in, people like that don’t thrive in a world with people like Riff Raff and other enigma.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
– Lately, Luis Junior has been a big inspiration to me, and his drum elements are just awesome. Makson, who recently just released a killer LP on Himmlisch Records, is another producer that has consistently inspired me throughout the years.
My inspiration for music comes from all sorts of things though. A lot of times it’s just personal experiences that get me in a mood (whatever mood it is), which do not necessarily have anything to do with music.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
– Screw conventional methods… Don’t try to mimic what is going on in the scene, yet don’t be afraid to adapt some of what you may hear as well. Write or DJ what speaks to you and have faith in your taste of music. Oh, and experiment… always experiment!
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
– Shit… I can’t decide. Maybe Crisp by Artificial Dreamer. I always loved that song and it has a very powerful sound that gets me going.
Segment collected by Suffused.