James Gill & change-underground take a minute to catch up with the crazy schedule of one of electronic music’s brightest new stars Brian Cid, and find out how it feels to take one’s music to the next level.
For the past 6 months, New York based producer Brian Cid has been making serious moves. From his recent breakout EP on Guy J’s elite Lost & Found imprint, to his highly anticipated new work on the legendary microCastle, it has been a head turning end of 2014, and the new year only looks even brighter.
Brian! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today, and great to get a chance to catch up to you! Let’s start off by giving readers a sense of your background and how you came into the music world, can you tell us a bit about the events that brought you where you are today?
Thanks for having me and taking the time. I think it all makes sense if tell you that I’ve always been around music and computers since very young. I grew up thinking I would be a Computer Engineer while music remained my main hobby – but one day in college I realized that I could combine both my passions and make a living out of it. Computer + Music = Music production and Engineering. My dream was to be in the studio creating & helping others create. Turning ideas into reality while being behind the scenes in a room on dim lights and buttons, faders and knobs everywhere. Well here I am.
Your history in audio engineering is extensive, from recording to mixing, mastering, and everything in between. How has your studio background contributed to your modern sound and production style, and can you give us a little insight into some of the current project work outside of your own tracks that you’re working on?
My production style it’s based on my engineering skills. Turning sounds into something completely different by altering them, chopping, editing and adding effects. I use lots of EQ, filters, compression, to build rich layers. I also mix while I produce. It allows me to have a good idea of what the final product will sound like. I work very quick on the boards which helps me to not interrupt the creative flow – avoiding getting hung up on an idea. If I don’t get what I want in a few minutes I move on and continue to create. I feel like that’s the approach that has led me to create my own sound.
I am constantly working on lots of projects at the same time, aside from my own. I am a very active mixing and mastering engineer constantly working with labels and other artists to help them achieve their sound. I love it because it keeps my head fresh and exposes me to different music and influences. I recently finished mixing/mastering some cool underground Hip Hop projects with my long time friend and legend Hip Hop producer Ski Beatz. Also just mixed a single for Pharaoahe Monch and Talib Kweli, legendary NYC MCs. Mixed various pop projects for SONY, which I can’t disclose but real cool stuff. Launching new artists to the scene… Yea, it all changes from week to week keeping things exciting in the studio.
Your Myst/Redwood EP on Lost & Found was a major breakout record, and garnered not only widespread acclaim but also spent some serious time on the charts and in DJ playlists worldwide. Jukebox, your follow up on microCastle, is looking to be yet another grand slam! How did these two records come about, and what about them from a production standpoint really made them special and different for you?
If you check my early work you’ll notice that I started on a more techy and tribal tip, which I love, but at the same time I got to a point where I felt limited – so I started experimenting with more sounds by incorporating elements to my tracks that I normally wouldn’t. Well, Redwood and Myst came about while I was in this ‘experimenting’ stage. A very special stage that every artist goes through to reinvent themselves and mutate to something new and fresh. These 2 tracks mark the beginning of this new stage of my production life. I am grateful that Lost & Found was the label that believed in it. The EP on microCastle is also a very special one and I’m excited to share it with you.
Most people don’t know this, but you and I actually go way back! In fact, it was you who gave me my first start in the studio world, and as your assistant, I got to watch your own personal sound develop and change throughout the past two years. What do you attribute to your change in sound and style that has brought you into the modern underground club niche? What personal experiences led up to the current “Brian Cid” sound, and what about that sound do you think has now connected so poignantly with underground artists and fans?
I thank Brooklyn for this. Here the underground scene is very rich. I am lucky to be part of it and be able to embrace it. Every time I go out I take a little piece of the night with me to my studio. My goal is always to tell you the same story you know, but with my own accent, my own words and my own twists… I feel like that’s what makes my sound easy to digest yet different enough from the rest. Always thinking about creating something timeless rather than trendy. Something we can play 5 or 10 years from now and still be able to say it sounds fresh.
Your sound has garnered a lot of new fans, and every day on social media we can see more and more talk about Brian Cid. How does it feel as a breakout artist to have so much more recent attention? Has anything changed in your life because of your latest work? Have there been any negative sides to making a name in the international scene?
I don’t think there could be any negative about getting recognized and appreciated. I mean, that’s the dream of any producer out there. Getting messages from new fans from all over the world every day gives me a sense of security that tells me I’m on the right path. It fills me with energy and joy – it makes me want to create more. This is just the very beginning for me and I am humbled to be able to learn every day as all of you hold my hands through this journey.
The hectic nature of the music world is often daunting, and New York City is one of the most intense scenes you can make a name for yourself in. Are there any crazy stories you can share with us from your journey? What keeps you going every day especially in such a competitive environment like New York?
I always say that New York forces you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do. It’s the nature of the city. If you don’t move quick, someone will do it for you, at no cost. The city doesn’t wait for you. I love feeling that pressure. In a competitive environment like this you get all sorts of characters that do things that you would never imagine. Specially in the studio world where I’m exposed to so many artists that all make music for different reasons and have different goals in mind. I’ve dealt with top notch artists, cops, pimps, hippies, spoiled millionaires, gangsters, strippers ohhh boy… If i could only tell you…
You’ve been involved in a lot of different aspects of the music industry over the course of your career so far, from behind-the-scenes studio work to international gigging. What about the currently state of the music industry really gets you frustrated? On the the other hand, what about it has been beautiful and inspiring?
There are a lot of uneducated individuals in this business that make things very challenging at times but it’s all part of it. It happens in every industry. I don’t spend time thinking about it but since you asked…
Aside from that, this is a beautiful and inspiring scene that unites people all over the world and spreads joy and peace. It’s amazing to be able to connect so many souls in a one room just based on good music. It’s a high that’s hard to explain and it’s something that we all start getting addicted to. When I play a good party with tons of people I get a high that lasts a few days maybe even a week after the show, its amazing. I live for this. Creating sounds and touching people in such a positive way. Music is the one language everybody speaks and understands, and I am truly blessed to be able to be part of it.
What other artists are you currently digging? Any special tracks or albums that have inspired your own work lately? What about their sound represents quality in your mind, from both an artist as well as an engineer’s standpoint?
I am loving what artists like Fur Coat, Mind Against, Lake People, Adriatique, Alex Niggemann, NTFO are doing these days… these are all acts that have a great understanding of production and engineering. Not sure if they mix themselves but whatever the case is, it sounds quality to me. To me quality is defined by balance. Hitting the ear with the right frequencies at the right time. Because our ear in conjunction with our brain has a certain crave that needs to be fulfilled at different moments. When you fully understand this you are able to build a great track.
Your gig schedule has been one of the most active in New York, and beyond! Can you tell us a bit about what your live philosophy is like, what tools you use to achieve that, and what is unique about hearing you spin live?
I feel like the main reason why you want to come hear me spin live is because more than half of my set is composed by new body of unreleased material. You will not be able to find these sounds anywhere but my hard drive. This brings a unique experience to the dancefloor. I am also a very dynamic DJ. I am constantly mixing sounds, engaged with the crowd, dancing there with you, so you won’t miss a beat. When I play live my goal is to make people dance and give them memorable moments. I like to play memorable tracks. That’s it. Whatever it takes, or whatever I’m playing, no matter if it’s dark, melodic, techy, etc, needs to be groovy and danceable. I leave the non-danceable tracks that we all love for when you are home with your ipod.
What have been some of your favorite gigs in the past year, and do you have any new ones coming up you’re currently excited about?
Ohh wow, so many great parties this year. I played with Satoshi Tomiie at Output, Brooklyn, that was fun. Hot Since 82 at The Well, Brooklyn pretty epic. Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) with Claude Vonstroke and Green Velvet was also a big blast. I have a show coming up at Verboten, Brooklyn with Guy J and other cool members of the Lost & Found family. This should be really fun. We get such a beautiful crowd.
Time for some tech talk! As a studio engineer, you’ve had the chance to play with a lot of new toys, what are some of your current favorite software, plugins, and outboard gear? Additionally, are there are any older pieces of equipment you’ve always used and can’t live without?
Yes! Tech talk. I’m loving the Elektron Octatrack these days. Really cool and fun piece. So is the MFB-Tanzbar. I’m creating cool loops and then splicing them and editing them on Ableton which is my main DAW for production. Then Protools HD for mixing/mastering. Focusrite d2 + d3 is my fav plugin for compression but I’m not using any VSTs these days as everything is analog. As far as the pieces of gear I can’t live with… well the Moog Lil Phatty is a must, as well as my API 2500 Stereo Compressor, API 8200 Summing Mixer for a clean solid signal in. I have a few Vintage Neve Pre and EQs as well. I’m loving the Inward Connections Mix 690 Summing Mixer for a cool mix balance and for mastering I can’t live without the Cranesong STC-8 Stereo Discrete Class A Compressor Limiter… is something else!!!
What is your advice to upcoming and striving producers? Any big do’s and don’ts? Any trade secrets you can share with us?
Create non-stop, listen to all types of music, analyze what makes a piece of music special, learn from others, imitate and then personalize, go always with your gut feelings, practice, read, experience, dance to your music, believe in what you want to achieve, visualize the future, build a brand, surround yourself with creative people, develop a work ethic, show your music to people outside your circle, create your own sound and style.
Don’t follow a pattern, don’t let opinions influence your initial vision and creativity, don’t take comments personally, don’t be lazy, don’t get stuck in an idea trying to make it work, don’t burn your ears, don’t make music based on trends, don’t feel too comfortable with one style, don’t make music for the wrong reasons. The secret is none. Simply hard work pays off.
What’s next for Brian Cid: any other new releases currently in the pipeline? Do you have any other unannounced news you might be able to hint for us? What should we expect in 2015?
Ohh yes, I am dying to disclose my next release but I can’t just yet. Just know that it’s a remix of one of the biggest tracks of the year by one of the most respected Producers on one of my favorite labels… it doesn’t get better than that! Other than that I will be preparing lots of new music for next year. 2015 is going to be another great year full of cool releases and shows. Expect big things on this music adventure of mine!
Interview conducted by James Gill
Brian’s Jukebox EP is out now on microCastle, you can purchase the release: here