Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux
Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux

WOOF is an exciting new project from Different Fur Studio owner and engineer Patrick Brown, and Robert Pera, whoreleased their debut LP The Thrill of it All on Bandcamp’s blog last week. The album is a collection of outstanding, eclectic beats matched up with a large group of guest vocalists from hip-hop (and other genres) located in the Bay Area and beyond. In short, the beats are all unique and every guest appearance kills, making this one of my favorite releases in 2013. I chatted with Brown and Pera via email about the project, and here’s what they had to say:

The Bay Bridged: Did the two of you start working together with the intention of making an album?

Patrick Brown: We started out actually working on Rob’s solo music, and then started talking about how I had gotten into music in 1998 when I moved to SF, doing 4 track cassette stuff with a turntable Yamaha qy70 sequencer and headphones as a mic… eventually progressing to reason and protools, but I stopped making beats when I started school to engineer in 2002. Basically I admitted that since I was producing bands more recently I wanted to get back into making something of my own and thought he’d be a good partner. Especially since I don’t actually play any instruments and I think he plays like 4 or something.

Robert Pera: When we were in the studio working on my own stuff we quickly realized we had a similar artistic vision and style.

TBB: Did it start as an instrumental project? When did you decide to bring in the guest vocalists, and how did you choose them?

PB: We talked about making songs ourselves and then quickly realized that we (or probably mostly me) weren’t ready yet to be the focus of the songs really, at that point we talked about getting features from people we really liked and wanted to collab with. Our goal is definitely to be more involved in writing hooks and parts more in the future though. Sidenote: Once we started weighing features it was really important to me to have some strong females on here and I’m glad we did

TBB: Can you walk me through your song creation process?

PB: Typically we each kind of start stuff on our own, lay down our own drums and chord changes and basic parts etc, and then meet up and either trade so the other can add to it or just both focus on completing one as much as possible. Once we have the stuff done in Ableton, we export tracks out to Protools and start having our engineer Sean Paulson set up a mix. then we go back and rework stuff with live instruments and efx and all that jazz and he processes things through all the analog gear etc…Generally though it’s nice for me to have Sean take the engineering seat so I can focus on the music, and he adds a lot to the sound as well.

RP: Often we’ll start with a really sample heavy beat with a simple structure of usually a couple of 16 bar sections. The structure gets fleshed out after we get more of an idea of what type of song we’re creating and what featured artists we’re making it for. Then, we’ll start adding live instruments and eventually drop the sample we’ve started with either all together or only until the sample isn’t noticeable and just there for texture.

TBB: Can you share an example of a sample you started with and the end result?

PB: Yeah, actually the first song we made for the record Black Roses started with me getting a new 12 track tape machine and running a sample of Haim‘s song Better Off straight off (old) Myspace to a track and distorting the hell out of it. Taking that back into Ableton chopping it up, then running it back to tape again with 808 toms on a second track and then printing back into Ableton with the tape running at half speed so everything was pitched down an octave and more distorted, then chopping it all back up and bring things back to original speed but with the new pitch. everything else came after that. So much went into it, that the song totally works without the sample, but it definitely drove the inspiration.

TBB: Did the two of you play all the live instruments?

PB: Rob is the actual musician, so even though we both write and lay down chords and all that I mainly do programming and sound sculpting type business. If you hear a solo I probably didn’t play it. lol. Rob plays sax, guitar, bass, keys… who knows what other tricks he’s got

RP: We played drums on a couple tracks too. “Young Blood” and and “Pretend” I think at least. You can’t really tell because they’re really heavily processed/saturated. I don’t think there are any live instrument samples. Most of the synth stuff is played by hand too – we tried to keep things as organic as possible. Pat and I even played trumpet on “My Block”. Neither of us know how to play but we squeaked out something that was close enough to being right notes and we auto tuned it until it sounded pretty decent.

TBB: Did you write songs with guest vocalists in mind?

PB: We did, but everyone had a choice of at least three or four instrumentals, and most of the ones we actually shaped specifically for people were not the ones they chose of course. I definitely had a long list of folks I was interested in working with and I think we got around half of them on the record. Which still was almost 20 artists I think.

TBB: What sort of input did the vocalists have?

PB: We really tried to make this a collaboration with the vocalists but without losing sense of ourselves as the producers. That meant that the vocalists had full reign over their own content, we didn’t give them any limitations on lyrics or topics. But when it came to the beats, once an artist chose what they wanted to record over and got their parts done there was very little involvement except for a note here or there… you know “turn my verse up a bit, or something like that”. Actually, the Nanosaur and Show You Suck track changed really drastically from what they heard while recording. So much so that I’m actually working on an extended version of it now with an extra verse from Show and hopefully a feature from a (tba) very legendary keyboardist. 😉

TBB: Did any vocalists’ performances cause you to revisit or rework their track?

PB: Yeah like I said above, that happened for sure. Usually this involved the arrangement itself changing but a couple times songs were totally reworked. White Roses actually started with Mistah FAB‘s hook “Can’t Stop my Hustle” but we weren’t sure how to work around that so it sat for a few months…I had been listening to Bauhaus “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” and was like OH SHIT! My buddy Koley (of A B & The Sea) was actually crashing at the studio and I was like “yo you wanna do this? I have this idea” and Koley wrote his parts without hearing any of our other songs or FAB’s hook, which was a trip because we had already made Black Roses and he inadvertently tied those two together. Anyway, when all that was done we sent the track to Shady Blaze and he came back with his parts super quick and we were just like HOW THE HELL DID THAT COME TOGETHER!?! it’s a weird track, but I’m happy with how it came out. On another note, the ALL CAPS track (for which we have a video that should ready next week) was really collaborative in the sense that the beat was there ready to go and A-1 laid down that hook and everyone came in on the same day to do their verses. I’m actually really proud of that one because I think it showcases 3 real talents

[RJ: locals A-1, Richie Cunning, and OhBlimey] that probably don’t get enough recognition. I think they all pushed each other to do their best because they all know how talented the others are.

You can purchase The Thrill of it All from Bandcamp, or stream it below.