Our latest exclusive interview is with Toronto based producer Atwell who just released his album “Above the Clouds”. Along with picking Atwell’s brain about the album, we found out about the software/hardware he uses to produce, his goals for the remainder of 2019, what he considers to be his biggest musical accomplishment thus far, and much more.
After reading our Q&A with Atwell, listen to the “Above the Clouds” album, stream it on your preferred streaming service and connect with him on his website and social media.
Congratulations on the completion and release of your new album "Above the Clouds". How would you say that this project is different than your past releases from a production standpoint?
Over the years I have experimented with all kinds of different production styles. In the 2000s it was all about a sample and a drum machine. You could clearly hear the Boom Bap influence in my earlier works.
A few years ago, I put out a rock influenced album that had lots of guitars and live drums that included an acoustic ballad I wrote.
This project is different from past releases from a production standpoint in the sense that I completely zeroed in on a current, wavey, infectious & hard-hitting sound on every track from start to finish. This one was produced with the "I am Hip Hop Now" mindset. I love Hip Hop and Trap and I love 808s and synths. This album speaks that in volumes.
Speaking of production, what software/hardware do you use to create beats?
Ableton Live. I produce, record, mix and master in Ableton. I love the workflow and I love the sound. I own a few hardware synths like the Moog Sub37 and the Korg Volca Bass and Korg Volca Keys. If you listen carefully and you know the sound of these synthesizers, you can hear elements of them throughout the album.
What was your creative process for the development of the songs that ended up on the new album?
In almost every case, the creative process involved me, being in a room, somewhere in the world with one of the many rappers on the album, making a beat and writing lyrics from scratch. The process was simple, vibe out, smoke some, drink some, chat ideas and let it flow. I was in downtown Manhattan in an AirBnB with Gxnzo & Astin Clark when we cooked up “Bitch Bad”. It was 4AM when the hook came together. I started the beat a few hours earlier while the guys wrote their parts. I recorded their vocals on an SM7B via my UAD Apollo Twin. I brought the recordings home and mixed them on my station. Divo and I got together for an all nighter when we created “Loyalty”. It was produced and recorded in my home studio. I went to LA to track with ProThaMaddMann in his downtown studio and we vibed out all night while some homies were smoking backwoods on the couch (Real West Coast Vibe).
There were however a few tracks on the record that came about differently. “Gogo” with theTAYKEover was one that happened after he heard me play the instrumental. I had made it a few weeks earlier during one of my solo production sessions. I remember him saying to me "I don't care what you do with this beat, I NEED to be involved". he convinced me to send it to him and from there, everything else was a Go (Go).
With "Above the Clouds" now released, what are some of your goals musically for the remainder of 2019?
I am working on a few licencing deals in the background. I hope to place some of my songs in some commercials, movies, TV shows and video games. I am also looking at releasing another album by the end of the year. I hope to have some heavy hitters on this one.
As a producer, when do you know that an instrumental that you've been working on is complete?
I know it's complete when I stop thinking/criticizing it. Often times when I am working on a song, I find myself saying "I should take this out" or "Maybe it could use a little of this"... When I reach the point where those ideas/questions stop popping up, I know it is ready to go.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment as a producer thus far?
I signed a sync licensing deal with Coca Cola (SPRITE). There is a SPRITE commercial on TV with Lebron James. It's all about Tacos! It has been playing in both Canada and the US for some time. The instrumental that plays at the end of the commercial is mine. Huge accomplishment for me. The instrumental is from a song called "Best Friends" off of Astin Clark's album "Love & Self Loathing". I produced the entire album, go check it out (Listen HERE).