A couple weeks back, LA-based producer Titus and the Raindrops joined our monthly user chat (join us on April 1st, no joke!) and we started emailing shortly after. I really liked the diversity of Titus’ productions and felt like he had a lot of interesting things to say so I asked him if he’d be up to answer a couple if my questions.
Hey Titus, we first “met” during our user chat earlier this month. Tell us a bit about you, who is Titus and the Raindrops, what is that you do and where are you headed?
Currently, Titus and the Raindrops is just me (but I am always looking for raindrops!). My day job is in the computer industry and the SoundCloud software and platform is fascinating to me from that perspective, and why I decided to join the chat. It is such a rich environment that I find myself constantly thinking of new ways to extend it. Forgive me if I am overenthusiastic in this regard. It’s just the programmer in me…
Titus and the Raindrops is my alter ego, the outlet for my musical creative energy. I honestly have no idea where Titus is headed. I think it would be great if someday one of my songs ended up being used in a movie, video, or in a game. I think it would be really exciting to work on a project like that.
Looking at your profile, you produce a in a variety of genres. As a producing artist, what’s a main driver during the production process and what influences you most?
I am heavily influenced by instrumental hip hop music and beats although my stuff rarely ends up sounding like that. I like jazz, chill, downtempo, and lounge music. I also enjoy dub, house, and electro… I am nostalgic by nature and tend to gravitate towards sounds or music that I heard growing up, like ‘60s horns, ‘70s soul, or ‘80s computer/game music. If your music has something like that going on, it gets my attention right away.
Lately I’ve been trying to focus more on melody. I think people respond more emotionally to a song if it has traditional tension and release melody/harmony passages, even if they’re used unconventionally. Composing these parts with beat-based or sample/loop-based music, or with genres that typically don’t focus too much on melody and harmony, is the challenge. The process involves a lot of experimentation, a lot of repetition, a lot of noise and, because I work with studio monitors and not headphones, it tends to drive everyone else around here completely crazy.
In the end, I am happiest with my work when I feel I have taken something somewhat predictable and added my own particular unexpected touch. And hopefully, in the process of creating these tracks, I am slowly starting to develop my own “sound”, if you will; something that’s recognizable.
A good example of this is my latest track They Called Her One Eye [David's edit: my favorite track, love the brass section] – I took a simple dubstep wobble that I hoped would be initially recognizable and engaging enough to listen to, and then I changed things up by using 3/4 “waltz” time and string/brass melodic lines to give it an emotional hook. I hope it was successful. It is certainly unusual…
Another example is If You Try. I wanted to do a straight-up sampled/remix of a song because I had never done one before. I picked a killer recording of “Double Trouble” by Otis Rush from the late 1950s. But once I started slicing it up and really listening to each part of that song, I couldn’t stop myself from doing my own thing. I tried to emphasize the feelings of sadness and despair with the horn/string passages and by changing the standard blues progression of the original song.
Purple Erkle was supposed to be a jazz/chill tune but somehow the whole composition got derailed and I found myself composing this wobbly Middle-Eastern thing. Maybe it should have been two songs, but I think the way the passages are knit together sort of typifies what I like to hear and, consequently, what my music is starting to sound like.
What’s your setup? Favorite gear? Weirdest geekery?
I use Logic Studio 9 on a quad-core Mac Pro with 17GB of RAM, and with a Novation 61SL MKii midi controller keyboard. I have a variety of synths and plugins from companies like Arturia, reFX, Rob Papen, GForce, and Native Instruments. I also recently added a few sampler instruments from EastWest/QuantumLeap, and Chris Hein Horns.
The plug in I use the most, by far, is Native Instruments’ Massive. That thing is endlessly interesting to me and infinitely tweakable. I’m always able to find something satisfying or inspiring in that synth. It’s on almost everything I have released. After that, it would probably be the string and horn libraries.
The weirdest gear I own has not yet made it into any Titus recordings. I have a collection of old boutique analog pedal effects that are capable of creating some really strange noises. I hope to use them soon.
What are the top three things you use most on SoundCloud and why/what do you like about it in particular?
- Posting tracks. I post all of my new music on SoundCloud first. It’s the best tool I have found for introducing new material, getting it heard, getting feedback, and you can do all of that right inside the SoundCloud itself. Once you’re there, it’s easy to link people to your music and/or embed players on other sites in order to get the music out there.
- Listening to music. I have spent countless hours listening to music on SoundCloud… it’s simply the richest, most varied, and most interesting listening experience I know of. Some of my very favorite songs come not from professional or commercial musicians but from amateur artists on SoundCloud. To me, that’s where the energy is today… SoundCloud brings us the garage sounds of the 21st century. People making music on their own, doing what comes naturally and instinctively, sometimes with little training or commercial influence… just talent and desire. And it’s free too!
- Community. I have met so many interesting people on SoundCloud! It’s my source of support, encouragement, and feedback, and it’s where I go to learn about music, to learn about what artists are doing and how they’re doing it. It’s indispensable to me now.
Your profile says that you decided to give away your tracks in high quality. What made you decide to go along with this and what’s the reasoning behind your decision?
Initially I had the fantasy of the “make music, sell music, get rich quick” thing, but I eventually realized that what would really make me feel honored, what would really make me happy, is to hear my track on your radio/computer/iPod, period. I don’t really care how it gets there as long as you like it. That makes my day as an artist.
I’m not a rock star. I’m not going to be on the Billboard charts. It won’t make me look more professional to extract $5 from people simply because they want to listen to my music. So I don’t.
I do tag my songs with my copyright and if someday someone wants to use the music for a commercial project, well maybe that’s where a price tag might make some sense. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
In the meantime, it’s free for your personal use. If you downloaded something of mine and you like it… let me know! If you use my music in a mix or a mashup or you remix it, send me a link so I can listen too. If you’re really a fan, share the love, spread the word, and send me along to someone else.
Has SoundCloud helped you in any way to grow as an artist (e.g.: exposure, collaboration, network, valuable feedback, etc.)?
SoundCloud has definitely provided exposure I would not have had elsewhere (like this profile piece!). That exposure, feedback, and recognition inspires and encourages me to make more music, and to improve. I’m still looking for, and hoping to find, collaborators on SoundCloud, especially artists producing with Logic.
Go all Twitter on us: what’s your one advice to artists or what would be a good mantra to live by? 140 chars tops.
Never get discouraged. You may not be better than the next guy, but you can be different. Guts and authenticity go a long way. + feel free to make up questions if you feel like I’m missing anything we should know.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these Q’s, Titus! All the best for the future and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy your time on SoundCloud. Follow Titus on Twitter.
By the way, Titus was so kind to allow us to use his track Captain Crouton should be win “Digital Artist Tool of the Year” at the Music Week Awards. Nice!