The Scene DMV got a chance to chat with local “instrumental artist” Terracotta Blue. Read in the interview below.
What is your name and where are you from?
I go by the name Terracotta Blue. Born in D.C., and raised in Montgomery County, MD.
When did you start making music?
I’ve been making music in some capacity since the mid-80s. I’ve gone from recording songs from my Radio Shack keyboard to cassette, to pause-mixing, to four-track recording, to digital. I started getting a lot more serious about it after copping my MPC2000XL in 2000.
A lot of artist from this area take their sound influence from Go-Go, but your sound seems to not come from that canon. Why is that?
Being from the area, I definitely appreciate the sound and culture of go-go. But it was hip-hop that grabbed me from an early age and never let go. So my whole sound is derived from a hip-hop aesthetic.
Who are your influences? Do you have any local influences?
Way too many to name, but my top influences are Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, RZA, Timbaland, DJ Quik, and DJ Shadow. I’ve spent the better part of two decades studying these guys.
Can you explain your sound?
I’m always going for that feeling of escapism, that otherness; I call it “bliss haven”. It’s just a type of music you can vibe out to. In technical terms, the backbone of my production is undeniably hip-hop. I’m also using elements of chillwave, downtempo, EDM…it’s all electronic music at the end of the day.
Are you just a producer? Would you ever see yourself rapping/singing?
I would consider myself an instrumental artist. You will almost certainly not hear me rap or sing! I used to mess around with the lyrics many years ago, but I didn’t dedicate nearly as much time and energy into it as I did with the beats. And I respect the craft of emceeing way too much to come halfway with it.
What does the word ‘producer’ mean to you? And do you see yourself fitting into that definition?
In urban music, the person who does the beat is typically credited as the “producer,” and I’m comfortable with that title; “beatmaker” would fit in that context as well. But the traditional definition of a “producer” is the person who orchestrates the making of a record. That could entail everything from getting the musicians together to coaching the rapper/singer on their performance to ensuring the easy flow of ideas in the studio. I’ve definitely played the traditional role of a record producer in the past and would love to work with artists in that capacity if the opportunity arises.
What artist have you worked with?
As “Terracotta Blue”, I’ve worked with emcee Born I Music. I’m currently working on some tracks with singer Emily Ehrens of the Baltimore-based group White Life. I honestly haven’t reached out to too many people to collab with though. That may change soon!
What is like being a producer in this area?
I really have no idea what it’s like now because I stopped focusing a long time ago on making a name for myself locally and started thinking internationally. The advent of cheap/free beatmaking software, high-speed internet, and PayPal for independent artists and producers brought with it the ability to collab or sell your music with anyone anywhere. I know not everybody feels the same way, but I would advise against up-and-coming artists and producers focusing too greatly on “getting on” in D.C. Think global!
Does the DC area have a sound? Do you see yourself fitting into that sound?
When it comes to hip-hop, I’m not sure if any area has a particular sound anymore. When D.C. was finally starting to come up a few years ago on the hip-hop map, quite a few artists and producers were using elements of the hometown sound—go-go. Nowadays, artists from D.C., New York, or L.A. are all rocking over beats that sound straight out of Atlanta. And that’s not a slight to Atlanta or the South in any way—they stayed true to their sound and the industry came to them. But there’s little variation anymore. I remember a time—dare I say, a better time!—when different regions had their own sound and weren’t trying to mimic anyone else. Biting used to be the ultimate no-no in hip-hop—those days are long gone!
What are you trying to say/statement trying to make with the music that you make?
I’m not trying to make any statements really—I just try to paint pictures with sound with the hope that people can appreciate the artistry.
What instruments do you use to create your music?
Right now I primarily use FL Studio. Occasionally I’ll mess around with Reason. Just those programs, a bunch of VSTs, and sample sources (vinyl, CDs, mp3s).
What is your process of creating music?
I used to start every track out with drums. But in recent years I’ve been focusing on finding the right sample to flip or loop, creating a catchy melody, and building around that. The skeleton of the beat usually comes pretty quick; it’s the mixing that can take forever.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Living off my music!
Check out Terracotta Blue new singles Andromeda Girl / Angel Eyes which is available for streaming on SoundCloud and for purchase on iTunes and Amazon!