Backstage with Marlow Digs
Backstage with Marlow Digs
From YouTube channels to sampling Jazz, we catchup with Vlogger and Beatmaker Marlow Digs.
So, tell us who you are, where you’re from etc?
I go by the name of Marlow Digs, I am a Beatmaker from Portugal. I make 90’s Boom Bap style beats from samples.
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
It changes regularly, but at the moment I have been playing Dinner Party, Dillatronic and Easy Mo Bee.
Has Music always been a part of your life? Was Music a big part of your childhood? What did you listen to back then?
I always loved music but I think music really came into my life when I was around 12 with Nirvana and the Grunge scene at the time. Nirvana was the gateway drug for me getting into music – that’s what made me say I want this, I wanna do this.
So, I got a guitar and started making music with friends. At the time I was listening to Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Medicine, Dinosaur Jr, SoundGarden… the list goes on, really so many bands at that time.
What inspires you musically?
Just sampling & finding samples. It’s the hunt for a special sound. I love digging for Jazz chords, Jazz horns and all things Jazz. Films also inspire me a lot, I love playing films and sampling them. The new Jazz scene is also a big inspiration – I love how J Dilla inspired so many Jazz artists and how the new wave of Jazz sounds because of him.
What makes a good sample? What do you listen for when selecting your samples to flip?
I think the question is, what makes a bad sample. A good sample can be anything, it’s just the way you insert it in the loop and with what other samples. I mostly look for samples that are alone in the mix, I don’t like samples with drums – unless it’s drums on their own! I love sampling jazz because of that jazz dissonance and modal freedom. But really, samples are everywhere and anything can become part of your music, it’s just a matter of taste and identity.
…anything can become part of your music,
it’s just a matter of taste and identity…
It looks like you have a great symbiotic relationship between your YouTube Channel and beat-making / your own production, was this planned or did it evolve organically?
It evolved. I didn’t plan a channel, it just picked up from a random tutorial video I made as an explanation on MPC tips and tricks. The beat making was something that happened because the viewers seemed interested in my music – so I built on that. I was also tired of doing tutorials so I decided to inspire people through my beat making process.To this day, I am still discovering new things to do with the channel. I don’t know what the future will bring but I am always thinking of new possibilities to grow the channel.
You are obviously a sampling master, do you play any other instruments? Are any techniques transferrable?
I played the guitar when I was young but I wasn’t good at it, and now I have nearly forgotten everything. I am now learning to play the piano. I wanna be able to record myself and sample my music recordings. Playing an instrument gives you an extra tool and freedom within your music making, but I really love sampling, sampling is a sound of its own – just like an instrument. Sampling techniques are pretty unique, sampling is static.
Synth music is malleable, it feels that it’s always changing and never the same, every hit on the keys seems different. I feel challenged by that because I can’t control it. It’s a different world and I want to master it. I want to sample it and work with the best of both worlds.
You can hear the Boom Bap influence in your production, what has cemented you to this genre?
Miles Davis’ Doo Bop and all the NY Jazz Hip Hop scene of the 90’s. During my time playing in bands I got to listen to new types of rock and fusion-genres that were happening at the time. The 90’s were a big melting pot of rock and hip hop. I started skating with friends and with that came Hip Hop mixed with rock in albums like Judgment Night and bands like Downset and RATM. Skate videos really gave me the love for what I do now, that’s how I got introduced to a lot of NY Hip Hop. That’s when I heard Miles Davis Mystery and fell in love with the sound of Jazz and Hip Hop. I love Jazz and the 90’s Drum type loops. There’s no other music genre I feel as much as this, no other sound can connect to me as fast and as powerful as a Boombap drum loop with a bass line and Jazz samples. There’s something magical about a jazz sample – it’s really that, the Jazz and the Sample.
Who are your biggest influences on your production?
ATCQ, Miles Davis, Mad lib, Pete Rock, J Dilla, Kilu, Jazzmatazz, GangStarr, Bill Evans, Dealema, Funkdoobiest, The Pharcyde, Robert Glasper, and so many others.
How does a track start for you – what is the spark that kicks off the rest of your production?
Anything can go first, I like to try different approaches to beat making. Making a drum loop is always a good way to start for me – it makes it easier for me to read the sample and find a place for it in the loop. Nowadays I might play something on the keyboard and sample it, and that’ll be the start of a song. It might be the bass sample first – I also like starting with the bass, it gives the beat a strong foundation. The spark is finding a good sample, if I hear a dope jazz chord from a Rhodes then I am fully inspired to make a track, and that’s why I am learning keys, so that I can get to that chord.
Do you ever suffer creative blocks? What is your coping mechanism?
All the time. I just try again until the beat comes out. Because I have done this for such a long time, I know it is only a matter of time before the beat comes out – it will come out! If I am unable to make something, I’ll just start again and try again. I might have creative block for a full day or two but it doesn’t stress me out, I’ll just do something else like digging for samples or practice the piano.
Synth music is malleable,
it feels that it’s always changing and never the same,
every hit on the keys seems different.
How does technology impact your creative process?
I love technology. I love trying new gear and learning from it. Every piece of gear has its own little sound and feel, even the cheapest keyboard can surprise you. I am investing a bit more into outboard compressors and eq’s, running my sound through the wires makes it sound unique. I feel like an alchemist when I am in the studio processing audio, searching for a special blend of acoustic magic.
What has your experience of the industry been like thus far and what advise would you give to anyone just starting out?
I am doing everything independently. I post as much as I can and release music as much as I can. I learnt that I really don’t know what people love, sometimes I think they are gonna love music B but they really wanna listen to song D. I don’t overthink my music anymore, I just release it.
What is your production setup at the moment? Is it fixed or do you switch things up regularly?
I switch regularly. I hate having to switch cables all the time to connect another sampler or synth, but I do it all the time. Sometimes it’s also about the routing, I wanna change the signal path of the audio and see how it’ll sound. I want to be able to try different combinations. Even though when I work, I prefer to work very minimalistic and only pull up 2 or 3 machines at a time.
Apart from the sampling, at the moment I am working on synth based music, I have the ARGON8X from Modal and a couple other synths to help with the blend. The Akai MPC X is sequencing everything, and I also mix everything in the Akai. Then everything goes through the saturators, eq and compressor section to add that extra body to the mix.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a beat tape coming out all made from samples, and I have another project that I am working on that is made entirely from synths. Electronic Boombap is my new adventure into music. I have been trying this for a while now but I think I know what I want now. You can connect any synth and make music, but I think I was looking for a sound and an identity. So those are the two projects on the table at the moment, but there’s always a new beat being made every other day.
So you noted you have an ARGON8X in the studio at the moment – what’s your impressions on this?
I love it. It’s very unique sounding with many possibilities. I wanted a polyphonic synth that I could create my progressions on and create keys sounds to sample – a keyboard that could create something different from the classic subtractive synth. The ARGON does all that and more, plus the effects really fit my sound; I love the effects. The built in sequencer is super fun to use and makes my progressions come to life. I am just having a lot of fun working with it and coming up with sounds to sample, plus I love the fact that I can send my other synths through it and add the effects of the ARGON while layering sounds. It’s the main piece of the Electronic Boombap journey for me.