Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Interviews:: Brockway Biggs

Ok, as I'm sure you all know, the big story today, other than a certain anniversary, is the head to head release of 50 Cents and Krazy Kanye's latest albums. Apparently Mr. Cents is so sure people will prefer his brand of generic, mushmouth party/gangster hip hop over Kanye's ego-fueled nonsense that he's claiming he'll retire if Kanye sells more records. Really, does anyone have this in writing? Honestly, I don't think it's the best sign for the state of hip hop when they're stealing gimmicks from wrestling. What's next, a winner loses hair match between Lil Wayne and Nelly (or someone who isn't currently bald)?

Ultimately, who cares. Fredericton/Ottawa's Brockway Biggs released his new album, In Awe Of Simplicity, some 3 weeks ago - now there's an album we should be talking about. So that's what we did. Brockway himself was kind of enough to answer a bunch of our questions, so enjoy.

HH: Let's start with the name change, talk a bit about the decision to switch from Pimp-Tea to Brockway Biggs. Did you feel pressure to live up to the "pimp" moniker, even if it was done in a tongue in cheek manner?

BB: I didn't really feel like I had to live up to the "pimp" moniker, but rather I felt it was more of a burden. People can be quick to judge, and I felt like people were sometimes missing the messages in my music based on the "pimp" name. I'd met with some funding agencies who basically told me I could never get funding with "pimp" in my name because they would be seen as supporting an artist who wasn't serious about their image. It also made it harder to get all ages, outdoor and general admission festival slots. I also felt I matured a lot as a person and an artist, and it just seemed like the right time to move away from the "pimp" moniker and give my music a chance to shine.

HH: This being your 3rd album, what lessons did you learn from the other 2 that you put into play during the recording process this time around?

BB:I learned so much in putting out my first two albums. I've also learned a lot from helping hip-hop folks with marketing & promotion via my company (Brockway Entertainment). Recording wise, for my 3rd album, I didn't impose any deadlines, which allowed me to breathe and put out an album I was happier with. I took the time to re-write and re-record some awkward or rushed lyrics, and I also made little tweaks, like Nicole Rushton's background vocals over the chorus of 'Your Vision.' With a bit better of a budget, I invested in a new mic preamp and microphone, which helped in recording the last half of the album. And my brother did all the mixing. He'd improved a lot having engineered for Our Lady Peace, Emm Gryner, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple and a bunch more since we did my 2nd album together. I think another key aspect for my 3rd album is that after my 2nd album came out, I started going to more open mic nights, touring and generally becoming more comfortable on the microphone.

HH: You've re-located to Ottawa since the release of your last album, how did that impact the recording process? What's the scene in Ottawa like compared to Fredericton?

BB:I had half my album recorded before I moved to Ottawa. After I made the move it was 6 months before I'd unpacked and was all set up to record the last half of my album. So there was a bit of a break in between there, which helped my creative process. I like to think of Ottawa as a bigger Fredericton, but with the city being so spread out, they face a bit more of a challenge staying unified. I miss the open mic nights they used to have in Fredericton and I wish they had them here in Ottawa. Those were fun. Toronto really is the music hub for Ontario, especially when it comes to industry juries and such, so I'm starting to get the feeling that Ottawa is a bit of an underdog in the national scene. With that being said, there's some real solid talent here, but no one making moves at the national level really resides here. DL Incognito moved to Toronto and I'm not sure where Belly lives these days.

HH: You've got like 7 or 8 producers supplying the beats for this album, do you prefer having a bunch of different beatmakers versus working with a specific one for the whole album?

BB:This always presents a conflict for me. I love the diversity that working with different producers brings to an album. I also like giving their beats a proper release, which gives them more exposure. In the case of Nevski or Darrow Productions they were really excited to have songs they produced be nominated for East Coast Music Awards. It looks good on them.

On the other hand, from a mixing standpoint, a lot of beatmakers aren't able or willing to provide the layers of a beat for mixing. Even though my brother's engineered with top notch producers, artists and studios, some beatmakers still don't trust him to do the mix, which is their decision and I always respect. So I'm sometimes forced to give my brother a single instrumental file, which he then has to manipulate to mix properly with vocals and eliminate stuff like clipping. It takes him much longer and results in a less full sound than if the beatmaker gave the layers for the beat. Compare the mix of 'Shake Ya Caboose remix' to 'Your Vision.' Still my brother is able to do a good job. Down the road I'd love to do a full album with one producer to avoid the headaches of dealing with beats from tons of different sources like MPC, Acid, Fruity Loops, Sonar and more.


HH: What is your writing process in relation to the beats, do you write for a specific beat or do you write your stuff first and then match a beat to it?

BB:Basically I mix it up. Sometimes, like with the Heretics Heritage Intro, I take verses or lines from my rhyme book that I feel fit the beat. Usually I have to re-write and re-word to make them fit, but the basic content stays the same. My preference though is to have the beat first and then write to it. I feel the end result sounds more fluid. Other times, I freestyle a verse to see what kind of creativity I can come up with, like with the third verse of Canada Dry.

HH: From what I've read, you've had to deal with plenty of haters in your short career, how do you feel this impacts your writing process? When you're writing lyrics do you find yourself thinking about how they will be perceived by your naysayers?

BB:There have been some haters. When you're getting national exposure in the music industry, criticism and hate are an unavoidable reality. Back when my video was being played on MusiquePlus in 2002, I used to get a lot of hate mail and even phone calls from French kids. I took their mail and used it to make my 'Super Dude Envy' song. But all that trailed off after 2003. After my 'An Urbal Remedy' came out in 2004, I still got some strong criticism, which basically made me be a stronger person. One reputable US DJ said 'Shake Ya Caboose' was the worst song he'd ever heard. At the same time it was getting spins by other DJs all over the North America. Any time there's criticism, I want to understand the root of it. Once I get an idea of what didn't work, I keep that in mind for when the next time I'm writing. At the same time, it's still my music and I can't let haters or critics change my vision. Overall, the music I make it kind of like the menu at a new restaurant. I try new things, interpret the public's response, and use that to make changes to the menu... in the hopes someday it'll be perfected. I'm still not there yet.

HH: Do you feel you've had more or less support from the hip hop community in Ottawa as opposed to Fredericton? I know sometimes in a smaller town dudes can be more critical of each other, often due to jealousy, did you experience that?

BB:The support in both Fredericton and Ottawa has been amazing. Yeah, there's often little spats between different artists, but I've always treated everyone with respect and seen the same in return. In Fredericton we had our open mic night that really brought everyone together and here in Ottawa, there's tons of weeklies and shows that allow you to get to know everyone in the scene. It's pretty refreshing.

HH: Ed The Sock kind of dissed you & your first video, do want to diss him here on the hill? I know he tried to make it up to you with a hot tub appearance, but c'maaan, let him have it.

BB:Ed the Sock makes fun of everyone. Yeah, he was pretty brutal when he picked apart my 'Tha PIMP-T Theme' video, but let's be honest, at least it was funny. The only part I didn't like was him calling the girls in my video ugly. But when he invited me to be the guest in his hot tub, one of the first things he did was apologize specifically about being hard on the girls in my video. I like Ed the Sock. All our interaction in the hot tub was off the cuff, nothing was scripted. He's witty and quick with his comebacks.

HH: I believe you're still writing album reviews, do you find that ever conflicts with your work as an artist? Have you ever held back your criticism of an artist or album because you wouldn't want the same said you?

BB:No, I always try to stay objective. There's always weaknesses and strengths to be found on any album. As an artist, I know it can be difficult to hear about my weaknesses, but at the same time I'd much rather know about them so I can try and improve. That's why I like to seek out reviews for my album, so I can't figure out my strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, if an artist takes my review the wrong way, I can see how it could conflict with my work as an artist. Generally though, folks are happy to get the exposure. I've been a reviewer for 10 years now, so I hope my experience plays into a fair review.

HH: Anything else you'd like the readers of the hill to know?

BB:My new CD 'In Awe of Simplicity' is available on iTunes now. Or can be ordered online at www.BrockwayBiggs.com Regina's Ira Lee has a pretty great album just out - think late nineties Buck 65 meets Toronto's Mindbender. I just got J-Bru's new album and I can really relate to it. It's similar to mine in that it's got some head nodding tracks, but also some real deep and personal tracks.

Bigg thanks to Brockway Biggs, check out In Awe Of Simplicity today.

MP3:: Brockway Biggs f. Nicole Rushton - Canada Dry

Posted at 9:09 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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