Suaze - Interview - 8-2-19Written by Chi Chi Thalken on August 5, 2019
Suaze is a producer from Birmingham who has been working for several years. In that time, he’s made beats for the likes of Love Moor, Richard Daniel, and Shaun Judah. Most recently, he released a solo beat tape, Sunroom Sessions. He took the time during Secret Stages to talk to us about his process, working with Love Moor, and being a part of the Birmingham scene.
SV: Let’s start with the basics. How did you first get into making music?
Suaze: I started making music when I was about 11 years old. My dad taught me how to play some basslines on his guitar. He basically said, “If you learn these on the guitar, then I’ll teach you more.” By the time he got home from work, I was playing those and even more songs that I used to hear him play. He was super excited, so he bought me a bass, and I started getting bass lessons at church. That’s when I started delving into music.
SV: So was church your inroad to music?
Suaze: Well, my dad was a minister, and he made sure that I was at church maybe four to five days a week. And when I was at church, I was learning a bunch of different music styles. But I fell in love with hip hop, my friend Ramiro and I at the time, we convinced our pastor to let us make beats in between services. So we had a morning service and an evening service, and we told her, hey, if we make Christian hip hop, you know – “Christian” hip hop, can we use the equipment, and she said we could. And we started trying to remake Wu-Tang beats, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beatnuts…a bunch of music we were really into at the time. And it sounded awful.
SV: So how did you make the transition from those beginnings to where you are now, an established producer in [Birmingham]?
Suaze: Well, I think it’s important to mention that around that time I realized that what we were doing was just a really shitty version of what we wanted to hear. We were listening to a jazz station one day, and we heard a sample, and it blew our mind. We were young, and it was the late ‘90s, so we should have known better, but we didn’t. And we discovered samples, and that’s when I started collecting records and started sampling and trying to make beats.
SV: So are you saying that you heard a jazz song, and you realized that you recognized it from a hip hop song?
Suaze: I don’t want to say it was a jazz song, I want to say it was Minnie Riperton, and…I’m drawing a blank. In the chorus, she’s saying, “Come live with me,” or something like that. I could be wrong. I know I’m wrong. But we heard that song, and we were like, “Holy shit! That’s a ‘Lyrics to Go’ sample from A Tribe Called Quest.” And that kind of spawned our love for or our need for digging for vinyl.
SV: Is that still your preferred method? Digging and sampling?
Suaze: Digging and sampling is where my heart is. That’s all I want to do, is dig and sample. I feel like, and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I feel like that’s hip hop at it’s purest form. Scratching and sampling and doing all that digging and shit. But these days, as you get older, you want to challenge yourself and you want to create music and being a musician you want to create on your own merits and not always base yourself on samples. So I try to do both. I try to make sample stuff so I won’t go insane, and then I make live stuff so I challenge myself as well.
SV: When you’re doing live stuff, you mentioned you played bass, but are you playing other instruments as well?
Suaze: I play guitar, I can find my way around the keys…I would never disrespect drummers and say that I’m that, but I can keep a strong 1-2.
SV: Sometimes that’s all you need.
Suaze: That’s all you need.
SV: During your set tonight, you brought Love Moor up on stage with you tonight. You’ve worked with her before on Simp Girl.
Suaze: Yes, I did.
SV: How did that relationship first start?
Suaze: I swore off music when I moved to Alabama from California. After a while, I just wanted to make beats. Somebody told me about K.L.U.B. Monsta, who’s a hip hop collective here. I played some beats for K.L.U.B. Monsta, and they liked them, they used some of my beats. They introduced me to Jasmine Janice, who’s an incredible musician, and we made some music together. And she was like, “Hey, I want you to meet my friend Love Moor.” So I met Love Moor, and we just started collaborating, I kept sending beats nonstop, and over time we just started creating. I think we did maybe four songs on Blue Polka Dots, her first record. And we had such a good reception from those records alone, people were telling us to make more stuff, so I was in her ear, and other people were in her ear, and she just hit me up one day, and was like, “Yo, let’s do a collab.” We did what is now known as Simp Girl. Which is hilarious because, we were just having fun, man. It’s like, just making music, and next thing we know, people are posting about it and it’s going crazy, and I’m like, “Holy shit! I made that beat in my kitchen.” You know, this is an LP that people are listening to. It’s just wild.
SV: As you’re working on a project like that, did you find yourself adjusting the way you worked, like figuring out what a Love Moor beat is? Or was it something that she latched onto in your music?
Suaze: I think we had a good chemistry from the very beginning. The first time I heard Love Moor, she didn’t have a Soundcloud or anything. She didn’t have any tangible music. But I heard her sing, and she had this pain in her voice – not to say that she was going through something – but it’s just like this natural pain that she had in her voice. I felt like it was my responsibility as a beatmaker or producer to make that come out and have people hear that. Hear what I heard. There are certain songs that I make, or certain beats that I make that I’m like, “OK, this is for Love Moor.” Either just real somber beats, or dark beats, I always shoot to her.
SV: Sunroom Sessions – that’s the project that you just released. How did that come together?
Suaze: It’s funny, because my wife and kids and I lived in Vestavia, and I work – I cut hair at Seasick Records. I wanted to be closer to my job, so we kind of moved from Vestavia to the east side. We found a house in East Lake that we really liked. It’s a beautiful old house, it’s made in 1922. The thing about houses that old is that there’s no room for anything. They’re big houses, but there’s no storage. There’s nowhere for me to really create inside my house. So I just started dragging all of my stuff into our sunroom, because we have a sunroom. When it’s cold, it’s cold as hell, and when it’s hot, it’s hot as hell. But my stuff was there, I have these huge windows, and it just kind of inspired me, to just go out there and make beats. I started, I think it was last summer, I just started making beats. I didn’t really make very many, I made maybe ten beats, and out of those ten I picked six…When I make projects like that, I just want to send them to my friends, I just want to listen to them in my car. I don’t really case who listens to them, ‘cause I just like to do it for me. But I talked to my friend Joshua from K.L.U.B. Monsta, and I told him, “Maybe you can help me with some videos? I don’t know, maybe you can help me expand this thing.” A week later, he had a release plan for me, he had two videos already made, and he had two other people on board to make videos for me. It was a little frightening, because like I said, it’s just for my car. But it became a thing, and when we released it, it was wild how many people were like, “Yo! This is dope!” Enjoying it and stuff like that.
SV: It makes for a great summer release. Like you were saying, if you made it in a sunroom, it feels very bright.
Suaze: Yeah, it’s in a sunroom. Maybe one day you can come check it out, so you can understand what happens in there.
SV: One thing that I appreciated was that you managed to add some variety to it. You’ve got “Cruising Biscuit,” which has that Southern, real crunchy blues to it.
Suaze: “Cruising Biscuit” has a weird beat. I couldn’t even tell you how that came about. It was just a loop that…I don’t know, I looped it in a weird way that the drums are really stuttering, real chugging. There was this record, I believe it was released in the UK, it’s a crazy sample. So I just put it over it, and…I had a Nissan Sentra at the time, it was white, and I told my daughter I was going to give it to her when she turned sixteen. Because it was a small white car, we called it “biscuit.” So it’s called “Cruising Biscuit” because it was one of the first beats I made, and I would just cruise around the city, listening to that beat, and I was like, “This is dope,” so I just called it that. There’s really no science to it. It’s just something that came together really quickly really late at night. I do remember that it’s one of the first beats I made and for some reason I had all the lights off in the sunroom, so it was just a certain vibe I was going for. It sounds fun. I just played a micro-Korg on top of it, and got a fatty “MOOG” style to it.
SV: It seems like a lot of production is starting from a happy accident and then figuring things out.
Suaze: Pretty much, man.
SV: You’ve got stuff like that, but then you’ve also got stuff like “Silent Voices,” which is like laidback and peaceful.
Suaze: That’s a band called Rare Silk. The name of that song is “Stormy.” When I heard it, I was just listening to it on repeat. I told myself, “It would be dope to have a beat behind it.” So I went on Youtube to see if anyone had sampled it, and it looked like people were just doing remixes of it. I just wanted to drop some heavy hip hop drums on it, and it just felt good. Everything is me sitting in this room, looking out these large windows. Everything just seems a little different in there…I feel pretentious as fuck talking about this stuff! Sorry, man.
SV: No, no. You kind of hinted with the release that there were some videos, and more are on the way?
SV: Anything else that people should be looking out for?
Suaze: I’m working on a new beat tape…I don’t know when it’s coming out. I’m always working. I want to focus a bit on beats more, I’ve been spinning records around town, but I really want to buckle down and focus on making music. Love Moor just released a song – well, we did a Tiny Desk submission called “Tea.” It’s funny, we were talking about samples, but that one is all live, so there’s no samples in it. That’s about it right. I just finished Secret Stages, and I’m really, really happy about it. The anxiety I had was just insane.
SV: Well, you gotta rep your city…
Suaze: That’s why it means so much, man! I live here, I see these people every day, and I don’t want to disappoint or let anybody down. That shit means a lot to me. Not only the people who listen to music, but also all the people who have been here before me, all the musicians, the deejays, people who are creators in the city…in no way shape or form am I saying that I’m carrying the torch, but I just don’t want to let anybody down. All the musicians in Birmingham, we have a responsibility to hold the city up…it’s important.
SV: You are an important clog in all of that, though.
Suaze: Thank you, man.
SV: I’ll leave you with the question that I ask everyone. If there were three people that you could work with that you haven’t, who would that be?
Suaze: The first one is easy. It’s Sade. She’s incredible. I love her music. I play it very often. I don’t know if I’d work with this person, just because I don’t know what I could contribute, but I just want to sit in a room with Madlib and watch him work. He’s one of my favorite producers. I think the third person…I don’t know, can I pick someone who is not living?
SV: Go for it.
Suaze: Actually, you know what? Stevie Wonder. I’d love to work with Stevie Wonder. That would be a dream. I just want to play bass and hang out.
SV: Just absorb it.
Suaze: Just absorb it. Even if he didn’t use any of my basslines, I’d just want to hang out and listen.
To listen to/purchase Sunroom Sessions, visit:https://suaze.bandcamp.com/