While Denver's electronic music scene is thriving, there are some producers who've found that it's tough to make a name if you don't have club bangers. Inspired by more experimental downtempo electronic acts like those found on Flying Lotus's influential Brainfeeder label, local beatmaker Snubluck prefers the more musical approach of jazz influences to the four-bar loops and banging 808 bass of hip-hop and dubstep. And even though that preference makes booking shows consistently a challenge, it hasn't hindered Snubluck (born Corey English) on his musical mission.
Initially a student of jazz trumpet, English takes an approach to beats that exhibit the influence of formal training -- rich synth melodies and a raw, syncopated sense of rhythm. Considering that he juggles time spent making music with the rigors of full-time employment, he's also quite prolific.
Last month, Snubluck released the The Flying Machine EP and began work on an EP of remixes in conjunction with Omerica Organic. His tune "Bent" was also included on an international compilation of underground producers, Drop Beats Not Bombs, released by the Birdview Crew. Meanwhile, he's still working on an assortment of tracks for a yet to be titled release, including "BlipBlop" with local MC (and English's roommate) TaykeOne.
We caught up with English before work to talk about his background, collaborating with total strangers, and some of his new projects. Given the quality of his work and the attention he's starting to draw via Soundcloud, this might be the first time you hear his name, but it won't be the last.
Westword: What got you started making beats?
Snubluck: I was playing trumpet in a group with four people where two of them were using two computers doing sort of a dubstep and drum-and-bass thing; that was 2007-08. Just watching my friends do production on their computers was really what made me want to start doing it. Knowing that there was more to electronic music than just dance music was kind of eye-opening.
So you have proper musical training?
I was initially doing jazz trumpet at the University of Denver, but it was just too expensive to keep going there.
How does that training play out in your own music?
Mostly I borrow chord progressions from jazz -- the sense of swing -- what they call unquantized electronic music. It's a lot of me playing out drums on a drum pad rather than writing them in with a pencil tool.
Do you do shows, or are you just releasing stuff online?
It comes in waves. Sometimes I'll play a couple of shows, then I'll go a few months without any. I think a big part of that is that there isn't a huge crowd for the kind of beats I make. It's not a club sound, and that's what a lot of venues are looking for, a club sound -- or something where people don't really care what the music is; they just want to come out and get drunk. I find that I don't appeal to those people that are looking for that, more so people that want to listen to music, which is a weird niche.
Are you part of a crew? What's the scene like for someone who doesn't fit in clubs?
I've been associated with a few crews. Right now I'm associated with the Dirty//Clean label, which is Bedrockk and the guys that used to be Gravitron. They kind of consider me the black sheep of the family, the guy who makes weird electronic music. Then I have a group of friends who our main medium is Soundcloud; that's how we reach out to people. There's a crew of my friends as well who are making beats and releasing them via Soundcloud. I didn't think there was much of an appeal for what I was doing until a lot of people started to catch on. That was kind of surprising. That's where a lot of people that listen to electronic music that aren't listening for just club stuff go to find music.
How has the Internet changed musical collaboration for you?
I've done collaboration through email where they'll send me a drum track and synth part and go from there, or vice versa. I've collaborated with people I've never met before, who just have contacted me, or I've contacted them. It's just an interesting way to work. When they send you an incomplete song and build from there, it can be challenging. You don't know what they're expecting, and you don't expect what they're going to be doing.
Do you have a new project? What are you working on now?
Right now I have a series of remixes for a few different people that I've been asked to make. My main focus is a series of remixes for Omerica Organic, which is a local company that makes wooden gauges and plugs and stuff like that. I have five tracks that I'm remixing for them. I'm going to remix them in my style. I think I'm gonna release it, and then there was some talk of them using it for commercials. I offered, and they were interested.
What's going on with the Drop Beats Not Bombs compilation?
That's a group, the Birdview Crew, that messaged me on Soundcloud. They're a group of producers from around the world. It's a bunch of like-minded producers putting music together and putting it out. It becomes promotional because each of the producers has a mild following, and they'll all see my track, and I'll be exposed to people I've never heard of before. The Birdview Crew is gonna do another compilation that they're gonna put out in April, and I'll have a new, unreleased track on that.
You stay pretty busy then, huh?
All my days off, this is what do. Or after I get home from work, it's what I do.
How does all that effort pay off? Do you get noticed and get signed, or are you just happy making music?
I feel happy just releasing music whether it gets attention or not, but it's nice to have someone recognize the things you do. It would be great if a larger label noticed and asked me to put something out, but that's not my specific goal.
Over the last few years, the sheer volume of producers now is crazy. Now that the technology is relatively inexpensive and/or can be stolen, everyone and their mom is making beats. Does that make it more challenging as an aspiring artist?
If you really want to get noticed now, you have to distinguish yourself; you have to have a style of your own. It's very obvious when you listen to someone's tracks and they're pulling all their influence from one artist or they're just trying to copy a style. If you've heard it before, it's just more obvious that it's happening. Like there are so many iterations of Dilla online. You have to sift through a lot of things and spend a lot of time listening.
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