By Gabriel Myers Hansen February 22, 2017
Drvmroll doesn’t just make beats. He makes sonic statements. The 24 year old rapper-turned-producer shared everything from his musical journey, inspirations and creative process with us.
Who is Drvmroll. How did you get into music production?
Drumroll (styled Drvmroll) is Derek Amoah Asare. In High School I was a rapper who went by the name DBOi. I remember hitting studios to make tunes with friends back in 2009 or 2010 and we hardly got the kind of sound that we wanted. I therefore decided to get into music production just so I could make beats for my own music and next thing I knew I got hooked. When people ask who taught me to make beats, I tell them my determination, curiosity and of course Youtube!
Shoutout to Youtube! Aside youtube, did you have any producers back then that you looked up to, people who showed you the ropes and gave you tips and such?
I had none of that. I definitely did look up to producers like Jayso and Killbeatz at the time but I had no personal relationships with them or any other producer for that matter who “held my hand” or could have spoon fed me on how to do what. Youtube was my go-to place for help.
What inspired the name Drvmroll?
Drumroll was actually started with a friend as a production duo but that didn’t quite work out. With regards to the name, I knew I definitely didn’t want something with “beatz” in there because I felt like everyone else was doing that at the time. My colleague, who was quite into drumrolls at the time suggested “how about we just use the name Drumroll” and I loved that. I decided to carry on with the name after the duo got disbanded.
What are some of the challenges you faced starting out?
So here’s one. I managed to get my first studio with the help of my mum (who is a massive supporter of what I do) and a few friends. I remember we’d sometimes get to the studio to record and rats would have turned the whole studio upside down, left torn cables and piss everywhere. That was definitely one of my challenges starting out. *sigh* LOL
Let’s go back to your learning process for a bit. How did you filter through the tons of information out there to find what you needed to get you started because we know that even with the myriad of tutorials on youtube it is hard to find relevant information and a lot of the tutorials are trash.
I learnt how to produce in stages really. I first focused on knowing how to use my DAW of choice, learning and navigating the interface. On youtube I would search with terms like “learn how to use…” or “how to use the mixer”, stuff like that. Every piece of information I looked for was narrowed down to exactly what I needed to know. I would like to point out that making great music is based on personal creativity. You can use whatever DAW they say is the “best” out there but ultimately it’s your creativity that makes the difference.
The second stage after I’d learnt to use my DAW was to focus on learning to mix and master. I compare my mixes from back when I started to my current productions and can gladly say I’ve come a very long way LOL! I’d probably say I’m still in the second stage of my learning process since I’m always online learning new ways to make even better beats.
Speaking of DAWs, which ones did you try out and what made you stick with the one you use now?
I started out with Fruity Loops 8 ( now FL Studio) and currently use FL Studio version 12. I chose FL at the time mostly because I had no idea (and still have no idea) how to play the piano, and until recently had no music theory experience. I stuck with it because it made things quite straightforward for me and honestly I don’t want to use any other DAW, although for vocal mixing and final mastering I use Cubase and a new personal favorite; Studio One 3 from Presonaus.
How long have you been producing?
I’ve been actively making beats and producing since 2010 but things got real after Sarkodie released a tune I produced called Oluwa is Involved in 2014
We’ll come to your impressive roster of production credits later but for now can you tell us how long it took for you to develop an ear for what sounded really great and what you needed to trash?
Honestly I still battle with this everyday. I think I might have set my standards a bit to high for myself because of the kind of producers I listen to at the moment. I could make a really simple beat now and someone might walk in and think it’s super dope but I wouldn’t feel it. I used to trash the beats I didn’t like but I’ve learnt to keep them just in case they work for another artist.
How many beats do you typically make in a day and what is the fastest time you’ve made a tune that has gone on to become huge?
The number of beats I make depends on my mood really. I make just one or two beats a day on the regular but if I’m inspired enough I can go beyond that. The highest I’ve done is probably 5 beats in one day.
The fastest time I’ve made anything that has gotten huge is between 2 to 3 hours. I’m not sure exactly which of them is bigger but both Oluwa is Involved by Sarkodie and All Black by E.L took me less than 3 hours to make.
Impressive. Did you make those songs with the artistes in mind or you just happened to make a beat that fell into their hands.
I would say the latter; I made beats that happened to fall into their hands. Fun fact, Oluwa Is Involved was actually made for a Nigerian artist who wanted a mustard type beat. The artist’s name was Oluwa Icey and that was the name of the beat when a friend of mind who worked at One Nation passed it on to Sarkodie. I think the name of the beat definitely influenced the title of the final track.
Till date, what’s that one beat you made that you still cannot believe you managed to pull off.
I finished that beat yesterday LOL. But with regards to released tracks, it would have to be E.L’s King Without A Crown (KWAC). That beat was actually tailored to E.L’s specifications. He wanted something that had a trap bounce like Wiz Khalifa’s We Dem Boys so I knew I had to go for horns when I started that, then I decided to switch up the drum pattern from a 1/3 step to a 1/2 step for dynamic purposes.
What was that pivotal moment in your journey that made you realize you were on to something and could actually have a shot at music?
You know what, after Sarkodie’s song came out I still wasn’t convinced I was good enough. And then EL’s songs came out. The response I got to these songs, especially from producers like Jayso and Illkeyz (who has been a massive part of my growth as a producer), was all the motivation I needed.
Is there anything you know now that you wish someone had told you when you were just getting into production or probably before you got your first major song.
I’m still learning quite a lot but I definitely wish I had a grasp on music business when I started out. Making music is so much more than just producing dope records and uploading them onto the internet. There’s levels to this music business thing.
Speaking of the business of music, have you received royalties from any of the songs you’ve produced so far?
So far I’ve mostly just operated by taking cash for beats. I haven’t received royalties from any of my productions but I’m definitely working on sorting that out. At the moment I’m still trying to decide which agency to go with, and that is partly the reason I’m taking my time with releases this year.
How long did it take to create your “sound” and what inspired it. What influences your music today?
I honestly still feel I haven’t found my sound yet but one thing I’ve been commended for the most by people that listen to my music is my attention to detail. With regards to influences, late last year I got introduced to a sub-genre of Electronic Music called Future Bass and instantly fell in love with how the producers that made Future Bass used melodies from Jazz, RnB and Soul amongst others. I can say that my current sound is slowly beginning to revolve around that.
Drums, Melody or Bassline, which one is most important to you in a song? Talk us through your typical workflow.
I think it’s crazy how I’ve become so big on melody and chords. I feel those two elements are the most important in my current workflow. I start almost all my productions with a good chord progression and then build everything else around that. However occasionally I start with drums.
Where do you find inspiration to make music.
I find a lot of inspiration on Soundcloud. I’ve come across some pretty amazing artists/producers on there. These guys are mostly really young (some even under 20) and are already making amazing music. And most of them aren’t even mainstream! They really inspire me to get better.
We know every creative has times when no matter how talented they are they fall into some sort of rut. How do you generally deal with creative blocks of that nature
When I’m in that kind of rut I usually turn to computer games like Fifa or Assassins Creed or sometimes just hang out with great friends.
Composing, Arranging, Mixing or Mastering…What part of the production process do you find the most tedious or challenging.
I have gathered over the years that once you’ve got good samples, high quality VSTs and are good with sound selection (especially based on their parts in the frequency spectrum of a song) then mixing is actually pretty easy. So the hardest part for me is getting that main melody and drum groove that I feel is going to drive the entire song. The next hardest thing is definitely arrangement.
What are some of your favorite plugins to use these days.
I love Kontakt 5, which on it’s own, is just a sample player but with the right plugins is LIT! It’s my go-to plugin for Orchestral elements (Big Horns, Cellos, Choirs, etc). It is definitely capable of so much more though!
For Analog synths I love Sylenth. I would definitely pick Serum which is another industry standard synthesizer over Sylenth in terms of sound quality but for both sound quality and CPU efficiency, Sylenth is King!
I also quite like Spectrasonics. I don’t even know where to start with these guys! People frown on the size of their sound libraries but believe me it’s worth it. My favorite plugins from Spectrasonics would be Keyscapewhich comes with over 70 types of keyboards, Omnisphere for ethereal sounds which is a must have if you are into Trap-Soul, and last but not least Trilian which is purposely made for basslines.
Oh and I also use the Waves bundles quite a lot, as well as the FL Studio stock plugins for mixing.
Are you using any hardware at the moment? If you had a million dollars to build your dream studio, what would you get?
The only hardware I know and own right now is my laptop. But in my opinion a good audio interface/soundcard is very vital. If you got monetary power, you should definitely try the Avids. Otherwise, Presonus and Focusrite have some very affordable but great audio interfaces as well.
If I had a million bucks I would get a highly tricked out laptop and PC ( I’m talking over a 100GB RAM, 5TB hard-drive space on each if possible. I would definitely get some really expensive microphones, audio interfaces, pre-amps, studio monitors, headphones, live instruments and MIDI controllers.
What has been your most memorable studio session till date?
I would say some of my most memorable studio sessions so far happened while working with M.anifest and Jayso on Manifest’s Album Nowhere Cool. M.anifest was “that guy” I never thought I would end up producing for since he already had another genius like Yung Fly that he worked with. I think learning to produce AfroBeats vibes came in handy because that was one of the main reasons we synced so well on the project (shoutout to Illkeyz for advising me to learn that). Plus, M.anifest is a very fun guy to work with.
Studio sessions with JTown while working on his Album Flights From Soul were also crazy!
Name five local and international producers and artistes you rate.
Locally and in no particular order, I would choose Killbeatz, Illkeyz, Jayso, Kuvie & Ghost aka LXXXVIII.
Internationally I would go for Jon Bellion, a group called Film Noir, KRNE, Kanye West, and Ryan Leslie.
I rate these people because their sound pushes me to get better each time.
Do you do anything aside music?
I was a full time graphic designer till I dove deep into music so I take design side jobs from time to time. Then there is also a fusion of art/mobile photography that I do as a hobby. You can check that out @PHONOSHOPon Instagram.
Seems to be a certain link between music and design because there’s quite a number of producers who also design.
Definitely. I think the gap between music and design is barely existent.
Finally, any last words or tips for anyone starting out in music production?
Like I said earlier, if you still have one of those sample kits with names like “Kanye West drum kit” or “Dr Dre drum kit”, please ditch them all.
You definitely need to learn the basics of EQ and Compression but what helps way more is having an arsenal of high quality sounds. I sometimes barely even touch or process my drums because the sample by itself already sounds great!
It would probably take some time to be able to tell the difference between high quality sounds and not-so-great ones. Just trust your ears, they know!
Entertainment writer from Accra. Editor, enewsgh.com. Pounding music makes me dance -in my mind.