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Boonie Mayfield Interview: Progressive Soul

Boonie Mayfield Interview
Solomon Vaughn aka Boonie Mayfield has successfully navigated the new musical landscape of this "information age", gaining love and respect from fans, websites and fellow musicians around the world in the process.

His beatmaking and songwriting skills make him one of the most exciting contemporary talents in music.  Last year, Boonie won many new fans with his mega-popular 'Boon Documented' series, a must-see music themed reality show. He also teaches music on his youtube channel and and has a nice line in signature drum kits and beats for lease.  His second album 'Boonie Mayfield Presents: Solomon Vaughn', out next month, is one of the most anticipated albums of 2013.   

The New Beatmaker caught up with the man himself to talk about what to expect from the new album, how he gets that 'ol' school' feel, the work that went into 'Boon Documented' and why experimentation is so important to making music.       

TNBM: It seemed that you stepped out of the limelight a little after Part 1 of the ‘Boon Documented’ season finalé.  What were you up to between ‘Boon Documented’ and the ‘Just My Imagination’ / ‘Untethered Soul’ clips?  And whatever happened to Part 2 of the finalé?  The fans need to see it!  Lol.

BM: Yeah, I just really needed to figure out what I was going to do with my music and focus on it.  My biggest goal was always to work on an album as an artist/producer, but I knew nothing was going to get done if we continued to do the 'Boon Documented' shows.  It was taking up all of our time, lol.  If we weren't filming, we were editing… if we weren't editing, we were talking about the show… if we weren't talking about it, we were thinking about it... and so forth.  It just turned into nothing but work for just us two.  All the actual reality shows we see on TV were filmed months or even a year before it's aired.  Our show was all current, and that was exhausting, lol.

So, I told myself, if I want to actually DO some music and make this album… I needed to stop worrying about keeping my Youtube channel up-to-date so much and just focus on my music.  I had to get back to songwriting again, so I knew that was going to take me some time to get back into the groove of things.

We still have Part 2… well… we still have all the footage for Part 2, lol.  But, what we need is the motivation to make the episode, and we sure haven't had it, lol.  Like, for real…. we were really, really, really getting exhausted with making those episodes.  At that point, I was just like, "We will get it to it… when we get to it.. if we get to it".  I guess you can say we kinda got burnt out and it wasn't really fun anymore.  Sure, it was fun for us to put it out for the fans and it was fun to see each episode finished…  but all that work we were putting in just between the two of us, became more stressful than fun.

TNBM: Congratulations on your role as tutor for  What can people unacquainted with the site expect from it and your involvement?

BM: Thank you!  What you can expect from me, is basically what so many people have asked me to teach… basics of chords and chord progressions etc.  But, it could never be taught with just one video.  If you really want to understand chords, you need to understand scales, scale degrees etc.  Basic music theory knowledge can really help when it comes down to producing from scratch… and that's what I'm teaching in a way that isn't so linear. 

Boonie Mayfield Interview
TNBM: One thing you mention on is just how vital practice is.  Can you explain your practice ethic to the readers?  How old were you when you started playing music?  How many hours a week do you practice on average now?

BM: Well, I could play a couple easy things on the piano as a kid.  But, I didn't actually start playing music until I was 23 or so.  At times I can be kinda obsessive with my practice ethic, lol.  That's the way I learned how to play the bass within a couple months.  Now, mind you, I'm not a bass player… I can just play a little bit of bass.  I'm not a drummer… I can just play a little bit of drums.  Same thing with the keys.  I knew my specific goal… which was not to master them, but to get by with them for my production.

When I went for one private lesson on the drums, the instructor asked me what my goal was, and I said, "I just want to be mediocre on the drums!" lol!  He looked at me kinda funny, because I'm sure he never heard a student say that before.  But, I knew what I wanted…. I didn't need to learn all the super complicated stuff for what I wanted to do with MY music.  Before you learn something… KNOW what you want and WHY you want it.  Otherwise, your focus suffers.

So, the way I practice isn't really structured.  I just try to do it everyday for a while.  I don't pay attention to how many minutes or hours, because I'm so engaged in learning what I want to learn.  I'm very specific with what I want to practice on.  If I want to build more dexterity with my fingers on the bass, I focus on that.  If my pinky is the weakest link…. I focus on that damn pinky like it's the only finger I have, lol.  Time just goes by and I don't notice… sometimes it's a few minutes, sometimes it's several hours, and sometimes it's several times a day.  Time doesn't exist in my practice… I just focus on the practice.  If you're only practicing 10 minutes a day… fine… at least you're practicing.  It's the ONLY way you're going to get better at something.  Don't look for the quick and easiest way… just practice.  That IS the "quick and easy" way, lol.

Don't look for the quick and easiest way… just practice.  That IS the "quick and easy" way, lol.

TNBM: Let’s talk gear and technique a little.  Are you still using Logic, or were you tempted by your man Stro Elliot using Studio One, or another DAW?

BM: I'm still on Logic.  I thought I was going to switch, but it takes A LOT for me to switch, lol.  I basically have to be so bored and tired of something to the point that I don't even want to turn it on in order to convert.  That's how I went from Reason to the MPC.  I got bored with Reason.  Then I got bored with the MPC and went to Logic.  I'm still having a blast with Logic and I don't see that changing anytime soon honestly, lol.

TNBM: Have you made any other recent hardware / software updates you want to tell the readers about?

BM: Wow, now that I think about it… I haven't, lol.  There hasn't been any updates at all.  There's still so much I haven't discovered with the stuff I have now, lol.  I don't really see myself getting more software until I get a more powerful computer.

TNBM: There’s a live, ‘straight outta the crates’ feel to ‘Pass the Offering’, yet the track isn’t crafted from a sample.  Many beatmakers struggle making their own compositions sound sampled.  How do you get that ‘ol’ school’ feel?

BM: If you're looking for a special technical answer…there isn't one.  It's all in the SOUNDS you choose.  Having a good ear for the right sounds and purchasing great sounds.  The problem is… a lot of beat-makers want a more organic sound, but are not willing to invest in it.  Sometimes one has to be willing to pay for better quality sounds.  I know things can get expensive sometimes, but if you cut down the money spent on entertainment, eating out etc… you can stack up.  Or the best way is to network more… a lot of producers become friends and share all their sounds, plug-ins and stuff with each other.  The organ in "Pass the Offering" was quite simple. I purchased "Vintage Organs" for Kontakt by Native Instruments… installed it… and played it, lol!  The sounds are THAT good… I really didn't have to do anything else!

The other aspect which is probably the most important to getting the old school FEEL is all in the groove.. which is a FEEL.  You gotta have pocket! lol.  That can't be taught necessarily, BUT it can be learned (no matter what a lot of snob musicians may tell you)… and that comes with practice and FEELING how those musicians grooved in those old records.  If you wanna keep your drums quantized, that's totally fine.  I've even started quantizing some of my drums again…. but you SHOULD NOT ever quantize your other instruments, including the bass.

If you wanna keep your drums quantized, that's totally fine...but you SHOULD NOT ever quantize your other instruments... 

TNBM: You've said before that, besides on ‘Black Koolaid’, you've never touched compression, yet some people think compression is needed to make a track ‘bang’.  Do you still avoid compression?

Yes, I still avoid compression because I still don't know what the hell I'm doing with it, lol!  It still doesn't click to me, so I just leave that alone.  If I don't know what I'm doing with it, chances are, I'll do the wrong thing, lol.  I've managed to get tracks to bang without the use of compression, and that again, boils down to the choice of sounds.

TNBM: What one piece of advice would you give to new beatmakers? 

Technically… Get off the internet and make some damn music, lol!  It's awesome that in this "information age", we have access to learn so much and get so many tips.  But, the problem is, a lot of people have become so dependent these days and are too concerned with getting every single one of their questions answered before even trying things out for themselves.  My fiancé's biggest pet-peeve is when I ask her where something in the house is before I even bothered to LOOK, lol!  All I'm saying is… some of the coolest techniques and ideas have been developed by ACCIDENT or just messing around.  Grand Wizard Theodore, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Marley Marl, Pete Rock and others can all attest to that.   You kinda have to be like a child again.  Children ask A LOT of questions, which is great… but the way they really feed their curiosity is by going around picking up a bunch of shit, lol.  Take that MPC and just play around… put it in your mouth if you have to, lol.  Enjoy the process of experimenting! 

TNBM: Turning to influences, you’ve mentioned Pete Rock and CL Smooth.  Do you prefer ‘Mecca and the Soul Brother’ or ‘The Main Ingredient’ and why? 

Lol, I'm laughing at myself right now because I know I could sit here and study both albums right now and come up with some great answer if I wanted to, but I'd rather be honest.  I'm an extreme hip-hop head, but I'm not going to front like I know the ins and outs of every single classic hip-hop album.  Pete Rock & CL Smooth first came out when I was about 9 or 10 years old.  When I heard "T.R.O.Y." I wanted to do backflips, lol!  I became a hip-hop head at 7 years old… but, keep in mind I was in elementary school still.  I didn't have a "full-album attention span" yet.  My attention span for full albums didn't come until jr. high school.  So, although I had 'Mecca and the Soul Brother', at the time I just kept playing the same 3 tracks or so that grabbed me the most.   By the time 'The Main Ingredient' came out, I was listening to bunch of other things.  I mean, there was SO MUCH great hip-hop music out back then, that it was hard to keep up with it all, especially for a 10-12 year old with no money, lol.  So, yeah, I can't really answer that question honestly.  If we were talking about Tribe's "Low End Theory" and "Midnight Marauders"… I could write an essay on that, lol.

TNBM: You’re also a big Pink Floyd fan.  When and how did you first get into them?  What’s your favourite Floyd track and why?

My homeboy Daniel got me into them a few years ago.  We were on a short road trip while he was playing the 'Wish You Were Here' album.  I was half-sleep, but all of a sudden "Have a Cigar" woke me up and I was like, "Who… Is… This?".  He gave me a copy of the album, but it took me a while to get into more of their music.  It's hard for me to pick one favorite track because I have many, so I'll just mention two… "Time", and "Mudmen".  "Mudmen" is self-explanatory if you just listen to it.  There's no lyrics.  The lyrics from "Time" are just amazing.  It really makes you question if you're just letting time and life pass you by, just waiting for everything to happen for you instead of taking action.  I just love it.

TNBM: What artists are you listening to at the moment?

I've actually been taking a break from listening to anything/anyone in particular for the past several months.  When I'm in the process of working on an album, I tend to just shut off everything else so I can just fully focus and not find myself scattered by too many influences that inspire me.  Once this album is done, I'll be going back into my music listening binge, lol.

TNBM: You’ve talked about moving away from what people expect of you stylistically.  Is 2013 the year that we see you embrace a more prog-rock side?  I hear the love of Floyd in ‘Drugs in the Chicken’, for instance.

You'll see me embrace a lot of things, lol.  I basically decided to not let anyone (myself especially) dictate the sound of my music anymore.  You'll most definitely hear some of the prog-rock side, but it won't be just that entirely.  If I'm a fan of it (genre), you'll probably hear a piece of it in my music.

TNBM: When can we expect and what can we expect from your new album? Will there be appearances from artists like Jordan Craft, Courtland Urbano and The Procussions?

It's almost done and will be out in August.  I can at least say, it's not going to be what people would expect from me.  After "The Wonder Years" was released, someone mentioned if the rest of the album is going to have songs like that, he'd surely buy it.  I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but that's the only song on there that sounds like that, lol.  Put it this way… just like Andre 3000 had a whole ton of different sounding songs and vibes with 'The Love Below', yet they all seem to just fit…. that's what this album is like.   It's a solo album, but there are a couple features from Jordan Craft and my boy Fitzgerald (a/k/a Know Juander).

TNBM: Finally, is there anything else that fans should watch out for over the coming months?

Hmmm… I'd rather just let it all flow and not throw out any spoilers, lol.

Many thanks to Boonie Mayfield for taking the time out for this exclusive interview.  Be on the lookout for the album 'Boonie Mayfield Presents: Solomon Vaughn', dropping in August.
Update: Check out 'Boonie Mayfield Presents: Solomon Vaughn' here now.

Boonie Mayfield InterviewFor more, visit: 
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NB: First Published 6 July 2013

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