Steel Tipped Dove, the shy and eccentric character behind the moniker.
Someone who does not like to be photographed in the face (there weren’t any recognizable photos of him around for a while!).
Extravagance aside, ours is a thoroughbred beatmaker, who has risen to certain notoriety in recent times, after having made himself known on Heems‘ Wild Water Kingdom and Big Baby Gandhi’s NO 1 2 LOOK UP 2.
But it was above all I’m in the Forest by Lakutis, with the title track that samples Prodigy, that made people talk about it. A few days after the release of the new Lakutis, 3 Seashells, for which he produced the excellent Jesus Piece and Animal, we heard him for you.
Fast-forward a few years, now he has just released a new album worth your attention, titled All The Weight Feathers Don’t Have. So, it’s only right to bring back together a few chats we had in 2014 and 2015, to shed the right light on Steel Tipped Dove’s music and art of making beats.
Hi Steel Tipped Dove, do you want to introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure. My name is Joe. My production moniker is Steel Tipped Dove and I make beats and engineer/mix songs. I was originally from Poughkeepsie, NY and I moved to Brooklyn in about 2009. I run a small studio in Brooklyn where I engineer rap sessions and make all my beats and this is the most pragmatic introduction I can think of.
You did a beat for Jesus Piece by Lakutis. How did the collaboration between you two start? What kind of beats do you see fit for Lakutis, considering that Animal is quite different from Jesus Piece?
I met Lakutis a few years ago when I did work on his first EP I’m in the Forest – I reached out to him because I heard him on the Das Racist mixtapes and thought he was awesome so I wanted to send him over some beats.
I actually put effort into NOT assuming any rapper will like any particular beat, and even though I try not to I’m still guilty of assuming certain rappers will like certain stuff – so I just play them for people as I make them. I rarely make a specific beat for a specific rapper unless they bring a sample they want to be flipped.
When did you start making music? What were your inspirations when you first started?
I started making beats about 8 years ago when I was up in Poughkeepsie. My friends wanted to rap, but I wasn’t going to rap – so I said I would try to make the beats, bought a Macbook, and made the beats.
My inspiration for beats was mainly The Cold Vein album by Cannibal Ox produced by El-P and Viktor Vaughn’s (MF Doom) first album. Not Doom’s FIRST album – but his first album as Viktor Vaughn. That shit blew my mind. I’m a music obsessive so it’s impossible to truly list all my inspirations.
The bap-step we all love, and its origins.
What was your first commercial beat sold or placed?
I’ve never had a beat sold commercially. I sell beats to underground rappers but I have yet to land placement on a commercial record backed by a label’s budget. Would love to though, so…labels, hit me up!
How long did it take you to produce something that you were proud of?
Anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Sometimes something just comes together so fast, lightning in a bottle type thing and it’s just done. Otherwise, I will just vibe out as I’m building something and I’ll spend a whole 2 hours making 1 beat. Usually, when that happens the beat will go through many reiterations.
So I guess the average amount of time I spend on a beat is 52 minutes and 34 seconds. Wait do you mean like from when I first started making beats to when I made the first beat that I really liked? Cause I don’t really know the answer to that but probably like a few weeks.
You belong to the generation of “computer producers”. What are the programs and VLS that you would recommend, and why?
I work mainly in Logic and Reason. I make all my beats with Reason and I do all my vocal recording and vocal and beat-mixing in Logic.
I made beats with Logic for a year or so but it’s just not as awesome as Reason. As far as plug-ins – I use the Waves Platinum bundle, at least I think that’s what it’s called. It has cool compressors and filters etc.
Have you ever considered buying analogue gear? What?
As soon as I have the money I will be buying some analogue gear. I mean, I started on an MPC 1000, a turntable and a mixer. So, I know that route.
It just became a bit time-consuming and expensive to be buying records and a new mixer and a new MPC (1000 was becoming outdated). I would love to get an analogue synthesizer.
What is your relationship with technology? You placed your first beats via Twitter, right?
Yeah, nothing really “happened” for me until I got on Twitter. I started reaching out to some guys I was a fan of. Jesse Abraham, YC the Cynic, Premrock, Das Racist, DVS, etc.
Eventually, I was able to convince them to let me send them some beat packets, and they liked what they heard. One of the first records that I was on that I started to notice people giving me attention to was YC the Cynics album Fall FWD. It’s an incredible album and I did a track called Unconscious.
Your first beat I heard was I’m in the Forest with Lakutis, sampling Prodigy. Since then, you have often made unorthodox choices, in terms of samples. What do you look for, when selecting loops for songs?
Lakutis picked out that sample. He asked me if I could flip that song, so I did. He kept texting me like “add more whip sound” so that was great.
I don’t look for anything specific when selecting loops for songs. I try to find very obscure samples, not always possible but I try. I’d like to loopless if possible but that’s kinda my favourite shit so it’s hard not to.
Have you got special techniques for treating samples that you want to tell us? Some of them have some sort of “distant” quality…
The distant sound probably comes from me seeking out extremely weird samples and then slowing them down or speeding them up by obscene amounts and the multiple effects I put on top of them.
Best digging advice from someone ever?
Judge everything by its cover.
Is there any difference in the approach when you cook up beats for rappers, compared to the tracks done for singers?
I have worked with way more rappers than singers but I don’t think there is too much of a difference. I have yet to really sit down with a singer and cook up a beat from scratch while he or she is writing it.
In general, how do you approach artistic collaborations? Is it more frequent for you to do a beat and send it out to the rapper, or to sit down and create it step by step with the rapper?
It’s very rare that I sit down with a rapper and create beats step by step, I like doing it, it always leads to really great results. Honestly, I just stack up a bunch of beats for a month and then kinda start sending them around, playing them in the studio for the guys who come through.
Lately, I’ve had a little less time to make beats but it’s ok ‘cause I’ve been doing cool shit like mixing other people’s songs and projects and recording vocals for people’s projects.
Your worst production mistake ever made?
Sending out big ass folders of beats to way too many people at a time. I stopped doing that shit.
Oh, and not making sure you back up stems.
One essential mixing tip?
Mix low volume for a while before you, well, turn up.
At this point, New York sound is evolving into a strange beast, leaving the “classic” NY boom-bap sound behind and incorporating more electronic sounds. Which direction do you want to take, with your sound?
I understand fully what you mean, about the disappearance of the boom-bap sound but also it’s still there, it’s just getting meshed with other elements like EDM or some shit.
I kinda wanna take my sound into the bap-step direction, which is like a little dubstep and boom-bap at the same time but also with a ton of ambient noise so also you can really chill to it.
Any final word for the readers? If anyone wanted to get in touch with you for beat inquiries, how can they do it?
Thanks. If anyone needs anything from beats to engineering or mixing, whatever – email email@example.com or twitter.com/steeltippeddove