When a Multi-platinum Producer Gets Creative
ISINA Mentor Davix is known around the music industry for his producing skills behind the mic, but recently he released an EP under the pseudonym NoReazn. We spoke to him about his new EP, the inspiration behind it, and some future plans.
Is this your first EP release as an artist?
Yeah, this is definitely my first EP as an artist ever. I was never really interested in putting myself out there as an artist because I was one of those guys who’s a producer. Like, I would never get distracted and want to do my own production thing. But this particular project came from the inspiration of just wanting to create some things that I knew other artists weren’t going to try to sing, they weren’t going to take, or put on their own album. I just needed to get some things off my chest creatively. Like there were some things I was creatively constipated about and I just wanted to try some different methods, approaches to recording, different approaches to production and vocal production. Things like that.
Are most of the tracks a cappella?
Yes, you did hear that correctly! The sounds for this project came from the frustration of me being a producer and going through a billion different sounds, going through a hundred different kicks and a hundred different snares, and all these different synths that I have access to. Every producer out there understands exactly what I’m talking about as to how overwhelming it can possibly be to just find something that you might like, something that works for whatever mood you’re trying to go for. And it really just started to become a cappella [because] my approach was to lay down a melody -- like an idea first, just do a click track -- and then I would build some idealistic sounds behind it. I didn't even go through the trouble of creating chords and stuff, like what I usually do. I just went through some plugins and started creating sound beds and soundscapes with some different things that I knew would work and that’s pretty much what it is. When I say a cappella, it’s really just a combination of my voice going through different signal chains of processors and different plugins that I knew would give me this weird combination of sound. So, yeah, it’s all my voice though. All my voice.
Is the inspiration for this project then based on your frustrations of not being able to get the sound you’re looking for?
Well it wasn’t even that I wasn’t getting the sound that I was looking for, but just finding anything that would work to hurry my creative process. Because the way I usually write a lot of times is almost like a download, and I’ve got to catch whatever it is that I can feel or see. And sometimes the technical parts of finding instruments and finding VSTs and certain soundbanks just gets in the way. And so I wanted to figure out a way to approach this production without stifling my creativity or hindering my speed. Everything that you hear, even all the lyrics, is just really kind of all a freestyle. I didn’t write anything. I didn’t type anything in my phone. It literally was: let me put on a click track. I would hear a melody and I would just kind of like, hum out the melodies with certain vowels. That’s how I like to write a lot of the time. I go off the vowels that I like to hear and I just start filling in the words in the blanks. You know, catching a vibe. Just kind of freestyle a couple of things. I usually initially always have some sort of small concept and I just build from there.
Could you explain more of your creative process for this? It sounds like most of these songs were created through jam sessions then?
So the process sort of is, I’ll start with an idea like [humming]. Like, I remember coming up with this while I was walking to a taco truck with my girl. I was kind of just humming this melody and just being on the street kind of influenced my idea of creating a song that could be celebrated or danced to on the street. Like, street corner dancing is something that I always love seeing and being a part of, so I came up with this thing [humming]. And that’s really all I had was just that melody. So I went to my Pro Tools setup, put on the click track, and I just started singing that melody. And after I laid that melody down, I wanted to create the drum sounds and the rhythm and the percussiveness going on that you hear. So I’ll start off with the idea while beatboxing and then go in and start to layer everything to give it a bit more of a thicker sound. So I’ll go in and record the kick and EQ it in such a way that it sounds like a real kick coming out of your speakers. And the same thing, I’ll create the two-and-four or snare sounds with snaps, or different ways that I manipulate my voice. And then I do these weird chord things with the plug-ins, and I’ll just layer certain things, and just add weird sounds and be creative with it, and just manipulate it so much to where it sounds like they’re sounds coming from a VST or a program or something of the sort. It’s really just like the layering of vocal ideas and then I’ll just freestyle an idea that comes to mind.
That particular song that I was kind of humming was the song off my EP called “JUICY”. And that song is about sharing some good times with you and your significant other. Yeah just being hungry for your significant other and that’s really what that song is about. But none of this is really thought out as far as lyrically, conceptually, anything like that. I just wanted to have fun. I just wanted to create something that didn’t cause you to think so hard, you know what I mean? Just to create some things that just felt good, had a good vibe to it. I think it has a bit of a nostalgic texture to it, just the vibes of it. Because I am a 90s baby. Or an 80s baby, raised in the 90s, so…
Are you looking to inspire artists with this EP with a different way of creating music?
The way I was looking at this -- as far as when it comes to impact and influence -- I wanted to be able to show people that it can be done a different way and that you didn’t have to necessarily rely on all this technical stuff. Like I said, it became overwhelming. I’ve been producing music, making tracks for twenty-plus years. I literally got to a point where I just had it up to here as to how I usually approach things and I just wanted to switch it up.
So I did take a note out of Timbaland’s approach. You know, working with Timbaland some years ago really gave me perspective on how to approach production in a linear aspect and give composition a new perspective. Because the way he makes beats is just he puts things in patterns. And he starts layering different sounds and different ideas and then you go back at the end and you can chop stuff up. And working with him and his engineer, I was able to see how Pro Tools can be used in that production composition way, because usually we just cut vocals or live instruments in Pro Tools and we don’t think about how mathematical the platform can actually be. And it’s beneficial if you work in the grid. And it’s just about understanding things from an engineering aspect. But when you get that stuff out of the way and just understand how to use the tool of Pro Tools when it comes to production, the approach that I took with this album starts to make sense. Because with this project, everything started in Pro Tools and ends in Pro Tools and there’s nothing to really see except the sounds and the voices that I put there. And you can see that, oh, it’s just going through a certain signal chain with certain plug-ins, and you’ll be like “Wow, it looks really small and like there’s nothing there, but it sounds like there’s a lot going on.” And that’s really my approach to this. It was to show people, hey, you can create a song and make it sound like this, and not use all that other stuff that we get overwhelmed with.
So, yeah, it’s just a fun project that I definitely want to turn into an app later. Eventually, I want to be able to turn all this stuff into a soundbank and sell it or give it away on Splice, so people can say “Hey, we can create our own music with these sounds that NoReazn creates.” And just call it the NoReazn Sample Pack or something like that. I think that would be dope.
Is this just the start for NoReazn? Should we expect to hear more NoReazn tracks?
You will definitely be hearing from NoReazn in the future! We’ve got a lot more ideas. I’ve got a lot more songs. Voice notes that I still need to get around to. And I’m pretty good about that -- going back into my voice notes and saying “Oh I like this idea. This is one that I really think I can do something with.” And I’ll actually just sit down in front of my Pro Tools setup and go at it. But yeah, there’s definitely some more things to come out of me for sure in the future. This EP was seven songs and there’s a few joints that are finished that got left off, so those will be going on the next release really soon.
I just wanted to give a shoutout to ACME also, because they’re the ones who teamed up with me to do the distribution and to get it out there to the sync licenses of the world. You’ll probably start hearing this stuff in a few movies, a few commercials, a few TV shows here and there. We’ll see. But that was the whole purpose of releasing and distributing this project through ACME.
How long did this project take?
You know what, the timeline in which this happened was actually the lockdown during COVID restrictions. That’s when I started to really execute these ideas. I had thought of it like right before the whole COVID restriction situation, in winter of 2019. I had started on the project but then I really started churning out these ideas in the lockdown of 2020 because we just had time to get creative and come up with some cool shit. But as far as the actual creativity of it, it didn’t take me long to push these songs out because I think I put myself on a schedule to do like one or two a week. And it really only takes me like three to four hours to put something down that’s solid, in my opinion. But yeah, it really didn’t take me long. The thing that took the longest time was actually the mixing part because I wanted to get it right. As far as creating the songs, it didn’t take much time at all.
Why did you want to step into the artist role instead of the producer role on this project?
Basically, it was for the purpose of exerting these ideas that were just kind of sitting dormant in my soul, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make this happen with this particular artist or that particular artist. I mean, even if you listen to the songs, when you do it’s kind of hard to imagine who would be on this song. And so that’s even why I decided just to release it, because so many people kept telling me like, “I don’t know about trying to shop this to this person or this person. I think you should just put it out yourself and let it be that.” And for a long time I thought about doing that. Because I was shopping two of these songs to major artists and after a while I was just like, “You know what, they’re not going to do it the way it is now. They’re not going to leave it the way it is.” Because, instinctively, what you want to do as a producer when you hear it, when it's being shopped to you is, “All right, cool, let me strip whatever sounds are going on and replace them with like, real drums and real snares.” And it can be really cool. And I’m sure it would be. But the purpose of this was to really experiment and take it all the way with a vocal. To see what the possibilities could be. To stretch the imagination of these plug-ins, kind of being thrown together and collaborating different things with that. I just wanted to really go in and try just some weird, crazy, crazy shit. And I know a lot of artists really wouldn’t have the patience for that. As a producer, I get to exercise that right to be as creative and wild as I want to in my sound sandbox, you get what I mean? That’s the purpose, is to really figure out what’s there. Or to ask those questions that they don’t know they have when it comes to vocal sounds or vocal approach. Because there’s a lot that we don’t do that we could try when it comes to production in the studio, and we really only just scratch the surface when we use those plug-ins and things like that. So I wanted to not only just scratch the surface, but build it up and tear it down. Build a whole bunch of sandcastles and really play in the sand with this thing. So that’s what you’re definitely going to get from me on the next one. It’s going to be even more experimental. There’s more plug-ins that I’m trying. There’s more toys that I’ve downloaded to play with. It’s just going to get even more crazy.
That's fantastic. And inspirational, especially coming from an ISINA Mentor. You’re showing other artists: if you’ve got that idea, just put pen to paper, right?
Yeah! Execute! Don’t procrastinate on it! Because it was something that I was really procrastinating on. The idea had been sitting dormant. Because, like I said, I wanted to try it on different artists that I’d worked with. And I kind of did, little bits here and there. But the full vision? Of doing an a cappella album with just all vocals, having different vibes and different moods, sounding like it was programmed and all that kind of stuff? I think I really found something in a niche that a lot of people didn’t know that they were missing. Because you had groups, like back in the 90s, like Take 6 -- a lot of artists don’t know that they grab a lot of inspiration from that group -- that was a pretty well-known a cappella group, and they went around touring, doing these amazing, crazy a cappella shows. And there were six of them. One guy would be doing the percussion. Another guy would be doing the bass line with his voice. And the other four would be doing these crazy harmonies. And it was just incredible to listen to. And I was like, no one’s doing that right now. I don’t hear anybody doing it. Let me try it as a one-man band, and do it with Pro Tools, and make all these crazy combinations and see what I can come up with. Because, like I said, when you listen to it, the songs ain’t about nothing. Like, these are just silly songs. I just wanted to have fun and try something that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to try with anybody else. So that’s why I created NoReazn. [laughs] Because I’m really doing this for no reason. I’m just having fun.
Could you tell me more about any personal sources for where you create your music?
In 2019, my family and I were dealing with a health scare with my dad. He had just got diagnosed with diabetes. He had to go to the hospital. We had to deal with some crazy stuff. And so underneath all that pressure, of taking care of my pops, running around trying to handle some medical things for him, I was just getting these crazy downloads of inspiration. I was just really inspired, in the middle of all that, to just create. And that’s just really, I think, my thing. I don’t know what it is, but when I am feeling under pressure, or maybe stressed, or anything hard going on, my creativity inspiration machine just turns on and starts churning fast. And I have to acknowledge that. I told myself with this NoReazn project, with this music, I have to honor whenever I feel that urge, or that download of inspiration fast, because it leaves you if you don’t acknowledge it. It will go and inspire the next person. But yeah, that came at a very hard time in my life, like I said. Where my family and myself, we were all dealing with something really difficult with our pops.
So, you’ll get more out of me. Hopefully it won’t have to be underneath pressure and all that kind of stuff, and it can just be inspirational and fun vibes. But yeah, it’s always going to be fun vibes. I think, whatever it is that we create, under pressure, it’s always a good time. It’s always inspirational. It always feels good. Pressure definitely creates diamonds. So I think we got some really cool diamonds out of this.
Thanks to Davix for the interview!
If you’d like to stream or purchase NoReazn, you can find links to various platforms right here.