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Chief Feelin the Music It’s a well-known story by now; The Old Continent and the US of A connect through (underground) hip-hop more often, both have found mutual interest in each others style, and the best of both world parts comes together on albums that have more cohesiveness than if it were a collaboration between crew members. Meet Chief, a Swiss producer and entrepreneur, whose ‘The Groove’ album with Kay Dee released last year, as forebode of many more US collabs, and who has recently been picked up by Shaman Work…

In a few words; who's Chief?

Okay, so I’m Chief, a 27 year old Swiss beatmaker living in his hometown Lausanne in Switzerland, Europe. I started doing the DJ-ing at 16 years old and at 21 I started to create my own beats so then I became a beatmaker. I’m actually the owner of an independent label called ‘Feelin’ Music’ and our studio and office are here in Lausanne. I also have a guy who works for the US-part of the label based in Los Angeles and who manages our US artists.

Tell us about your latest 12"?

It’s a 12’’ released by Feelin’ Music in collaboration with another label. It’s called ‘Food For Ya Soul’, featuring on the A-side Les Nubians and on the B-side Blu and Sene (Patch Adams). The 12’’ is still not out right now but I guess it will be out for those few next months.

2007 has been a breakthrough year on an international level…

Exactly, first of all I dropped my first album with the American rapper K-Skills a.k.a. Kaydee (LINK) in January 2007. That album with him allowed me to enter the US circle. Then I started to collaborate with Sene, a young and very talented rapper who is I think 22 years old. He’s basically from New York but now he’s living in Los Angeles. We made together a first album called ‘Garbage Pail Kids’ that we signed on the prestigious label Shaman Work. Then we made three others albums together; ‘Pavement Special’ (only for Asia) released by the Asian label Root70 and ‘Beautifully Ugly’, released by Feelin’ Music US, those two albums were out in 2007. The last album called ‘Anywhere But Here’ was also released by Root70 and only for Asia.

How did you get to work with Sene?

Sene came and contacted me on MySpace. He was on my page two or three times, then he sent me an e-mail to ask if we could make a track together. So I sent him like 8 or 10 beats and Sene started really quickly to work on them. All this allowed us to make the album ‘Garbage Pail Kids’.

You made a few records together in only a small timespan, how come you had so many tracks in such a short period?

Okay so it’s a little bit special here because we did our first album ‘Garbage Pail Kids’ in something like only 2 weeks. It was like a ‘Foreign Exchange attitude’ which means that I started to make a beat in the afternoon at the local time here in Switzerland then at night before I went sleeping I sent him the beat by Internet. And at that moment it was morning or afternoon in Los Angeles. So Sene used to wake up and he quickly went on the Internet to check my new beat and then he went in the studio to write something on it and recorded the track. Then it was the night in L.A. so Sene sent me back the rough track and that moment it was morning in Switzerland so I just woke up and went on the Internet to download his track to mix it correctly. (laughs) That was really intense working. So we finished 13 or 15 tracks in only 2 weeks. Then we continued to apply this method of working. Like this we had at the end more than 30 tracks, so we worked enough to make albums like ‘Pavement Special’ and ‘Beautifully Ugly’ and ‘Anywhere But Here’.

So how’d you get with Shaman Work?

I proposed Sene to expose our ‘Garbage Pail Kids’ project to some US labels. He presented the project to ‘Shaman Work’ and they really loved the tracks. They selected their most favourite tracks and asked us to do just one more punchy and less soulful track like ‘Meak’.

What are the some of the future plans on Shaman Work?

Right now I’m in the studio working for my next project and I’m working with some artists from Shaman Work for it. Once it will be done, I will in any event propose my album to many labels and of course Shaman Work will be the priority label in my step.

Could you tell us a little more about your own label Feelin Music?

It’s an independent label created since three years now with my friend and colleague Djooz a.k.a. No Games. He is also a DJ and beatmaker. We made our courses of sound engineer together at the same school. There was a good ‘feeling’ between us and instead of having each their own label after our formation at school, we preferred to make it together. That’s how Feelin’ Music was born. We dropped five albums through our label and we have a lot of projects in view. Soon there will be the Blu and Sene 7’’, the 12’’ of No Games’ which features Guilty Simpson, Mad Skillz, Blu and Sene, the Co$$ album etc… A lot of products, just be patient.

You released your albums through Japanese and American labels, are they easier to work with than a European label and is it therefore you found your own label?

I won’t say it’s easier to work with because they are not in the vicinity in spite of Internet and all the technology. The little things and little details can take a lot of time. For the music style, it’s evident that the American labels are more famous than the European labels, so there is a big advantage to work with them. When you are an artist from Europe and you do something in the USA, it’s very different, it’s more huge, you know. For the Japanese labels, it’s different, it’s more about exclusivity. You know a lot of albums released by the Japanese labels are only exclusive albums or normal albums with exclusive tracks inside only for Asia and not worldwide.

I create my own label because I work with European and Swiss rappers. And for those kind of artists, we drop out the album only in Europe. And when we do albums with US artists we drop out them through Feelin’ Music US not Feelin’ Music Europe.

Why did you decide to start a US department, do you think there are US hip-hop fans waiting for a European based label?

No, we just have a guy working in US territory so he can manage US Feelin’ Music artists. It’s a big saving of time. And me and Djooz wanted to make Feelin’ Music bigger during the coming years so that’s why we created the US department and no I don’t think that US hip-hop fans expected something more or something fresher from an European based label.

What's the difference between the US, Japanese and European market you think?

In the US there is the mainstream part of hip-hop and the underground part. Both are big for me. The mainstream part makes more money but not necessarily better music. The Japanese are fonder of US products. Japanese really love when people made exclusive projects only for Asia, moreover the Japanese version of albums contain often exclusive tracks. The artists think about them so they make exclusive music. In Europe, it’s varied. The underground market in Europe is fond of US products too. Look at Stones Throw, they sell a lot in European shops, just look at their website, you will find list of shops in Europe that have Stones Throw products. Same for Battle Axe Records and all the classic oldies rap.

By the way, how's the hip-hop scene in Suisse right now?

In Switzerland, there are a lot of talents but the problem is that it’s really hard for a Swiss to extend his music in others French-speaking countries. France, Belgium and Canada won’t open their doors easily for Swiss artists because we are a small country. So that’s why we only have like 4 or 5 artists in Switzerland who can really live with their music. The configuration of our country doesn’t help us because the country is divided in three parts and each part speaks its own language. You see? But for the concerts, festivals and others big events, it’s not a problem. The concerts are always full and Switzerland always opens its doors for artists such as 50 Cent or Masta Ace or even Afrika Bambaataa.

When did you start producin’?

At 21 years old, since then that’s the only thing I do and of course I perform in concerts as a DJ.

You ever rapped?

Yeah, but it wasn’t my thing. I used to rap a little when I was 18 years old but I guess I have more talent in beatmaking (laughs).

What's important for you in a beat?

The drums are the most important because they have to hit and groove. It’s useless to make a looped sample and put some kicks anywhere. You have to put them on the right place, like this the sample grooves. So the rhythmic placement is really important. The sample and the drums have to make one. That’s the base.

For the sample, it’s important to me that it doesn’t turn in loop. You have to feel that there is a working process behind when you chopped it and stuff. You must have the imagination to recreate something new from something that has already been created.

Do you play instruments?

I play the MPC3000. As I said it before, I take music of someone and I recreate my own music with my instrument.

In your beats we mostly hear Lone Catalysts, how much of an influence has J Rawls been to your work?

You say that I sound like J.Rawls, others tell me that I sound like Jazzy Jeff. Both are beatmakers that I used to listen to a lot and like every beatmaker, even if it’s not conscious, I’m influenced by the music I like whoever makes it. I don’t try to copy, what is coming out is myself. But as I’m fond of jazzy hip-hop, people will probably put us quickly in the same circle of beatmakers.

Have you ever feared legal issues with Raekwon over your artist names?

(laughs) No, there are a lot of Chief’s or Chef’s in the rap game, like there are a lot of Jay’s or Kay’s. There are millions. But if Raekwon’d asked me money for the copyright of the name, I will propose him to make an album together and all the money from the sales will be for him. All the money. (laughs)

Those Big Chief toys, are they commercialized yet or will they be commercialized sometimes soon?

Some Italians made those toys and yes they are commercialized, you can find them on their website dedicated to those toys. It’s absolutely not linked to me. I just had fun when I saw them, the toys have good heads. Big up for their work and don’t hesitate to check the website (LINK: http://think.bigchief.it/toys).

Where would you be if there wasn’t Myspace?

I will probably do my thing like before, the good old method, contact the labels and also wait for the artists at the end of concerts. I still do that nowadays. Because I really prefer to work directly with the rappers, like I did with Sene ad Kaydee. Both came to Switzerland. To be honest, I don’t really like collabos through Myspace. The work at the studio is better when you are in live with the MC. When you have an excellent idea in the music or for the theme, it’s easier to share it with guys when they are here. Myspace is more like ‘I sent you the beat then you record on it then you resend it to me’, and then it’s done.

Are you a record collector or do you just shop records for beats?

No, I’m a real record collector since I’m 16 years old. Especially for vinyl. Sometimes I buy them for my collection, sometimes just to make some beats with.

What was the first rap record you bought?

It was a vinyl from A Tribe Called Quest and it was awesome.

What are the last albums you uploaded unto your iPod?

I don’t have any iPod, I feed myself with the music at the studio. The last CD I bought was the C.R.A.C. Knuckles album from Blu and Ta’Raach. By the way, big up to my man Blu, if you read this interview I say big up to you and all of your team.

What's next for Chief?

I'll be appearing on a double LP released by Shaman Work. On CD 1, it's basically a big mixture of Shaman Work's released songs with Mf Doom, Jay Dilla, 9th wonder, Wale Oyeijide, Emanon, CL Smooth, J-Rawls, Scienz of Life, etc. and on CD 2, it's gonna be brand new tracks and Sene and I actually have the song called ‘N.A.S.A’.

Now I’m waiting for some good news. It’s about a license for the project with Les Nubians and Blu & Sene (Patch Adams), the 12’’. I’m waiting for the response to sign in license on a US label/distribution to release my project worldwide. Beside this, I work on some crazy huge albums from US artists but I can’t tell you more about all this. Just be patient.

Shout-outs?

Yes, I would like to thank Platform for this interview and the interest you had for me and Feelin’ Music. Thanks to all my Feelin’ Music (Europe/USA) family. Thanks to Namskeio, Shaman Work, John Robinson (Scienz of Life), Blu. Root70, Les Nubians, FFYS crew. Thanks to all the people who trust in me. And thanks to my manager Shahrouz. Peace!

Peace Chief!

 

POSTED 05|01|2008
conducted by Cpf

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