Cam Bluff is one of Australia's hottest hip-hop producers. Still relatively new on the scene, you could still get away with calling Cam an "up and coming" producer. But if he is in fact up and coming – his trajectory has him set for stardom.
Having penned beats for the crème de la crème of Australian hip-hop; such as 360, Illy, Mantra, Spit Syndicate (and with more in the pipeline), Cam is highly regarded amongst his peers, and all set to make a huge impact in 2014. Electric Factory recently sat down to have a chat with Cam, and ask him some questions regarding production techniques, musical influences, studio toys and what he has planned for the year ahead.
[Electric Factory] Your production seems to draw on a wide range of influences; from modern trap and electronic sounds and techniques to the more traditional looped samples and MPC-swung hip-hop. Who are your biggest musical inspirations, past and present? Which artists have helped shape the Cam Bluff sound?
[Cam Bluff] I'm inspired by a number of artists and producers throughout many genres. I love my hip-hop, but I think growing up listening to artists like Metallica and Dave Matthews has helped prepare me for transitioning between different styles of hip-hop production as well as influencing my style. I've definitely started using a lot more live instrumentation over the last year. Some of my influences include producers from, Black Milk, Pete Rock, Dilla, Ryan Leslie, DJ Khalil, Justice League and TropKillaz.
[EF] What is your general approach to writing? Do you generally start with a drum beat, start with a sample or employ a mix of different approaches?
[CB] Writing can usually start with me going through drum breaks to get an idea of the rhythm/pattern I want to roll with, to going through samples to see what kind of musical approach/feel I'm going to take. It also depends on the artist I have in mind to send the track to. If I just feel like banging out some ideas, sometimes I'll just mess around with some keys. All it takes is that one little idea or sound and things are underway.
[EF] Tell us about some of the "toys" you have in your studio; instruments, software, hardware etc.
[CB] I'm currently using an Apple iMac, Ableton Live 9, EVE Audio SC207 monitors (hands down the best monitors I've ever owned), Akai Pro MPC2000XL, Novation Mininova, Apogee Ensemble interface, Focusrite ISA Two pre-amp, Roland RS101 and a couple of MoogerFoogers. I also use a lot of soft synths and plugins. These include plugins from iZotope, Waves, Native Instruments and Arturia.
[EF] Do you use hardware of soft synths and effects? What are some of your go-to effects processors?
[CB] I've started using a mixture. I recently purchased the Mininova synth by Novation which has some amazing sounds, from pads to retro leads. My favorite soft synth at the moment has to be either 'Lush 101' by D16 or 'Massive' by N.I. For effects processing, I have a few go to plugins; Sound Toys 'Echo Boy' and iZotope 'Trash' and 'Alloy'. They each have their own distinct way of processing and drastically altering sound, so I find it beneficial to use a handful depending on what sound I'm after.
[EF] Your tracks have a really tight bottom end. What's the secret to getting the kicks, bass and subs (where applicable) all playing together nicely?
[CB] It's all about picking the right sounds to start with. Layering sounds can get you a great solid sound straight off the bat. I'll usually layer anywhere from 2-4 kicks. Each kick will usually contribute to, or help control a certain frequency range. 99% of the time I'll use side chain compression, whether it be on the bass or samples or instruments.
[EF] Thoughts on parallel compression?
[CB] Its great for not only helping to make your drums more punchy and prominent in a mix, but also for bringing instruments to the front of a mix. I use it on pretty much every track I work on. I tend to blend between the compressed bus and the dry signal. It really helps create a stable level in the mix. I'll also try different EQ cuts and gains on the bus depending on the song type.
[EF] If you could pick any 5 MC's in the world to write for, past and present, who would they be and why?
[CB] KANYE WEST – No matter how crazy or outrageous people may think the dude is, he is responsible for releasing some of the most inspiring and influential music in hip-hop over the last 10 years.
I know I sure have learnt a lot from him.
NAS – The main reason why I would want to work with him would be the fact that he is why I got into producing. 'Illmatic' really put things in perspective when I had just started messing around with beat making.
PARTYNEXTDOOR – new artist signed by Drake. It's been a while since I've heard a new artist who's come onto the scene that has really impressed me. He sings, makes his own beats and raps... triple threat! Looking forward to what he has in store for 2014
KENDRICK LAMAR – I love his creative approach to writing and making music. I remember when 'Section.80' came out a few years ago. I thought it way ahead of its time.
BLACK MILK – Dude has been a huge inspiration of mine for years. After I heard 'Album of the Year' back in 2010 it blew my mind how he was incorporating live instrumentation into his music. So organic and real. He's an amazing rapper too.
[EF] What projects are you working on right now? Any MC's, groups or bands you're currently working with or have picked up your beats that you can divulge?
[CB] I'm currently working closely with a number of artists from Melbourne on their debut albums which should be dropping early next year. Two of these artists are rappers, 'Allday' and Dylan Joel. I'm also working closely with an artist by the name of 'J Dwight'. He's a songwriter who has taken the initiative to start work on his debut release, so I'm stoked to be able to be a part of it. It's going to be on some new age/Drake r'n'b/old school New York hip-hop type stuff... hahaha. I'm also working on my production album, which should be out in May next year. It will feature emcees from across Australia. On top of all of this, I do have my fingers in a few other pies, so to speak. There's a lot in store for 2014.
[EF] Out of your peers, what local producers are you really feeling right now?
[CB] First two would have to be, Renz and Hamley from my hometown of Brisbane. Both having been killing it these last few months, so it'll be great to see what's in store for them next year. Chiefs (formally known as C1) He's been around for a minute but his new shit is absolute fire! He's from Melbourne.
[EF] In your mind, what makes a good producer? Can anyone be a good producer, i.e. is it something you can learn?
[CB] I think what makes a good music producer is being able to collaborate with different artists to achieve what they envision for their own work. Anyone can make beats, but to be able to diversify yourself amongst different artists and experiment with other genres is a true test of character. Another good lesson to learn is to stay humble. You can't expect things to happen over night. Continue to learn as much as you can teach yourself. I'm still learning and teaching myself everyday, or at least trying to. Always stay motivated. Never be bitter, be better.
[EF] So you've made the move from sunny Brisbane to "four-seasons-in-one-day" Melbourne. How are you finding Melbourne? What do you miss about Brisbane, what are you really digging in Melbourne and most importantly - have you picked a "footy" team yet?
[CB] Melbourne's been great so far. The culture is dope. It's like; everything Brisbane doesn't have, Melbourne has. Record stores, clothing boutiques, music retail stores, great music venues. Plus the majority of artists I work with are based down here. So from the start it seemed like the right move to make, I just had to make the decision to move at the right time. I haven't had a chance to start getting into footy just yet. It's hard growing up in Queensland with no real support of the game, compared to Victoria. We'll see what happens…. hahaha!
Interview: Electric Factory, Australia