Hey man, Thank you so much for being here. As a beat maker and music listener myself I just wanted to thank you for the inspiration and all the music you’ve put out throughout the years. The homies and I have been bumping your music for ages now and I think it definitely inspired our sound so it’s truly amazing to have you here.
This week in The Soulquest Lab, we had the honor to welcome legendary Canadian producer Elaquent. Known for his meticulous production, insanely crisp drums, unpredictable synths and more, Elaquent's impressive discography showcases years of constant evolution. We took a moment to chat about his new project, his collaborations, inspirations and the tools he uses to create such timeless creations.
Thanks man, that's really humbling to hear. I never really set out trying to inspire anybody, just wanted to try to keep myself busy in the beginning, so its wild to hear that. thank you again man.
You have a very diverse yet defined sonic identity and groove. What were your first inspirations and what would you attribute this versatility to ? What were you listening to growing up and what made you want to start making your own beats ?
My inspirations and influences you can probably guess easily. Grew up on a steady diet of Jay Dee, DJ Premier, Madlib, Pete Rock, Rza, Erick Sermon, guys like that, early in my career. I've gone through many phases...much of my early production that most people havent heard was heavily inspired by Rza especially. I've always had a fascination with production, listening to hip hop as a kid, before I was old enough to fully understand the stories they were telling, I gravitated to the loops. Lots of east coast stuff mostly dominated my youth, stuff like Wu-Tang, EPMD, Nas, Gang Starr were my go tos early...but it was when I heard Common's Like Water for Chocolate album as a 13 year old, as when I started researching how to do it.
You’ve worked with a plethora of rappers and singers. (Brainorchestra, Blue November, Oddisee, Iman Omari just to mention a few) Is there any difference in terms of production ? Do you consciously allow more space for the voice compared to your instrumental work?
Yeah, the process is definitely different than my instrumental work. Throwing too many instruments and layers on a beat with vocals on it tends to drown out the vocalist, and as a producer, it's my job to accentuate what they do, meaning I can't be competing with them. Always prefer a minimalistic approach...Every song with a vocalist was made with one in mind, and I try to work with what I feel would work best with an artist on my releases. I don't like just sending a pack and having an artist pick one.
Speaking of collaboration, is there a rapper/producer that you’d particularly love to work with ?
There are tons of rappers I'd love to work with. Folks like Roc Marciano, Westside Gunn, Pink Siifu, Fly Anakin are all folks I'd love to get a song in with. as far as producers, the list is even longer, but if I ever learn how to edit video, would love to get a joint in with The Kount. actually got an old collab with him from a year or two back that we never finished..
You just recently released ‘Mad Love’ a single from your next Ep coming out on the 9th of April. We’re obviously very excited about it. Can you tell us a little about this project ?
Yessir, its Bedtime Stories II. The first one I put out in August of 2020, which was really born out of insomnia and depression, during the apex of the pandemic. all that time stuck at the house, isolated from everyone and everything was driving me a little crazy, and that was my diary outlet. Bedtime Stories II was a continuation of it, and I very much have grown to like the idea of a steady stream of short instrumental EPs to tide folks over in between my major releases, while also letting me get some personal baggage off of my chest. The plan is to do one of two of them a year, but I guess we'll see what happens. Mad love was a fun song to do to set it all off.
Your beats often feature amazing chord progressions, melodies and bass lines. How did you learn to play keys ? Were you classically trained or did you just learn from scratch?
Far from classically trained. I used to take piano lessons as a kid, but beyond that, I most just play by ear and trial & error. I'd like to believe I have a decent ear for melodic patterns, and especially lately really like laying and fleshing those out to create a rich sound. I still love to sample, so i'm not above that or anything like that, I just really love chords that I can add playful bass and synths too.
What would you say is the percentage of beats you start around samples opposed to pure compositions?
Hmm, in totality, probably 80% samples to 20% full compositions, as I primarily sampled through most of the early parts of my career, but lover the last 4 or so years, its probably 50/50. That said, my sample stuff is usually loaded with lots of other synths and notes, so even when I flip, theres still a healthy amount of composition. not that any of that matters, it only matters how it sounds in the end.
What is your sample digging process ? Tape, wax, YouTube ?
Youtube, tapes, vinyl, cds, video games, it doesnt matter. If it generates a sound, and I can get it into my computer or into maschine+, then I'll sample it.
I know you’re originally from Guelph ? You still managed to build an important following despite being from a smaller city with a limited ‘scene’. Was is challenging for you to get your name out there (especially in the pre Instagram and Twitter era) ? Also, your soundcloud says 'Toronto'. Are you based there?
Not quite. I live in Cambridge, which isn't too far from Guelph. I'm not too far from Toronto and have been part of Toronto's music community, but I'm not actually a Toronto resident. Either way, with the advent of the internet, it's certainly made it easier to build a following. To be clear, I very much came up during social media era, primarily myspace. There isn't much of a local scene, and most of the people who fucked with me were either from LA or in Europe somewhere at the time lol, but I started going to Toronto events by myself, just looking to be heard. I'm fortunate that some of the folks in Toronto embraced me, but my goal was never to put my city on my back, my goal was really just to reach as many ears as I could, and effectively show people that where you come from doesn't matter anymore, if you have a good sound, word will spread.
In terms of production, what’s your creative process like ? Can you tell us about your workflow ? I know you use FL studio and a 404 but are do you have special tools and do you have any routines or habits that help you stay creative ?
I'm primarily an FL studio guy, but recently have been getting a little more comfortable using Maschine+. I like looking for a sample (assuming I'm sampling) first and foremost, but in terms of the actual track, I like freaking the drums first. That always dictates the mood for me. I do the sample flip/melody next, followed by a bass line, and then jazz up the sound with synths, samples, effects, before making edits to the drums or anything else. Might dump it into the 404 for some effects if i need to. Whether its FL or maschine or anything, my core process remains the same. I don't have any special routines, really it's just whenever I'm in the mood or inspired to create, I just hop on and do it; I just try to make sure i'm in good spirits, I dont like creating from a bad place.
This may be a tricky question but what would you say is the source of your inspiration?
Cliche as it is, life. I get inspired by fun conversations, interesting movies, hearing my peers make fire music, traveling is a big one for me. New experiences are the biggest ones for me, for sure. In my mind, a song is a brief glimpse into your soul and how you're feeling, so I especially look for new experiences to tell stories.
I think I read somewhere that you have a massive collection of martial art movies. Do you also have any other creative outlets or passion outside of music?
Yeah, my martial arts film collection is pretty large. next to music, thats my biggest love, have spent 15 years collecting them. Otherwise, video games are always a fun outlet, love me some pro wrestling and recently started collecting action figures. All of those things are intertwined, I guess collecting things is addictive.
Thank you so much for answering our questions. We appreciate your time and wish you continued success in your next projects man. Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for having me, was fun to chat. my EP Bedtime Stories comes out April 9th on my bandcamp (elaquent.bandcamp.com) as well as all streaming platforms and DSPs, run it up ! Appreciate this and all the support !