Behind the Sound: Kevin Rudolf Talks Being a Producer, Working with Lil Wayne
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 11:50:44
Producer Kevin Rudolf straddles the line between the pop, rock and hip-hop worlds, without pledging any singular allegiance. Rudolf has worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and pop, and has teamed up with everyone from Lil Wayne to Lifehouse to Natasha Bedingfeld; if that doesn't spell out "range" and "diversity," well, then nothing else can or will! Rudolf is a Renaissance Man producer!
But genre parameters aside, one thing holds true for Rudolf: the song is always the priority. He views the producer's role as this: to extract the best possible song out of the artist.
As part of ARTISTdirect.com and HP BEATS' "Behind the Sound" series, Rudolf talked to ARTISTdirect contributor Amy Sciarretto about his usage of virtual instruments, his preference for recording at home and the burning question: What's it like to work with Lil Wayne.
Here, Rudolf offers an unflinching, educational and informative look at the role of producer and how the rock world differs from that of the pop world.
How do you view your role as a producer in the studio? What is the specific stance that you take and how do you approach the process?
I approach different kinds of music differently. In the pop, urban and hip-hop worlds, the producer is responsible for creating all of the music. I am playing all the instruments and writing or co-writing the song that the artist will sing, or co-write with me. In the rock world, it tends to be more about taking the band, guiding them, letting them play their instruments and then adding bits and orchestrating things. The role changes with different styles of music.
Any unorthodox or conventional techniques you prefer to use in the studio?
At the end of the day, you go for the best song. You want it to be the best song by any means necessary, whether it is adding or taking away instruments to get the song to where it is the best it can be.
As far as what I do, I play with the song and play with production until I know it's the best it can be. I have a simple set up: a few keyboards and I use virtual instruments and Pro Tools. I often do them in my house with no vocal booth, and you don't need a lot of equipment. How often I go to studio is dependent on the artist. With hip-hop, I can make the instrumental track at home, bring it to studio and then the rapper cuts it and raps over it, or I'll do the hook. It depends on what I'm doing.
What are some of your favorite songs that you've worked on?
I've worked with Lil Wayne, Cobra Starship, Lifehouse, Demi Lovato, and Hollywood Undead, Flo Rida and Natasha Bedingfeld. I pride myself on being one of the few who can span genres. With Wayne, I give a beat and let him do his own thing and it is fun that way. It is less responsibility for me, since he does his thing. I love Lifehouse, because they are a great band and have been around and have great songs and I had to push them to go in a bit of a different direction and was nudging them in that direction. I worked with Leona Lewis, who is one of the most incredible vocalists out there, and I love to write a song and watch it come to life through the singer. You never know what will happen. Sometimes, it's better than what you envisioned, or it is not what you intended, but it's different and it works. That's always fun.
Any great, inside stories about working with Lil Wayne? Jesse McCartney? Jay-Z?
What I learned is that no one is ever what they seem. Jesse? He is one of the best writers in the game and I did not know that about him. People see him as a teen star, but really, he has grown out of that. He is an amazing songwriter. The question I get every day is: What is Wayne like? He is unlike anyone else. You don't work with him – you give him a beat and he does his thing.
That's really low maintenance for you.
Yep. Some people have these incredible reputations and they turn out to be amazing or not as great as their reputations make them out to be. Some wind up better that you can ever imagine. That is what keeps it fun.
What band – past or present, broken up or still together- would you love to produce or would have loved to produce and why?
My dream would be U2. Absolutely! They are one of my favorite bands of all time. I love their music and what they've done in the world of music. To be in the room with U2 and be part of their music, on any level? That'd be something I'd remember for the rest of my life. Contributing would be…unbelievable.
You mentioned virtual instruments. How do you approach new equipment and new technology?
Virtual instruments are synthesizers or samplers that exist inside the computer, so the actual keyboards are on the screen and you use an external keyboard to trigger it. In the past, you'd have a keyboard, plug it in and record. This set up does it internally and plays into the computer. It's a lot of instruments without taking up all the space. They are fun to edit and to play around with. They sound great...now. They didn't start out sounding that good. But the companies have perfected them. Tons of modern records use them.
Lastly, sum up the producer role in a sentence or two.
The producer is responsible for creating the sound of the record; for making the song come out as good as it possibly can; for writing or co-writing. The producer is known for shaping the record.
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