Interview: DJ Buddha
Wed, 18 Feb 2015 09:46:47
"You're not creating music for your hard drive," exclaims DJ Buddha. "You're creating it for the world. The records I've been fortunate to do have transcended boundaries across the globe. I don't make records just for Jamaica or Wyoming. I don't look it as music for one person and one purpose. It can reach the masses."
The Grammy Award-winning producer specializes in speaking to the masses. Buddha has consistently crafted hits for everybody from Pitbull and Afrojack to Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and Enrique Iglesias, and his arsenal of anthems grows daily—along with his sphere of influence. Continually challenging himself, he's expanded his own musical empire by founding Therapist Music. This visionary collective of producers spans every genre and style, being able to literally deliver any kind of record. Buddha's well on his way to legendary status with each new track reaching an even bigger audience. It truly is a sort of Therapy...
So, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to DJ Buddha about his vision for Therapist Music, producing, and so much more.
Are you constantly making music for yourself? Even if you don't have a collaboration on deck, do you write with other artist's in mind?
It's different. I'll literally sit here and make four or five tracks just off of a vibe. If you come in like, "So-and-so is looking for a record," I'll zone in and try to make something for her or him. I like to push the boundaries. I'm really artist-driven. I want to get their vibe. I don't want to shoot in the dark. I'd rather make a beat, and if it fits, it fits. If I'm in a session with say, Rihanna, and she says, "I'm really in the mood for some soca," I'll nail as many soca records as I can that fit her vibe and still be derived from her style. We'll do something that works for her and make it different. I make a lot of records at home. When it comes to an artist or a writer I'm writing with, I try to get into the space they're in so I can create for them.
It seems like that would make the music especially adaptable.
I try to keep it as open as possible. If a writer calls me for a beat, I'll leave it open in order to let them guide it. I want to be able to do that.
How do you get into an artist's vibe?
It just depends on the artist. I've been in the studio with "A-listers" to people who are just starting out. It depends on who they are. Some are clowns, and they like to joke around. Some like to eat food. Some like to go to strip clubs [Laughs]. I don't like to force anything. If it takes a day or two before it cracks, so be it. It could take a meet up like, "We're going to go for this type of song tomorrow." Or, you'll listen to old eighties and nineties records if that's what they're into and catch a vibe from that. Everybody is so different. I'm in the studio with a Jamaican artist one day and a Puerto Rican artist the next day, you might just crack jokes to loosen up and go from there.
What drew you to producing?
I was always into music. My father was a musician. He played Tambora, which is like the Dominican version of the Conga in a band. He was on the radio as a DJ as well. He got me on the radio when I was nine, and I got my FCC license. I've always been in music. What I enjoy about music is seeing people's reactions and how they lose themselves in that. When I was able to do mixtapes, I was trying to capture that. When a mixtape did well, I thought, "If I can do this with mixtapes and DJ-ing, I should really do it from scratch producing something." That's how it came about. I just gradually got into it.
What inspired Therapist Music?
I don't have a genre. I'm just a producer. Because of that, I'm in touch with so many different people. A lot of the guys who are part of the team haven't really cracked it per se in the mainstream, or got screwed over by people. I'm very fair. I'm all work. I don't drink. I don't smoke. My mind is always fit to work. My vision of that was to give these guys a different shot and do right by them. If that means we put out the records ourselves, we put it out. You don't have to wait for anybody. You don't have to play the politics to get on somebody's album. It's like, "If that record didn't work for them, let's put it out ourselves." I've got an extended family too. People who aren't signed to Therapist will send me records and they respect the mindset. It's a multi-facet of artists and producers from so many different genres. The cool thing is somebody like Gregor Salto who is a house DJ and has number ones on Beatport will be doing funk records and B-boy records with DJ Class. You're not going to expect that. It's cool to see how the music forms and the style changes. You'll start with one vibe. Then somebody else comes in with reggaeton or meringue vibe, and they're all in one room trying to come up with a song for Chris Brown. That's cool.
Where did the concept of Therapist come from?
I A&R-ed a lot of Pitbull's projects, and I was helping out with his artists. From that, I was able to talk to a lot of people. Personally, I was talking to them like I was their therapist [Laughs]. Instead of me talking to them and trying to calm them down, the music's therapy. If you just make the music, you'll be happy! The old saying is, "A hit record changes everything." It's the truth, but you're never going to get there if you're concerned about the business. Not that you shouldn't worry about the business, but you shouldn't worry. You should just make music as art. That's the way I perceive it. If you look at music as therapy, you'll forget your worries for those two, three, or four hours you're making something. It's like going to therapy. You talk about and leave it all behind. That was the concept of the name and movement I got. I try to be fair with everybody. I teach the younger guys the publishing game and all that. It's more about understanding. Yes, you can still make money from this.
What inspires you outside of music?
I can't say travel because I was on the road for fifteen years so that doesn't inspire me so much anymore [Laughs]. I get inspiration from my son and my family. My son is six, and he's been playing the drums since he was two. He's actually really good. That inspires me, because he just picked it up. I didn't teach him. That inside presence of what he wanted to do made me say, "If he can do this, I can do it!" I also get inspired from seeing other people succeeding and knowing their stories like Diplo or DJ Mustard or Polow da Don. Those are guys I know, I grew up around, and are really good friends of me. That inspires me. I know what the guys on my team are going through personally and financially, and they're a big inspiration.
What's next for you?
Dinner [Laughs]. I've got a lot of things coming up!