Joseph Harrison

How did you get started? Tell us your story!

I'm an Army brat and was born in Augsburg, Germany. We moved to Virginia when I was about 2 years old and though I lived in the St. Louis Metro area for a while (primarily southwestern Illinois), the DMV area will always be home. I was fortunate enough to spend a few months in Thailand as well, which was fun. I grew up on many genres but the first one was reggae and the first song I ever started singing before really being able to talk was "Get Up Stand Up." Both of my parents listened to many things from classic soul to R&B, a little house and techno, and of course one of my loves, hip-hop!

My uncle who is only three years my senior, is a DJ, producer, rapper, and visual artist. I pretty much followed him like a shadow and was more of a little brother than a nephew. I always really loved music and could typically isolate separate parts and instruments in my head while listening to some of my favorite songs on repeat. But following after my uncle, I watched him scratch records, make beats, and record songs on a tape deck. It was super raw, super analog. But the most mesmerizing thing to me, I knew then that I had to get into it myself.

I would always be a fly on the wall during recording sessions. And would be in his room playing on his Yamaha keyboard when he wasn't home (all of us lived at our Granny, his mom's house lol). From there I started writing poetry and rhymes a little but the only music I had was in choir and recorder but finally, in 6th grade, I got to join band. I wanted to do drums but they only had slots open for trumpet. God has a way of working in your favor even when you can't see it. I didn't have one and they didn't have one to loan me, but a friend of my Mom's just so happened to have one he wasn't using, and bam, off, I go.

I remember before my first lesson, I was blowing air in the mouthpiece and instrument yelling, "Mommy, it's broken!" and my mom's all like, "Wait until you get to class later and she'll show you how to play it." And I'm all like, "Yeah, but it's broken, see" and I'm just blowing hot air, moving the valves spits going everywhere but no sound. I get to class and the band instructor says, "Today class we're only focusing on buzzing. Take out your mouthpieces and do this (does the proper technique with the mouthpiece)." My little 11 or 12-year-old mind was blown.

I had the pleasure of playing trumpet from 6th grade up until I graduated high school and got to be in marching band three of my four high school years. All the while I was begging my mom over and over for a keyboard so I could make music like my uncle. She would get me gaming consoles, which I enjoyed and played the heck out of, but no keyboard. It wasn't until maybe my sophomore or junior year, she finally got me a Yamaha of my own. Couldn't tell you the model. Now bear in mind, I never took piano lessons ever. But man I was through the roof. I kept playing with the different voices and such, it had a few drum kits, strings, pianos, horns, man it was a standalone DAW as far as I knew (as I wasn't hip to DAWs at the time really). I had 5 custom slots to make tracks with and only 5 sounds per track. I got super creative lol. I believe the first one I made was my broke attempt at David Banner's, "Like a Pimp" beat.

Some of my friends thought it was tight, but in hindsight was super trash. Another beat I remember had this cool rift of angelic voices and I thought I was cool because I used only the black keys lol. And here's the real kicker, there was no quantization nor looping. I had to play each track the full length of however I wanted the song to be, then come behind with each subsequent track trying to stay in time with my out of time first instrument. Fun times indeed. The first DAW I attempted was Fruity Loops when it was still called Fruity Loops (probably like FL 4). I downloaded it from one of the popular p2p sites at the time, but I had no idea how to use it so I stuck to my keyboard. The fun part is I had to stick a cheap webcam mic to my keyboard speaker and record it in Audacity to get a digital copy of my song, and so I could delete it from 1 of my 5 slots to make new beats, again, fun times. Later down the road, still young and broke, I was in a rap group in college, spitting Ether of course lol, and one summer I got to visit my uncle. He gave me a cracked version of Reason.

My whole life changed again. He made this Latin style beat in about 3 minutes. I added in some horns for the hook and a little extra perks. You couldn't tell me anything. Rocked with that for a while made some trash but interesting beats and finally in 2015, I bought myself a maxed out Macbook Pro and got my first legal and official DAW Logic Pro X. I was set with an opened box M-Audio Oxygen 25 from Best buy and it was off to the races! Unfortunately, I had multiple jobs so I wasn't able to consistently create, and of course, a new tool takes time to learn, so I wouldn't say I started making noise in Logic until about 2018. And now in 2020, I'm creating nearly daily and the sky's the limit. I moved to Atlanta in April of this year and thanks to The 808 Wave have started making a few local connections. Can't wait until it gets safer out to network in person with artists and make some great music!

What is your experience in the music industry? Do you have any formal training or schooling? If not, are you self-taught and how did you learn your craft? What is your learning style? What are your favorite educational resources (ex. college, Youtube, etc.)?

I've taken an Audio Engineering course at MMP Studios in Burke, VA but I'm mainly self-taught, trial and error, and a bunch of YouTube and help from musician friends. My engineering still needs a lot of work but I'm enjoying the process. I learn mainly by just trying things. When I'm out of my comfort zone and finally just experiment, things usually work out at some point. I've made a lot of my own music but also helped make music with my group in college as well as a group I was in called Skossgod Bane. Since then I have made my first beat tape titled "31 x 31" and launched a Beatstars account and have a few instrumentals on Spotify and over 2 SoundCloud accounts.

What are some credits and achievements that you have? Who have you worked with? Who have you collaborated with

Industry-wise, I haven't worked with any named artist but got to rhyme with a dope emcee by the name Abel Meri from the DMV. We made a song over a beat by Austrian Producer Phat Suspekt. I've only really technically collaborated with bigger named producers via their sample packs. Like Chris Punsalan of YouTube fam and Curtiss King but again only through sample packs.

Who are your biggest influences growing up and why? Who do you like to listen to now and why? Who’s on your playlist right now?

My Uncle Damon, Timbaland and Missy, the Neptunes, DJ Premier, J Dilla, and Dark child. Man, there's almost too many producers to list but those are the major ones. It didn't hurt that Timbo, Missy and the Neptunes were also from Virginia but also there music was so unique, so different. Zaytoven and Organized Noise down here in Atlanta inspired me too. Nowadays, I try to connect, support, and listen to independent artists I connect with whether it be with The 808 wave, IG, SoundCloud, or Beatstars even. I still rock with J. Cole, Run The Jewels, Logic just dropped his last album, and I jam out to a lot of lo-fi music, jazz, and video game soundtracks.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered or faced in this industry?

I want to grow organically and everything industry-related seems payola like, pay for promotion, pay to get verified, pay to get your music heard, drop 3, 4 stacks to get a feature, who has money for all that when you're getting started?

How would you describe your sound and style?

My style is eclectic in the truest sense. One minute, I'll want to make a by the number trap banger, the next, a ballad, then something super experimental. I try not to be boring with my sound. That's how I try to approach making beats at least. I might not be super crazy with the effects but I try not to make repetitive loops if I can help it. Though beats need to be simple enough to where an artist can get in there and make it their own.

What are some of your goals this year?

I want to release at least two more beat tapes, work with some established ATL producers and artists as well as receive some music placements for film, TV, and/or video games.

Who are the top 3 artists, producers, engineers, videographers, or others you would want to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?

Young Guru, MF Doom, and Flying Lotus.

What is your creative process like?

Nowadays, I use melodics for daily practice for the keys as well as pads for drumming and melodies, and I let that lesson lead me into my first musical idea. That or I start with a piano sound until I play some chords that sound good. Another trick is to listen to a few Apple loops within Logic; so much fire in there. After finding a good melody, chords, or loops I am usually off to the races. I don't structure until I feel I built enough around the sound I started with. I'll add effects here and there but the garnish is usually last. And I try, keyword try, to mix as I go.

What’s your favorite go-to order?

My wife and I default to Indian (Chicken Biryani) or Thai (Ka Pao Fried Rice).