Walla C talks Brazilian music and sampling — Sungenre Interview
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Walla C talks Brazilian music and sampling

Walla C talks Brazilian music and sampling

Walla C is a Brazilian producer, rapper, beat-maker and radio presenter who calls Melbourne home. His latest EP, Daylight was released in April.

You’ve picked five songs to accompany this article. Would you like to say anything about your choices?
Click here to read Walla C’s responses.

Congratulations on your new EP, Daylight. What would you say sets it apart from your earlier body of work?
Well I guess they’re five tracks I’ve had with me for the past six months and I was really working on these tracks separately before I found out they actually had things in common. Not so much the rhythm but the sounds of the drums and the synths were really similar and I just found that out as I put it together. Also, because I’m from Brazil, it has elements from Brazilian music like the percussion and vocals, even the melodies in there. I just found out, like, that that those five tracks worked together. It was quite homogenic. Overall, it’s a nice representation of my progression by having trap, hip-hop beats and future beats in the same EP. That’s why I put them together. Also, initially I had the idea to release it in summer, so that’s why the EP is called Daylight, but then I had things going on in the schedule and had to postpone it a little bit.

There sounds like a bit more polish has been added relative to your other releases and certain dancey elements make it feel more accessible. Would you agree?
Yes, definitely. I started like five years ago with lo-fi beats and (on this release) there’s all the progression of producing hip-hop and listening to jazz and stuff. Making myself interested in exploring different sounds and making my beats sound a little more clean. So definitely, there’s a little more polish, more accessibility. There’s less elements there in terms of instruments – piano, bass and drums. Its more simple, I would say. There’re life elements in this EP. Some of the beats, there’s like four elements in one track.

Was it hard for you to move out of that lo-fi headspace and try to polish things up a little more?
Well it wasn’t that hard because I didn’t remove myself from that space. I still make lo-fi beats. And since the beginning I’ve tried to listen to different types of music and different kinds of beats too, so it wasn’t that hard for me. But I remember mixing the EP and then finding out that I need to find someone to master my music, something I’ve never done before. The idea of having a house track on the EP too made me pay someone to master the EP. And because I want the EP to sound good and be able to be played by DJs and remixed, one of the big things was the mastering. I had professional mastering and that gave it that polished sound. I had to work on the mix a little bit more as well. I had to understand the mixing and mastering for that style of music. So, in answering your question, I didn’t remove myself. I still do lo-fi beats. But for the EP I had to pay a little more attention to mixing, for sure. Ill never neglect lo-fi, I love it, but I found the aesthetic more interesting for this material.

So you released all your earlier stuff without having mastered it?
I mastered it myself. But the professional mastering requires very expensive equipment and time as well. Someone with the knowledge of mastering. It’s easy to master stuff in the bedroom, but it won’t sound the same as someone who’s worked with mastering for many years. But I did release all my other stuff having mastered it and done everything else myself.

You mentioned before you had a bit of a Brazilian influence with this latest EP and throughout your earlier work too. There sounds like there’s a mix of funk and jazz there too. Do you actively chase those styles, or do they come more organically?
I think it comes naturally. Especially the Brazilian elements, it just comes naturally. I’ve found it easy to reproduce in terms of percussion. It’s not something I try to achieve too much. I mean, I do search some rhythms and stuff but initially when I first started making beats it was just something that came naturally. The funk stuff I think came from hip-hop and digging samples.

Living out of Brazil makes me even more interested in Brazilian music.

Can you talk about how growing up in Rio Di Janero influenced your musical upbringing?
Yeah, I come from Brazil. I arrived in Australia in 2010. When I was in Brazil I think I was around music since high school. I wasn’t playing instruments or anything, but I was always around people who were active in music; DJs and musicians in general. Then I worked with a friend of mine and I was in the scene. I was rapping. A friend had a home studio and he was a producer. He did that side of it and I was coming up and writing and recording. So I did grow up with music from family as well, I don’t have musicians in the family, but I grew up listening to music and I think hip-hop was the first general interest, so I was rapping that. And yeah, that’s definitely my influence with music these days, there’s no way to neglect that. But I think definitely, Brazilian music will be a part of my production naturally, just because I love it. And just living out of Brazil makes me even more interested in Brazilian music. When I was there I wasn’t paying attention as much, but now living away it makes me, homesick or whatever, it makes me comprehend it and dig it more and want to learn the history.

What prompted your move to Melbourne?
I think just the scene in general. The music scene in Melbourne is just incredible. There’s so much talent here. And I just love the city.

Are there any specific styles of Brazilian that speak to you more than others?
I think it’s a bit of bossa nova, but more samba and also funk from Brazil in the 70s. There was a lot of influence from Motown on Brazilian music, but Brazil had their own flavour so it was a nice mix between Brazilian rhythms and funk-soul from the US. And that’s what made people interested because it was like ‘oh that sounds familiar, but it’s got a Brazilian touch’. But I would say that I grew up listening to all popular music from Brazil, which is samba or funk-soul and, as I say, I probably wasn’t understanding that much whilst I was there. I was more observing. But since I moved outside of my country I’ve studied the music. And I think Brazilian music in general like, hip-hop these days, is so prominent. There’re so many people just sampling Brazilian music all the time. Like, you got Kaytranada, soul vibes and trap, bali-funk. They all make me realise, like, ‘woah these are my roots, why am I not using these’. So yeah, definitely I could say funk and soul from Brazil in the 70s. You can put samba in there because that’s like African roots and Brazilian rhythm. Bossa nova is more like when the samba became popular in the 60s, bossa nova was like a jazz samba, which is interesting as well, but I would say the roots of samba is what I live in more. Bossa nova goes more jazzy, but it’s cool too, it’s cool too. It’s amazing.

When I came to live in Australia, the language was a big thing.

Having started as a rapper, is it hard to leave lyrics out of your instrumental/sample-based beats?
There’s a reason. When I came to live in Australia, the language was a big thing. So, I started studying sound production here and I was wanting to be a sound engineer and wanted to use my knowledge for beats. I’d go to school, learn and then go home and make beats. Production really took over my brain, my ideas and my mind in general. I think it changed the context too. I think I was talking about hip-hop in Brazil, that really wasn’t a big part of me when I came here. I think that really influenced my inspiration to keep writing grabs and doing hip-hop when I was back home, but over here I was more about the production. I learnt how to tell a story by writing an instrumental. I still do my own stuff with rap. Maybe one day it’ll come out, but at the moment it’s just for me.

Have you got any advice for aspiring beatmakers or producers?
Um, I think just design your sound. Try to get inspiration for what you got. I dunno. Maybe also be diverse in what your listening to, that’s a good thing to do. Don’t get stuck in one type of music, be diverse in listening. Just do one type yourself but listening to different styles helps give you a sensibility and that will help you compose. I think if you go more in terms of technical stuff, try to use organic sounds in your beats. Don’t get stuck in digital. Try to record something natural on top. You can do everything in front of a computer these days and it sounds amazing but have your own touch there. Have the natural kind of rhythm or production. It gives you the natural type of feeling.

Can you take us through your setup?
My main stuff is a Microkorg and SP-555 and SP-44 samplers. They’re both pretty popular samplers. It seems like seven years ago the older generation of Roland SPS stuff just exploded. And I just use normal software for recording; Logic or FL studio. No drum machines yet, but I got some percussion from Brazil, so I try to record that on my beats too. Like, shakers and tambourines and stuff.

Listening to your back catalogue, a few samples have caught my ear that I was curious to ask you about. On “Tenminbeat” from Expediton(S) (2016), did you just use the Thundercat drums from ‘Them Changes’?
No, Thundercat’s drums is a sample from a band from the 70s. Thundercat sampled that drum loop. It’s from 70s funk soul, but Dilla used it first. But it’s just a drum break that’s been around for ages, and everyone uses it now. It’s just a reference drum break so people will hear it and be like, ‘oh Thundercat used that’. Its quite intentional to give a reference of something you’ve heard before. Give a link instead of using completely new sounds. I love Thundercat too.

And on “Davaranda” from Surdo (2016) there’s an infomercial-like intro that’s as guilty a pleasure as they come. Where did you grab that from?
Oh it’s a Brazilian sample. It’s a samba. It’s one of the records a friend of mine just left in my house. Everything from Brazil is on that EP. The story is, a friend of mine was travelling for ages and before he went to Brazil he had these two crates of Brazilian records and he didn’t have space to leave them and I was like, ‘oh yeah I’ve got space for records for sure’ and so he brought them over and I decided to do a whole album just sampling those crates for him. I remember having two weeks off work at the end of the year and I decided to do one beat a day from Monday to Friday. I did the EP in one week. Not everything, but like, the whole root of each beat, like the draft ideas I did one a day sampling the Brazilian music. But yeah, it’s a samba track from Brazil. It’s just a very, very traditional way to start a beat; play the whole sample. I don’t think it plays any of the sample for the rest of the song, but it just sounds good. You know when you muck around with music you’re like, ‘that sounds good, I’m gonna leave that’. It’s a good representation of Brazilian music too.

You co-host a show on PBS 106.7FM here in Melbourne. What drew you into community radio?
I like it. It forces me to search for new music every week. It’s a show called Fresh Produce on PBS every Saturday for two hours and we try and give a spotlight for producers. When I came to Melbourne I was trying to find community radio shows to play my beats and I went to Fresh Produce to perform for 45 minutes and as a friend of Cosi who’s been doing Fresh Produce for probably seven years, at some point he asked me if I wanted to co-host the show. So, I’ve been doing the show three years with him and it’s good. It sort of forces me, or not forces me, but makes me update myself with whatever’s going on around locally and also internationally. We play a bit of everything and it did help me connect with people from different cultures. Like, I’ve found music from the UK and then up-sharing that music before sending a playlist to that artist is a good way to network. It’s cool, it’s just a really, really cool station. Really good community radio, cool people, inspirational actually. I get really inspired to keep digging music.

It’s funny how presenters on community radio are all volunteers, but they’re often the most professional and well-versed people in music on the air.
I got friends questioning me about volunteering for the radio. They’re like, ‘bro you’re not getting any money’ and I’m like, ‘man, you’re getting way more than money’. Just being around that environment I learn a lot. Even in terms of how we get sent a lot of demos, press and I understand way more about PR these days. It really helps with my own music, like the the language needed to be a part of the music industry, sometimes as an artist you don’t understand this other stuff. Even understanding there’s a PR crew that can help promote your music. Five years ago, I didn’t know that. So, there’s a lot of practical help they can give.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
I can say locally I’d love to do something with Dominic Gazozlo from SO.Crates. Locally there’s a lot of people I’d love to make music with. Dominic would be good. He’ll be interesting to collaborate with. Overseas, there’s a piano player from LA called KEFI or any of these producers from LA would be amazing for me to work with.