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Manifesto Presents: Seven Pillars - An Interview with Nick Low-Beer

In this edition of Seven Pillars, Chris “Preach” Smith speaks with Nick
Low-Beer, aka 81Neutronz, about his career as a DJ, musician and
producer. His career to date can be considered highly kinetic with
influences in hip hop and electronica both. Most notably, he collaborated
to make ‘Cinderella Man’ from Eminem’s ‘Recovery’ album in 2010 in
addition to working with established musicians from the UK electronica

Preach:What drew you to beat production? How did you realize that’s what you wanted
             to do for a career?

NLB: Music’s always been a real kinetic thing for me. I started out with breaking,
        breakdancing. Growing up, I was always trying to break from a very young
        age. I had amassed a huge collection of tapes, and then my sister’s boyfriend
        at the time was a DJ from the UK, Alex Patterson who spins a lot of ambient
        house music, he noticed all these tapes and CD’s I had and was like, ‘Man,
        this kid needs to start DJ’ing.’ So when I turned 13, he actually got me two
        Technics and a mixer for my birthday and from then on, I was trying all kinds
        of DJ tricks, playing parties, trying to battle and work on transforms and stuff
        like that. So all throughout junior high, high school I was studying music, trying
        to finding good music, stuff that would get people moving, studying pop music.
        You know, those were the days when you had Belly, The Lox, Ruff Ryders…
        that was when everything had to be hard. I spun dancehall as well. Then also,
        the house scene, I can tell you when I went to get house records, I ‘d be buying
        a lot of German and UK trance records because I liked the melodies better
        and people weren’t really into that. People really wanted something like tribal
        house, which was influenced by the Italian scene, and which was the norm
        while I was in high school. When I went record shopping, people would give
        shit like, ‘why are you buying all of these import records’ and I would say, ‘this
        is what I like.’ Then my friend, who used to rap, he was big on the site, he got a Korg Triton. This was about 2001, that was
        my first experience making beats by fooling around with his Triton. Then I got
        a Triton and an MPC, and started making beats by myself. I went to college
        at Colorado State University and over the course of college it became less
        about DJing for me and more about making beats from scratch. That’s what
        made me want to dance more, making my own music gave me that real feeling  
        just playing other people’s music didn’t give me.  It kind of evolved from that
        feeling of wanting to dance to my own music, that’s where it all came from.

Preach: How would you describe your particular sound to a first-time listener?

NL: I would say it’s a lot of bright colors, and a lot of big drums. I’m not really big on
       subtlety. Very atmospheric. Somewhat cinematic. Some people have said,
       “Oh this would be good on a movie soundtrack, like at the beginning of a
       movie.” Something like that.

Nick Low-Beer.

Preach: One of your better known credits is as a co-producer for Eminem’s ‘Cinderella
             Man.” How did that come about?

NL: The way that happened was, I was assisting my mentor, Phil Pitts. He made
        some beats for 50 Cent, he did ‘Hands Up’ for Lloyd Banks, Between 2005
        and 2007, he was pretty much looking over my shoulder, guiding me, drilling
        into me the need for fundamentals. I was in the studio working with him. This
        time around, he was working in the studio with someone else while the next
        person scheduled to work with him sat with me  This guy, Script Shepard
        wrote the record himself and he approached me saying, ‘Yo I have this sound idea,
        I’d like someone to make a beat for it. Do you think you can make a beat for this song?
        And I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try, what do you want?’ He sang the hook and basically
        wanted a sound like (Queen’s) ‘We Will Rock You’. And I’m sitting there and
        listening to it, thinking it’s cool, not really realizing it’s a $50,000 record. So,
        in about 5 minutes we had the beat. I layered feeds, some kicks and snares,
        shit I had chopped up from a couple of movies. Shepard took the track, and 3
        years later, he calls me up and told me, ‘Yo Eminem wants the track.’ I didn’t
        really jump on it, because after working in New York City a couple of years,
        you begin to hear a lot of people tell you stuff like that. ‘Yo, I got you’ and other
        stuff. So I said, “Okay, I’ll get to it when I get to it’ because I had just left the disc
        with the file at my parents’ house in Connecticut. He got at me like, ‘Yo, what
        don’t you understand about Eminem wants the file?!!!” and my response was,
       “All right, what do I get?” He says, “Well next time we set up we’ll call you.” I’m
        like, “Well that’s not good enough. I made the whole track, what are you talking
        about?” He goes, “Man, you didn’t do nothing! Any engineer could’ve done
        what you did!!” So I go, “Oh word? Well then why don’t you get another
        engineer then?!” He tells me, ‘We already tried that, we brought in another guy
        to sit in and they didn’t want that beat, they wanted the one you did in five
        minutes.” So it was super ugly for a second. Script is super cool, but I think the
        pressure of the situation got to everybody. I got super defensive, which made  
        him get mad aggressive about it being his even though when we were working
        on it, it was all for the love at the time. Which is the nature of the industry I think;
        on one hand it can be so cool , all cool but when people start talking about
        fame and money, everybody gets defensive. Luckily for me that year, everyone was
        coming to me with requests for that file from that situation. If they hadn’t come at
        me so crazy, I wouldn’t have been able to barter a good position. I was lucky
        that my mind allowed me not to rush. I said to myself, ‘even if this does get
        placed, I don’t feel like giving up this file unless I get what I deserve.’r. Script
        ended up getting production, I ended up getting drum programming and a
        small percentage of the buyout price of the record, which was cool. I got my
        name on a small credit on the biggest record of the year. I was happy with that.
       Then the universe somehow saw my name placed as a feature on the record
        on the listing of the record on Best Buy’s website, which I think is hilarious. But
        that’s how it happened, it happened quickly, the beat took five minutes to make
        from start to finish.

Preach: How did you link up with Blaklionz Beats?

NL: He (Rajahru) hit me up on Facebook,, told me he had heard some of my music and was
       interested in working together. I was all for it. I’m like, ‘Cool let’s arrange a face
       to face meeting.” We struggled to make that happen for a couple of months but
       when we finally got up, it was real cool. For me, face to face meetings are good
       because I have to see if I connect with you enough to work with you. And I got
       the sense that Rajah was a good dude, and he had a lot of things going on.
       The connection I believe was also due to this dude Gaji, who’s from Montserrat
       and also Bruk Up, who I know who’s very well-known in the dancehall scene.

Preach: A lot of producers out there have gone the route of releasing beat tapes and
      instrumental EPs. Do you see yourself doing that, if you haven’t done so already?

NL: Yeah, sure. Most of my music I pretty much release on my website. I’m not
        opposed to it. I know that recently it worked good for someone who went on
        to produce ASAP Rocky after a couple of beat tapes. For me, I have one foot
        in electronic music and one foot in hip hop. I’m trying to spread the music I
        have however I can. I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of person, and I’m
        not that great at promoting myself. So I’m thankful that I met Raj ‘cause he
        really likes my sound, independent of the credit, he really believes in it so
        he’d be able to help me out with that. If he were to say, “Hey I think we should  
        do a beat CD, here’s an idea for the artwork, and so on’ I’d definitely be down
        to do it.

Preach: With that, is there anything new you’re planning to work on?

NL:  I’m trying to get an electronic music distribution deal with this label, and I’m
        putting together an album. Something like the soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t
        existed yet. I want the beats to be continuous, to morph into each other, kind of
        like how Saigon’s album was with its beats. I’m also just releasing beats one
        by one through my website, and finding more spots that want someone to
        come out and play more electronic music, to do more DJing than I used to.

What words of advice would you give to someone just starting our in music

NL: One of the most important things you can do is to find a mentor. Find somebody
       who can be a sonic example to you and drill you in the fundamentals. Having a
       mentor can be a BIG difference. For me, having the mentor that I had at
       Bangout was an invaluable experience because the way that I made beats
       before I met him and the way that I made beats after was totally different. It’s a
       combination of having a good mentor and studying the fundamentals of what
       music you’re into. If you can’t find inspiration, listen to more music. For people
       starting out in the music industry, people always want to know how to get on.
       People should know how to cultivate. Read, Study good music. Meditate. That’s
       the secret of life. Because no matter how bad your music is, if you sign the
       wrong deal, you could be put on tomorrow. Because someone is there who is
       willing to exploit you, make a fool of you and put you up there next to Kim
       Kardashian on the E! Channel if you’re willing to sell yourself out like that. But
       people don’t really want to be on like that, people want to be on, on their terms.
       They want to spread what it is they have to offer musically and I feel in order to
       do that, it’s a much longer road. It’s a road of faith. You gotta believe in what you
       do, you gotta refuse to sell out. I continually check myself. Because you’re only
       as big as your next thing. Help others out, teach younger kids who are into
       music about the fundamentals of engineering, do local parties. I’m a big
       believer in schooling, as well as real world experience. Learn your emotions;
       there’s kids who want to be put on and will walk out of a meeting with Jay-Z
       because someone told them to shut up for a second and that was only done to
       test them as to how they handle things.

For more of Nick’s music, check him out here:

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