ONE TRACK MIND: Dr. Dundiff talks about the making of “Nobody Likes Beats”

Getting to know Dr. Dundiff has been a highlight of my career as a writer, which has witnessed his hunger evolve into a host of remarkable albums with a who’s who of guests and collaborators. Dundiff’s music has a nice bounce, colorful and jazzy beats that weave in and out of modern EDM styles and soulful R&B. His newest record, Muneybeats, is the first of four albums to drop this year, an instrumental affair thematically tied to The Office, quirky and playing with the silliness of the mundane. You can hear “No One Likes Beats, the lead single off the record below, which just dropped today. We caught up with Dundiff to ask about his love of The Office, his gear, and when a track is done!

Never Nervous: How do you pick your samples?

Dr. Dundiff: When I’m looking for samples, I almost always look for chords. If I can find three to four chords without any drums or bass behind them, then I can create a new progression and go from there. Once I have a progression, I just keep adding on other samples, as well as playing instruments. I play the bass and additional keys on most of my music.

NN: What’s your process for assembling a project? What goes into sticking to a theme? In what ways does The Office represent your interests, whether that’s musically or otherwise?

DD: I think a project needs to be cohesive. The sound and the theme must stay constant for a project’s weight to really hold up. I think if you’re project has a theme, it needs to be present throughout. Not obvious, but noticeable. The Office worked as a theme for me for two reasons. One was that I could flip the constant use of the word “beet” for the word ”beat.” That alone gave me enough material to scatter throughout the project. However, all the beats have the same vibe to them. From energetic, to lush to straight hip-hop, the music flows effortlessly. The other reason The Office was a great theme is because it is one of my favorite shows. It is my ode to it, in a way.

NN:You have a good swing to your beats. How do you get that? What do you look for in a beat and why?

DD: My swing originally came from my love of J Dilla and the way he manipulated timing around the beat. You know, not everything is on the grid. When I started playing jazz drums in college, I experimented more with timing both there and in my beats. Now it’s second nature to me. I just feel out what the song calls for.

NN: Likewise, the mood, even if you get a little dark, is still the kind of music that would be ideal at a party, chill, but with a good sense of energy. How do you feel out that vibe? How do you process “dark,” or “chill,” things like that, and how do you see this song as fitting into that spectrum?

DD: My sound is just not a dark sound. My jazziest stuff still isn’t dark. I like my range of smooth to heavy and I think I’ve carved a large space to experiment in.

NN: For this track in specific, what obstacles did you face? What were some challenges that went into making it work, if any? Walk us through your mixing process?

DD: Nobody Likes Beats started with the chords. Once I had that pattern, I layered a drum pattern and recorded a tambourine. Then I added the bass and was looking for soulful vocal samples. I made a patch on my microKORG and along with multiple delays, I made the bubbly progression that comes in half way through the beat. The song needed to break into a different feel, all the while keeping the bass line for an easy transition. The drums were the same in the second half so I added a double snare every other measure. After that, I simply dumped everything from my MPC into Logic (DAW) and put form to the song. All the different vocals samples, other notes and instrumentation get put in different spots and then the track is done.

The real obstacle was getting the snare to crack through in the mix with everything else going on around it. Mainly, it took EQ’ing the bass, heavy automated side chaining on all the kicks and snares, as well as adding a brighter snare into the mix.

NN: When is a track done? Did you have to shave anything off or let any bits go for the recording?

DD: You have to know when to stop, and weirdly enough I always get to a point where I know when to stop. It really is all about knowing what each song calls for.

NN: Have you ever had any sample clearance issues?

DD: I have never had any sample clearance, but I chop things up deep. The goal is to create something new with all the different pieces I need, and in that process, the samples become indistinguishable.