In 2016 I interviewed up-and-coming producer Kirk Knight along with Cliff Calendar for Ableton. Here is an excerpt of the interview. Read the full article at Ableton’s website where you can also find amazing tools for music creation.
Brooklyn has a way of forcing residents to mature a bit quicker. The grit, and hustle of the environment often finds its way into the subconscious of its inhabitants – and those talented enough to break through in music tend to have traces of the borough all over their work. Twenty year old MC and producer Kirk Knight is no exception. Best known for his music production for Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, and the Pro Era crew, Knight’s sound is clearly rooted in NYC hip hop but adds a modern and refreshing palate to the sample-driven sound. We caught up with Kirk in between tour stops with the Underachievers to discuss music production, live performance, and the creation of his debut album Late Knight Special.
Kirk Knight Interview
What is your (music making) process like?
I begin with the beat first. Sometimes I use hardware, just to get that punch, and then I’ll layer that with drums I make in Live or with a plug-in like Battery. Sometimes I just use the Drum rack and EQ with EQ8 and Trash. When using a sample that has low drums, I sometimes take out a lot of the low frequencies, leave the mids, and take out a little bit of the highs, all depending on what kind of sound I’m trying to go to.
Next I work on samples. Sample manipulation is what I love best in Live because I can morph a sample and turn the pitch to something totally different… After samples I start working on the hook because the hook is the topic of the whole song. Once you’ve got the topic of what your essay is gonna be about, then you can write the essay. In rare cases, sometimes I make the beat in my head and write out the lyrics first, then write the beat to it.
Do you sample from vinyl? Or do you sample from YouTube or from films?
I do all three. I just look for sounds. Films have the fire for drama-filled music. There’s a new beat that I made on Nyck Caution and CJ’s next project where I sample films. You’ll hear it on CJ’s track. I wish my vinyl collection was as big as Alchemist’s. I remember one time I went to his crib and saw his vinyl collection and realized how serious collecting vinyl is, and that made me want to get into it more.
How do you go about putting these different samples together?
This is where I put everything into Live and layer. One of the things I love about Live is that it can transform the pitches of things and make them work together. Like I can take three different samples and make them work as one. And that’s where I’ll start layering the drums with the hardware. And sometimes my beats aren’t on beat. I’ll drop in a two bar loop and it’s off. But I’ll layer the samples so everything loops on two bars and it works.
Do you use Push in your setup?
Yeah. I’m still trying to master the Push. But for now I use the “In Key” mode a lot. I’ll play a little bass line on that shit or a little key. I can’t play the piano but it lets me stay in key even though I can’t play. I want to start using Push live on stage.
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Photos by OscarDayz