Off Centre was able to catch up with Gushee for a Q&A after their fine April stint rocking shows and playing with Kangaroos in Australia. In case you don't know, Gushee is the love child of Toronto's ProEf and Brooklyn's Pursuit Grooves. We got to talking about their debut album as a duo and asked them questions about their intricate creative process. A good read for those new to beat making, DJing, and/or those seasoned veterans looking for a push to the next level.
OC - What got you started in music and why DJing specifically (instead of say drums or guitar)?
ProEf - Music has always been a part of my life. I've been a fan as far back as I can remember. The first time I started to play an active roll in music was in elementary school where I picked up a trumpet. That didn't last very long at all but shortly afterwards I discovered hip hop and became very involved in the culture. I tried my hand at dancing, MCing and later found my self hooked on the idea of djing thanks to a show back in the day called RapCity and DJ's like Terminator X of Public Enemy scratching records. I was so fascinated by the way sounds could be manipulated. Turntables had a lure that no other instrument had... no strings, no spit, not your average instrument at all.
PG - I played the bass clarinet for two years in elementary school. At the same time I was watching my grandmother and aunt on the piano and taught myself by ear. Took lessons for a bit but it didn't last very long. I continued teaching myself a bit on the piano and started saving up and asking for production gear at 16. I started DJing seriously in college at the campus club. I had a regular weekend spot which was highly coveted! As a result, I definitely was aware of what would move people musically. At least club wise!
OC - On your way to becoming the diverse producers that you are you learned to DJ first, right? Would you say that your DJ experience was an important building block in becoming successful producers?
ProEf - DJing was first. I actually learned how to scratch before mixing and found that it helped to build up my confidence around the turntables and mixer. For me it was very important to learn to dj before I started to produce music because I was able to train my ears by learning to count beats and exposed myself to a variety of sounds and styles. After doing so for a few years it was a natural progression to create music of my own.
OC - Were there any key moments that propelled you further in your career? Perhaps a struggle that you got through, or a moment of inspiration that took you to the next level?
ProEf - I'm an adventurous person and open to trying new things. This has allowed me to find inspiration in some amazing places. A moment that seems to stick out for me the most is a show I saw on Center Island with Kid Koala opening and headlined by Bjork. It was fantastic! Bjork's performance and presence was so large it inspired me to think bigger and encouraged me to not be afraid of pushing new ideas.
OC - Your debut self titled album Gushee displays confidence and earnest emotional expressiveness. Sometimes electronic based music is very technical and affect can get lost on the computer grid. How do you balance creativity using a platform that is inherently logical and perhaps sometimes emotionless?
PG - Both of us have diverse influences. From hip hop to funk to soul and so on. It just so happens that the tools we use are electronic based. The ideas come from a very soulful place. It just comes from within and is translated through electronic means. Also incorporating live elements and samples help create a wider scope as well.
ProEf - The important thing to remember is we use the tools to create. Tools should never control us.
OC - You guys are both beat heads, but your individual styles are varied and unique. With so many genres and niches flying around it's difficult to define yourself. How do you narrow down a sea of musical ideas to find a few words to describe your music. On a promotional level that is quite an important isn't it?
PG - We try to list our influences so you understand where we are coming from. It's easier to do that than to try to describe what genre we're in. It's an inevitable question but sometimes it's better to just experience it for yourself. I'd rather they just feel the music first and do all the talking after!
OC - What advice would you give someone starting out? Where do you begin? Is it a matter of something practical like knowing what equipment or software to use, or is it more a matter of the heart...knowing what it is that you want to express?
ProEf - Come up with a plan first then find the tools and stick with them until you figure them out inside and out.
PG - There are so many options these days. When I started 15 yrs ago as a teenager I bought what was affordable and pretty easy to use. Today there are many ways to approach production. Software wasn't so accessible back then so it was mostly hardware. There also weren't tutorials on youtube to get a little idea of what might work best for you. I'd say talk to friends who produce and if possible try out a few things before you buy anything. Or do what I did a few times, use something for a bit and then sell it for something else if you want to try something else until you find the perfect fit. Then, as Pro-Ef said learn it inside and out. Dedication is your best friend.
Check out Gushee's debut self-titled full length out on Otnorot and stay tuned by linking with them: