Pushing his buttons

Joe Beats heads back to the lab
By CHRIS CONTI  |  August 5, 2008

REAL TIME Beats at work.

“My number one priority is getting more of my music out there.” 

That’s not something you’d expect to hear from local DJ/producer extraordinaire Joe Beats, who has made a full-time living in the professional beat business since 1999 and has an extensive resume dating back to his days as one-half of immortal duo Non-Prophets alongside wordsmith Sage Francis. Beats has been playing out steadily all summer, from weekly local solo gigs to supporting AS220’s Rhodeshow collaborative on the road, where he supplied beats for The Growth Project 2.0 crew. But there’s bad news for fans of his re-nowned live set — a weary Joe Beats and his SP-404 samplers will take a well-deserved break, as chronicled in a recent post on joebeats.blogspot.com: “I need to go back to the drawing board [and] will rest for two months on live performances.”

Joe told me: “I hit points like now, where I’m completely exhausted by music and am forced to find new and interesting ways to keep myself enthusiastic.”

Beats has a few projects in the can and ready to roll, and said he has been in “research mode over the past few months,” getting ready to buckle down back in the lab and churn out his brand of uniquely raw yet buttery beats.

“If I go out to a record store without a plan or vision, just digging in crates, I’ll sound like everyone else or worse yet, I’ll find myself after the same types of sounds most produc-ers are out for.”

Beats broke the news that he has another album with talented Tampa-based lyricist Blak completed, the follow-up to the acclaimed Strategery EP.
“It’s different from what people would normally expect from me,” Beats said. “It’s much more accessible.” 

Beats also contributed to Romen Rok’s upcoming debut album, due out by year’s end, and says the Edgewood-born rapper is “serious about his craft and ready to shine.”

Beats also found some unexpected inspiration collecting dust on the shelf.

“A New York MC named Anonjondoe and I have had an EP in the can for awhile now, and I called him up recently and told him that I still love these songs and that we need to get it out there, which is rare after listening to them over such a long span of time.”

Having known Beats since the Warwick high school days, I’m comfortable when trying to push his buttons a bit, in a matter of speaking, when discussing his live show. So, what’s so hard about it, Joey? Why so exhausted? What’s the big deal?

“I don’t know if anyone can do what I do,” Beats said, “meaning they probably don’t want to, because using a laptop would just be easier, and I don’t feel that’s fair to the artist or the audience. They came to see you perform, not your computer.”

Beats proceeds to break down what looks like nothing more than a game of Simon set to music.

“I perform on twin mini-samplers. Each pad out of the 12 main buttons represents a sample. If eight things come in on the chorus, I hit all eight buttons at the same time, and they light up accordingly.”

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