He’s the new producer on the hip hop scene with a debut album of rolling, thumping to chilled and late-night sombre beats, with a name with so many possibilities and the support of the Awakenings Crew, CLAYTON BENNETT delved into the mind of Chasm to see where he got inspiration from and where his roots in beat-making and the culture of hip hop began, as well as what he’d bring to a desert island.
A year ago you were a basic unknown producer plodding away in your bedroom, now you are a known producer in ‘the scene’ with a well received debut album and various shows around the nation – how do you take this change and has it changed you? Has it even changed at all?
Nah it hasn’t changed, I’m still pretty unknown really, just doing the same as usual, trying to put my head down and hone my skills and keep making beats, it feels good having some music out there though
When you speak about honing your skills, how do you feel about the sound of your debut? Have you progressed since then and what do you look to do possibly as a follow up/ any work in future?
Yeah there is a few tracks on the CD that feel really dated to me now, the more downtempo beats, (although) I’m still pretty happy with the tracks I chose to put on the CD, but I’ve definitely moved on and feel like I am still improving as far as my production goes. I’m currently working on an album with another producer from Sydney, Sir Robbo. I’m also making beats for Hykoo’s solo album and I want to release a chasm 7″ later this year, so I got a few things in the works
For those not in the know, what is the difference between a 7″ record and 12″ record – is there any difference in length (duration)?
Well 7″s are a lot shorter… there’s less room on the vinyl so just one track each side on a 7, whereas with a 12 you can have 3-4 tracks a side, more if you want to but then the quality isn’t as good I don’t think
Ah okay, so you mention production on other artists albums, are you willing to create beats for any artist or do you keep the production strictly within the crew?
If I’m feeling someone’s raps then I’ll definitely be interested in making some beats for them, I’m not really that keen on the thought of selling beats to people I don’t know or don’t particularly like their style though
Of course. Apparently you had very basic equipment to work on when you were first starting out then upgraded to the MPC, do you look back on early beats and cringe or are they a proud beginning?
[laughs] No, I have had some mad cringe moments, some of my initial beats were pretty wack, it’s cool to look back on though and see how you’ve improved, grabbing the MPC was the best thing I did for sure, it just focussed me a lot more on what I should be concentrating on to make a beat sound good, whereas software I was using to begin with like reason just offered too many options in my opinion, plus the MPC has that killer swing!
Do you make your beats with an artist specifically in mind or do you just make beats constantly and offer a potential client a stockpile of beats to choose from? Was that the case for the debut?
Most of my beats have come from just mucking around with an idea and going with it, taking it further, then when I have a basic loop down that I’m happy with I might sit back and think who would suit writing raps for it. Otherwise I’ll just gather a bunch of loops over time and then sit down with a mc and go through them, see what they wanna use. Most of the beats on the CD I did like this, I either played someone a bunch of stuff or sent them a beat CD with a few different beats, let them choose
How did the name Chasm come about?
Chris Hammer-Smith… sort of my initials
Was that a thing you had to think out or did it just dawn on you one day that C H A S M was a sort of anagram for your name?
[laughs] Nah, I was just hanging with my girlfriend and I was saying, ‘man, I gotta come up with a name for myself’…..we went on a brainstorm and she came up with it,
While it may just be some clever wordplay, on a deeper level do you hold a chasm in perhaps your personal life? Perhaps the final decision to use the alias was on some subconscious level to convey a feeling to your audience? How big is this chasm and is music perhaps the healing process to bridge the gap in your heart and soul? C’mon, let it all out!
Ummm, no. [laughs]
Why did the name appeal to you then?
I liked the relation to my name, that’s about it, and I like the sound of the word
What’s the process for making beats in your case? Is it a routine of digging for obscurities then experimenting with what works or do you record live instruments and then put them together?
Yeah I try to go digging weekly, I try to keep gathering records on a constant basis and I spend a lot of time just listening, trying to hear what would be good to use, or how I could flip some sounds in a different way. Then I’ll have a mass sample up and dump a load of things on to the MPC and start working with some combinations, like sometimes I’ll begin with a loop and create a drum pattern around the rhythm of the loop, or sometimes I’ll just have a beat I’ve put down and will try to work different samples around the beat.
Your debut has sounds ranging from a chilled and dark “Never Sleep” to funky “Talk Your Wrist Off” to harder boom-bap “Anti-Gravity”, was it a conscious decision to keep it diverse did this just fall into place?
I wanted to have different moods; to me the best tracks have a real strong atmosphere to them, whatever that is. I was glad the beats were kinda diverse in feel, but at the end of the day I guess they were just the bunch of tracks I was happiest with from the tracks I’d finished
Many aspiring artists have millions of questions about the process of creating an album or EP, how was this journey for you? Was it a hard time and if so, worth it in the end?
I was pretty frustrated before I put this out. I had been working on beats for a couple of years and just wanted to move on, finish some stuff and put a CD out and start on some fresh shit. The satisfaction of just putting out a CD was worth all the hard work, coz I put in a lot of time just mixing and tweaking things. It was dope Awakenings were willing to release it coz that was the main thing in my way, I had no bucks, so having a label come onboard and fork out for me was killer
And how did you hook up with Awakenings? Was it a case of knowing the people on the label or did you shop your product around to whoever wanted to take it on?
I have known Brendan, who helps run the label for a while now, through touring in bands together, so I met the other Awakenings boys through him, they offered to release the CD so I took them up on it
How was it performing with acts like Atmosphere? For those who haven’t seen your stage show, how exactly does a producer ‘perform’?
The Atmosphere show was dope fun. I love playing on the corner hotel stage, its a nice fat sound system in there… well I work my MPC live and the last few shows I’ve done in Melbourne I have had my man Wax Vandal on the cut and Mantra and Hykoo on raps. The last show I did in Sydney was with DJ Murda1 and Ozi Batla, it takes a bit of organising that’s for sure, getting all these MCs and DJs to get off their arses and work!!
So here’s a curve ball… you are on a desert island and can only bring one book, one movie and one album – what do you bring?
Oh geezus! that’s harsh…. book: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac, movie: Ghost dog, album: this is the hardest, there’s too many I need to get by, maybe: Augustus Pablo ‘King Tubbys meets rockers uptown’ – classic dub, would be good for an island setting
From that corny question there lies meaning. Everyone asks the generic ‘what are your influences’ yet without knowing it you have told me yours in a different way. Do these affect your sound?
True. I think mainly just music affects my sound, so for sure dub production has affected and influenced me, some films might, like the imagery from a film like ghost dog effects the sounds I want to make and the RZA soundtrack is dope! I don’t think books really influence me, I haven’t had time to read a book for awhile
What is the next step for Chasm?
I just wanna buckle down again, lock myself away and keep making beats, keep working on how I can improve my production work with more people, coz you can learn heaps just watching how others work themselves, I really want to look at getting my music overseas this year too.
Any last words for those who care to read your thoughts and opinions?
Shout out to Awakenings fam, Elefant traks fam… peace, and thanks to anyone whose bought my CD and taken an interest, thanks for the interview too!
Thanks for your time.
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