Obviously, if I were making music, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. All of us would rather be making music than working some other job, so I always feel a vicarious satisfaction when colleagues take a step forward in their music careers. That makes this post all the more special, because we’re celebrating the success of hip-hop / electronic producer and music tech ambassador, Stoni.
After spending several years in New York studios as a recording engineer, Stoni started applying her knowledge toward sampling and making her own beats. In 2003 as a relative unknown, she broke out as the first female winner of an international hip-hop beat battle, triumphing over name artists.
It was a few years later, when I was working as technical editor of Electronic Musician’s off-shoot magazine, Remix, that we’d heard of Stoni through trade shows and events. She staring writing for us as sort of our resident Akai MPC expert, doing reviews of pieces like the Akai MPC500 and XR20, the Roland MV-8800 Production Studio, Yamaha Motif XS6 and articles like the MPC FAQ.
Soon, Stoni was working with companies like Avid and Native Instruments, where she was a Maschine product expert who trained many big hip-hop producers on the platform. Now she’s taking on a similar role as a Roli Seaboard evangelist, while taking her music to the next level.
In fact, her first EP, titled The Next Level, will be out in May, and it will signify her full transition from a behind-the-scenes studio assistant to an artist stepping out on her own. “I think collaborations are dope, and my next project will feature some special ones,” Stoni told me, “but this project is a reflection of my ideas. There's a tremendous satisfaction you feel when you have a vision for yourself and you make it manifest. This EP will reflect the different styles of production that I’ve brought together and sometimes the most unlikely pairings make for the most amazing music.”
Roli has just released a video (below) and feature article on Stoni, where she talks about how she has been mixing her brand of hard-beat hip-hop with diverse elements from the whole world of musical cultures.
Part of her musical evolution stems from evolving past her original methods of hardware sampling and sequencing from an MPC, to embracing the Maschine software/hardware, to now also incorporating Ableton Live and innovative controllers like the Ableton Push 2 and portable, wireless, battery-powered Seaboard Rise, which she takes with her around New York.
“My new set up gives me the chance to dive headfirst into a different approach to sound design and production,” Stoni said. “Using the Seaboard Rise was a new process for me. It’s a new instrument and super-fun to play with. The first time you get your hands on the silicone, it feels awesome! Then you realize that you can start bending and shaping sounds using your hands.”
The Rise’s touch-sensitive “keywave” silicone surface gives you five dimensions of touch expression: Strike, Press, Glide, Slide and Lift.
“Couple that with the audio manipulation in Ableton and it's truly freeing,” Stoni said. “Ableton is like a huge sampler, and coming from a sample based style of producing, creating patterns and scenes allows me to build my musical stories. I can create full songs in Ableton and still have the freedom to use Maschine’s software, Equator, Komplete Ultimate and various VSTs inside the DAW.”
Like many producers, Stoni doesn’t have a rigid way to work, but a typical track may start out with her sampling sounds from Roli’s Equator soft synth, which comes with the Rise, into Maschine for building the main idea of a piece, and then bringing that into Ableton Live for embellishment.
“With the Push 2, I like having a performance element when I’m producing my tracks as well. All of my final mixes are still being done in Pro Tools 12. For me, that has been the ultimate mixing tool, hands down.”
Before reaching that final mixing stage for The Next Level EP, Stoni hammered out the beginning stages of the music whenever a busy schedule would allow over the last year or so.
“I was on the road touring and doing artist showcases with the Maschine Mk2,” Stoni said. “I built my ideas in hotel rooms and on airplanes. I have been an Ableton Push user ever since Push 1, so getting Push 2 has inspired me and sparked a bunch of new ideas to add to tracks and brand new tracks, as well. The Seaboard Rise took my creative process to another level. With its five dimensions of touch and the Equator VST, it allowed me to bend and shape my sounds in a ways I never could have before.”
Follow @StonisMusic on Twitter for updates on The Next Level EP dropping soon. You can also hear her along with New York producers !llmind, Atlas, DJ Prince and DJ Runp on the Blap Chat producer podcast.
“This EP has been long awaited, not only by me, but by my loyal followers,” Stoni said. “I had a great time putting my experiences into musical form!”