Adam F is quiet and serene. Attributing his muted tones to working long hours in his studio, located in the Hertfordshire countryside of England, he says that being in the studio zone makes him relaxed. He tends to pronounce words ending with the letters c or k with decided emphasis, subconsciously giving those words more meaning than others. Hence, terms like music and track develop particular significance in conversation with him. While listening to any of his productions — his debut full-length, Colours (Astralwerks, 1998); his hip-hop album (eerily released on 9/11), Kaos: Anti-Acoustic Warfare (EMI, 2001); or his new release, the Kaos drum 'n' bass remix reincarnation (with bonus disc mixed by three-time DMC champion DJ Craze) Drum and Bass Warfare (Kaos/System, 2003) — you would never know such boisterous tunes could find their way out of such a mellow and agreeable fellow as Adam F.
Missing the acid-house scene, as well as its mutation to hardcore, Adam's first encounter with jungle was in 1994 with LTJ Bukem's “Apollo,” a track based on a basic raw beat, an “amen” break and a funk keyboard. “It was a way of fusing all the music I liked over one style,” Adam remembers. “And it was club-oriented, which, to me, was newly evolved funk with different angles to it. It's one thing to make music for the commercial masses; you don't really see the reaction. Once I started going to clubs and raves, I realized what my music did. I could see it firsthand. That's a cool thing to experience. It was a great new way for me to make and hear music. That's what pulled me in.”
Now age 29, Adam's initial forays into the studio were during his teenage years. Listening to Afrika Bambaataa's electro and Run-DMC's hip-hop, as well as Bob James and Herbie Hancock, Adam produced tunes that traveled along jazz-funk lines in a structured freestyle format, a quality that is still inherent in his work.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
UK drum 'n' bass artists' admiration for American hip-hop production is a well-documented fact, as is the British producers' sense of affiliation with the U.S. hip-hop sound and its obvious influences. But the domestic hip-hop community does not share that feeling of connection. If anything, American hip-hop musicians have never quite grasped the subtleties and intricacies involved in the creation of quality drum 'n' bass.
In a unique position to bring the hip-hop and drum 'n' bass communities together in a mutually respected atmosphere, Adam offered up tracks from the hip-hop-centric Kaos to be remixed by drum 'n' bass producers who had expressed interest and admiration for them; among the takers were )EIB(, Roni Size, Andy C. (as Origin Unknown), Dillinja, High Contrast and J. Majik. Allowing each producer to pick the track he wished to remix, the results are collected on Drum 'n' Bass Warfare.
“There's never been an album where everyone's on it together,” Adam says. “All of these guys grew up on these artists and love them. It took about as long as it took the hip-hop thing — two years — waiting for 15 people to do a mix. Every remix I've ever had done, people have called me up saying, ‘I had a nightmare mixing that.’ I'm about arrangement. When people take the elements and try to bang it down, it doesn't always happen. I'm about building you to a climax and then just letting it drop, which is why it's not so straightforward.”
The Drum 'n' Bass Warfare remixes are in turn mixed by Craze, who was chosen for his affiliation with both communities and his ability to fuse the two with his battle style of DJing. Using two CD-Rs with all 15 tracks, a Pioneer CDJ-1000 and two records with shout-outs from the different MCs, Craze used the a cappellas, as well as the expected cuts and scratches. And he created a turntablist intro, “DJ Craze Interlude,” that utilized the beats from the provided tracks.
“When I heard the ‘Kaos Main Title,’ it had this crazy orchestra, and I was like, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’” Craze says. “But I thought, ‘Why not start it off on beat with a hip-hop tempo?’ For the whole intro, it's me making drums on the turntables. I used all the cuts on the record to put phrases together to say something I wanted to say. I wanted to mix it in an entertaining way: Start with some hard, dope shit; then, keep the flow up until the end, where it gets more mellow.”
THE MELTING POT BOILS
Contrary to popular belief, Adam did not set out to create a strictly hip-hop album when Kaos, the Drum 'n' Bass Warfare forebear, was in its conception stage. Because Adam was focused on pushing himself forward creatively, he set out to record (separately) a 101-piece orchestra and a full choir performing a piece of music that he wrote. After throwing a sampled beat onto that recording and then a live funk guitar followed by a bass player and some keyboards, Adam thought of having Redman rap over it. With that idea in mind, he went back to the choir, having it sing Redman's name over and over. Adam then took the material he had and traveled 5,000 miles to Los Angeles, where he managed to get backstage at Redman's Blackout! tour.
In the dressing room, Adam played Redman the tape on a one-speaker tape recorder. Hearing his name sung repeatedly by the choir caught Redman's ear, resulting in the rapper wanting the track for his own album and demanding beats for the rest of the Def Squad crew. Recording Redman's vocals at Newer Images Studios in New York City, Adam took the DAT back to his studio and messed with it for three months, culminating in 30 outtakes of Redman's processed vocals and emerging as the starting point for Kaos' “Smash Sumthin.” )EIB(, known otherwise as Bad Company, later took on that track's drum 'n' bass remix for Warfare.
After hearing what Adam had done with Redman, LL Cool J made a late-night phone call to Adam, resulting in his collaboration on “The Greatest of All Time.” In attendance during the vocal recording for that number at the Hit Factory in New York were Busta Rhymes and Pharoahe Monch (who raps on “Last Dayz”), both of whom were feeling Adam's inimitable and precise touch with beats. Getting the rest of Kaos together was a bit more difficult: The association with De La Soul took a year to solidify; Capone 'n' Noreaga were difficult to approach in a distant Florida studio; and a few ideas never panned out.
“What Adam did was crazy because he fit his production to everybody's style,” DJ Craze says. “A lot of hip-hop cats can't do that.”
“I didn't have beat tapes,” Adam says. “I specifically wanted to design something for everyone I met. That's why each track has bits of each character. I've made making music much more difficult for myself. Most people load up the last track they did — similar beats, same sounds. Every track I do sounds like it was done by a different producer. It wasn't just making something that sounded good; it was also something that fit them.”
DOTS AND LOOPS
Each song on Kaos had live instrumentation, something that required a great deal of intense, lengthy production and manipulation to make it fit with the album's hip-hop sensibility. “It was the process of tightening up the orchestra so it wasn't going on too much in the track, of stripping it down so that after a mad intro, it ultimately slammed as a hip-hop track,” Adam explains using “Smash Sumthin'” as an example. “I brought back [Redman's] vocals on a DAT, mixed all of the orchestra onto a DAT and put it on Emagic Logic Audio. It was done on the S3000 and Logic. I cut up a lot of the live-music bits with looped bits of live audio that I had done to keep it tight, and I added a lot of sound effects. I put it all through a compressor and desk and then banged it onto a DAT.” That compressor was a Drawmer DL221, and though Kaos was initially mixed down at the Hit Factory, it was redone at Adam's own studio on an Allen & Heath GS3 24-track desk.
Preferring samplers to sound modules as sound sources for his beats and bass, Adam champions the three samplers in his studio: an E-mu E4XT Ultra and E-Synth and an Akai S3000. Using vinyl, CDs, tapes, radio and anything else from which he can glean noises, as well as the occasional bass sound created on a Moog, all end up on one or another of the samplers; one sampler houses beats, another strings, another alternate sounds.
“I'm not a manual guy,” he says. “I'm much more of a vibes person. I use equipment to about 30 percent of its capability. When I get it, I turn it on, say, ‘Show me how to use it. Okay, that'll do. Thanks,’ and I use it like that for years. You don't need music equipment; you don't need to be technical; you just need to think of a good idea and execute it. That's my principle. Other people are so technical — without equipment, they're fucked.”
Using the same gear for hip-hop productions as he did for drum 'n' bass projects, Adam learned about other equipment, such as the Akai MPC3000, while working alongside hip-hop producer Rockwilder, who was able to do with the MPC what Adam was doing with an Apple Macintosh G4, Logic Audio and three samplers. Although checking out other people's setups and styles of working didn't change Adam's production method, it did give him a newfound respect for other hip-hop producers. “The toolbox is in your mind, as far as what you do,” he says. “I noticed some producers in the States spent a month making snare- and bass-drum sounds, like Timbaland. They design, make and produce their sounds rather than just take a sample off of a record and make a beat.”
But Craze and Adam point out that drum 'n' bass producers deserve as much respect, if not more, than their hip-hop counterparts. “On a hip-hop track, if I already know what I want it to sound like — got the samples and the beat — it's up to the MC to make the song,” Craze says. “With drum 'n' bass, you got to start from ground zero; you got to make the whole up and down. There's another level to making drum 'n' bass than what people think.”
“Drum 'n' bass is definitely the most technically difficult produced music that you can make,” Adam says. “Because it is so up-front all the time, it's always about breaking barriers. Hip-hop dominates the popular charts of music, whereas drum 'n' bass is still really underground and very uncompromising music to the normal ear. What's so cool about it is, it's made for our scene. We're always trying to push each other to make it edgier and fresher. It's complex music. The theory — which I think is true — is that once you make drum 'n' bass, you can definitely put your hand to anything else.”
Still, when changing gears to work on the hip-hop-themed Kaos, Adam didn't assume that he could do it without some research, so he soaked up the hip-hop vibe by living it. “What's been an important part in making hip-hop is having some sort of feel for the environment,” he says. “I couldn't make drum 'n' bass unless I lived and breathed it in the clubs, because you've got to really know it and feel it. When I made the hip-hop album, I spent time stateside. It's good to have a fresh perspective on it. By living over here [in England], I keep a different angle on the music and the beats.”
Because Adam spun at drum 'n' bass events throughout the creation of Kaos, the two genres supported each other, and the tension of drum 'n' bass found itself in the confrontational ethos of Kaos. “Drum 'n' bass and hip-hop are two different things, but they feed off the same thing, which is the street. They're both the edgiest and the real stuff,” Adam says. “My album opened up two things: the doorway to people communicating overseas and to giving people inspiration so they can see that stuff can be achieved. At the end of the day, there are no boundaries. You build respect by letting music talk for itself. When people say is it hard to get into a scene once it's been built and is so closed off, it's difficult. But that's not the hurdle — the hurdle is making the music. You can't hold talent down. If there's anyone out there who's got a voice that deserves to be heard, if you just shout for long enough, you get heard. That's what happened in the early days with drum 'n' bass. I'd given out ‘Circles’ — which is probably one of the biggest tracks — to DJs, and they'd had it for six months. The tune was dead, and all of a sudden, people started playing it.”
A FIXATED FIXTURE
With the support of his new admirers in hip-hop and the ongoing cooperation of his longtime followers in drum 'n' bass, Adam launched his label, Kaos Recordings, in January 2002 with Metrosound, a collaboration between himself and J. Majik. Regular Kaos nights, featuring drum 'n' bass and hip-hop artists performing alongside each other, are on the schedule at London überclub Fabric. Additionally, Adam's weekly Saturday night radio show on London's Kiss FM combines hip-hop, drum 'n' bass and dancehall elements.
Already working on his next artist album, Adam is reticent to divulge its musical direction, but he guarantees that it will be different. In addition to completing music for Missy Elliott and Lady Luck, he is also working on beats for M.O.P. and newer, up-and-coming American hip-hop artists. Now finished with his first cinematic score for British comedian Ali G.'s 2002 feature film In da House, Adam is also working on the music for the next Ryan Phillipe vehicle, The I Inside.
“I thrive off it all,” Adam says with a chuckle. “I'm probably too obsessive. I know it sounds like a stupid thing to say, but I enjoy life, and I want to make the most of it. I want to feel really tried. I want to know I did everything I could to make things happen.”
Adam F's Studio
Akai S3000 sampler
Alesis QuadraVerb effects processor
Allen & Heath GS3 24-track mixing desk
Allen & Heath Xone:62 mixer
Apple Macintosh G4 w/5 FireWire drives
Drawmer DL221 dual compressor
Emagic Logic Audio digital audio workstation
E-mu E4XT Ultra sampler
E-mu E-Synth synthesizer
Eventide DSP4000 effects processor
Fender Rhodes 73 electric piano
Fender Rhodes 88 electric piano
Hohner Clavinet keyboard
Kurzweil K2000 keyboard (upgraded)
Moog Minimoog synthesizer
Neumann U 87 A I microphone
Panasonic SV-3800 DAT machines (2)
Roland VP-350 vocoder
Sony DVD player
Sony tape recorder
Sony VCRs (3)
Technics SL-1210 Gold turntables (2) Wurlitzer
Yamaha SPX990 effects processor