Being a hip hop producer

 2 November 2012

Hip hop producer Eric Lau started out trying to emulate his musical heroes. Gradually he learned to record his own tracks. From there he got into production. He spoke about his career journey.

Eric Lau has worked with artists such as Lupe Fiasco and has toured with Erykah Badu.
Eric Lau has worked with artists such as Lupe Fiasco and has toured with Erykah Badu.

Starting out with recording software

"I've been making music for a few years. The first year or two were spent learning the basics – and making all the mistakes.

"The first thing I ever used was this program called Hip-Hop eJay. I'd never really done music before like that.

"It had all these loops in it, and you could make your own songs by dragging the loops into your tracks. I did a few beats, and people were like 'that sounds cool'.

"I would look at all these producers and try and make a beat like them, to see if I could do it."

"I was more on the hip hop side of things, so I worked with a few rappers at uni.

"I learned how to record – using really budget equipment. Plastic microphones going straight into the mini-jack of the computer. 

"The software got pretty restrictive, so I moved on to FL Studio. With that, I could use my own sounds, so I learned how to sample.

"That's when it became more about me: me dictating the software, rather than the software dictating me."

Getting inspired to produce music

"I came across the album 'The Love Movement' by A Tribe Called Quest. I heard 'Find A Way' and I was like, 'Wow! Who is this? What is this? Man, I want to make music like this!' 

"I would look at all these producers – DJ Premier, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder – and try and make a beat like them, to see if I could do it. 

"The first time it occurred to me that I could do something with my own music was when I was working with a singer called Serena. 

"We worked hard, and we got one of our tracks on a compilation released by the designer Wale Adeyemi. He was giving it out with his new clothing collection. 

"My first gig was with Hill Street Soul. I met their manager and played him one of my tracks. We ended up recording some tracks for their next album.

"I was really proud, and I got paid for it. It was brilliant. I went on to work with more artists.

Mentoring other musicians

"Charlie Dark was really a mentor to me, among many others.

"When the first thing of mine got played on Radio 1, I was in the car. It was just the best feeling."

"My parents are from Hong Kong. It's taken some time for them to appreciate what I'm doing.

"I think my advice for any aspiring musician would be: try and be fearless with your creativity."

"My brother's an investment banker, and my sister's working for the BBC. Then there's me, wanting to do music!

"I needed to support myself, and do whatever job it took to do that.

"I want to set an example for others who may be from Chinese backgrounds – be like, 'OK, you can do something like this, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.'

"I've had many mentors in the scene, so that's something I try to do now. I've run mentor programmes, and I've had mentees. I always say they can call me any time.

"I think my advice for any aspiring musician, artist or producer would be: try and be fearless with your creativity. That's the key to all genius throughout time.

"Don't care too much about what people think about your music. You're always going to be able to do more new music! So don't numb yourself to what you're going to be able to do in the future.

"My music is an extension of myself, I guess. I hope it comes from an honest place – that's what I want to do."

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