Sunday, April 8th, 2012 | Sounds
Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker has been producing under many guises since the early 2000’s. More widely known as GB or Gifted & Blessed, the Los Angeles based producer has amassed an impressive catalog of releases and remixes; worked with legendary artists Airto & Flora Purim and his works have been widely heard through high profile ad placements. Gabriel was kind enough to answer a few questions, where he goes into some of his influences, how he began producing and how he enjoys discovering older gems over today’s more disposable music.
PYF: What is your earliest musical memory?
GB: I remember watching Tears for Fears on MTV as a baby and drumming along with sticks.
PYF: Who are some of your influences, both musical and non-musical? and how does their influence transpire in your work?
GB: I’m not even sure where to begin…I’m influenced by the music of the world…jazz, early electronic, field recordings, folkloric music, hip hop…and lots more. My non-musical influences range from personal experiences to relationships to mythology to nature. There are many great people who have come before and who are here now whom I admire. A question like this is particularly hard for me because as an artist my primary intention is to express what is true for me. I can’t say I seek out influences to inspire my work, it just happens, and ultimately as creators I think what we all create comes from one divine Source of inspiration.
PYF: How did you get into producing music? Was there anyone in particular that inspired/ helped you on your musical path?
GB: I got into producing on computer software out of necessity. I had a vision from a young age of doing a one man band kind of thing (like Prince, for example). As a kid I couldn’t afford a ton of instruments and recording tools, so I was fortunate to come up in a time when I could get some free software and sample records and get a synth and other instruments to create sound collages. I didn’t have one particular person who helped or inspired me on my musical path, but I’ve had various folks along the way share tips, ideas and funds.
PYF: Your home town of Los Angeles has some of the best and eclectic radio programming in the US - has this played a part in shaping your wide musical tastes and production styles?
GB: For certain. I worked at KCRW when I was 16 and used that opportunity to absorb all the different sounds. I also have a big family with widely varying tastes in music, which I think inspired my range more so than radio.
PYF: You produce under quite a few aliases and in many different genres. Is this a tactic you have taken because press/marketers and music buyers have a hard time opening their ears to styles which may not be as popular or easy to market?
GB: No, it’s a tactic I’ve used because the variety is fun and keeps me more interested. I’m not worried about who is having a hard time opening their ears. Let them come around to it when they’re ready.
PYF: A lot of your productions (especially under The Abstract Eye moniker) have a distinct Detroit feel to it, particularly the works of Juan Atkins/Cybotron. What was your first touch point with the music from Detroit and electronic music in general?
GB: I mentioned Tears for Fears earlier. Most of the music that came out when I was born and growing up was mainly electronic, so it’s been a part of my musical interests since the beginning. Early on I was all about Prince, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder…all the electronic enthusiasts, especially those with a soulful sound. I first really got heavily into electronic music at about age 9 when I was first hearing jungle from my brother. I remember particularly hearing Tom and Jerry (4 Hero) and thinking it was the craziest stuff out. As far as the music of Detroit goes, I think Juan Atkins was the first guy I really got into. Also my brother was into techno and house when that music was first coming out, so I would hear things like Inner City often.
PYF: Who are some of your contemporaries that you enjoy and any up-and-coming producers that we should be looking out for?
GB: A lot of my contemporaries are making awesome music but I find myself listening mostly to records from the past. There’s so much still I need to catch up on. I admit to missing out on a lot of current music, but in some ways I like it that way because so much of what’s out there now is disposable. A lot of my friends are making some great music though.
PYF: Would you mind naming a few of them?
GB: My reason for not being specific isn’t to be mysterious or too cool…it’s because I’m not big on the tendency of beatmakers/producers to clique up and vouch for one another rather than to stand on one’s own two. Also, in my view it really shouldn’t matter to my audience what I think about other artists and their music. What should matter about me is what my music evokes, not who or what I like.
PYF: You use a lot of analogue equipment - what is your studio comprised of and are there any instruments that you find indispensable in your creation process and final productions? Also, does using analogue instruments pose any difficulties/worries when you’re touring and playing live shows?
GB: Yeah I have a good amount of gear here. I’m not super strict about only analog…I have some good digital pieces, particularly early digital delays and drum machines. Nothing in my arsenal is indispensable…I use whatever I have at the moment but the setup is always evolving. I don’t bring my big keyboards out much, so when I’m playing live it’s most often with a portable rack setup. It can be a problem for some promoters who don’t get it so they expect me to just bring a laptop like all the other guys (which I do sometimes for DJ sets, but it doesn’t give an accurate depiction of the music making process).
PYF: Selling music via digital channels has become the norm for most musicians. Do you feel at odds releasing music in this manner, when a lot of the analogue warmth has been lost?
GB: I’m glad to share the music however possible, but vinyl just sounds better, period.
GB: No plans to repress right now…maybe down the line though. Better jump on the next releases while they’re still fresh!
PYF: A lot of your productions are instrumental based, however the recent Steoples release is a collaboration between yourself and vocalist Yeofi Andoh. You also did some early work with Steve Spacek - how did both of those projects come about and how does the collaborative process differ from when you’re working solo? Are there any other collaborations in the works?
GB: Yeofi and I have worked together for a long time now, since 2004 on my “Soundtrack for Sunrise” LP. Steve Spacek and a few other vocalists participated in that project as well. The collaborative process differs from my solo works in that when I’m working with someone, it becomes about what we are creating together, so the process is more about making sure everyone involved is happy with the end result. Also, with more than one mind involved, it becomes a dialogue and something is achieved that I couldn’t accomplish by myself. There are other collaborations in the works, yes (more on those later).
PYF: You did a remix of Carmen McRae’s ‘Just A Little Lovin’ which subsequently was used in a TV commercial that aired during the 2011 Superbowl - that must have been quite amazing having something that you had a hand in creating being heard by millions of people. Has that lead to any other work or opportunities within the tv/film/advertising world?
GB: I’ve had other placements in film and TV both prior to that and since then. It was awesome to land that placement in particular because it was on such a large scale. Most other spots I’ve done haven’t been as extravagant. But yes it got the attention of some ad agencies and production companies with whom I’ve dealt since.
PYF: You recently released a 12″ via Irish label All City and your forthcoming The Abstract Eye EP is being released by English label Eglo. How did those relationships come about? Any plans to collaborate with your Eglo label mates?
GB: Both came about through mutual friends and also because the world of music is a pretty small one so you’re bound to interact with folks eventually. Some collaborations may come about with the Eglo guys in the future…we’ll see!
PYF: What else do have coming up in 2012?