Interview: Doc Hollywood Shows You how to Run L.A.: First, Make Party Music.
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-08-22)
Dr. Hollywood is doing it all backwards. From starting out as a local talent producing duo in Los Angeles to breaking away on a solo musical jaunt which has landed Lex Larson and Louie Rubio on the same stage as comic electro-rap duo LMFAO, the twosome slowly worked their way into the music world from the other end of the spectrum. They learned from the successes and failures of the bands they helped and soon began producing their own songs and working on movie, television, and commercial soundtracks, including finding places for their songs on HBO’s “Go,” ABC’s “Lincoln Heights,” “Bones,” “90210,” and MTV’s “Bad Girls’ Club.” Once they signed on with friend and Grammy-winner Richard “Segal” Huredia, things really started taking off.
Their songs flaunt infectious dance grooves, and every one is a party anthem with some kind of anecdotal story that more than likely harkens back to personal experiences for either Lex or Louie. Tune out and you’ll still feel the pounding bass lines of a trance groove layered with lush synth, Rhodes, and piano tones set over groovy programmed drumkit sounds. Tune in and you’ll hear exactly what the dynamic duo is singing about: life, and how they live it. With their continued increase in success and that of their recent single “Breakfast at Tiffanys (ft. Shwayze),” I have to stop and consider what it would be like if they really did run LA. A couple disco balls on the streets couldn’t hurt. I’m sure the town could use a few more lights, either way.
And to talk about all of this and their recent studio purchase, we have the main twosome of the group, Lex Larson and Louie Rubio. No need to applaud. Just groove. It’s what they’d want you to do.
MGR: Hey Doc. How the devil are you?
Lex: Doing great, going out every night and living on the dance floor.
Louie: Yea we're working hard and playing it by beer.
MGR: You just got yourself into a new studio. How did that happen? Could you explain the process and how you decided on what you wanted for our readers who may be looking at putting together a studio of their own?
Lex: We needed to shake things up a little, so we moved into a new spot near Hollywood. We've already put together a few studios so far so we've had experience. My best advice is that if you're leasing you should try to find a space that was a studio before. It'll be more cost effective and less time consuming in trying to convert the space. Also, it depends on what you're working with: How much equipment do you have and how much space you need? We needed a bigger space because we also mix our records. So, most importantly the room had to be tuned. When we moved into the goo goo doll's old studio all we had to do was put our equipment in. Now if you're working from a home studio all the work falls on your shoulders. If the room sounds very live with too much reverb, hang curtains and place Styrofoam soundproofing in different spots, especially over where you sit.
Louie: It's always good to make sure you have all the tools that will spur your creativity. If you love FX pedals, do research and try to get a few new ones. If you're more focused on virtual instruments, turn your attention to reading reviews on them so that you make the correct purchases for your particular sound. I always recommend getting a few new toys in order to break out from the box. You'd be surprised what a few new sounds or gadgets can do for your writer’s block.
MGR: Were there things you wanted right away in your studio, things you wanted specifically? How did you piece this together (if not already answered in the previous question)?
Lex: Equipment wise, I really wanted a fast computer so I wouldn't have to experience the rainbow circle of death.
Louie: Haha yea, we all hate it when that circle pops up on our Mac.
Lex: We have some sessions with a ton of plug-in's that would lock up with our dual-core. Now with the Intel Mac we have no problem. Especially because we juiced it with more ram. For vocals I love the Sony microphone.
Louie: Yea, that mic gives vocals such presence; I also personally love the [Neumann] U-87, especially for putting down quick vocal ideas.
Lex: For the pre's I like the Neves and for the compressor we have a dbx.
Louie: As far as guitars and basses we stay with fenders. I also write my demos on classical guitar first (dry) so that I can focus on the songwriting in its purest form without any effects.
MGR: What's your recording process like, and what instruments do you all play on the record?
Louie: Generally I'll start a ton of demos on guitar or piano. I'll give them a few days break to let them "marinate" and then listen to them afterward to see if they still have that magic. Afterward we'll flesh them out and build them up little by little until we start writing lyrics and start recording vocals. I sing and play the guitar, keys, synths, and program the drums as well. We're pretty insular. We build our songs from the ground up and even mix our own records with our partner Segal Huredia. Even after mastering the record you can find me on Photoshop designing the artwork for it. It's completely DIY.
Lex: Yea it's always different. A song can start anywhere from a melody to a sample idea. After fleshing out the instrumentation we then start to write lyrics around the music. That's when the track starts to really evolve. We then can start adding or taking away from the music when the vocals are actually there. I play the bass guitar, program, and rap.
MGR: You've been called Hip-hop, electronic, hip-POP, and even a rap throwback to '80s synth grooves. How do you respond to that? Is there a style you're going for, and, if so, do you think you've come close to reaching it yet, or is there a different direction in the future for your music?
Lex: That's definitely a good description on the records we've released so far. We pride ourselves on being able to make every type of music. With that said we do have a distinct "sound". We kind of just make what we feel at the time. So, our music and range will definitely change in the future. We're just going to let that happen organically.
Louie: My iPod is packed with the most mismatched music. One second I'm playing Justice, and then its Nas's Illmatic, and then Pink Floyd, and suddenly System of a Down comes on. With the way that music is so easily distributed online most kids these days have an eclectic taste. Everyone always says they love everything but country. So why not make everything but country? Especially if you can? We're going to start releasing a series of mix tapes called 5150 that reflect that. Hip Hop, Rock, and Electro: we're going to go for it all. We'll put out a hip-hop song, remix it into a dance anthem, and then cover it on my acoustic guitar. People are going to think we're crazy.
MGR: Now being a keyboard player, I've really gotten into some of the synth lines on your recordings. What exactly do you use? Is it a controller with a laptop rig, a straight out of the box synth, or do you just play around with toys until something starts coming together?
Louie: I always start with a chord progression that I feel conveys something to me. After that is laid down, the melodies can come from anywhere. It might be something I'm humming over the track, or sometimes I'll play with a certain scale on a midi controller until something grabs my attention. Whatever keeps the process fresh. I'll also consciously take a break form writing melodies so that I don't get burnt out. This is usually when we're focused on performing, writing lyrics, or mixing.
Lex: It's a variation. We do a lot of layering. We use live instruments, vst's, keyboards, the micro korg; we get our sounds from all types of places. The sounds really change as well when we give them to our partner Richard "Segal" Huredia. We're very hands on with Segal in every process.
MGR: Being a songwriter as well, I'm curious as to where your lyrics come from. Considering that you're from LA, I'm assuming songs like "We Run LA" are either autobiographical or in some ways just a fantasy in a song. How does that songwriting process happen, and what exactly inspires you?
Lex: It's always great when you write a song that inspires people and has underlying themes. We Run LA came about after a night of performing and partying in Hollywood. On a performance high we had an after party at our studio. We then got inspired and shut the door in our preproduction room and wrote the hook right there. We had the instrumental for almost a year, but when inspiration hits, it hits.
Louie: We make songs for our fans. I want something that everyone can sing along to and feel a part of. We Run LA is about that. It's about being a part of LA with everyone around you and singing along to WE RUN LA! We'll let other artist write about themselves and their personal lives, or how much money they have. We focus on the fans. I still remember seeing Kurupt sing along to the hook on 69 Chevy at the bar. At that moment that song was about him and his love for car culture. It was a magical moment and I'll never forget it and that's what we go for. Songs you can sing along to.
MGR: Do you think there's a major difference between writing lyrics to be sung and lyrics to be rapped? Maybe more attention to consonants and rhyme schemes (or lack thereof)?
Lex: For me as a rapper it's all about finding the pockets. With rap you obviously have more room to get your point across where with singing it has to be a little more precise. It's all in the swing. The content matter is a little different too; what works for a singer might not work for a rapper. Imagine rapping some of your favorite lines from a singing hook. Might sound a little awkward when you rap it.
Louie: It's funny, sometimes I'll write my verses as a rap and then add a melody to it later. Sometimes my focus is on the melody first and then the lyrics will coincide with the rhyme scheme. It all depends.
MGR: Last but not least, any advice to someone with a band and a sound but who isn't quite sure what the next step is?
Lex: Everybody will say get it out there. Knowing that, be pro-active. With the invention of twitter and facebook it's pretty easy to connect with anybody. Your local dj from the radio station, a concert or radio promoter. They're all there. Most of the records I hear aren't ready for that step unfortunately. Play your "single" to as many diverse people as you can, and use their feedback. Perform it live, record the show, and then watch the crowd’s reaction. We'll work on songs for months at a time before letting anybody hear it. You want your song to be the best it can be, then start taking constructive criticism.
Louie: Yea, never get married to a song. Some artists will think they have a hit and waste time trying to force it in when the timing is wrong. As an artist you have to be fickle enough to not care about the songs when they don't work out, but passionate enough to put soul in your music. It's not an easy balance. Just get out there and start building a team!
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has studied bass with Jeff Mangone and Andrew Kohn, and has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. His contest winning essays and short stories have seen publication in and around the Tri-State area.
Feel free to e-mail James with comments, questions, concerns, at firstname.lastname@example.org.