Kai Aschemann, otherwise known as Brisk Fingaz, is a producer from Lower Saxony. He has been using Samplitude Pro X for 20 years and has produced beats for an impressive list of artists from all across Germany, including Kool Savas, Fler, Samy Deluxe, Kollegah, Farid Bang and Haftbefehl, just to name a few. He contributed to Kollegah and Farid Bang’s album “Jung, brutal, gutaussehend 2,” which went gold in Germany and Austria, as well as M. Pokara’s “À la poursuite du bonheur,” which went triple platinum in France and Belgium.
We sat down with Brisk Fingaz to get his take on “Deutsch Rap,” producing, creative collaboration with other artists and the current state of the hip hop industry.
Music — “Every time I collaborate with other artists, I come away with something new. Everyone has their own unique way of doing things.”
You’ve worked with a lot of well-known German hip hop artists, such as Samy Deluxe, Kool Savas, Sentino, Kollegah, Farid Bang, Fler, Azad, Haftbefehl and Pa Sports, just to name a few. Which collaboration was the most fun for you, and why?
I can’t really say exactly. There have been so many special moments. Every time I collaborate with other artists, I come away with something new, whether it’s in my studio or projects that go down online and over the phone. Everyone has their own unique way of doing things. Working with Kollegah and Farid Bang on “Jung, brutal, gutaussehend 2” was really cool, for example. Farid just called me up and told me to send him some beats. At the time, I hadn’t really been producing much, so I told him I wouldn’t be able to send him anything spectacular. But he insisted, so I sent a few things over to him. He called back and was like, “Brisk, you nailed it. We’ll take four beats for our album.” Working with Selfmade Records was nice. And the fact that the album shot straight to #1 and went gold shortly after that was a great experience.
Working with Massiv was a lot of fun. You could tell the guy was hungry. We worked really well together. Unfortunately, back then German rap wasn’t selling very well, and the album didn’t hit the numbers the label was expecting. When the label let him go, we went our separate ways.
I also had a lot of fun working as lead producer on an album called “Rettet die Welt” for an underground artist, Mr. Knight aka Das Grossmaul. That album came out in 2005. We really had a lot of fun in the studio, and I look back fondly on that time. That project was just about making music for the fun of it. We weren’t thinking about money — a central theme on the album.
And then there’s the 2006 album “Mittelweg” by F.R. (Fabian Römer). That one was fun too since we were friendly with one another and made really great music together. Geez, I could probably go on for hours talking about collabos that were fun (laughs).
What does your studio setup look like? Do you go more analog or digital?
Analog would be great, but I just don’t have the room for it in my tiny studio. Which is probably a good thing for my electricity bill. It would be awesome to record with a tape machine and get that authentic 90s sound, but it would take too much time and effort, and I’d have to learn how to do it first. So, I just take the easy route and do everything digitally. Even my MPC Renaissance is just a controller which I use alongside Samplitude. The mixer in Samplitude is so awesome that you don’t even need an external mixer, especially with all the plug-ins that are available today. Plus, I don’t think it would make sense to spend the time and money on analog equipment, since the payoff wouldn’t be big enough. And kids today wouldn’t hear the difference anyway since they’d rather listen to MP3s on their phones.
Samplitude — “It’s all super quick and easy with Samplitude.”
To what extent is Samplitude Pro X a central component of your production process? What are your favorite features, and what made you start using Samplitude?
A coworker of mine and I first bought Samplitude back in 1996 to produce and record music. Of course, a lot has changed since then. Back then it was supposed to just be a recording project or for radio stations, if I remember correctly. But I adopted my approach to recording from that period. Back then you didn’t have any BMP settings. I had to use the hi-hat from a drum sample to keep time, and I would take the length and then copy on top of that over and over again. Under that would go the bass drum, a track under that, and then the snare. I do things more or less the same way today, only with BMP settings and more elaborate drums.
I think the difference between Samplitude and other DAWs is that you can work with waves better and more quickly. My workflow includes a lot of work with waves. Setting the drums, cutting samples into the project, setting pitches, time stretching, cross-fading, and integrating VSTs. Or editing finished vocals, for example, by cutting doubled vocals if they don’t match up 100%. I do my mixing with the internal mixer or, if I need to, with the Mastering features. It’s all super quick and easy with Samplitude.
You mentioned that you really like the new time pitch feature in Samplitude Pro X3. Do you use it mostly to modify samples or for fixing recordings?
I really like using that feature for stretching out elements that are too short. Double vocals that end too soon, or even to make samples fit the song better. Or even with guitar recordings that aren’t perfectly in time — you can edit those perfectly without necessarily having to go to town on them with cross-fades. You just alter them with the time stretching feature. I also use the pitch feature a lot to get things more in tune. It’s really useful for elements that were recorded live.
Azad, Fler, Kollegah & Farid Bang “With Fler, for example, he came to my studio so that we could get to know each other and so that he could be there for the production and give his two cents.”
You mentioned that there were musicians in the studio with you when you worked with Azad and Fler. How much of an extra challenge is that for you, since you’re used to producing your beats alone?
When I bring musicians into the studio, I already have an idea of what I want. For Fler and Azad, I brought in a keyboardist to play some parts that I couldn’t play myself. I tell him up front what I’m going for — specific octaves or whatever — and then I just let him play a bit. Then I look for parts that are in line with what I have in mind, and we gradually refine the whole thing.
How often do you make musical or aesthetic calls when you’re working with a rapper? Are you free to do whatever you want, or is it more about executing other people’s ideas?
Since I normally make the beats ahead of time, I get to make all the calls. When it comes to fleshing out the track, the artist always has the last say. But I seem to virtually always hit the right notes, so there are hardly ever any requests for changes. When I’m in the studio with an artist, they can give me pointers or we can come up with ideas together. This can potentially help move things along. If I’m the lead producer on an album, then I’ll also make suggestions on what to do or how to improve things. In the end we want everyone to be happy. Other than that, I don’t have anything to do with lyrics. Which can be tough in the rap scene, when rappers are dissing each other and you’re caught up in the middle, even though you’re not involved and don’t want anything to do with it.
Brisk Fingaz “I was addicted to scratching. And then I was addicted to producing.”
How did you get into hip hop? What fascinates you about it?
I was really into graffiti and tried my hand at it for a bit. But I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t that good at it, so I stopped. Back then I listened to Die Fantastischen Vier and always thought scratching was awesome. The sound, the look of the turntables set up with the mixer in the middle. I loved everything about it. I knew I had to try it, and I had this Die Fantastischen Vier film record, “Die. 4. Dimension,” from Bravo, which was actually pretty good for scratching on top of real vinyl records. I started learning where the sounds started and getting a feeling for it. Then I showed a coworker of mine some of the stuff I had produced. He said he knew this really good DJ who was a few grades ahead of him, DJ CSP. We still keep in touch, and he’s been like a brother to me. He taught me all the basics, from the baby scratch to the transformer scratch. He was also how I found out about Samplitude. I was addicted to scratching. And then I was addicted to producing. The rest is history (laughs).
Everything about the culture fascinated me. It was an amazing time. Graffiti bombing. Going to jam sessions. Hanging out with 30 people in a place that’s completely tagged with marker and spray paint. The baggy pants, the huge jackets and timberland boots. The dark music. Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Cypress Hill, Cella Dwellas. The list goes on. That was a completely different lifestyle. One that I miss a lot sometimes. Rap music you hear on the charts today doesn’t have anything to do with hip hop.
Are you totally in hip hop mode outside of the studio too? Or do you take breaks and listen to other genres?
I’m not in hip hop mode at all. Those days are gone. But I still prefer listening to albums from the 90s. But I’m also very open to other types of music. I’ll listen to anything except for Schlager or folk music. I also love 80s pop music.
Music industry/business “The first problem is that you don’t have to spend money anymore to make music.”
How did you put together the large network of artists you’ve produced for?
Firstly, by working for other artists. Pal One, for example. I produced the larger part of his 2005 album “Palwolf.” After that I got calls from Jonesmann, Azad and Kool Savas asking for beats. Things continued like that until Myspace came around. Then you could directly connect with artists. After that, Facebook.
Here’s a cliche question: is the hip hop business “harder” than it is in other genres?
For sure. I know a lot of people from other genres. I don’t think any other genre has as many people with criminal backgrounds or surroundings. The beefs need to be taken more seriously when they aren’t just on diss tracks. Of course, most of it is just promotion, but not always.
Brisk Fingaz on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/originalBriskFingaz/
Brisk Fingaz on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/brisk-fingaz
Brisk Fingaz Wikipedia Article: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisk_Fingaz