Crate Diggers Premiere: Swerv crafts a hip hop banger from bargain-bin samples
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Crate Diggers Premiere: Swerv crafts a hip hop banger from bargain-bin samples

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Welcome to Crate Diggers – our new collaborative series with Savers. Each week, follow us as we team up with some of Melbourne’s most inventive producers. Their mission? To raid the vinyl section of Savers, pick some records, sample those bad boys and make a brand new track from scratch. They’ll be taking us through the entire process, as well as premiering the track with us online each week. Let’s dig. 

This week, local beatmaker Swerv took to the crates. Recently leaving his day job to pursue music production as a career, Swerv has established himself through collaborations with Jordan Dennis, Rahel, and Blasko. During his time off he loves to eat pizza and hang with his cat Prince. You can find him spinning the latest hip hop tunes at YoYo every Saturday in Melbourne. Check out his tune ‘Pistol Shrimp’ on our website.

What records did you dig out? I picked some local Melbourne jazz, Russian orchestral music from the ‘50s, novelty English pop (Jive Bunny) and ‘80s rock.

How did you decide which records you were going to take home with you? My intention was to find interesting sounds and textures that I’ve never come across before. I purely went off the cover of some, the instruments listed on each record and my girlfriend randomly chose one. 

What is your beatmaking process? First I find a sample that sparks my interest. Then I chop it up so it’s a vibe and give it some bounce with percussion. I lay some bass and then create changes to keep the ear interested. A lot of my music has lots of small background noises that actually make the track. Without them, the tune would be empty. That’s my secret sauce and I just told everyone.

How did you approach this sampling process? This was a challenge because I generally compose my music from scratch. I looked at it from a musical point of view so I sampled snippets of bass lines, drums, vocals and anything that I could build off. The winner was this killer jazz chord progression from Boz Scaggz, that’s actually a rock record. 

What does it take to be a good producer? Making music that’s true to your soul, always wanting to learn and sharing your knowledge with the community. Nowadays it’s not enough to just call yourself a producer. You need to network so you get in with the right people, build your online presence and support the local scene. Once you’re ready to release you’ll have a place to market your music and a community to push what you do. 

What are overrated pieces of advice or complete myths? That you can run on pure talent alone. Eventually the person with more drive is going to catch up to you in skill and do more than you. 

What was your initial listening/planning process? I maximise my creative flow by separating my activities and not wearing too many hats at once. I’ll spend some time preparing for a session by searching for sounds and ideas then take a break. After that I’ll come back and purely focus on production. Organisation helps you stay in the zone by minimising distractions. 

What mood or feeling were you trying to create? Initially it was frustrating because I stopped vibing the samples I found, so I had to go back to listen to the records again to find something that I could work with. Once I found the right sounds everything became a lot easier and I was in my zone. 

What limitations can come from working with random selections? I think this depends on the type of producer you are. I always build my songs based off vibe. If I have a batch of random selections that I’m not vibing then it’ll be hard for me to work with them. However, I don’t really see it as a limitation, because it forces you to work with something new. 

If you had one piece of wisdom to share with aspiring producers, what would it be?  Be gentle and don’t compare yourself to the producers you look up to who have spent thousands of hours on their craft. It’s also OK to mimic your favourite producers at the start because eventually you’ll find your own sound. 

Do you have any regrets as a producer? I left my day job one and a half months ago to be a full time music producer. I have no regrets.

What projects are you currently working on? At the moment I’ve formed a duo with a singer named Rahel – she also left her hometown in Brisbane to move here and do this full time. I also produce for Jordan Dennis and Blasko. 

Are we likely to run into you at Savers picking up more records? Definitely. This was a great challenge and I’ve learned new ways of working with samples now. 

What’s so great about Savers’ collection? If you really want to test your production skills at a bargain, Savers is a good place to start.