Atlantic Connection Sets the Record Straight on Making Beats

The Los Angeles-based DJ explains the beat-making process, his humble beginnings, choosing equipment, and licensing music for TV.


Credit: Gil KonspiracyCredit: Gil KonspiracyDJ, producer, and musician Atlantic Connection grew up hearing theory, scales, and chords. Born Nathan Hayes, his mother was a professor of music and piano teacher. He started making music at age 16. Since then, Atlantic Connection has released numerous singles, EPs, albums, and toured. In 2008 he “switched gears and put a focus on music sync licensing,” where his career has taken him to television and film. MTV’s new series The Show With Vinny starring Vinny Guadagnino from Jersey Shore fame features his track “Hypem” from the EP of the same name as the show’s theme song.

Atlantic Connection released the four-song EP The Limit last year. In 2012, it was The Love Architect, a full-length album blending soul, R&B, dubstep, and drum and bass music.

Get In Media spoke with the DJ recently as he shared four misconceptions that new producers should know that are so not true, the beat-making process, as well as how he got started making music.

4 Misconceptions About Making Beats from Music Producer Atlantic Connection

Sample CDs Are Bad

Sample CDs are great for the simple reason the sounds are already cleared. You may have to dig for quite some time to find sounds that work for you. However, if you take the time to dig and think outside the box, I bet you’ll be surprised. Of course, knowing theory and playing original riffs is extremely valuable, but we don’t all have the same backgrounds and that’s what keeps this whole thing uniquely unpredictable.

Making Electronic Music/Beat-based Music is Simple and Formulaic

Sure you can throw some loops together, download some construction stems etc., but where’s the creativity in that? And how are you contributing to the innovation of the music? If you’re simply regurgitating trend expectation, you’ve missed the plot (and I’m not talking imitation equals flattery. That’s a whole other topic). Creativity is the only reason we’ve made it this far. Contribute or peace out.

One DAW is Better or Worse Than Another

At the end of the day, you should work with what works for you. I started with Acid 1.0, moved onto Reason. Used that for years. I tried Logic, but I just didn’t vibe with it. Same with Cubase. It just didn’t feel natural. I ended up with Live and I’ve not looked back since. Why? Because it works for me. So find what works for you and use it to it’s fullest. 

You Should Sit Still and Be Serious While Making Music

No, get up and dance around the room to your song. Sing it in front of the mirror. Order pizza. Pretend you’re hearing it in a club. Empower yourself through your art. If you can’t, why would anyone else?

Get In Media: How did you get your start in music? Are you originally from LA?

Atlantic Connection: I was born in and adopted from Colombia, raised in Boston, moved to North Carolina in high school and a year after college moved to LA, and been here ever since. 

I was always into music, playing guitar, bass, violin, sax, piano. I played in a few punk/ska bands in the ‘90s. Fast forward, I cut my teeth in the whole rave scene in the late ‘90s, started DJing around 16 or so, started gigging out before I was even able to get into the clubs [laughs]. I started producing music around 2000 and signed with my first record label in 2002, and from there just took it up—tours, record releases, etc. Through 2008, at which time I switched gears and put a focus on music sync licensing, got a job with MTV, which turned into a six year relationship resulting in some incredible experiences and opportunities, which opened a ton of doors. I did a lot of TV shows, movies, and a few commercials, during which I was always asked to write electronica, so it all tied right back into my love. Now it’s all come full circle—the producing, DJing, all of it. It’s merged into one experience.

GIM: How do you create beats? What’s the process like?

ACThe process of making music starts in many ways. Sometimes it’s a melody in my head. Other times it’s a sample I hear when listening to old soul ‘n’ funk records, or sometimes I just build some nice drums and add different sounds and stuff until I find a good vibe. Lately, I’ve found some pretty cool apps for my phone where I can scratch ideas on the go. Inspiration for me has always come from my experiences in life. I always tell people, if you want to know where I am in life (emotionally, spiritually, socially), go listen to the last three songs I wrote. My music is an internal expression of my external reception. It’s how I process life.  

GIM: With YouTube and various social media platforms, starting a music career is much easier now than ever before. But in the beginning, as a producer, how did you promote your music? And what equipment did you use versus what you might have wanted to use?

AC: This is going to sound so archaic. Once I’d written enough music I felt confident in sharing with labels in 2000—most were all in the U.K. as that was the core market for all of us—I would find the labels post mailing addresses and send physical demo CDs [laughs]. I would also go to every single club [and] event night within a five-hour drive that was hosting a DJ who was signed to a label I wanted to sign with and bring them a CD for the label.

But once AOL Instant Messenger happened, everything changed. All of a sudden we, the producers and DJs, were all connected through these secure chat windows with file-sharing abilities and we all got on music forums and shared our contact info with each other. The fans joined these forums and we were able to interact with them. The international community grew closer.

Within a couple years, not only did the U.S. scene get a lot tighter, but also a lot more of us started breaking into the U.K. markets because ideas and collaborations were more easily exchanged. Going back to how I was able to promote my music, it was through all of us playing each other’s tunes. Constantly supporting, camping up, collaborating, working under different names, playing weekly nights and interacting with the small community of magazines promoting the sound—Bassline, URB, Rinse Knowledge

There also weren’t as many of us back then, so there was this limited element to it with all, in terms of skills as a DJ and who was bringing the freshest ideas to the table and who had the hottest tunes. It really mattered.

GIM: What can beat producers do now to get their music into the ears of listeners and TV execs?

AC: Listeners? There’s every way in the world now, just pick your poison. TV execs? That’s a whole different game. I’d start with registering yourself with a PRO (performance rights organization) and keeping up to date with their newsletters and events. Lots of times companies like ASCAP and PRS host networking events and conferences dedicated to the subject of networking into the music sync-licensing world. You can also pitch your productions to music houses. You may have a sound they’re looking for. I know lots of young producers who have had success doing that.

GIM: Licensing music to TV doesn’t hold the same stigma it once had, like selling out to a mainstream audience. What would you say to new producers who still think that way? Can we expect to hear more future soul on TV down the line?

AC: I’d say nothing is subtle and everything is out there. Nothing wrong with using another vehicle to be heard. Just be true to your personal beliefs and don’t judge others in the process. Future Soul? Yeah, sure will! I’ve just finished off a new EP for SMOG Records that’s full of it. So excited about it. One of the tracks is already in rotation on MTV.

GIMSo, how did you come up with the future soul description for your music?

AC: I came up with the term future soul back in my drum and bass days. Must have been around 2004. I was still living in North Carolina, listening to a ton of soulful, sampled hip-hop, which was heavily influencing my drum and bass productions. Aside from the community of DJs and producers I existed within, no one around me knew what drum and bass was. I’d try to explain it to them: “Oh, yeah, it’s kind of like soul samples with D&B.” They’d respond with something along the lines of, “So, do you play the drums or the bass?” So, I just started explaining my style as future soul and it stuck. The term in its current simply means the fusion of soul music with electronica.

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