Nico Breeze is a talented producer and mix engineer out of the Bay Area in California. Having been exposed to music at an early age by a family of rich music tradition, he took up the trumpet in his father's footsteps at the age of eight. Throughout the rest of his youth, Nico took in a lot of different genres and aspects of music, and would eventually go to local community college to achieve a degree in Music Technology. Nico would continue to further his education at Pryamind Studios as well as work at various restaurants and clubs such as the legendary MatrixFillmore. The staff at Pyramind was so impressed with Nico's work that they wound up recruiting him to help out. It was there, where would gain valuable experience in collaborating with Rappers, Singers and other producers in the music business. In 2013 Nico launched his own production company, Nico Breeze Productions. Now equipped with the latest technology, he is becoming a force in the industry and is collaborating with some of today's top artists. "Obsession" is a EP project that Nico has just co-produced and it's anchored by Chicago Rapper Add-2. It's release date is 4/21/15. I reacently chatted with Nico.
R.V.B. - Hey Nico
N.B. - Hey, how are you doing man?
R.V.B. - I'm doing pretty good, how about yourself.
N.B. - I'm doing well.
R.V.B. - What's going on, on the other side of the States?
N.B. - (Hahaha) A lot man. Music, music, music.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your production company. It sounds like things are really starting to happen for you.
N.B. - It's been a process, but yes things are starting to come together.
R.V.B. - How did you get to this point? Can you just start by telling me a little bit about your family music history?
N.B. - My dad was a trumpet player for years, and years, and years. He doesn't play that much anymore because he's getting a lot older. That's how I started getting my place in music.
R.V.B. - Did he play jazz?
N.B. - Yeah, he did a lot of everything. He was a DJ also during the 60's era as well, so I got a lot of exposure to different types of music as I was growing up. Everything from jazz to funk to folk music. My mom was a huge pop fan, so I got to Sade, I got to Michael Jackson, and I got to James Brown, the Four Tops and all that kind of stuff. So I had a wide exposure to music at a real early age. I started playing music when I was about eight years old. I started playing trumpet and I dabbled on the piano. My younger brother has been a musician since he was a kid too, and now he's a front man and bassist for a rally prominent... what they would call "Dirty Rock or Punk Rock" band out here in San Francisco called "Flexx Bronco." They cut a few albums and opened up for some pretty big names. My cousin up in Tacoma Washington tours with the Ethan Tucker Band. There's music all over the place with my family. Because my dad was a DJ, I got my hands on vinyl at a very early age. I can DJ and cut a little bit, but I would never claim to be a DJ. I really got to the sampling side of things so I was always ripping samples and making little beats on an Akai, and that's how I got my start in production. I got kind of sidetracked with not necessarily a nine to five career, but I ran restaurants and night clubs for a really long time. I was doing all the music booking. I was running the MatrixFillmore, which is a really prominent night club and lounge here in the Bay Area. I was booking DJ's and booking bands and working with promoters, and all that kind of stuff. Finally, I was like "How did I get over here, on this side of the business?" I've always been a producer. That's always been what my goals were. When I was in my mid 20's, I got back to it very seriously. I went back to school for music technology at Foothill College. It's a little community college down here in the Bay Area. When I finished that, I was like "I want to go further with this.", so that's when I ended up at Pyramind Studios. Pyramind is a full-fledged production company. They do a lot of work in video games. They did "Halo", they did "Iron Man 2", they just this new game called "Sunset Overdrive" for X-Box 1. So I was a student there first, and I continued my education there. Not only did they have a production company but they also had a school. Prior to graduating, I got approached and they basically recruited me, and I was really doing the admission side of things for the school but I was also helping run events... doing marketing. I was getting a lot of contacts, and that was allowing me to really showcase my music to people that had value over case makers and connected me to a lot of different artists.
R.V.B. - What kind of stuff were you tackling to show people? What did you have on your resume at that point?
N.B. - Mostly at that point, it was just beats and a few tracks that I cut with friends. Most of it was beats just waiting for artists to jump on. So many people were just like "Why is your shit not on the radio?" I was like "I don't know?" I never really put myself out there. I was happy just writing music. I never really had interest in artist development UNTIL we just did this EP with another producer who goes by JUS. So there's this EP "Obsession" and when we got approached for that project... myself and another producer that I work with out here who goes by "Harmonic", that's my brother... not literally, and we got approached by JUS who said "I got to finish this project. It's not really getting to the professional level that I want it to get at and I really want to bring you guys on board." We worked out an agreement and we took that thing from 50% to 150%... to where it is now. This was basically my first project with the Nico Breeze stamp on it, where I can be like "This is what I have done."
N.B. - It's on pre-sale now and it officially drops on 4/21.
R.V.B. - Nice, and how long the whole process take? How many songs are on it?
N.B. - It's six songs and it took us like from the beginning of October through the very end of February.
R.V.B. - What is the process with a production like this? Do you make suggestions for the artist or do they come in with a pre-determination of what they want? How does that work?
N.B. - Basically how it worked was, we kept getting checked in by JUS... "What do you think of this song, what do you think of that?" I'm trying to spin this in a positive way but to us, it just wasn't there professionally... in the production, in the way that it sounded, in the vocal tuning, the mix, all that kind of stuff. The process was, once we basically came up with an agreement, was send us everything. Send us: all the assets, all the MIDI files, all the audio, all the vocals... sent us everything. We basically stripped all those beats down to the framework and rebuilt them all back up: reproduced them, tightened up all the vocals, mixed it, and sent it off to mastering and boom, that was it. It got manufactured and now it's ready to go.
R.V.B. - Was that with a Chicago rapper?
N.B. - Well, JUS is the guy who hired us. He's a producer and right now he's in New York. He's actually out of Florida. The Chicago rapper on there is a guy named Add-2. Add-2 is signed to 9th Wonder label of management. Add-2 is featured on three songs on the EP. There's a host of California based artists on the EP as well. Tommy Gunna... he's got a verse on one of the songs called "Tonight." He' actually my brother-in-law. I'm working on a couple of singles with him right now. I got a lot of other artists on my hit list. That's my goal for the rest of the year. I just want to put out as many singles as I possibly can... with as many artists as I can.
R.V.B. - Have you established a network of radio and internet stations that will pick it up?
N.B. - We're in the process of working on that right now. I've been working with a gentleman named Niko Ellison. He's an affiliate with my company. We're exploring all avenues of the industry right now that we can exploit the "Obsession" CD and these new singles that I'm going to be putting out. I'll probably be talking with IDC about radio campaigns and distribution as soon as the singles are ready to release, but nothing specific at the moment.
R.V.B. - Ah ha, and what about working with the film and television industry?
N.B. - We've got the ASCAP expo coming up very soon and we're all heading down there and part of our game plan is to solicit to music supervisors while we're down there. We're gathering up our target list of people that we are going to be presenting our pitch to. If we can get film, that would be awesome. I think right now we're looking at mostly network reality TV.
R.V.B. - How do you go about finding local talent near you to collaborate with? Do you actually go out and look for them?
N.B. - It's kind of been a mixture of both. My photographer just did all my portfolio shots for the website and the marketing video that we just cut, and we're going to be releasing that pretty soon. Right now it's just all about contacts, both visual and audio. We're just trying to pump the out as fast as we possibly can and be ready.
R.V.B. - I guess it's the time now to get the product out there... a variety of things to push.
N.B. - Yeah exactly. Obsession is like, "Ok, here's a body of work that I really played a huge role in" now I have to be ready to do my thing... this is me, this is my sound. Something that I can claim "This is me. This is my own." So this photographer Omeez Jones, who shot for a lot of really big name artists and big brands as well... he's doing stuff with shoe companies and stuff like that... he's got a collective called "ISO" and they work with a lot of different music artists. The Bay Area is so small, if you're out there connecting with people and you're meeting people, those connections just come into play. It's not like I have to actively go out and search for people. There's so few degrees of separation of this person to the next person. You don't have to solicit yourself too hard, if you're putting yourself in the right circles.
R.V.B. - So I gather you do all your production on Pro Tools.
N.B. - I actually do all my production on Machine Studio. Machine Studio is native instruments, and it's kind of a hot new toy. I've been producing on that for about the last year and a half to two years. I also use Reason a lot and I do use Logic for certain things... vocal tuning mostly, but I do all of my editing and mixing in Pro Tools for sure.
R.V.B. - Do you record acoustic instruments also, if need be?
N.B. - Yeah I have, and that's absolutely something that I have and I'm going to be looking to do a lot more in the future. I like being able to write my own parts at home, whether it's a keyboard or a synthesizer. You can get samples and digital instruments to sound really good but really organic acoustic instruments is really where I'd like to go. Right now, I'm in the process of teaching myself how to play guitar. I'm trying to use that as another songwriting tool also. I've done that in the past... I know how to mic a drum kit... I know how to mic guitars... I know how to work in the studio. It's just so convenient to be in pre-production, and just be able to bang out something really incredible with a computer and a few programs.
N.B. - It's crazy. My studio started out really small. Then it got really, really big, and now it's shrinking down again. I love analog gear and all that sort of stuff but after a while how much stuff do I really need. I'm just trying to keep it as simple as possible. It's the same thing with the music also. Most of the stuff I'm writing now is chord progression bases music, where it's really about the feeling of the song, even if it's like a party feeling. I'm just going more for the emotion of the song, rather than just "boom bap" hip hop.
R.V.B. - I gather you have to be a pretty good poet when you white the words also.
N.B. - I'm more in the production side. I would much rather be in the studio working with the artist. I like being able to write and assist in that process, like working on phrasing and editing.
R.V.B. - Well it sounds like you have a lot of great ideas and you're on the right track. It also sounds like you're a go getter. When you put all of those things together, something is going to happen.
N.B. - I'm hoping so. I've known Stephan over at IDC for a really long time and this is something that we've been really wanting to do for a long time. You need a team of people around you to help you with certain things, but at the end of the day you have to make it happen for yourself. There are people out there who are really talented, but they don't get out there enough.
R.V.B. - There's a whole lot of networking involved in this industry and you need a break also.
N.B. - You do. There's a lot of luck involved. My whole goal in this is trying to be able to support myself and my family by doing what I love. I'm the last person who wants to be famous. I just want to make amazing music. My goal is to provide a platform where an artist can really express themselves. I always like to see that in the process. How I was actually feeling when I composed the music, and see how an artist interprets it. Then they're able to tell their own story. I really like what's going on in the industry right now, as far as some of the music that's getting put out... the quality of music... the message behind the music. It's an interesting time to be in the industry.
R.V.B. - Well, good luck to you. It sounds like you have a great future ahead of you.
N.B. - Thanks man. I appreciate it
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Nico Breeze visit his website https://www.nicobreezeproductions.com
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