Rising Producer EARDRUM Sits For An Exclusive Interview & Serves Up A Taste Of The Debut Instrumental Project 'DEAF' Presented By The Decades Hat Co.
Rising Producer EARDRUM Sits For An Exclusive Interview & Serves Up A Taste Of The Debut Instrumental Project 'DEAF' Presented By The Decades Hat Co.

First Look Friday: EARDRUM Breaks Barriers With Debut Project 'DEAF'

Rising Producer EARDRUM Sits For An Exclusive Interview & Serves Up A Taste Of The Debut Instrumental Project 'DEAF' Presented By The Decades Hat Co.

The mysterious beatmaker who goes by the name EARDRUM just made his mark on the web with an attention-grabbing beat tape for Philly-based millinery The Decades Hat Co. The 11-track project is a cathartic opus that, even at its most painful, is a defiant testimony of liberation from physical impediments (more on that below) and the equally punishing confines of genre. The rising producer allowed Okayplayer to pull back the shroud of total anonymity just enough to talk shop and serve up a taste of that emotionally dense debut instrumental project, entitled DEAF. The project melds the aesthetic of a futurist with the spirit of a rebel, totally content to dive into the unknown and daring the listener to follow suit. A shapeshifting sound specialist whose chameleonic persona has furnished the enviable ability to move freely amongst the populace without threat of fanfare, EARDRUM has crafted an irresistibly compelling product that proves that--even as the mysterious being in the mask blends into the landscape--the sound will always stand out. Stream the whole project below and read on to get a glimpse into the mind--and inner ear--of the one called EARDRUM.

Okayplayer: Who is EARDRUM?

EARDRUM: Eardrum is not specifically a person or a producer. Eardrum is just a vessel who presents music in different styles through different techniques.

OKP: How did you get into producing?

ED: I was tired of hearing rapping. That’s really blunt, but I was tired of hearing rapping.

OKP: Who would you cite as some of your earliest influences?

ED: It’s between Madlib, J Dilla and RZA. Havoc too, sometimes.

OKP: Do you have any creative influences outside of music?

ED: I really like art. I’m really interested in street art, from the smallest sticker to the biggest piece on the wall. I’m really a big Tyler Spangler fan. He does a lot of prints, photos and collage. I’m also a Frida Kahlo fan.

OKP: How do those varied sources of inspiration manifest in the final product?

ED: None of them really have a particular look or form that they have to stick to, but there’s always a subject. Some sort of theme. With my music there’s always a subject. I might be producing hip-hop one day, I might be making electronic music or house. I might be making some ambient, European influenced stuff. It all depends on how I feel, but I stick with the subject and try to work without any boundaries aside from that basic thematic foundation.

OKP: Why the title DEAF?

ED: I have a hearing problem. I’m not too sharp with my hearing, hence the name EARDRUM. Since I still managed to produce, it’s more of an oxymoron than anything else. Kind of me trying to defeat my weakness.

OKP: Discuss your relationship to your senses and perception before and after hearing loss.

ED: I started studying music even deeper because I started to feel like I was missing something I wasn’t able to hear. Therefore, I began to seek the highest quality music I could find. I prefer the full effect of any sound or music in order to make sure I know what I’m hearing, I wouldn’t be able to pick up on things as easy as other people.

OKP: How does that affect your workflow?

ED: I have one monitor that is stronger than the other one. I use different sets of headphones to mix and master. It’s never one set thing. I try to design my music so that everyone can tell exactly where I’m going without having to purchase the highest quality equipment to get my point across.

OKP: Why the mask?

Rising Producer EARDRUM Sits For An Exclusive Interview & Serves Up A Taste Of The Debut Instrumental Project 'DEAF' Presented By The Decades Hat Co.

ED: I chose to wear a mask because I don’t want people to see who I am. I believe people don’t deserve to know my identity. I also believe people don’t need to know. Everything is about an image nowadays. Everyone has an image to maintain. It’s not even about the music. I’d prefer someone to look at the mask and listen to something than see who I am or hear me talk. I’m a musician and that’s what you should be paying attention to.

OKP: What does anonymity provide your persona that visibility


ED: No one can attach me to one thing in particular. I can do anything I want to do. I would prefer to avoid being typecast according to my physical appearance. That shouldn’t have any bearing on the type of music that I like to make or am expected to create. It shouldn’t matter. It’s about breaking down boundaries.

OKP: The pain in your music is almost palpable. Are you referencing personal experience or looking to convey the emotional weight of a particular moment when you pull samples?

ED: Emotionally I was congratulating myself throughout the project, which is why I picked certain track names and titles and skits to include. It sounds like it was a struggle, but when you listen to the full project it plays like I have just defeated my problem and I am trying to share that. I’m trying to help you enjoy my victory.

OKP: What are you using to produce? Have you always used those tools or has your setup evolved?

ED: I am currently using Logic Pro 9. I started out with FL Studio, and then I moved to an MPC 1000 and made everything raw. Over the years I began to want to mix and master my stuff a little better. That led me to Logic Pro 9. I use an MPK 49 right now. I’m thinking about upgrading my equipment soon for live sets.

OKP: How did the collaboration with The Decades Hat Co. come about?

ED: I met Brooks Bell and Matt Faust through Diabolicool. He’s really cool with them. They’ve been cool for some time now. He linked me with them and we presented my tape, because I was interested in putting my music out through a brand that still has total ownership and creative control of their product. Whose interests are aligned with my own. They are still their own brand. They didn’t sell out. We met up one day and I played the whole entire tape. They liked it. I had a long talk with Matt Faust about how everything sounded. He’s difficult to please. He said a lot of artists and a lot of outlets send him stuff that he doesn’t like. He likes everything to be on point. It has to be quality music. Everything has to be good enough for him to accept it as a full project. He said everything blended well. I’m glad I went through that experience, because I like to impress the toughest critics.

OKP: Is this the beginning of an ongoing collaborative relationship, or was their involvement in the project a one shot deal?

ED: No, never. I want to do as much work with The Decades as possible. I want to do as much work with anyone I’m collaborating with as possible. I don’t want to put a limit on any of my working relationships. I want everything to be forever.

OKP: Favorite producers?

ED: My favorite producers right now are Thelonius Martin, Lakim, Kaytranada, Poptartpete and Flying Lotus. My favorite producers of all time are J Dilla, Madlib, RZA and DJ Premier.

OKP: Do you have a collaborative bucket list?

ED: I really want to work with Curren$y. I want to work with Travi$ Scott also. Kanye. Pusha T. I’ve gotta work with Nas. I want to work with Grande Marshall too. I don’t know who his people are, but I would love to make that happen. I also want to work with Black Thought, Questlove and Odd Future.

OKP: What do you think your greatest contribution to music will be?

ED: Freedom. I pretty much produce anything. I want to convey that freedom to other producers. To let them know, you can make any beat or any sound. You don’t have to do this style of beat, or be that type of person. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You can do whatever you want. Music is free.

OKP: What has music meant to your life thus far?

ED: Everything. That’s all I had in any difficult situation I’ve gone through. When I wake up. When I want to go to sleep. When I’m headed somewhere. Music has to be playing. I can’t live without it. It keeps me sane. I wouldn’t know what to think if I didn’t know music.

OKP: People sometimes criticize today's artists for failing to push boundaries. How do you plan to innovate?

ED: I want to bring that classic sound back. Especially with what I’m doing with The Bakery Boys. I want to bring the real back. There’s a lot of fake things going on in the industry. A lot of things are falling off. It’s not about things sounding good anymore and I want to bring that back. I want the listener to be able to say, “Oh this sounds good, I like what they’re saying and I love the artists.” I’m trying to work with the best artists I can. I want to show people hip-hop can still have great music and great personas.

OKP: What’s next?

ED: The Bakery Boys project, The Package, is next. I have a project with Matt Ford dropping, as well. My second beat tape will be called Anonymous. That's it.