Abi Asks: A.J. Hall - Safari Pedals

Abi Asks: A.J. Hall

Howdy Safari Blog People!

As a producer working from a bedroom studio, high-quality samples are a LIFELINE for my productions. The sample pack market is highly saturated (pun intended), making it tough to find great-sounding samples that don’t need heavy processing (AKA using 7 Soothe 2s because the sample is so gosh darn harsh). However, some sample pack creators are killin’ it in both quality and musicality, standing out in this crowded space. I wanted to explore what sets them apart from other creators, from their perspective.

On that great sample pack note- I chatted with Drummer, Producer, and Creator of “Left Field Drums Breaks”: A.J. Hall.

I asked him: In your opinion, what separates a “good” sample pack from a GREAT sample pack?

He said: “Great Question!

To me what separates a good sample pack from a GREAT one is a simple question of intent. 

In my time as a drum break maker for producers like Alchemist, Cardiak, Statik Selektah, Illmind and Conductor Williams the one thing that’s gravitated those producers towards using my packs is my passion for drum sounds through out the different era's of classic soul music. 

I’ve had long talks with Statik about the snare sound on the early Al Green records, and immediately followed up with making a few drum breaks with my best impression of that sound and sending them over. 

I’ve sent Cardiak a batch of 50 different breaks that fit the Tame Impala style, then sent another 50 a few months back with the same vibe, only to get a text from him saying “these ain’t it, can I get some closer to the last batch?” and instead of getting frustrated at the situation I got in the studio the next day, knocked out 50 more with much more focus on the previous batch sound and sent them over with no charge. 

I’ve had Alchemist hit me up for drum breaks, I sent him a batch of what i thought he would dig and he replied “Yo! these are dope but there a little too knocking on the heavy side”. Instead of feeling defeated with inner thoughts of “oh no alchemist doesn’t like my drum breaks my career is over! etc.” I buckled down, got in the studio and REALLY focused on a lighter sound, lighter touch, more medium tuning and sonically tried to give him exactly what he was looking for. 2 months later one of those drum breaks made it on a track he made for the  Gangrene album called “Magic Dust”  

INTENT is the key. Do you have something to say musically or not? Are you a musician with a specific genre of music you grew up listening to and now love to recreate? Are you pushing the envelope forward with your compositions or did you watch a “vintage sample making” tutorial and now you have a sellfly store because a producer page told you a good side hustle was making sample packs?

Intent. 

Sample packs, like any other art form can sprout a fruitful career and actually make you a living, but the ART has to come first. 

A good sample pack and a GREAT sample pack will always exist on separate sides of the fence determined by authenticity and purpose. 

Quality of music is subjective: it’s up to the listener/user/supporter to determine what’s good.

Your Intention in your music is objective: People can feel whether you mean it or not. If you’re creating art for the sake of creating art, the art markets itself and you’ll find supporters. If you’re creating art for the sake of jumping on a wave of commerce you see, people are going to spot it, and quickly. 

Love for the Music -> Creativity -> Co-existence with commerce = INTENT”

I really enjoyed reading A.J.’s very insightful answer. There were two main takeaways for me:

1) "People can feel whether you mean it or not." That line hit me HARD (10/10). It’s an important reminder for us as creatives to stay true to our honesty, authenticity and purpose: the art will market itself. Amid the (many many) mundane business tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of that deeper awareness, and greater purpose- I’ll definitely be taking A.J. 's line with me going forward.

2) Persistence and being able to take feedback. A.J. 's ability to take feedback, get back in the studio to get the samples right the second time around really stood out to me. Taking those little moments that could have been full of despair, were turned into the opportunity to refine and better shape the art, which ultimately led to some big successes. That is something to learn from and internalize. I tend to fall into despair (not a slay) when getting feedback, so this struck a chord and inspired me to reframe and use it as an opportunity to become better at what I do.

Thank you A.J. for your insightful and inspiring answer!
Catch y’all next week!
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