If you like music that breaks the mould, Conrad Clifton is the man to be listening to.
In a world where we ever increasingly strive to find something that stands out, the music of Brooklyn based producer Conrad is one heck of a find.
His sound is unique and experimental, touching many genres from hip hop to r’n’b, a bit of pop, some soul. It’s an eclectic mix and one that will suit most ears as he somehow manages to create something for everyone, and that’s exactly why he broke out on his own rather than just producing to order.
He is basically the Heston Blumenthal of music; like Heston does with flavours, Conrad pairs sounds that shouldn’t normally go together, and yet somehow they do. He talks about the ‘texture’ of his music like it’s a tangible thing, and the passion with which he talks about his work can easily be heard when listening to tracks like his latest Kneel da Grass / Tight Son.
‘I have so many influences and whenever I start something I start fresh and I kind of go where it takes me in that moment, I never know what it’s going to sound like,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘It forms itself. I get started with experimenting with different sounds and virtual instruments. It might start with a sample, like an old school hip hop sample, but it really just starts with experimenting with the different sounds.’
He admitted that half the time even he doesn’t know where his music will take him: ‘I follow it down a rabbit hole and see how it goes. It can surprise me. Every time! Most musicians know where they’re gonna go. I have fun experimenting.’
He describes his work like ‘meditation’, where he zones out for hours with just his keyboard and his world of virtual instruments. He builds his ‘textures’ and adds the drums, and ends up feeling the rhythm in his soul.
‘There are so many sounds that shouldn’t normally work together and I like to weave them into each other in a way that works,’ Conrad explained. ‘I’ll make a section, or a few sections, like one would be considered a chorus or verse, and I’ll make them separately and bring them together.’
Electronic music has always been a huge part of the scene, but in recent years its ever increasingly been crashing into mainstream music, and humble Conrad claimed what he does is ‘nothing new’, yet he is attempting to smash boundaries.
He’s also finally found his own ‘naturally unique’ sound, after years of churning out more generic tracks: ‘That’s after years of making music and having to fight to keep the uniqueness there. I used to produce for other artists and producers and when you’re a background guy in the production world you have to mix stuff that sounds popular or you don’t get the job. You have to conform in a way. I’ve had those frustrations and they’ve brought me to where I’m at now.’
Conrad started releasing his own stuff six years ago and since then has noticed a change in his own sound.
‘When I started self-releasing you could hear the desperation in the music that ‘I have to get this out of me’. Now it’s a thing where I don’t feel I have anything else to prove and I can just make good music,’ he said.
His sound has proven popular with huge artists too, having previously worked with the likes of Missy Elliot.
‘The song we worked on didn’t come out but the experience of being in the studio with her was electric,’ he said. ‘To be with that big of a star and her energy be so chill and relaxed. It was great. It was great just being around her.’
He started out wanting to get into rap, so started creating his own music.
‘I didn’t have any music to rap to to make original songs, so that’s why I started making beats,’ he said. ‘I did that for a while, and started making music for other people in my neighbourhood, and then it progressed. I moved to Atlanta Georgia where I got into producer battles, where producers go head to head and battle each other.’
He then met a manager who opened doors for him and took him to bigger studios in Atlanta. But despite the opportunity he’s still had to work hard for what he’s got, largely because he chose not to conform.
Conrad explained: ‘I would say that I had been struggling to break up until the moment I decided I didn’t want to depend on anybody else anymore, to make my own success.
‘I got to a point I had to do it, not wait for other people to help me. I just did it for myself. I can appreciate the success, any success.
He added: ‘I’m not a big pop star, or anything close to that. But just the fact I put in the hard work and believed in my own creations, and now other people hear them and love them for the feelings they get. Just to have that means to much to me.’
Conrad is now gearing up to release several more tracks, the next one called Rylo Ken. ‘It gives you an idea of the vibe,’ he said of the name, a play on the name of the Star Wars character. ‘It’s dark and a little edgy. Super driving drums and synths, it’s going to be pretty cool.’
And there’s more to come after that: ‘I’ve got to keep it going and keep it moving.’
His new music follows his album Beautiful Tragedy, out last year, and he has a new EP coming in the next few months. He is a busy man, because he is driven by the need to make good music.
‘It’s all about the music, and not so much the hype and story of it all,’ he said. ‘The story doesn’t matter if you go and listen and the music is not good.’
Rylo Ken is released 2 February, Beautiful Tragedy is out now and available to download now.
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