FLH: How did growing up in Detroit influence your sound as a producer and DJ?
Kuma: Detroit, and the whole state of Michigan played a huge role into the development of my sound. Michigan can be cold and dark, but it can also be warm and beautiful. Summer is amazing here, especially in northern Michigan. It’s like a preserved wonderland of nature. The different seasons of Michigan have definitely translated into different moods for me when it comes to producing music.
Because Michigan is cold and rainy / snowy for around seven or eight months of the year, I spent a lot of time indoors as a kid. I grew up a gamer, playing video games on consoles, and the computer. Music from video games inspired me like crazy. Some of the in-game soundtracks that I loved include Castlevania, Mega Man, Street Fighter II, the Final Fantasy Series, Mario series, Streets of Rage, Strider and so many more. When I was a teenager, hearing the sounds of electronic dance music for the first time on the radio completely took me by surprise. Groups and artists such as Underworld, Inner city, Carl Craig, Model 500, The Prodigy all had this video game meets pop music essence. I searched out how they were making this music and found computer music programs such as impulse tracker, Rebirth-338, and Cubase. I became completely absorbed with the idea that I could make my own songs on the computer and I spent pretty much all my free time doing that.
I also have to mention that my family and close friends were a huge influence on me when it came to music. My father was into all sorts of eclectic sounds such as Frank Zappa, the Bonzo Dog Band, Men At Work, Huey Lewis and the News, while my brother and sister were listening to The Police, Depeche Mode, Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, and so much more. Friends from high school were into rap such as NWA, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Geto boys, Esham, ICP, as well as the whole Electronica/Techno thing.
FLH: Can you give a little background on what exactly inspired you to pursue music as a career?
Kuma: I think it’s just that music is my passion. I’ve never looked at making music as a career. I’ve just tried to look at music as something that I’m interested in and that I enjoy. I think that’s what continues to keep it fun for me. To work in music and earn a living is truly a blessing and I try hard to not take it for granted.
FLH: What age were you when you first knew music was the lifestyle you wanted to pursue?
Kuma: Definitely around 18 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a DJ. I wanted to travel and see the world and play music for people. I also wanted to be a pro wrestler and even pursued it at one point before I destroyed my knees. Haha!
FLH: Describe the very first beat you produced and did it see the light of day?
Kuma: Well, I think the very first full complete song I did was in Mario Paint for Super Nintendo! It was awesome.. I’m pretty sure someone could have written a sick rap to it.. it never saw the light of day unfortunately… haha! However, the first solo vinyl record I did was titled, ‘The Days of us Two’ under the name ‘Kage.’ The first two Psychopathic beats I did were, ‘Selfish’ for Axe Murder Boyz, and ‘Pray with Snakes’ for Boondox.
FLH: What is the most challenging moment you have faced in your career as a producer, thus far?
Kuma: Balancing the career with a family life and being able to shut work off and take a break. That is definitely a struggle I face. I think that’s a challenging thing that a lot of creative people deal with.
FLH: How do you keep it original? Your true thoughts on the current state of music today?
Kuma: To keep things fresh, I just like to experiment and write music and mess with sound. I’ve been getting into studying hardware modular synthesizers lately, and that’s been truly inspiring. New technology always inspires me.
There are some amazingly talented producers out there. it’s incredible what people can do in their bedrooms and on their laptops. Of course there is some shitty stuff, but it’s all perception.
FLH: What are the differences between directing and editing music videos versus producing? What type of mindset do you have to be in to conquer both?
Kuma: Both directing and producing a video take a TON of prep work. Video projects can be crazy expensive so you really have to be prepared going into them. You’re working within a budget, and dealing with a shit ton of logistics. You and your team only have so much time to capture what you need to tell a complete story and to get the point across. Everyone involved in a video project can have a different idea of how a final video edit should look. That’s why pre-production is really important. Storyboards are super crucial to a production and can help show your team how the end product will look. For me, editing is way more fun because it’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle inside the computer and you can take it into a lot of different directions.
FLH: Digital vs physical, what do you prefer when purchasing music and why?
Kuma: A part of me really loves having my music or the music I really enjoy on a physical format, especially on vinyl. Another part of me likes having a portable device that can play or stream music instantly. They both have their place in the world, but I definitely think holding a piece of art in your hands always wins.
FLH: What sets apart Detroit from other genres of Techno around The world?
Kuma: Detroit techno is the foundation of so many different styles and genres of electronic music. I think what separates it from other styles of techno or other dance music is that it has retained a lot the soul and depth of the city within the music. It definitely has evolved in certain ways of course, but you can hear a lot of Motown and even jazz influences in the sound of Detroit Techno. A lot of dance music comes and goes, but a great Detroit Techno record can become truly timeless. A few great examples of Detroit Techno are, “DJ Rolando – Knight of the Jaguar,” “Aril Brikha’s Groove La Chord, “ “Derrick May’s Strings of Life” and even my side project, “Reference – Best Day in Detroit.”
FLH: What new projects will you be working on through Beretta Music?
Kuma: Before I began working at Psychopathic Records full-time , I helped create a record label that is still going today, called Beretta Music (www.berettamusic.com) Obviously with my time split between Psychopathic, family life, and running my own record label, the releases have been kind of sparse. However, I do try to release at least one or two new records each year. Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new solo Vinyl EP that should be released in Early 2016 under my techno name, Brian Kage. Also I just finished a solo EP for a respected label called FXHE.
FLH: Will your group Reference (with Luke Hess) release a full length album, anytime soon? Will it be spaced theme?
Kuma: We have talked about doing a full-length album for a few years. Space theme, most likely.. Definitely a mix of space, and of course the influence of Detroit. It really just boils down to absolute commitment to the project from both of us. I’m juggling a ton of projects with Psychopathic and my own solo career. Luke is pretty focused on his solo career at the moment because it’s a lot easier for him to get gigs as a solo performer since flights to Europe are ridiculously expensive. Timing is everything, and hopefully an album will happen someday.
FLH: Can you tell us any behind-the-scenes info about the “Explosions” music video? Any fun or interesting moments?
Kuma: The pyro stuff we did with the sparks behind ICP was difficult to make work, but looked super cool the times we could use it. The location we filmed at had a gas leak in the room, so some people thought we were gonna die while we were shooting. Also the scene at the bar, with the bomber.. we lost our original location the day of the shoot. The guy who owned the bar we were going to use originally fed us some bullshit excuse about why we couldn’t use it the day of our shoot. We had it booked about two months in advance which really sucked. Luckily, our talented crew improvised and came up with an even better location right where we were. Fun shoot though, a great crew, and never a dull moment!
FLH: Can you release any details behind the next video you will be directing and producing?
Kuma: Something is always in the works for ICP, but the next thing I’m working on is the Psypher at the Gathering which should be pretty dope!
FLH: Will we ever see a Juggalo Day 2015 DVD?
Kuma: A strong possibility. We filmed everything and it looks really great. Keep your eyes peeled!
FLH: For this year’s Gathering Infomercial, what exactly inspired the Steam Punk/Science fiction time traveling comedy theme? Any major movie influences?
Kuma: Jumpsteady & Violent J came up with the treatment and characters. Super- Ninja Director and editor, Ryan Archibald built the backgrounds to match the character’s look. This year, I worked on the artists packages and voice over stuff. I was pretty busy finishing the Missing Link Found record. At the end of the project, I did some of the sound and music stuff, and some of the final tweaks for the edit. It was an overall serious team effort by some talented ninjas.
FLH: What has been the wildest moment you’ve experienced at The Gathering?! Give us details!
Kuma: Man, I had some pretty wild moments at the Gathering. I think the wildest time for me always is being on the stage filming or in the pit filming during ICP’s performance at the Gathering. It’s like going to war for real!
FLH: What were your first thoughts that went through your mind, when Insane Clown Posse reached out to you to help produce Lost And Found?
Kuma: Truly honored, man! Going from producing, mixing, and engineering for Dark Lotus, to Killjoy Club, and then right to the Lost & Found ICP Albums, It’s been a great challenge, but an awesome experience.
Kuma: It’s a completely different album. A contrast to what the Lost album was. The vibe is definitely more along the lines of Shangri-La, while Lost definitely has a Hell’s Pit kind of vibe. There are more carnival type songs, chick songs, and some uplifting positive songs. The records go together really nicely, and each record has something for everyone.
FLH: Who did the production for Found?
Kuma: The producers are Seven, Young Wicked, Mike P. and myself for the Found record. The same producers that did the Lost record. ICP wanted to go a completely different direction and try a complete new sound with these records. They set out to find the best beats from some of the top producers. They went through hundreds of beats and hand picked the very best selections that fit these records.
FLH: You’ve been at Psychopathic for a decade now. What’s are your top one or two highlights from working there?
Kuma: One of the top highlights for me was going to Los Angeles for about three months to film the behind-the-scenes footage for Big Money Rustlas. It was amazing being out on a huge movie set, and seeing how everything worked on a way bigger scale. I even did a bit of extra work as a few cowboys. A very memorable time.
Another highlight for me was working with ICP & Da Mafia Six together in the studio. That was quite incredible to see two super groups coming together. Pretty awesome shit!
FLH: Do you have any advice to producers just starting out?
Kuma: Work hard.. make lots of music.. don’t get discouraged! Learn everything you can.. You don’t need school, you got youtube.. everything is there.. WORK HARD! Don’t QUIT!
FLH: The Future of Brian Kuma?
My good friend Steve & I have put together some fun mash-ups of Psychopathic music mashed with some dub-step/trap shit.. we call it ‘hatchetstep,’ something for the club.. you can check it out at www.hatchetstep.com
Something else that is cool I’m doing right now is I’m working with Seven from Strange on a few collaborations and they are sounding pretty bad ass.. Keep a lookout out for little EP we’re putting together.
FLH: Got any shoutouts?
Kuma: First and foremost.. Shoutouts to all the Juggalos! All the crew at Faygoluvers and the forum lurkers! Of course my mentors, ICP! Everyone up at the office.. Billy, Rob, J-webb, Mean Dean, Will.. The artists.. Otis & Bones, Hoodoo, Killa, Legz Diamond, Da Mafia Six, Ryan Archibald, my family, my father, Mrs. Kuma,.. Everyone working hard at the Gathering! I’m probably forgetting so many people right now.. oh! and of course .. shoutout to the haters… cya at the Gathering, y’all! P E A C E
Interviewer: Chad Thomas Carsten