In our Producer Beats series, we talk to Music Producers and Beatmakers about their influences and idols. We pick their minds every Tuesday to find out more.
Mustaqim Ariffin, the man also known as VMPRMYTH (pronounced as ‘Vampire Myth’) has just released his debut solo LP HEROINe mid April to critical acclaim in his home country Malaysia. Churning out instrumental hip-hop tunes akin to Brainfeeder-esque jams to Radiohead‘s Kid A-era Krautrock, he has made quite an impression not just amongst Hip-Hop heads but in the indie scene as well.
VMPRMYTH was busy with several other music projects such MUSCLE//MACHINE and several others, prior to doing his solo project. And you might have heard his work on Raising The Bar’s Jin Hackman‘s 2013 Malaysia Rap-Up. The Kuala Lumpur-based beatmaker and producer speaks to us about his guilty pleasure and how he got started in the game.
You straddled between a few genres in the music you create. There is a distinct love for Hip-Hop. What sparked your love for that?
One of my best friends back in school was always in tune with really good Hip-Hop, even if I didn’t know it at the time. I was getting into all sorts of bands and he’d just come up in my face daily spitting lines from Tupac or Biggie. I thought it was neat but I didn’t care, due to the fact my only knowledge of Hip-Hop at the time was Will Smith’s ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’. I look back in time with immense pride.
However, the most important lesson I took from that time was to be able listen to music with an open heart. You’re always bound to meet people who ‘represent’ genres or styles and get all up in your face saying things like, “You’re not metal enough. You’re not hip-hop enough”.
I don’t give a fuck. I like what I like. To run down what I like by listing genres would be wasting everyone’s time. People should listen to music without any preconceived notions on how it should be and instead focus on how it makes them feel.
Amen. Could you remember the exact moment which you were like “I’ll go out to buy a MPC and punch some rubber pads to make beats”?
It’s like one of those things you’ve seen from a distance but never truly understood. I had a pirated copy of Fruity Loops that I found on some generic 200-in-1 apps DVD back in high school. Not only was my computer too shitty to run the program, I couldn’t wrap my head around it either.
Fast forward to college, the universe was kind and lent its hand in 2011 when my sister passed down her old Acer laptop. My ex-girlfriend so generously bought me my first MIDI keyboard/drum pad.
Shit just got real.
For a beatmaker, you are pretty nifty on the guitars. That’s rare to see. How has performing live music shaped your production?
Almost every track on HEROINe started on the guitar. I think my biggest problem with making music this way is engaging the audience. Bands have a natural presence by virtue of them actually playing live. If you’re on the electronic side of things, there’s reason most of it is dancefloor oriented and easily mixable. I never paid too much attention to that and as a result, my album is a bitch to play as a DJ set.
At the end of the day, it’s not as big of a concern as I make it out to be. I set out to make the album I’ve always wanted to make.
Which are the beatmakers and producers you really look up to? Is there a particular track that really gets you everytime?
Dr. Dre, for starters. (There’s) not much output from him lately but that’s cool. The man’s discography speaks for itself and was just influential in so many ways. I remember listening to 2Pac‘s ‘Can’t C Me’ and was just blown away by the music as much as the rapper. For a long period of time, I’d find that a lot of my favorite beats were produced by Dre; he definitely made his mark on me.
Kanye West is another one. He’s been on point since The College Dropout, despite what people may think. They get so caught up in the media frenzy and the bullshit before they listen to his craft. The first time I heard (his work on) Twista’s ‘Slow Jamz’, the vibe was just ridiculous. Here was a guy who just came out and did his thing without apologies: so sincere and uncompromising in his vision. It’s a rare trait in artists these days.
Amon Tobin is also an individual that I consider way up there. I was only introduced to his music last year but it blew me harder than your favorite girl. I overheard ‘Lost & Found’. I had one of those typical producer moments where you’re asking yourself “HOW DID HE … WHAT??? NO? OMG”. So yeah, it was a real treat for my ears and mind. His body of work inspired me to work harder at sound design.
Which non-electronic act really gets your groove on all the time?
Again, too many. But I gotta say I rep Deftones heavily. Incredible musicians, first class work ethic and still as relevant as the first time I got hold of White Pony.
You do quite a bit of work as a game audio designer. How does that affect and influence your work overall?
Not as much as people seem to think. It’s quite funny how they reckon my music is cinematic because of the games. It’s the other way around; the very reason I was hired was due to the fact my music was like that already. That aside, what’s great about the job is being paid to do research on music from all over the world, which constantly puts me out of my comfort zone, so you either ‘grow or get out’.
The downside is that making music all day can make me want to implode into nothingness. I don’t allocate enough time to other hobbies.
Now your debut LP HEROINe is out. What are your plans now?
I maintain a pretty grueling schedule. I’ve recently established MythLab as my production, engineering and education unit. Aside from working with other artists, I teach producers in the making the ins-and-outs of music production through Ableton Live.
I’m taking some time off from my own productions for the moment but I ain’t going anywhere either. A number of collaborations and an EP are in the pipeline so watch out for that.