Interview: DOMINO GREY – The Intellectual Electronic Music Artist!
Electronic Music producer, Domino Grey from New York, has influences that range from HipHop to Deep House. He is part of a group that releases instrumental music under the name Fallout Shelter and producing records as Drew Spence and Dynamics Plus. Recently in an exclusive interview, Domino confirmed that his prowess and skills are not only confined to keyboards and mixing desks. The man (and artist) comes across as a rational and intelligent being, who completely understands his art and the sacrifices necessary to move within, and more importantly around and outside of its boundaries successfully.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Domino Grey: It’s been a few years now doing electronic music after many years doing Hip Hop and Rap. I think there’s some kind of artistic debt in trying to give the same kinds of experiences with my music that I had, when I was younger. I want to recreate what I felt then for someone else.
2. Who were the first influences on your sound and who do you consider the most influential electronic music producer in your genre today?
Domino Grey: Influential for today, I would say Deadmou5 and for dub enthusiasts, Skrillex -more so, for what they have accomplished, than their musical sensibilities overall. I think many artists see them as the end goal for their musical aspirations. It’s a little funny when the kids only look at their last two years in the big spotlight and think that’s all there is to it. So easy. Those are developed artists with long histories and are not overnight success stories. I tend to be inspired by ideas and not sounds or production techniques.
3. Do you remember the first piece of software or equipment that you actually purchased, for your productions, with your own money?
Domino Grey: First, I’m not so sure of, but most significant would be the Ensoniq ASR0-10 sampling keyboard. I bought it brand new from Sam Ash for over 2 grand, at a time when you didn’t know who else was using it besides yourself. There wasn’t a fantasy in my head like if I get this, I’ll be just like so and so. It was all about what it could do for me. When I forked over the money I thought “Okay, now you’d better be serious about this.”
4. Do you consider your compositions, ‘dance music’ or ‘listening music’?
Domino Grey: I slide around. Some tracks are squarely dance-able, some head nodders and others are just background music for your daily doings. I like to start from a fresh angle and see what I stumble across and then push harder in that direction.
5. Do use loops, construct samples and beats from other sources, or do you strictly play and compose from scratch?
Domino Grey: Depends on the zone I’m in. I started out sampling from vinyl, so the availability and scope of sample libraries is still a little staggering to me. An open break was such a great find, now you spend less than the cost of an evening out and get a thousand elements at your disposal. I’m a keyboard and synth guy, but basically I play every instrument pretty crappy. Even so I throw a bit of my live playing in the mix. I usually have a big concept in mind and then begin with noodling around on a piano and programming a synth.
6. What do you think is the prime, key ingredient in a catchy electro track? Beat, Melody, Breakdown, Bass-line or maybe something else?
Domino Grey: I’d say sound design. We can still run over a 4/4 beat and it’s not like the electro aspect is about new chord progressions. Breakdowns run across all the sub-genres of dance, so I’d say it’s a particular sonic sensibility that rules that arena. Same with Dubstep; It’s not really the modern Dubstep till the processing and sample manipulation occurs. I’m speaking beyond the wub wub baseline.
7. Do you enjoy doing collaborations, if so, with which artists would you like to collaborate in future?
Domino Grey: For the love and legacy, I’d say Crystal Waters. I would love to rock with Lady Miss Kier [Deee-Lite]. For total freshness, I’d go with Gaga and Rihanna.
8. Which of your compositions is your personal all-time favorite, and which one is the absolute crowd favorite?
Domino Grey: Oh tough one. Minimal vocal would be “We Can Go Dancing” that one always works and “Let My Spirit Run Free” is a monster. Favorite? Maybe “Primal Themes and the Beating of Wings” That set off the whole Butterfly Affect series visual, so that’s a pretty important record to me.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your sound the way it is?
Domino Grey: My ear. I listen back and I don’t hear anything ultra-complicated, but somehow there’s a common sound that rings throughout all my music. It’s as simple as my judgment about what sounds good. I’ve said that music is nothing more than a particular sound placed when. The choices an artist makes about those aspects define who they are.
10. When composing a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?
Domino Grey: Not always, but I try to get something groovy going pretty quick. I consider that the foundation. If a track doesn’t work stripped down to its bare elements, I know there isn’t enough junk in the world to throw on top of it – to make something worth listening to.
11. Do you mainly use analogue or digital sound sources? Which is your preferred choice?
Domino Grey: I like analogue or virtual analogue sounds with digital processing. I even see my tendency to use samples from analogue or traditional instruments. But I love the options afforded by software. I only really shy away from sounds and music created from maths alone.
12. What aspect of the music producing process discourages you most and what part excites you the most?
Domino Grey: Most exciting is the moment I realize something I’m working on is useable. There’s a silly joy when it makes it to a record someday status. Most troublesome is balancing the mix to be suitable for all systems. It’s still a mastering limitation to hit that perfect middle so that my music sounds good in every environment.
13. Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors when recording and mixing?
Domino Grey: I like using nice near-field studio monitors during the creative process so I can hear all the details and then I switch to an array or expected listening devices, like headphones, car stereos, and budget computer speakers to make sure the mix translates well.
14. How important do you think it is to have your music mastered commercially? Do you master yourself, and if so which tools would you recommend?
Domino Grey: Depends on your destination. If you make headphone-angled music, then you have some freedom, but if your record is expected to land in a rotation or mix, then you need to fall in line. It’s a must. Find somebody that does the mastering well, it’s worth it. The tools take second place to how well you understand the process and how tuned your ears are. I’ve used a bunch of different systems and I find iZotope’s Ozone to be the most comfortable. It’s a learning process and also a study in self-discipline. It’s the line between what you like and making a record that’s so neutral, the listener gets to decide what they like best because every aspect is allowed to shine.
15. At this time in your career, which is the one factor you desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, more live appearances etc…)?
Domino Grey: Exposure, both media and larger venues. I expect to keep improving sonically and artistically and discovering new avenues for distro, but really it’s the gatekeepers and tastemakers that add the salt to the Saltine.
16. In your opinion what are the biggest barriers that electronic music artists and producers have to face today, to achieve any commercial success?
Domino Grey: It’s the fact that our music is geared towards venues and volume. You don’t really go out and buy a single dance record; you go out and pursue an experience. You go clubbing, you jam a playlist. Our music isn’t topping the charts for sales, but the interest is massive. That explains the disparity. It’s not enough to create music anymore, you must physically go out there and DJ-producer-artist-hybrid yourself into a live show. It requires a lot of help to break through.
17. Are you totally self-financed, or do you have sponsors and benefactors who help promote your career?
Domino Grey: It’s just me and my industry connects. My AVXP label is for my own vanity. It’s the umbrella for the insanity of my own music. I would love a larger support system, but I’ve never been about waiting for a ride when I can start walking there myself.
18. Is having Platinum sales or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
Domino Grey: Sales would be huge. Man, listen; when somebody buys my record now, it’s a big deal because I know how readily everything is for free and in abundance across the net. That’s a huge, huge statement to me- every time someone shells out for my music. I tend to think of awards as rewards, mostly for those same record sales so it’s almost expected when you tap those levels.
19. If you had to choose only one media method between Radio, TV, The Press or the Internet, to diffuse your music promotion. Which would it be and why?
Domino Grey: It’s a weird time because each medium seems to feed off the other. TV reports what’s huge on the internet and the internet press loves to offer its opinion on TV and film. Radio seems more focused on talking about the personalities behind the music than playing a wider selection of the music that’s available. I think if you can be the main topic on one, the rest will follow.
20. If you were not a music artist and producer, what would you be doing today?
Domino Grey: This question is like seeing me leaving the coat check and asking what I’d be doing if I didn’t get past the doorman. Honestly, I’d be a guy still waiting on line outside. Right now, I’m trying to get to the dance floor. And after I dance a bit, I’m giving the DJ my request and hopefully I’ll get to sit in VIP, but for now, I’m glad they let me in and I’m just here and looking to move my feet. I think if there was ever another choice for me I would have taken it and been the guy that turned around and went home when I saw how crowded the club is and how long the line was. We’re done? Okay, thank you for this interview. I appreciate your space.
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