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INTERVIEW: L!ghtwork

INTERVIEW: L!ghtwork

By: Morgan Y. Evans
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"Most of the current youth culture is struggling to find their place in the world, mainly because they are choosing to drown in a constant flood of information."- Cory Doan

Cory Doan is a very interesting man, a Grammy nominated true fan and ally of music as a craft and perhaps even spiritual calling. A recent beat "Queens Story" is as beautiful, introspective and nostalgic as nearly anything in hip hop's long march to the top, even sans bars.

I have known Cory, who works under the handle L!ghtwrk presently, for a long time. It was really great to get to feel a reflection of the space he creates from while interviewing him about production, breaking talent, the high speed of data these days and much more.

Spacelab: Hi Cory! Thanks for doing this today. You are a very creative person. Do you view yourself more on the artist side or on the production or "ears" side. These days people don't need to make such a distinction as...what I'm trying to say is everything you do involves a certain artistry?! haha.

Cory Doan: What's up Morgan?  Thanks for the interview.  The term 'producer' has a lot of buzz these days because of the huge boom in 'bedroom beatmakers'.  A lot of people claim the role of a producer but truly don't know what it actually encompasses.  

Yes, I make beats all the time, but I can produce anything.  The philosophy is beyond the boundaries of one particular genre. Put me in a meditation room with a Tibetan bowl and vocalist and we will come out with something dope.

Being a producer is a form of artistry in its own right, and is usually grossly underappreciated, especially in Hip Hop.  It is also a service which the artist should pay for.  If you want a free beat and plan on being your own producer, chances are you are severely limiting your potential as an artist.  The producer molds sound, vibes, arrangements, performances and lyrics into one cohesive product with the purpose of elevating the artist to a place where they couldn't reach without you, and in the end, create something they truly stand behind.  That can only be accomplished through collaboration and trust.

Spacelab: You went to Rutgers? Is that correct? What was that experience like. We went to High School together but I don't have too many distinct memories of music talks with you. I was in my own world! But always remember you around, of course. It's amazing how much professional creativity came out of our area within those close years of mid 90's grads from OCS (haha, shout out). But I love with music...it can affect anyone so deeply they suddenly pursue it as a life path!

Cory Doan: I did go to Rutgers and graduated in 2002.  I had a decent experience there but looking back on it I was not where I wanted to be.  There was something missing and I finally realized in 2000 that I wanted to pursue music production professionally.  I had been DJing for years and really enjoyed making mixes and blend tapes.  People loved my blends and kept telling me my ear was special.  That transitioned into making beats and learning the production craft.  I spent a year after leaving RU at the Institute of Audio Research learning the ins and outs of a recording studio.  It came so easily to me, it only reinforced my belief that this was what I wanted to pursue as my life's work.

Spacelab: What was, if you don't mind, one of the most stressful challenges you faced in the studio or a personal situation that you managed to move through and get a way better headspace or perspective from having that growing experience or obstacle?

Cory Doan: That's difficult because there are so many! I would start with my first experience with a manager. She had a very successful career working with Whitney Houston and was connected to all of the major players in the business. I was just starting out and even though my self- belief was strong, there was a lot of pressure to live up to her resume.  There were opportunities for me to grow and get records done, but her pride got in the way.  When you are on top of the world at one point, it can be difficult to readjust to people who have never been there.  This created a conflict and eventual falling out.  I still value the experience and am thankful for the wisdom she shared with me.  It still influences how I move and make decisions.

Spacelab: Anything you can tell us about that you are working on of late which you are excited about?

Cory Doan: Well I am hard at work building my new production venture under L!ghtwrk.  After being in a group for 7 years, I really feel good about taking control of my career and building a brand.  I am constantly sending out music to artists and creating new ideas.  Trying to sell the idea of real production to a rapper through an email is a challenge, especially in the climate we have today, but I know once I get the first project off, they will come running.  I am selling an experience I guarantee you can only get working with me, and I know that I can elevate any artist to a new level.  I don't care if it's the flavor of the week or Drake, I will produce a winner.  I am currently in the studio with a rapper from Staten Island named Kritkal.  We are recording for his project titled 'First Classhole'.  Stay tuned for that!

Spacelab: Will be sure to do! When working on something that has been a hit, how do you straddle going for the "pop" or impact elements and still make sure the artist comes across as human? Or is that on them, hahah? Like, I know you don't want someone doing a bad job over your music, either.

Cory Doan: Regardless of the confidence in my ability, the process outcome still relies on collaboration and a willingness to create.  If the artist chooses not to participate honestly, then the results will represent that attitude.  Music is a process of co- creation.  All parties must be willing to trust the process.

Spacelab: Well said. "All Black Everything" had a sample of "I'll Be Seeing You" by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal. I think I was hitting you up about how I heard En Vogue the other night and "Hold On" and how I reflected back on how cool certain eras had things they were known for, like neo soul or whatever. Are there certain trends right now you are following? Or do you prefer to think outside of "timelines" and find inspiration all over the map?

Cory Doan: The word 'follow' is a carcinogen to a producer's career health.  Once you start following, you are regressing.  Creating from the authentic self is critical for sustained success.  Your sound may not be popular, but it will be sustainable.  You can reinvent your sound over and over, that is the fun part.  There are no rules!  Time has compressed so much since the creation of the internet, trends have shorter and shorter shelf lives.  We are overwhelmed with information every second of every single day.  It never stops.  Trying to keep up with that will leave you drained and uninspired.

Spacelab: "Racism has no context" from that Lupe song, what a powerful line. How did it feel in just a human/social awareness/personal level to be part of that song? As your friend, inspired by the awesome stuff you've done, dawg!

Cory Doan: All Black Everything had the potential to hit a lot harder than it did.  Sample clearance issues limited the record company's push behind it.  It was originally lined up for a single and music video, but the split was so ridiculous and greedy no one stood to make any money other than the estate.  The fact that it was still commercially released speaks to the power of that record.  Fiasco's message was simple: "Live in the present and imagine your own world from scratch.  Close your eyes and see with your mind's eye.  What do you see?  What is your dream?"

His vision was exactly what you quoted.  I took the time to read message boards and was honored to be a part of a record that fans really dissected and learned from.  People were inspired to talk and discuss about not only racial issues, but dreaming and creative freedom.  The dream is what keeps us all going, keeps us alive.  Without the dream, there is nothing left.

Spacelab: Do you think people should focus on one goal at a time with a long term plan or kind of wing it and pray? Hahaha. When it comes to the music industry? Or, as a fan or artist should they just keep tinkering...like Iron Man in the lab and suddenly he has a revelation and builds!

Cory Doan: Creativity is best when it is allowed to manifest freely.  Attempting to create within the boundaries of old projects restricts the potential for something special.  This is usually the case with artists or bands trying to recreate past successes.  You ride the wave until it feels stale, and then you hop on another one.  The wave will always end, but the supply of waves never will.

Spacelab: Ok...there are shows like Empire depicting one thing and there are crazy club kids in Eastern Europe dissecting Trap or glitchy EDM sub genres and there are punk movements that try to live outside the corporate structure, but they all are more related than people think in this big musical web. Ultimately though, shouldn't it all come from the heart no matter the style since time is a precious, finite resource (until infinity when we all go to Thug Mansion/Heaven/Elysium/Mt. Olympus, of course).

Like...I was tweeting to Kerri Kasem , daughter of the late, great Casey Kasem because she posted a sweet thing about her dad. And it got me thinking about the way we learn about things. I remembered driving to school listening to the Top 40 countdown with my parents and hearing Mike & the Mechanics or Soul II Soul "Back To Life". And then years later now I can realize that brought me down a path that led to a deeper understanding of rock, R&B or whatever I chose to study. And all of that brings more fascination and acceptance into the world. We're all a human family. Do artists or producers with good intent maybe see that better than average people?

Cory Doan: The truth that we are all connected is becoming more and more relevant each day. While we are all connected, each and every one of us does have something unique to offer the world.  We all have a part to play in the evolution of our planet.  The only way to connect to that source is to create from the heart, our authentic self.  Most of the current youth culture is struggling to find their place in the world, mainly because they are choosing to drown in a constant flood of information.

Like I said before, trends are coming and going so fast no one can keep up.  This trend will continue until a critical mass is reached, where people put down their phones and tablets and start listening to their inner guidance again.  Artists certainly tap into that voice more often, but we are all co-creators and can tune into that voice no matter what the endeavor is.  The voice that guides us all is always present, but you have to be quiet enough to hear it.

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