Interview by: Colton Beausoleil
When you’re talking Canadian producers, one name comes up more often than not over the past few years. From emerging on the scene with some of Toronto’s most talented artists A-Game, to solidifying his position as one of Canada’s top tier producers. Building a solid foundation and working closely with some talented artists over the past while, creating a sound that has been generating a huge buzz and has no sign of slowing down anytime. With hits like “Money Made Me Do It” from A-Game and Luu Breeze, to more recent production working with OB [O’Brien] on the OVO Sounds featured song “Steve Nash”; Chef Byers has turned a former hobby in to something that is looking more like a long lasting career in music, becoming one of the most sought out Canadian producers and it only grows daily. We caught up with Chef Byer to talk about “Steve Nash”, how he got into producing and much more. Read the full interview below.
TCUS: Jumping right into things, your most recent production released was a collaboration with OB [O’Brien] on “Steve Nash”, how did that all come together?
Chef Byer: That one actually came together shortly after “Money Made Me Do It”. We had a mutual friend, I’m not sure if you may know him he used to rap way back in the day. Anyways, he’s close friends with both those guy’s and he actually linked us up. Apparently OB heard the track “Money Made Me Do It” and wanted to rap on that instrumental. He reached out so he could get the instrumental and that just turned into working on a new track. It’s great that people are truly appreciating it.
TCUS: Have you noticed a rise in requests from artist’s for beats since the release?
Chef Byer: Yeah I guess, when any type of song that comes out and there’s any bit of notoriety you have to expect those kinds of things. It’s not like people are coming out of the woodwork, like people I knew from way back that kind of ignored me and all that bullshit. It’s more like people can finally see that I can do more.
It was kind of like I was in this situation where “Money Made Me Do It” was the biggest track I had produced, and it’s been a year since any music has been released aside from the Boarding Pass project with A-Game. The “Steve Nash” track was kind of like validation that I can do it again you know what I’m saying? I think that’s what it was more than anything.
TCUS: In a broader sense, obviously you’ve been producing for a while but working with A-Game on “My World”, was more when you would say everyone started noticing the work?
Chef Byer: Some what; with that track the reception was cool, People who heard it liked it but it didn’t really bring me any attention towards, well us..the A-Game and G Byers collaboration. It was really “Money Made Me Do It” that brought a ton of attention towards us. “My World” wasn’t really the first song I had that was released, I’ve been making beats since 2005 but back then it wasn’t really a serious thing I was just f*cking around.
Actually my first song I had produced that was on the radio came out in 2005, which was “The World Is Yours” with A Game. Between 2005 and 2011 I wasn’t really taking music seriously, it was more a basement thing or something I could just do to have fun with friends.
TCUS: So 2005 was when you first started making beats? How did it all begin?
Chef Byer: Well, it was about a year before hand when I really started, when I discovered FL Studio. There was this guy at my highschool who a producer, he was a pretty well known underground producer. He was 16 or 17 at the time, and he was working with these guys out in New York like Cappadonna and just a plethora of different well known underground hip hop artists at that time. He kind of put me on to FL Studio, me and him use to just chill each class and we use to just sit down and listen to beats and one day I’m like “Yo! I have to do my own shit on this sometime, I want to do what you’re doing”.
He put me on, gave me my first drum kit and everything. I just started making beats there, every third and fourth period and I got to a certain point where they were decent enough that I could send it out to some people who could rap on top of it.
TCUS: Do you feel producer’s should do that? Some producers will put out there first beat thinking it’s fire, do you feel they should wait until they have that one that they feel has to be heard by everybody?
Chef Byer: It’s really hard to say, I’d say everybody’s situation varies. For myself; looking back from my perspective, putting it out wasn’t the issue. I was very confident in what I could do, though I listen to beats I made back 2004/2005 and I think they’re dirt. Just looking back I think putting it out there was a good idea but I feel I should have done a little bit more with it. I should have used it as a piece to at least talk to people, introduce myself to different producers and learn. I think that’s the most important thing. I think trying to find somebody to build and learn with is the most important thing. Reach out to different producers, not to get money and all that stuff but to learn. I feel that’s the first thing you should really look for. That could be by submitting beats to different producers in your city, going to different beat showcases in your city, trying to find different artist’s within your city or outside your city. Always be proud of whatever you’re creating at that moment and put it out there with some confidence.
TCUS: Do you still use FL Studio today?
Chef Byer: Yeah I still use FL Studio man, that’s my shit! At one point people mocked it because of it’s name but honestly it’s a killer program.
TCUS: Did you ever rap on track’s or was it strictly producing?
Chef Byer: [laughs] Nah, never rapped. I mean I do my freestyle from time to time but I just keep that for the people I feel comfortable with. Rapping is not my forte. Outside of hip hop though I am starting some songwriting. I’m starting to realize that as a producer, you have to have an understanding of songwriting and how to structure songs properly. That’s one thing I’ve been getting into but it’s nothing I could put out there proudly yet.
TCUS: What do you feel the keys are to getting noticed as a producer?
Chef Byer: That’s a hard question to answer. Me I’m still learning my stuff but the things that really helped me out was the fact that I had a group of artists that I could build music with. It was kind of like I had outlets for my music, well outlets for my art and creativity. I had people who I could say that I’m working with this particular artist, who does this type of music or I could say I’m working with that particular artist who does that type of music. That was my way to showcase my skills, or showcase my talent I should say. To be honest I’ve never really had to put that much effort into networking up until now because I was working with a group that was sort of established in the city. What I’m learning now is the best way to get to know people is to go to different showcases.
Especially in Toronto, the way that the Toronto music scene is set up; any show that is going on in the city if you just go out there you’re going to meet a plethora of different artists from all over the entire city. The artist community in Toronto is amazing. The way that people always support each other and show up at each others shows is a great thing. It’s a great place to meet new upcoming artists and established artists within the city. I’ve never been disappointed with a show in Toronto.
TCUS: I heard the Naturally Born Strangers show was pretty crazy.
Chef Byer: Yeah man I wanted to go but I missed it. I got invited out but I couldn’t make it unfortunately, I had a session to work at. I wish I would’ve went out there I heard it was dope [a sold out event]. That’s a testament to the amount of talent this country has and the area of Toronto has. I f*ck with Adam Bomb,I f*ck with Tona, I f*ck with Rich Kidd. Those guys are really dope artists from the city. It’s good to see those three receive that kind of recognition. It’s a sign that people are really paying attention to these artist’s with integrity in their craft.
TCUS: So who are some of your favorite Canadian producers. You mentioned in a tweet that Spen Zilla would have been the illest Canadian producer if he had continued.
— Chef Byer (@prodbychef) January 28, 2014
Chef Byer: Oh hell yeah, Spen is my boy. Yeah I feel like if he continued he would have been a pro. As of right now guys who are currently in the game I mean you’ve got T-Minus, Boi 1da, Rich Kidd, Raz Fresco..I like his resurgence of old style beats, he’s really dope. Saukrates, I mean I do what I do today because of dudes like Saukrates. There’s so many dope producers though like the Soundsmith crew [ Y-Knot, Mac, Ritchie and Koolaid]. There’s a great number of Toronto and Canadian producers who are extremely talented and also unique in their own right. Daniel Worthy, I mean that dude is a f*cking underground monster. Guys that are coming up right now are emulating his sound and he doesn’t get a lot of notoriety off that shit I feel. That baffles me, honestly. I would have to say those guys are some of my favorite producers from Canada. I mean there’s more but we could go on for days. J Reid, Bassline, Jordan Evans, Matthew Burnet, there’s a ton of amazing producers.
TCUS: What are some common mistakes you see being made by artists today and how do you think they can avoid them?
Chef Byer: From my personal experience I think artist’s try to emulate what is currently popular and try to do what’s in right now. They feel like that may be the blueprint for success but in reality what’s currently popular was something that somebody did from scratch. I think the blueprint for success is just making really good music and having great business behind it. Most of the time a lot of artists may have great music but their business ethics or the whole business side of things is lacking altogether. So I would say there’s two things, and artist may not have a lot of integrity in their craft and lack uniqueness in what they create, or their business is not on point. I know for a fact that making music, owning a restaurant, anything in this world that pertains to business; if you’re not on point with your business nobody wants to invest in you.
TCUS: After watching an interview, the producer had mentioned how some hip hop today doesn’t sound how it used to. Back in the day he said everything was in sync, the instrumental, vocals and mixing were all in harmony and today some artist’s just rush out songs without properly mixing them, he said this because it happened to him because he felt if he had had the time so sit on the record and fine tune it, it would have come out sounding better. Do you agree producer’s should hold on to the song a fine tune everything [adding drops, samples, different drums etc.] before putting out the song?
Chef Byer: Always. I personally think that as a producer you’re suppose to do those kinds of things. Make sure that the track is, if there’s something missing from it that you go back and build on to it, add certain sounds, make sure everything is mixed properly. As far him saying things aren’t mixed down properly, that happens a lot. There’s a lot of demo tapes that aren’t mixed properly and I think it’s kind of inexcusable now a days. Especially when you can buy Protools and all these different things and have them in your house. As a producer that’s your product, that’s something that’s going out there that represents you. As a producer you’re going to want to do everything it takes to make sure that track sounds like you and it’s something your proud to put out.
TCUS: So you’ve worked with A-Game, Luu Breeze, Sese, SonReal, Kardinal Offishall, Ransom, Maino, OB [O’Brien], Boogz Boogetz and you have a project coming out soon with T.Y. Is there anyone else your working with we can expect to see come out in the near future?
Chef Byer: As of right now there’s not too much I can speculate on, I mean I’ve been doing a lot of work with Canadian artist’s. Kardinal hasn’t really written any songs yet, he’s just heard some beats and liked a few things so that’s a process in the works right now. T.Y. definitely, we’ve got this whole project that we’re working on right now and I think it’s definitely going to turn a few heads towards the Hamilton region, a region I feel gets overlooked. There’s a ton of really talented artist’s from that area that get overlooked. With T.Y., our project is going to be dope, I’m really confident in what we’ve created.
The integrity and creativity we have in our art separately, I think that’s going to make it turn out to be something beautiful. T.Y. is a cool guy to work with, very easy to work with. It’s not like he’s a problem when it comes to the studio, he’s the furthest thing from it. He’s confident in his ideas, he will address his ideas and he’s also confident enough to accept from others around. It’s always a fun time working with him, every studio session has always been a great time and it’s been a wonderful experience creating this project.
TCUS: Do you usually have all artist’s come through the studio, do you prefer that or is it a mix of both ways [over the internet and in person]?
Chef Byer: It all depends on the relationship, starting off it would be on a submission base, up until the point I talk to them on the phone and figure out what they’re looking for; distance as well. For example working on the SonReal project, half the time he was out in Vancouver and we mostly had phone conversations. I had a grasp of what he was looking for but in terms of having him in the studio and being able to work together on the project live, it wasn’t present but it still turned out amazing.
All in all I like to sit down with the artist and build tracks with them, I feel not only am I satisfied at the end of the day but I have a better chance of bringing out what the artist wants. Over the internet when it comes to submitting something it’s just one way, it can be stifled communication as well. It’s always good the strike the iron walls high, when the guy is in the studio with you, you have an opportunity to build something on point. When everything’s fresh and you have something fresh on your mind, you get it out and work on that idea.
TCUS: I’ve heard a statement that rather than rapping, for producers; the composition you create is the way to make your statement and really decides the overall course of the song. Would you say that’s true?
Chef Byer: Hell yeah. The main reason I actually started making beats, aside from the whole introduction from Spen is that I get to be a part of hip hop without having to be a rapper in front of people. Being an artist in one way, it takes a kind of extrovert specialty know what I’m saying? Being a producer really blends well with my personality. Being able to create something cool and create a certain emotion, move a crowd in a certain way with sounds, that’s a beautiful thing man. It definitely is a way for me to express myself.
TCUS: I seen you tweet, “Life is random, keep control of your mind state and you’ll conquer all the sporadic challenges life has in store for you”. Can you explain that a bit?
Life is random. Keep control of your mind state and you'll conquer all of the sporadic challenges life has in store for you
— Chef Byer (@prodbychef) January 19, 2014
Chef Byer: Absolutely. Anytime you’re pursuing something in this world, it may be music but it could be anything. Sometimes you’re hit with random events, it may be positive or negative. In order for you to conquer each and every situation is to keep yourself in a certain mind state where things don’t necessarily shake you from your main objective. A lot of times a lot of people have goals and their sights set on something but yet certain actions or certain events in their lives kind of throw them of course. Life is random, accept that. I order for you to achieve what you want to achieve in this life you have to make sure that you keep a cool head and that you accept everything that life throws at you. As much as people are thrown off of their main objective with negativity, people are thrown off of their path from positive things as well. It’s all about keeping focus and making sure that nothing deters you or throws you off your goal.
TCUS: Do you have any advice for producers who are just starting out?
Chef Byer: If you really see yourself being a producer and really want to turn production from a hobby to a career, be prepared to make it your life. Like somebody who decides to go to University for four to eight years and really dedicate their time towards studying, that’s the kind of thing you need to do with production. It involves reading, doing things that your not comfortable with. For young producers I would say keep working hard. Make sure you work smart. When you’re working hard or dedicating yourself time towards building your craft that you’re doing it in a fashion where it’s precise, accurate and just practice. Every time you go in to the studio or you go home to make beats, you’re focusing on one area of your production. That way you will actually use the most of your time improving your craft over a long period of time, all in all it’s more efficient when you focus on improving one thing at a time and don’t rush. That’s all I can really say for now because me I’m still learning too.
TCUS: Do you have any last words for the people out there?
Chef Byer: Thank you to everyone who follows me on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, everywhere. The love that I’ve received ever since “Steve Nash” or just the love I’ve received period has always been appreciated and it helps make this journey of turning music production in to a career a lot easier. Thanks to everyone who’s ever sent out love. Shout out to Pilot Mode Muzik and everyone else who has been a great supporter throughout building the foundation of my career.