I met Hayden Kramer, aka HeRobust, a number of years ago when he was in a collaborative project with Leonard D. Stroy here in Kansas City. He would keep telling me about HeRobust and told me repeatedly that this kid was going to blow up. No disrespect to the homie Lenny D, but I’m always skeptical when someone else tells me that’s going to happen and I didn’t find him first. I’m a hater and I recognize this. But wouldn’t you know that Lenny D was spot-on with his prediction. Starting with the onslaught of free tunes during the summer of 2012 and the last two years has seen HeRobust tour nationally multiple times, play many a festival, and seems positioned to maintain his power position in the U.S. bass music scene moving forward into this year’s festival season.
I caught up with HeRobust after catching him on the SMOG tour as it hit KC back in February. I expressed the interest in interviewing him about his production process and how he made this current industry model work in his favor and he jumped at the idea to tell his story. He wanted to wait until after the tour wrapped to go in on this and I definitely thank him for tossing me some of his valuable down time to knock this out.
So what’s been good with you man?
Finally home after a long time on the road. Getting some much needed studio time. I have a bunch of tracks I’ve started on the road that I really need to hone and finish.
I hear that. You mentioned that while on the SMOG tour when I saw you. You said when you were in KC that you were dying to get back to the studio and that’s it’s hard to work on the road for you, but you’ve been playing so many shows and traveling the last year or so. How have you remained so prolific on music output?
Haha, thanks. Some phases of production are hard on the road, others are not. For me, stuff like mixing and processing drums can’t just be done in headphones. I need monitors, sub, etc., so I actually split my production up. All the stuff that’s easy to do in headphones, I do on the road. So that’s writing the tracks, composition, and some sound design. Then all the stuff that requires a real studio is left to do at home. So tracks come out in waves because I’m starting many at a time when I’m gone, and then finishing a bunch at a time when I get home.
That makes perfect sense and it seems like you’ve gotten comfortable with how things flow for you…
Yeah, I’m definitely getting used to working this way, but I can’t say it’s preferable. It feels great when the creative process can just flow without interruption.
That definitely makes sense. Can you give the DAD readers some info on any of this upcoming material?
Sure. Of course there will be some big hybrid trap tunes coming. A couple of twerk tunes. A couple of house tunes. I’m wrapping up a collab with Snails that will hopefully be a big one for festivals this summer.
Snails is FIERCE. How did that one come about?
I love his music. What really brought us together is the fact that we both do a lot of sound design in Reason. So it was nice to nerd out with someone, because that’s a rare thing for us Reason users. Not too many of us around at this level.
Do you find those kinds of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) situations killing some collaborations before they ever get going?
Definitely. I’m actually in the process of switching to Ableton right now for that very reason. I’ll still use reason a lot… just gonna be arranging and mixing in Ableton now.
Seems like there’s constant challenges and new techniques to keep up on in today’s production world. You talked about it briefly on the bus in KC that the young kids out there are coming up with new techniques almost daily. Tell me what that’s like… just trying to “keep up.”
Oh it’s amazing, man. Every year there’s a class of high school seniors or college seniors that are incredible producers, but just don’t have the time to really focus on music because of school or work or whatever. And every year they come through and just blow people away. Keeping up with it is definitely hard because once you become successful, you’re always on the road. So you’re competing with people who have twice as much time as you. Ha, friendly competition of course.
That’s what’s up.
But it’s awesome. They accelerate EDM. They are the reason we get better, because we have to. And when we don’t, they take over which is awesome, too! Haha, win/win. I don’t work well without inspiration, so new and amazing artists mean a lot to me.
That makes me want to know who you’ve got your eye on right now and why?
Snails, Kai Wachi, Apashe (the whole Kanibalen Crew is awesome), Boombox Cartel, Joe Ford, Aero Chord… I could go on forever. as to why… I think of music in two criteria: Execution and perspective. Perspective is like the message and point of view of the artist. Execution is how well they conveyed that idea. There are tons of artists who execute tracks beautifully, but don’t have much to say in my opinion. My fave artists have strong perspective (and execution), haha.
Makes perfect sense really. What about the whole 70BPM world (trap and dubstep)? You mentioned earlier messing with some other tempos. You getting the versatile flex going in 2014?
Yes, but not as much as most. From what I’m seeing, a lot of DJs were really quick to jump off the 140BPM thing. I grew up on southern hip-hop, so I’m always gonna love it… Like I said, I am working on a range of other genres, but my sets will still be at least 50% 140BPM, I think. To be honest I’m not into the whole twerk revolution. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s totally potential for some amazing tracks to be made with that style, but I don’t see many artists trying to take twerk music to the next level. As a genre I think twerk has been all execution, little perspective so far. Hopefully I can help push that along.
Haha… totally understood on all that man. If it’s cool with you… I really just have a couple more questions. Very curious to know how you view your success and how things have progressed for you. One, what do you think have been some of the important aspects of your focus to get where you are and where do you ultimately want to go? An two, what advice would you like to give to some of these youngsters you mentioned that are on the come up? And keep in mind I’m not looking for fluff cause I met you forever ago.
Haha. Well, in a broad sense, my focus was the music. I know that’s obvious but trust me some people spend more time spamming then they do on their tracks. I focused on consistency early on. If you’re playing the internet game you have to realize that its constantly turning over very quickly. The goal was not to make one great tune and have it buried under hundreds of posts by the end of the week. The goal was a consistent stream of tunes that would force people to recognize my name through repetition. In 2012 I released a free remix every Monday for eight months or something crazy like that. It was absurd, but it did work. My goals are just to keep growing and making cool music, and hopefully that will extend beyond EDM. Working with lyricists like 2 Chainz, Iggy Azalea, etc would definitely be amazing.
Nothing stands still out here. The Internet is turning over a mile a minute along with the talent pool and the technology. So be confident, but understand the need to improve. It really is a necessity if you want to keep up. If you think you have nothing to learn, you simply wont. Secondly, GRRRRIIIIIIINNNNNNNDDDDDD. It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. Even artists who appear to have just “blown up” overnight were putting in WORK before anybody knew who they were. Ask Flosstradamus.