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Amin Payne is a multi-talented musician whose live and recorded projects this year have undoubtedly served as a major catalyst for the budding instrumental hip-hop scene here in Melbourne. With four album-quality mixtapes under his belt, an already impressive resume of live and recorded collaborations and a growing reputation for hosting dope events via his imprint Condensed Milk, we caught up with the man just in time for his first label release ‘Cosmic Disfunktions’ via Cascade Records out in November.

What made you want to become an instrumentalist?

Well ever since I was young I always liked the sound and look of the guitar, so I knew that would eventually be my first musical instrument. I went from playing the guitar, to keys and more recently the saxophone. But I’m always interested in learning more and more instruments and achieving different sounds.

How important is being a musician before being to be a producer?

You may be surprised to know how many producers today are not musicians, yet they are able to compose such quality music which is still appreciated by musicians who can see the creativity behind it. I think to be a producer you really just need to have the ear. It’s not all about following scales, charts and a predictable melody patterns that is imprinted in music theory and such. Being able to play an instrument and being able to read and write music helps a lot in the beat-making process but it’s not essential. Creating quality music is all that matters at the end of the day.

It’s never an easy task trying to describe your production style. How do you best describe it?

I have a hard time with that too. Some people call it ‘contemporary music’, but that could mean anything really. It’s heavily hip-hop orientated but often I do like to add a twist which can make it not hip-hop at all. Because my music is mostly instrumental I have the freedom to explore and infuse different genres and add a modern feel to it. My current sound is very hip-hop, future funk and future beat, but I’ve even made a deep house track and used a Brazilian sample for my new album. I mean, why not? I’m trying everything I can to challenge myself and keep things fresh but consistent at the same time.

What is it about Dilla’s work that so many producers take inspiration from?

To me Dilla did it all. I mean technically and creatively the man was a genius. The way he sampled, his unique drums and his raw sound was on another level and no one did it like he did, so it’s no wonder why people to this day are still trying to imitate his sound. He was ahead of his time and he is my main inspirational figure. What he made back in 1996 is still hot now. What he made in 2001 is what inspired video game sound 8-bit beats similar to the ones Flying Lotus produced in Raw Cartoons. There were no limits to the genres he sampled and he stepped outside his comfort zone all the time. This is what makes you grow as producer in my opinion, because you are constantly learning and pushing boundaries and hence getting better at mastering your craft.

What hardware/software did you start out with and what do you find works best for you now?

When I started making beats all I had was a real slow desktop computer, a guitar and a karaoke mic. At one stage before my DJing and turntable days, I was making beats with just Fruity Loops and a guitar and basically I would record or sample whatever sounds I could from tapes and DVDs.

Obviously now I have a more serious setup and more toys to play with. I currently use drum machines, analog synths, records and a range instruments from guitar to sax and percussions. I use Cubase as my platform for recording and mixing music, a software that is extremely efficient and of good quality for production.

For those whom might only know you from your recorded music. What can people expect from your live performances?

When I perform live I use my drum machines MPC1000, SP 555 and Serato for cuts and remixing. So when I perform a live version of a track with the drum machines, it will always be different to the original structures, so the live songs are never the same as the recorded versions. That’s probably one of the biggest bonuses of catching my live sets. I also get active and improvise a lot with live finger drumming and sample triggering while adding and subtracting track layers.

How does the scene in New Zealand compare to Australia? Where do you find more appreciation? 

Well with Australia having a much bigger population compared to NZ, obviously there is going to be more of a scene and appreciation here. So even though I started my musical journey in NZ and will always represent New Zealand to the fullest, in all honesty I can say that I get more support and appreciation here in Australia. Melbourne, where I’m currently based is a great city, especially for music-oriented people like me. I miss Auckland a lot at times, however I know that Melbourne is where I belong in this chapter of my life.

What have been some of the biggest highlights for you this year so far?

Man, 2012 has no doubt been the best year of my life, so I consider all the events in the last eight months to be highlights. But if I were to narrow it down, I would have to say the Red Bull Beat Suite earlier in May at the Melbourne Recital Centre which included three beat makers, two DJs, a fifteen piece orchestra, percussion and Aloe Blacc and Ladi6 as guest vocalists. It was an amazing experience! Something like that had never been done before so it was a real honor to be part of such an event. I definitely learned a lot from that experience.

Also this year I’ve been blessed enough to support some of my all time favoritess like Oddisee, RasG, Eric Lau, Melo-X and more recently Suff Daddy and Julien Dyne.

What more can we expect this year from your Condensed Milk imprint?

Condensed Milk’s first event was the J Dilla tribute night held earlier in Feb which was very successful in terms of attendance. The whole all-around vibe of the place was amazing and all the money we raised went to the J Dilla foundation. We’ve been asked if we will host the next one. If so we’ll definitely make even bigger and better than the last.

I’m releasing an album titled Cosmic Disfunktions in November which to me is my best work yet. I’m really looking forward to sharing this project which sums me up nicely and closes the first chapter of 2012’s journey. Later this month, Condensed Milk will be releasing Dusty Milk Crates Volume 2 which is the second instalment of the instrumental compilation series which showcases a lot of local and international producers who really deserve all the recognition because of their under-cover-brother musical talents.

What is an album of your choice that you would recommend to our readers?

Tough! There is way too many to list, but my favorite album of 2012 so far that I would highly recommend to the readers and good music fans has to be Suff Daddy’s, Suff Sells. I personally think it’s dope.

What advice would you give to aspiring beat-makers/producers?

Be you. You are an individual. Do what you feel sounds good and you’ll know what you’re doing right or wrong based on the way people respond. Seek feedback if you make music from others. Yet feel free to ignore others if you don’t feel their feedback is relevant or constructive to your style and sound. There is nothing wrong with having an idol and following their path because music is all about inspiration so do what inspires you and drives you. Make it your sound, not everybody else’s and then research, network and get yourself heard.

Hear Amin Payne’s beats on his Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages and for his latest news, check his Facebook pageDusty Milk Crates Volume 2 is available now. Cop it via Bandcamp.