We had the pleasure of sitting down with Asaf Fulks for an exclusive interview, Asaf was recently named the Now Hip Hop Magazine Producer of the Year 2016.
Starting with a dream, focus and persistent dedication, Asaf built not only a state-of the art recording studio, but a world-wide reputation for the mastery of his craft. He is also known as an inspiring mentor and for his calming demeanor, friendliness and professionalism. His goal is to continue to produce cutting edge music, develop innovative studio technology, provide clients with the high quality recordings and help his students succeed.
As a Grammy voting member, what do you feel your responsibility is to the global music scene at large?
The Recording Academy is more than just the award show, it is an arts advocacy organization which works to positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our culture. The intention of GRAMMY awards is honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry. In the voting process, my responsibly is to listen objectively to as many entries as possible and to vote for original works with the best sound, composition and artistic creativity without regard to album sales or chart position. No music is completely original, but I look for those who break ground in artistic/technical innovation, new ideas and positive messages.
Music is a powerful form of communication, the universal language we speak where words alone fail. Musicians have the responsibly to use their influence to better our society, to bridge the world, to inspire and bring about positive changes. This is what I strive to achieve in my music, in working with studio clients and in mentoring my students.
Are you generally happy with the results of the Grammys?
The Academy does important work lobbying to improve congressional legislations for musicians and to protect their work in the ever-changing world of technology. They also play a significant role in many communities across the US, providing education and connecting music makers of diverse backgrounds. In this sense, I feel the Academy lives up to its goals. However, the award show itself falls short because often times, the artists getting the major awards tend to be ones with the highest album sales and chart positions. I would like to see new innovative artists considered for the big awards when their work merits it.
You have engineered for the NBA, Lil Wayne, Waka Flaka and also many local indie artists. What are the main differences between indie artists and major corporations or mainstream artists in the mixing and mastering process?
In general, when dealing with larger projects there is a bigger budget. But the process takes longer because many people are involved, you need to wait for approvals and deal with conflicting opinions and endless corrections. Big wheels turn slow! This can be frustrating, but the challenge is rewarding! When I work with indie artists we can be more spontaneous, make artistic decisions and changes on the spot. Some of my favorite records have been completed on the first take in a few hours--you know what I'm talking about Moe! But no matter the size of the project, there is a lot of personal satisfaction in being able to focus on what is best for each individual artist and to utilize my skills to help them realize their vision.
As a founder of your own educational institution, what are the biggest challenges and rewards that come with being in that field?
It's a tremendous responsibility to be in the position of mentoring and educating students. My goal is not only to teach the practical material of audio engineering and music production, or to improve the technical abilities of my students. My goal to instill in them good professional traits like integrity and excellence to succeed in this very competitive field and in life in general. I tell them that the way to greatness is persistence and practice. If they truly love what they do, and stick with it even when at times they'd rather quit, they will reach their goals. On the first lesson, we define their individual goals and we work the for next 20-30 weeks to make them a reality. No two students are alike. Each have their own objectives, different needs and expectations. I give them the creative freedom to express their talents and to bring out the best version of themselves. I teach by example. They have the opportunity to witness my work ethic and work flow in real professional studio situations. The toughest time is at the beginning of the course when everything seems overwhelming. The greatest reward is to see my students at graduation--to see their pride of achievement of how far they have come. There is no better feeling for me than knowing I made a difference in someone's life, added value to their effort and helped them become successful members of the industry and society.
You have also been recently putting out music as a producer/performer. Of the body of work you have released which single would you want people to listen too first?
When I started creating music, back in my college days at Denison University, I did a little bit of everything, rapping, singing, producing, engineering. As time went on, I specialized in engineering, which became my 'bread and butter' and helped me build my business The OC Recording Company. Over the years, I worked with many diverse artists, producers and songwriters and the experience made me a better engineer and a better musician. By 2012, I released three 'Asaf Productions' compilation albums featuring various artists over my productions. In 2015, I completed my debut solo album THE OC EXPRESS featuring 14 original songs which I wrote, produced, engineered and performed. In 2016, I learned video editing and produced 11 original videos for the songs. I released them as singles which are available on YouTube www.youtube.com/ocrecording SOUNDCLOUD www.soundcloud.com/ocrecording and our websitewww.ocrecording.com. I will release the full album later this year. I am very proud of this project not only because of the shear amount of effort it took to produce (most songs have over 200 tracks and 100+ master versions), but because the songs are innovative and diverse in style and message. Each has a different vibe. Some are uplifting and motivational like the pop song WE BELONG AT THE TOP and the edm song MOST OF IT NOW!. Some are dark trap like the politically inspired DOWN WITH THE KING, and the middle eastern R&B influenced song about suicide CRY FOR YOU. My 6/4 time signature GREEN ROSES has become 4/20 anthem, and the dance track SUNNY DAYS is influenced by reggaeton. To pick one would be impossible, I love them all! I recommend starting at the beginning with my trap/rap song DOWN WITH THE KING and listening through the project in chronological order. I guarantee there is a song there for everyone.
What words of inspiration can you give to the aspiring artist who is reading this interview?
Persistence, perseverance and integrity! It takes determination to do the grinding work day after day. This is where most people fail in my opinion. They want instant gratification, but Rome was not built overnight. Define your goal and take steps each day to make it happen. Keep your word. Thrive for excellence. Show up on time. Treat others with kindness and always deliver your best. This will permeate into your work and will make you proud to be you!
Any final thoughts you would like to share with the world?
Early on in my career a young ambitious artist came to me to record a song. He had only $200 for the project and said "today we are going to make a hit!" We spent the next four hours recording, mixing and mastering, and while the song not quite a hit, it did well enough for the artist to make enough money to come back for a second song. Again he said, "Today we are going to make a hit!" Well, this time he was right! Moe Rock's song BABY JUNE became a worldwide hit and eventually got him into movies and various global initiatives. Now he is the CEO and founder of nowhiphop.com and a contributor at thisis50.com,
Moe's enthusiasm and diligence got him where he is, but it is his good character and using his influence for the greater good that keeps him there. I am honored to been to be part of his journey. Well done brother, you are an inspiration!
We live in turbulent times. The biggest difference we can make in the world is to be kind and generous, to thrive for excellence in whatever we do and to be the best human beings we can be. Always ask yourself: "If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself who am I? If not now when?" That's the best harmony we can make!