Producer Lou Medina: "Learning How To Manage a Session and Keep Everyone From Arguing Is an Art."
Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we get to know the people behind the scenes in local music.
Lou Medina was born in Denton, grew up in Brooklyn, and moved back to DFW after getting his feet wet behind the turntables. He makes his living as a studio producer and devotes his time beyond that to being, well, a studio producer. By day, he creates jingles, ads and imaging for TV and radio for TM Studios. By night, he's produced material for, among others, hip-hop artists MC Astro, Lyric C, Epik and remixed two songs from rockers Black Tie Dynasty.
Medina gave other areas a kick at one point, playing music in school, doing radio production and on-air work, and being a club DJ. Ultimately, he's a studio rat, and has done well enough for himself to pay the bills.
You work in both local hip-hop and rock. What are some distinct differences between working with each?
The damn handshakes! I've never been able to master the grab-hands-and-snap-when-you-let-go hand shake technique hip-hop artists employ. It's much more complicated than the bro-fist followed by blowing it up. And, their well-manicured nails can cut you.
Musically, some of the hip-hop guys would bring in a two-track and rap over it, leaving little room for mix adjustments, but making for a quick session. With bands, we're creating everything from scratch out of the box. This creates a lot of room for creativity and collaboration, but also opens up lines of communication between me and all the members of the band. Learning how to manage a session and keep everyone from arguing is an art.
So what started you off in the direction of the music business?
Having learned basic music theory and actually retaining some of it through my later teens, I moved on to club/rave/warehouse DJ-ing in Brooklyn. This was around '99, when most jocks stuck to vinyl and the drugs were semi-good. I moved back to Dallas and through DJ-ing, ended up meeting DJ Merritt of Edgeclub fame, and he decided to bring me on as his slave/assistant/co-producer/work-for-nothing-bitch! That lasted a couple of years and kicked off my journey into on-air radio and producing at KDGE and Clear Channel.
It seems like DJ-ing, both on-air and in clubs, was something you took a taste of but then decided it wasn't exactly what you wanted to pursue. Accurate?
Yes, very. I got tired of dealing with shady, inept up club owners and promoters. Or getting shown the door because the club owner has a bad-ass nephew with turn tables.
Club DJ-ing and radio DJ-ing are both cut-throat. You're a disposable talent that could be fired at any time without reason. When I made the move to go from on-air to production director, radio was really struggling. My friends and co-workers were being let go at alarming rates, especially jocks. That was tough to watch and it made for a very toxic work environment. So after a couple of years of commercial production there, I was offered a dream job by TM Studios as a producer/engineer/writer. After three years at TM, I've learned from some of the best engineers and musicians in DFW. I'm convinced this is where I belong and what my calling is.
To sum up my being, I belong in a dark, windowless cave studio with top-of-the-line Macs, Pro Tools HD and a gazillion plug-ins. Plus, I don't get nervous and wet myself when I'm behind the scenes like this.
Give us some of the local artists you've worked with.
When I first got into production and recording, I started working with a guy named Trek of Poor Vida Productions. We got involved with, and wrote tracks for, MC Astro, Enferno, Pat Miller, Lyric C and Epik. We tried to experiment on their tracks by combining a lot electronic sounds and elements into traditional beats for these guys. Before it was popular. This worked really well with Astro, as he is an emcee and loves to flow over drum and bass. He's damn good at it too! Trek went to Europe after a year, and that's when I started to work with bands and rappers. During that time, I was able to remix two tracks for Black Tie Dynasty, who were a pleasure to work with. We actually did the entire remix recording for their song, "Tender," at my house.
After the BTD projects, I met up with Tull Rea and Brandi Paige of Love Paradigm, and I've produced a couple of tracks for them, including a Snoop cover. I'm currently working with Brandi on her solo album at TM Studios.
How about DFW hip-hop starter kit?
The D.O.C.: NWA, 'nuff said.
Mr. Pookie: From Richardson's Berkner High School. Glad my RISD taxes are producing talent!
Fab Deuce: White boy Beastie party hip-hop outfit from my hometown of Denton.
Play-N-Skillz: Fantastic production and one of the most popular producer duos to come from Dallas.
Sore Losers: Great organic sound.
What if money was no object and you didn't have to work a regular job at all? Would you stay involved in producing music?
For sure, but I would be picky about who I work with. I've always respected Rick Rubin and Nigel Godrich for their approach to production and willingness to experiment. Both producers seem to develop a real relationship with the artists, as opposed to treating them like a client. I would also record in crazy environments, like castles, tunnels and bathhouses.