Discwoman’s BEARCAT and Haram on DJing, production tools, and collaboration

In April, we partnered with Discwoman to release their first sample pack, a collaborative effort from roster members BEARCAT and Haram.

Discwoman is a New York-based collective and booking agency founded by Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson, and Christine McCharen-Tran, who are creating a musical landscape that champions cis women, trans women, and genderqueer artists.

BEARCAT is an artist from London currently based in Brooklyn, who has DJed for the likes of 21 Savage, CupcakKe, and Caleborate, and performed at festivals including Afropunk, Glastonbury, and Reading. Her production and live sets are known for being bass-heavy and energetic. Haram is a Philly-based producer whose sets incorporate club, bounce, Middle Eastern dance, and experimental music. She’s a graduate of Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp, hosts a number of regular party series and radio shows in Philly, and has performed at MoMA PS1, Bonnaroo, GHE2OG0TH1K, and more. We sat down with the pair to talk about their new sample pack, balancing DJing and producing, and staying inspired.

For starters, can you each tell us a bit on how you got into producing? How did you get into creating tracks, and what sort of resources did you use to learn?

BEARCAT: I was initially in bands mostly using my voice, so for me it was a natural progression to explore production and come back around full circle with songs I’ve made myself. I use Ableton, and got my head around it with an online course at Coursera.

Haram: I started messing around with sound design and production 4 – 5 years ago on borrowed hardware and a range of software. My first synth was a Korg MS2000. Online tutorials have been a resource, and I’ve learned a lot from collaborating, too.

To what extent does DJing inform your productions and the types of tracks you create? In your journeys as producers, did you find that the live setting increasingly informed the type of music you were making?

BEARCAT: After deciding that I wanted to create my own music, I took a break from working on other people’s projects to focus on myself. However, I soon realized that I missed the live aspect of performance, which is a really necessary therapeutic outlet for me. DJing served as that outlet while I was learning to produce. What I play on the dance floor and what I create are polar opposites. I’ve definitely made club tracks and remixes that DJs play out, but those songs were for other people. I would describe my own music as ambient, experimental, and grunge, which wouldn’t necessary work on the dance floor but it makes for good remix material if someone wanted to take it there – I’m not necessarily that person but who knows.

Haram: Being a DJ has exposed me to so much music and culture; it definitely influences everything I make. Maybe it’s around 50/50 – half of my stuff is imagined for the club/live, while the other half is more sound than music. I perform my productions live with 700 BLISS (my collaboration with Moor Mother) – there’s a way to make the same tracks work in a club setting, hip hop/rap show, or experimental scene.

Can you tell us a bit about creating the pack and curating these sounds? We would love some insight on the collaborative nature of the process.

Haram: Some of the sounds were made and recorded together – what we recorded from the outside world using traditional instruments we did collaboratively. Otherwise, we designed sounds and compared them to decide what worked for the pack. As sound designers and producers we compliment each other well.

There are tons of really great and eclectic synth textures within the pack that range in nature from melodic to harsh. Can you give us some insight into how you created these sounds and the type of audio processing that you applied? What sort of synths and FX were used?

Haram: Some tools that come to mind are Moog’s Mother-32 and DFAM, some weird patches, effects on a PROFX120 mixer, some other hardware effects pedals, contact mics, the MS2000, and Serato Sample.

BEARCAT: I mostly wrote on my Akai Advance 49 and transformed them with effects in Ableton.

Lastly, whether you’re curating DJ sets or producing tracks, do you have any particular practices that help you stay inspired? What advice would you offer to new producers, struggling to stay motivated in finding their sound and getting their name out there?

Haram: I’m constantly listening to music – I can’t think straight in silence. This doesn’t work for everyone, but curating the sound in my own life is my starting point for motivating myself. I encourage new producers to experiment a lot with different software, gear, genres, and collaborations, and to not be afraid to share their experiments. Take music seriously, and make yourself work at it, even when it’s not immediately satisfying. Musicians that settle on what comes easy and what’s likeable, in my opinion, are boring.

BEARCAT: Do everything from your gut, don’t go by trends, and don’t give up.

Check out BEARCAT and Haram’s sample pack for a taste of their colorful synth work, gritty FX, lively drum samples, and more.

June 1, 2018

Ken Herman Ken Herman is a producer under the name Exitpost and is an editor of the Splice blog.