Josh “iGLOo” Monroy began his career in Atlanta where he worked with artists Elton John, Shinedown, Justin Bieber, OutKast, The Notorious B.I.G. and helmed the post of head engineer of The LudaPlex, Ludacris’ private production studio where he earned numerous platinum and gold certified records including one for Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year with Ludacris himself.
Today, Josh co-owns Studio 1 Zero
in Los Angeles where he produced, co-wrote, and recorded several tracks for pop/R&B star JoJo’s latest album Mad Love, including the title track itself. Other recent work includes the Walla hit song “101” and music for The Simpson’s, Acura, and Harley Davidson. He’s currently developing new projects for release in 2018 and is on the lookout for new and interesting artists.
We recently caught up with Josh and garnered his advice on how aspiring producers can be available and productive for the artists they work firstly, by knowing what’s in their own libraries and secondly, by getting smart about the way they manage their time in-session.
BEFORE ANY SESSION, KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR LIBRARY.
Before going into any writing session with an artist, know your library, you know where to find your stuff, you know how to get the sound for whatever hip hop artist or whatever rock artist or alternative or indie dance kind of thing you will be working on. Melding of these genres is what’s making music so special these days, so knowing the different genres and where to find those specific things, that’s extremely important.
Sometimes you need days or hours just to explore your sounds and get a good knowledge of what is held in your library. I think today the typical studio is kind of antiquated in the fact that it’s all about samples now and knowing your sample library.
I recently had an A&R tell me, “Yeah, just come to XYZ Studio because they’ve got everything.” Well, it’s not about what the studio has. It’s about my library and needing my sounds and knowing where my stuff is. So just going in and having access to great preamps and compressors, that’s cool, but in today’s production it’s more about having access to the sounds that you need to make your sound happen, your
signature kind of production sound.
Maybe one day is spent just working on Omnisphere and learning all the sounds they have to offer. Maybe the track you walk away with isn’t that great. But the intent wasn’t to make a hit track. The intent was to learn a specific plugin, and without doing that, you’ll never know that Omnisphere has great pluck sounds, synths, and cool human voice sounds.
BE IN ‘PRODUCTION MODE’ WHEN THE CLIENTS IN THE ROOM.
A problem I often see in people who are just starting out is that they want to spend all this time screwing around, tweaking a hi-hat for instance or spending like 20 minutes getting a kick drum sound the way they want it. But until you have a song, none of that matters, because if your song sucks, who cares if the hi-hat’s dope? Who cares if the kick drum is the best kick drum you’ve ever designed, if the song is sh_t?
When the client is in the room, you should be quickly going into production mode, using the time that you’ve already spent going through your library, and know where things are to achieve the sonic palate that you’re looking for, that your client needs.
When your artist gets there, make sure you’re not fumbling around, you know, looking for a kick drum for half an hour. If you’re spending more than 10 minutes finding one sound, you’re losing your audience.
It should be about the song, it should be about moving the workflow efficiently and when you’re going back to your library of stuff, you know where to find it. You’re a conduit now. You’re not searching. You’re letting your knowledge, your confidence, and your library lead the way, and now the creativity’s just flowing left and right.
BUILD YOUR ‘BAND’ SO YOU CAN GET TO THE MUSIC RIGHT AWAY.
I have a quick rule that I use for my production apprentices. Basically I tell them, “Look, you need to develop a band.” So your band is what? That’s a drummer, a bass player, and some type of instrumentalist. That’s a band…
So your drummer is all your drum parts, your kick, your snare, your hi-hat, maybe a crash, maybe a sound effect here or there, or a percussion element, right?
So once you have those three parts, your bass, your drums, your instrumentation, whatever that instrument’s going to be…you need that one extra sound that makes it super special, so some type of lead sound, normally. That could be a vocal sample, it could be a lead guitar part, it could be a multitude of things.
With those four elements, your drums, your bass, your instrument, and your plus one you have the makings of a song.
From there I tell my people to start arranging, which means start putting verses together, start figuring how the verse leads into the pre-chorus or if it just goes straight into the chorus, if there’s a post-chorus.
Arranging what is there, so that you have sections of a song for people to sing or rap to, there’s the chorus, our repetition, our hook, that’s the meat and potatoes of a record.
Do that and now everyone in the room is happy with you. Now everyone can hear the song in its barest skeleton form and they’re satisfied enough in their ears to know that, “Hey, okay, this is the record. I hear bass, I hear drums. I hear all the parts of what I would assume to be a song.” From that point you can then start looping certain sections, say the verse or the chorus, and adding to anything, and then go into tweaking your hi-hats for 10 minutes or whatever, while they’re writing and stuff.
YOUR PRIMARY GOAL FOR EVERY WRITING SESSION.
They walk in the room and there’s no expectation, and then they leave six to eight hours later, and there’s this whole freaking song made, and it’s special, it’s about them and it’s encompassing their influences and what they love. it’s not just this generic track…That’s what I show my apprentices, is how to get inside someone’s head in a short period of time, use your time wisely so that the artist walks away satisfied.
I do two-hour drills with my apprentices where they have two hours to make a track, and there has to be a full-on song, or music bed for a song anyway. That means intro, verse, chorus, the whole nine yards, right? Not just an eight-bar loop that’s looped over and over and over again for three minutes. I don’t want to hear that.
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