Tell us about your production journey so far – how long have you been producing? And what drew you to it in the first place?
I used to DJ in the 90s in London.. nothing crazy, mostly parties and a few clubs here and there then I moved to the US in 2001 and the music scene was changing quite a bit.. I had been into hard house and trance etc. I started going to places like the Sound Factory and Pacha and after a while I wasn’t enjoying what I was hearing in clubs that much so I kind of stopped record shopping. Around 2008/2009 the scene was starting to interest me again and I was introduced to Ableton and started to play around with it. I was instantly hooked and found myself signing up for an online course with ICON in LA that was really in-depth. This course gave me the building blocks to start producing and for a decent amount of time it was a hobby that I squeezed in while being a new parent. It wasn’t until 2015 that I finally had that breakthrough moment where I thought I had made a full track that I would actually let someone else listen to and felt bold enough to send it to a label. It got signed really quickly and from that moment on I’ve been absorbing every bit of production advice I can find to help me get to a level that I felt could compete with the best. I started watching all the Faderpro videos and those steered me towards Toolroom Academy which was a no brainer for me when I found out about it. A school coordinated and run by guys from the label.(and not just any label..Toolroom). It was perfect. I loved Toolrooms vibe. I could learn and develop amazing contacts all at the same time. One of the first things we did in the masterclass was reset my name…CHESSER was born as a result of discussions with Pete and Miles. Since then almost every forward step I have made has been as a result of connections made participating in Toolroom courses and I continue to sign up for new ones as you can never know too much.
Week 1 of the course focuses on artist identity and positioning. Did this make you analyse your sound in any way?
Absolutely – I was all over the place in my tastes and productions and we really spent some time analysing how I should reset my name and focus on a more specific sound. This process – without doubt was the bedrock of every success I have had since doing the course.
What other modules really stood out to you throughout the 12 weeks?
To be honest nothing specific stands out… I found the courses catered for the part of me that likes order and heavy planning but also focused heavily on experimentation and trial and error to get unexpected results. For me, Music production is a healthy balance of both.
How important was the A&R feedback throughout your journey?
OMG – hands down the best part for me.. Actually, getting feedback from actual label A&R representatives was priceless. I personally really struggled with having any idea, whether what I was producing was actually any good or not. I knew it wasn’t good enough yet but I really couldn’t pin point what the issues were in order to fix them. I liked this process so much that I purposefully left extra stuff in tracks in order to get the feedback on it just to make sure they agreed with what I thought about something.
How happy were you with the track you made over the course of the 3 months?
The track I made in the production course was ok, but it was never going to go anywhere, it was more of a vessel for learning production workflow and tips and tricks for shaping sounds. What I was really pleased with was the remix of Ben Remember’s Lost in the Woods that I did as part of a competition during the course. I remember really enjoying the how to do a remix class (that should have been my answer to the earlier question now I think about it :-)) and I really made an effort to keep the heart of the original track in place while adding a different spin to it. The first class was full of great producers like Redux Saints, Fred Symonds, Scott Costello, Shayne Fontaine, Shane Casserly and loads more and my remix came out on top. And to top that off it was included on the Ibiza 2019 Toolroom comp. I was really proud of that.
What do you think was unique or different about the Production Certificate compared to other programmes/schools out there?
Right from day one you really feel like you are being welcomed into a family. This approach has clearly not changed as I see alumni joining the Facebook page that we have and there is always such a good vibe amongst those that did the course together and considering how many alumni there now are, the guys at Toolroom do a really good job at keeping that family together and interactive. In reds to classes themselves it wasn’t just one guy teaching and everyone watching and listening. Because there are two tutors on at once it was possible to ask questions and get answers throughout the course without interrupting the flow of the class. A simple thing but so effective.
How would you compare your production ability/knowledge now, compared to when you started the course?
Huge improvement in understanding what it is I’m trying to do in the first place. This has resulted in being able to complete more tracks at a far better quality than I ever could and feel much more confident in assessing where they are in the production process. Taking a step back and being extra critical to get that extra 5-10% is not something I could do effectively before and I think I am getting a lot better at that now. I just ask myself.. “what would Pete say?”
Has your ability on Logic/ableton improved since you’ve taken the course?
Definitely. Dean will probably hate me for saying that I don’t follow exactly the same workflow process that was taught in the class now but it is fundamentally very similar and without doubt that workflow has allowed for more time to experiment and see what Ableton can do to increase productivity and creativity. I continue to find ways of doing things better.
Did you manage to connect and built relationships with other students on the course?
Definitely. Right away I found out that Redux Saints was also an ICON alumni and we hit tit off pretty quick. I talk to him regularly still and although we still haven’t met in person (covid definitely hampered that), I would say we have built a pretty strong connection. He was also instrumental in putting out a number of my early tracks on his label Deep Tech Los Angeles, which has supported a number of the Toolroom Academy alumni. Tone Troy has also become a collaborator and a good friend and I have had the opportunity to meet up with him at a bunch of events in New York when he isn’t putting out fires.
How would you rate your tutors?
I’ve been lucky enough to do courses with Ben Remember and Dean Ramirez with Pete Griffiths doing the A&R aspect on both. Can’t fault them really. Amazing skillset and experience sets them apart from most courses you will find anywhere else. And they are just great blokes as well!!
What was the single best experience you had on the programme?
It’s a toss up between finding out I had won the remix comp on the Production certificate course or finding out that I had a single signed to Toolroom Trax after the Masterclass. I think winning the remix comp wins by a nose as it was the first time where I really felt like all the effort was being validated and that I had done something that other DJ’s/producers really liked.
Would you recommend the Production Certificate to other producers?
Absolutely – best thing you can do at any level.
As a graduate, what are your thoughts on the Toolroom Academy overall?
If you feel want to up your production skills and make some really good contacts at one of the best labels in the world for House/Tech House, then do yourself a favour and sign up. It is worth the investment.