Where it Started and Where it's all Headed
Originally hailing from New Jersey, MG The Future is a DJ, composer, producer, and high-profile YouTuber. For fifteen years, MG has produced, mixed, and mastered tracks for local acts. All the while, he's been composing, making beats, and reviewing gear and programs online—garnering a massive following in the process. Team Roland Cloud caught up with MG to see what music started it all and where "The Future" is headed.
What is your favorite way to begin a song and why?
Reverse reverb. It forces the listener to pay closer attention to what's going to happen. It’s a very cool effect that sneaks into your subconscious.
What are some of the first recordings you heard and understood that the production was just as important as the songs themselves?
I grew up with a DJ in my household. He used to play house music all the time, so right away I understood instrumental music and rhythmic arrangements with or without vocals. House music has a way of affecting mood and emotion in a profound way. Some of my favorites are from the Strictly Rhythm imprint like Dajae's "Brighter Days."
What are your practices when writing? Do you have mechanisms or rituals that help facilitate the process?
When creating music, I find it important to be inspired by other forms of art. I’m most inspired while watching a great movie or animation. So, in terms of rituals, I'll check out architecture on Instagram, 3D art on Ello, or catch a few minutes of a good cartoon to "reset" my mood and then create.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you see improvisation and error as opportunities?
I’m not much of a perfectionist, but I’m very critical of my work. That just means I can finish tracks and detach from them much easier than a perfectionist could. With some of my favorite tracks I'll listen on loop for hours, and two days later hate it or feel like I can do much better. But I very rarely go back to the same project and "perfect" it, I’m more prone to try something new instead. I welcome happy accidents and discovery during the creative process, rather than sticking to rigid guidelines.
Each recording session has its own identity via the location, material, people involved, etc. Do you have any sessions that stick out in your memory?
Location and environment can be very influential. I find creating near the ocean challenging. I go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina every summer, and it tends to give me writers block with each visit. It’s more of a recharge, as the environment gives me many ideas. I just can't seem to work on them until I get back home.
Do you believe in the healing properties of music?
I do believe in the metaphysical aspects of music. I feel that life is nothing but a symphony of sounds and harmonies influenced by our thoughts and decisions. So, when seeing the effects of sounds on water or plants, I often contemplate how that can be used to better the human experience. Considering most of our brain is water, there has to be a connection to energy and mood. It would seem previous civilizations had a better grasp on this. Hopefully this information resurfaces in the mainstream. Creating with intention is important.
When recording, do you prefer to track live to capture energy or focus primarily on isolating the individual instruments and emphasizing overdubs?
When dealing with a vocal performer, I try to catch the most animated performance. If an artist can perform most of the track in real time, I prefer that to over-comping tracks or punching in.
Have you ever worked with a hands-on producer who has restructured and reimagined your compositions? Was it difficult for you to compromise?
I have collaborated with musicians and keyboardists who were experts in harmony and music theory, and noticed their approach was very different to mine. I tend to get out of their way and focus on the end result, which is usually a song that is for a vocalist or someone else. I can compromise with creative decisions until it starts to feel like we are losing focus on the objective at hand.
If you picked five of your favorite songs, would you be able to quickly identify the similarities in each song, or would they all be wildly different?
I would try to pick songs from different genres and time periods. If I had to guess the similarities, it would be based on energy and maybe key or scale. Other than that, everything else would be different. For example, Zero 7’s “This World”, is very different from “One Mic” by Nas, but they feel the same.
When you hear something for the first time, are you immediately drawn to the lyrics or the instrumentation? Do you believe the preference is predicated by something intrinsic?
I always gravitate to the instrumentation first and don't discover the lyrics until much later. In fact, it's alarming how many lyrics I have incorrect when it’s time to research. I think that’s just how I'm wired and is a result of me being exposed to music production more than the process of writing lyrics.
Hearing a song from your past can trigger powerful emotions and nostalgia. What are your opinions about music and memory?
Memory is tricky, as it changes over time. However, music is the only thing we describe as timeless. The feelings and emotions in a song, and the memories of locations associated with it, tend to stay the same over time.
What was the first song or album you heard as a child that made you want to play music? Do you remember how you felt?
As a child, it would have had to be "No Way Out" by Diddy. This is not a popular take among many who produce hip-hop and R&B today, but that era of music had the best combination of classic samples and contemporary production. It influenced many other great albums and producers I look up to today.
As a producer, are there plugins that should be universally considered for most any project? Why?
I don't think there are any particular plugins that work universally for everyone’s production style. I tend to over think the creative process and analyze and consume many interviews and articles. From all that I’ve gathered, you do the best with what you are exposed and limited to. The limitation of plugins tends to produce profound works. Personally, I gravitate towards Roland Cloud, HalfTime, and Serato Samples.
I strive to make everyone bring their best forward, so having a mutual understanding is critical. Here is what I’m capable of creating and providing versus what you are capable of bringing and performing. Sonic compatibility is key.
What details are necessary in consideration of taking on a production project?
If I’m producing multiple tracks for an artist, I like to gather their sonic influences first. It’s very difficult for me to work with a new artist, or one who doesn't have a particular aesthetic already in mind. I strive to make everyone bring their best forward, so having a mutual understanding is critical. Here is what I’m capable of creating and providing versus what you are capable of bringing and performing. Sonic compatibility is key.
When choosing a project to jump into, do you cater to what you know to be your skillset, or do you seek to challenge yourself? Or both?
I enter a project hoping it's within my comfort zone, but often I’m asked to do things that are more challenging or outside of my own box. Most of my growth has occurred through this process. It can be something as simple as learning auto-tune for the first time.
How were you able to become a producer? And, is this your full-time job? If not, what else do you do to make a living?
I started creating tracks when I was a teenager and I didn't consider doing anything else. As I finished high school, I started to learn engineering and recording local artists on my own. I'm self-taught, so I was able to approach the business side at my own pace and comfort. It took me a long time to manage my dreams of producing and making it a full-time venture. In fact, it’s still something I’m learning to balance almost sixteen years later. Most of my day consists of managing content on YouTube and my website. I've been sharing my journey and knowledge with other producers, more in a teaching capacity. I do so full time.
Has anyone or any one recording inspired you to want to become a producer?
I mentioned Puff Daddy earlier. Listening to Aaliyah's “If Your Girl Only Knew” (Produced by Timbaland) had a profound impact on my decision making. I was stuck listening to that track. I remember hearing panning for the first time. I was counting beats and trying to identify all of the sounds. It was a largely loop-based track, and one-of-a-kind in terms of what I had been exposed to until then. Timbaland is responsible for most of my "aha" moments.
If any, what are some "cheap" or "bad" production techniques to avoid? What are ones that receive too much attention or are used to great success despite their obvious flaws?
Do you prefer "modern" recordings to "vintage" recordings and approaches to production?
I'm completely modern in terms of production. I'm always on the bleeding edge of advances in sound design, AI assisted music theory, and automatic suggestion based mixing tools. I don't know where this "thing" is going, but it keeps me invested and interested in music and the future.
Is there such a thing as too much automation in a project? What is off-limits to you as a producer and creator?
I'm a minimalist when it comes to automation. Basic fades, filters, and triggers for "one knob" plugins. However, I noticed within EDM, automation is king. Ultimately it depends on the project.
What is your ideal production project? What kind of project or scenario would be your nightmare project?
Ideal production project would be with a prolific rap artist who can recite from memory and pick sounds that work for their voice effortlessly. A nightmare scenario is a new artist who can only punch in for a few lines at a time and I’m the engineer. I've experienced both; the latter way too often.
I'm most proud of the projects that I’ve done with local artists who weren't confident at first. I feel like Prometheus in that way: showing them the light or pulling back the curtain of creation.
Which projects are you the proudest of and why?
I'm most proud of the projects that I’ve done with local artists who weren't confident at first. When I show them that it’s not impossible or too time-intensive, they tend to evolve rather quickly, and end up pursuing that passion for years after. I feel like Prometheus in that way: showing them the light or pulling back the curtain of creation.
Tell us about your community. What makes it so important to you?
My community happens to be the internet. My YouTube channel, my social media—that is my tribe…and I have the best tribe on the internet. Creatives who are as equally interested in music production as they are the future, or the past. People from all walks of life who engage in conversation with me. They have taught me much more, in a short time, than I could have learned on my own.
Tell us about your family/friends, and their influence on your music. What role do they play to support you?
I tend to keep to myself when it comes to what I do with music. I didn't come from a supportive background or have many people who understand this thing I’ve always done. It's a very challenging aspect of being an artist: being the only one who can see it. However, the internet makes it easier to find like-minded people, so I draw influence from others in my digital tribe.
Tell us what you are working on next!
I want to continue to create more content for the greater community of people learning music production. I also plan on releasing more instrumental projects very soon, especially with these new SRX expansions from the Roland Cloud library. Beyond those, I’m certain there will be other opportunities—as long as I stay on the right "chord."
Most musicians/producers say they live a life filled with music because they have to. Tell us why you can't live without music.
Music literally saved my life. It’s helped me escape many of my darkest moments. It’s helped me avoid depression. It’s given me a purpose and a long-term journey: something to stick to. It’s one of the few things that I do, that I can't shake off—even when I've tried. I don't know what life without music looks like.
Header Image Courtesy of the Artist