It’s not every day you get to speak to a pioneer. Hank Shocklee, as part of the Bomb Squad, was one of legendary hip hop group Public Enemy’s founders and the Bomb Squad was the main production talent behind the group, as well as Ice Cube’s seminal AmerKKKa’s Most Wanted and tracks from Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Biv Bel Devoe, Run DMC, 3rd Bass and more. Over the years Hank has kept afoot with developments in electronic music, and his new sample pack Tactical Beats and Sample Artillery (that we reviewed here) is indicative of the heavy electronic and dubstep sounds that we can expect from his new album Bomb Squad – Future Frequency, out in September. We spoke with Hank about his opinions on the evolution of electronic music gear, the approaches, techniques and more, and he was more than willing to give his opinions and plenty of advice – read on…
Hank Shocklee: Well, I’m doing a couple of shows in Chicago [that passed on the weekend this interview was recorded], and finishing up the last bit on the album I’m putting out, the Bomb Squad album.
OD: Excellent – so that’s coming up to the finishing stages now?
“everything I’ve ever done never really sounds finished to me”
HS: Yeah…. You know, you never really be finished with something, you’re always working on stuff until you just have to surrender it! (laughs) So, I am… the way I think is putting the last finishing touches on it.
OD: Sure. So when you say ‘surrender’ it, do you find you have to force deadlines upon yourself, just because otherwise you’d never put anything out?
HS: It’s funny because, you know, everything I’ve ever done never really sounds finished to me (laughs). Every record that I’ve done. It’s weird.
OD: That’s interesting, looking at the Bomb Squad style and taking so many samples from so many records; did that attitude inspire that method of making things, in a way – just because you were always looking for things that you could add?
HS: Well, it’s funny, because back then… to me, I was looking for ‘musical changes’. In hip hop there wasn’t a lot of musical changes in the form. So I guess sampling from records that had those changes got me hooked in the whole sampling and taking pieces of stuff and putting it together… I just thought it was interesting to have things that musicians would normally have in their records that you couldn’t really do with drum machines and turntables and a sampler back then.
OD: So has having an ‘approach’ rather than a ‘sound’ been more your thing, the way you approach things made your sound… would that be accurate?
HS: Well, it’s kinda like both, I mean they both have to go together. To me the feeling has to be there AND the sound has to be there, I don’t distinguish them from each other… they both have to work in concert with each other to be really good to me. And that’s just how I’ve always looked at it, you know…