Audeze chats with hip hop producer Marcus D

Marcus D is a hip hop producer from Seattle, currently living in Tokyo. He has collaborated with American hip hop legends like Del the Funky Homosapien, Royce Da 5'9", Skyzoo, Blu, Curren$y & many more. Marcus D is known for his contributions to the Japanese jazz hip-hop scene and is often compared to his mentor, the late Japanese producer Nujabes. He is also the 2009 Seattle Redbull Big Tune Beat Battle Champion.

 Marcus D in his studio with his Audeze LCD-X headphones

"...I don’t think I trust anything to paint a better picture sonically of the sounds I’m looking for than my Audeze headphones." - Marcus D
Here's our talk with Marcus:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I think I'm equally proud of most of my creations, but if I had to pick, it'd most likely be "Melancholy Hopeful" or "The Lone Wolf LP".
I'm also enjoying the arrangements I've been doing for Omega Music Library lately... it's been dope creating samples instead of just digging for them.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

Instrumentalist/Producer/Mixing Engineer

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I started playing video games at a really early age, and a lot of the Japanese RPGs from the 90s had phenomenal music. I was inspired to pick up the piano (not literally) after I learned one of the theme songs, but my parents were always listening to a lot of classic rock and good 60s/70s pop in the car. I think that influenced the kind of chords and progressions my brain naturally gravitates toward. I listen to a lot of 70s Japanese pop and soundtracks now, and it's sort of the perfect blend between the two for me.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

Meeting Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for the Final Fantasy video game series, was definitely one of the most significant moments in my career. I took a private lecture with him years after that, and it helped me get through some terrible bouts of writer's block. As a modern composer who had no musical background, to be able to accomplish what he did musically with those soundtracks, especially with the limited technology at the time, easily makes him my biggest inspiration.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Honestly, I'm still frequently frustrated with my work, but not always in a bad way. The frustration usually stems from being too subjective or too close to a project, and thinking it should sound more like something that's already out there. What helps me with that frustration is remembering to take a step back and realize that having certain flaws or inherent tendencies that define you and make you unique in a very saturated industry is a blessing; not a hindrance.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I've been using my Suitcase Fender Rhodes on almost everything I make lately, as well as Black Corporation's Deckard's Dream synthesizer, which is basically a Yamaha CS-80 clone.
I also use almost anything UAD, and love their Capitol Chambers Reverb plug-in. I'd be lost without my Apollo 8.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

It's not always feasible, but if you can, don't let money dictate or influence what kind of art you make. Have some side-hustles... it'll probably make you a lot more money, and it'll also preserve the quality of the music you make.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I had been using the same pair of Sennheiser HD600s for about 10 years. I used them for monitoring mixes and catching frequencies when I'm in less-than-desirable listening conditions (which is almost always).

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

Since using the LCD-X cans, I’ve been able to hear things in my old mixes I never knew existed. I’ve been using my studio monitors less and less because the frequencies are so much clearer in my Audeze cans. Overall, I’ve been able to get much cleaner mixes and my music is sounding better than it ever has.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them so far?

Recently I’ve been working on my sample libraries (Omega Music Library) using the LCD-Xs exclusively. The details in the sound design and era-specific textures for these compositions are extremely important, and at this point, I don’t think I trust anything to paint a better picture sonically of the sounds I’m looking for than my Audeze headphones.

Marcus D's Audeze LCD-X headphones