Erick Elliott goes by the name Erick The Architect, and is a producer/artist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Now living in Los Angeles, Erick is best known for his role in the Flatbush Zombies. His artist/producer name came from the movie The Matrix, and he had this to say about how that came about: "I serve as an Architect of sound; I specialize in building and bringing people together through creativity and positive vibes."
(If you haven't checked it out yet, watch this Tiny Desk video of Flatbush Zombies, then come back and finish reading.)
Here's our conversation with Erick:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
Sure! The most recent single we put out was produced by James Blake. I started to work with him during the touring of our second album. This is easily one of my favorite songs mainly because the message of the record is an important one, addressing life, death, racism and politics. James did such a wonderful job on the production, it allowed me to just focus writing the best verse I could.
Flatbush Zombies - Afterlife
Working with one of my favorite bands, Portugal The Man. This was my first time working with such a huge Pro Tools session. Lots of instruments/vocals. Easily one of my favorite productions to date.
Flatbush Zombies feat. Portugal The Man. - Crown
Working on this song was a joy but also a challenge. I executive produced the album this song was on, and I had to coordinate 9 different vocalists on this record because it was a posse cut.
Beastcoast - Left Hand
I enjoyed working on this entire project (Arcstrumentals 2), but I chose this song as my single because of how unique the production is compared to the style I think I’m most known for. This song offered a different look into what I’m capable of as a producer— crossing over into an alternative rock genre as well.
Erick The Architect - Fruit Fruit Punch In Bora Bora
I met up with the producer Girltalk some years ago, we worked on this song together at my house— both of us had never really made a record like this before but we were into it enough to release to the world. The song found its way onto the ending credits of the HBO show, Silicon Valley.
Girltalk feat. Erick The Architect - Trouble In Paradise
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
In my group (Flatbush Zombies), I am the sole producer— I’ve produced the majority of our music over the past decade, and I’m also an MC in the group as well. My main role is to make the canvas we use to express our message— that applies to both writing lyrics and musical composition. I also have experience as an executive producer, assuming the role of overseeing an entire project by ensuring it is cohesive and sounds/feels like an album! I tour with my group as well, so I wear all kind of hats really!
How did you get started in music/audio production?
I got started in music in High School. I fell in love with analog gear early on before I actually knew how to use any of it. I sold clothes and sneakers on eBay to earn money to start to buy equipment.
During my first year of producing I purchased the Roland MV8000, Roland XV5080 sound module, Fantom X6 & The Roland Juno 106. I collaborated with artists through the Internet, utilizing forums for production tips and advice before I was able to work with anyone in person. I got into the legacy of J Dilla, taking major influence from his production style. I learned about how to sample records, swing my drums, producing without quantizing, and how to rhyme. I did a lot alone throughout my adolescence, but the real turning point of my career began in 2012 when I became a member of the Flatbush Zombies. By 2014, we already were a touring act and had opened the Coachella festival off of the mixtape we released that year, “Better Off Dead”.
Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
I have two older brothers (10 and 13 years older than me) who introduced me to Hip-Hop and R&B early on. My mother was big on Motown and I fell in love with soul music as a kid. She would often describe the 60’s as an era of “the good stuff”. The older I got I really started to understand and appreciate all of the budding artists from that era. She would often play James Brown in the house (her favorite artist) and before I even understood the symbolism in his music, I always felt the beats. The Funky Drummer has to be one of the most sampled drum loops in Hip-Hop, which came directly from the JBs.
Being surrounded by music enthusiasts gave me the insight I needed to learn to play and write music on my own. I joined the band in High School and played the trumpet— I soon discovered that I had a huge affinity for live music. I remember renting VHS tapes of Michael Jackson performances and watching people pass out from his presence alone!
I think one of the most memorable/impressionable performances I’ve seen was seeing Prince at Madison Square Garden. He captivated the entire crowd by demonstrating real showmanship and class. This was one of the first concerts I went to alone — after the show was over I was surely motivated to be a vigilant performer.
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?
I think I can admit that I’ve been overwhelmed by taking on too much at once. I am a bit of an overachiever when it comes to making music— You find yourself rushing and maybe not bringing your best self. While working on my groups first and second album, “3001: A Laced Odyssey” & “Vacation In Hell” I worked constantly and I burnt myself out for sure. Since then, I’ve found a better way to space out my time. I’ve made time for meditative rest and I work sessions in spurts of creativity as opposed to trying to cram in weeks of work in a few days. I’ve recognized that taking care of yourself mentally will allow for your best self to be present in the studio. I think without giving myself the proper rest I was more irritable and easily frustrated even after the sessions were over.
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 was working on Logic Pro for almost 10 years, I’ve recently switched to Ableton and found extreme use for the Ableton Push 2. I use the Novation MKIII for all my MIDi, and I have it controlling all of my synths. The latest (and my favorite at the moment) is the Waldorf Quantum. It has a great display and unique sounds that are ideal for scoring. I also own the Dave Smith OB-6, OB-8, Prophet 6, Moog Grandmother. On the go I use the Teenage Engineering OP-1, the OP-Z and the 1010music sampling studio. I’ve also been using the Hedra & Mercury pedals from Meris a lot for my guitars/vocals.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
For any artist trying to make it; I would recommend that you try to learn and do as much as you can on your own. I see the strength of working in groups, but in order to be the best collaborator you can be, you will be best equipped with experience.
I must also stress the importance of individuality. There are millions of artists out there, each wanting to be supported by people who are inspired by what they are doing. What can you do to stand out amongst the rest? Your story belongs to you. Be sure to always stay true to that and stay away from compromising to “fit in”.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
Every time I record a song I use headphones [of course], but listening to music in headphones is actually my preferred choice of consuming music. Growing up in New York promotes a lot of walking and taking the train— it was there I fell in love with playing music while walking around the city.
I worked at Sony Music as a marketing rep throughout college— I was living in Brooklyn at the time and their office was located near Columbus Circle. I got into the habit of walking from their building (59th Street) all the way to the bridge to crossover to Brooklyn. This was about an hour or so commute. It almost became ritualistic for me to listen to new albums to “test” them out for work… but then that soon just became a practice I would do with music in general. Especially my own.
Now, headphones play an integral role in the mixing process for me. I always test a mix out using a varied set of headphones (as well as studio monitors). I carry them with me all the time. After I get a master/mix back it’s my go-to move, for sure.
When I first got my LCD-X's years ago, my friends would often ask me to borrow them to hear what their favorite song sounded like while using them. They sound that good! Now, if we fast forward to today-- I literally use them everyday to make music; hoping the songs I make give people the same excitement I'd witness on my friends' faces while playing classic records.