American producer Monte Booker needs no introduction — his music has spread far and wide from his native Chicago, and he has worked with many of the biggest names in the music world. As such, we were pleased to sit down and chat with him recently, to learn more about his background and experience with FL Studio.
Tell us about yourself and how you got into music.
I’ve always been into music, especially on the production side. My father was always into the New York music scene and that style of music, and so was my mom. When I’d listen to Jay-Z, he’d always shout out a producer in his tracks, like Pharell, Rick Rubin, or Kanye West back in those days. When Kanye West started working with Jay-Z, that especially piqued my interest because I’m from the same city as Kanye. So at that point, I started wondering what a producer actually did and started looking into it. And then when people like The Neptunes and Timbaland got so big just by being producers, I was like “wow.”
So about 10 years later, I was in high school, and whenever a new album dropped, the first thing I’d do was check the liner notes or go on Wikipedia and look at the credits to see who produced each song as I was listening to the album. At this point, I was just a huge fan of music production, but hadn’t really considered it as something I could do myself.
Monte Booker & Naji – Mona Lisa
How did you start using FL Studio & what does it mean to your productions?
A little later on in high school, something happened in my life that caused me to have to stay home for a while, and I was doing my school work online. It was at that point that a friend came over with one of the school laptops and he asked me if I’d ever used FL Studio. I told him I hadn’t, and he showed me the demo version he had installed on the laptop. He didn’t really know how to use it either, but he always knew I loved beats. He showed me a few beats he had made and I was like, “Hold up — these are kind of fire! You made this with all those little blocks on the screen?” He then showed me how I could download the free demo and told me that I could do anything I want with it but just couldn’t open my saved sessions without buying a license.
Monte Booker – Kolors ft. Smino
From the moment I opened FL Studio, I loved it. Despite the challenge of me not knowing how to use it, I just knew it was something that I’d be able to figure out if I worked hard at it. Some people get intimidated by new software and stuff like that, but that was my mindset. It seemed really user-friendly from the outset, and it was easy for me to learn quickly and begin to transfer what I was hearing in my head into audio.
So that was really my introduction to making music. I didn’t have any music background or music theory knowledge, I just was a huge fan of production, and figured I’d give it a try. I think I produced like 50 beats using the FL Studio demo and would export them and move to the next one.
I still use FL Studio to this day. I’ve tried other DAWs, but I just love the UI of FL Studio and how it looks like a video game. I love video games, and to me, music production in FL Studio feels like a video game. When I’m making music, I’m pressing notes in and sliding notes on the piano roll, and it feels like a video game to me. That’s how it’s felt for me from the beginning. And with FL Studio, I can seamlessly transfer an idea from my head into audio within seconds, so the workflow is key for me.
Tell us about your work and some of the artists you have worked with.
My most notable work would probably be with artists like Smino, Ravyn Lenae, Bari, Jay2, Jay Cole, EARTHGANG, Saba, reggie, and Noname — a lot of Chicago-based acts. Those are some of my favorite people to work with. But more recently I’ve been branching out with artists from all over, like Vince Staples and Maxo Kream, and I’ve also done a lot of instrumental work with Soulection which has been really great.
Tell us about your production environment and the gear you use.
I keep it pretty simple. I use a MacBook Pro with FL Studio. I have a Universal Audio Apollo X8 with Genelec speakers. I also use the OP-1 from Teenage Engineering a lot and a Neumann U 87 microphone. Those are my main tools, but honestly, if I just have my laptop with FL Studio, that’s more than enough for me to get to work, so I don’t really need anything else.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I feel like there are endless possibilities with FL Studio. When I open up FL Studio, I feel I have a blank canvas to draw on. If I have an idea in my head, it’s easy for my to convert it to audio, but sometimes I just want to paint. Sometimes I just look at FL Studio and think, “What am I going to paint today?” and just start throwing paint at the wall. And most times, it comes out amazingly.
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