Indispensable Interview: Steven "Boogie" Brown
Steven Brown is a drummer and an Emmy Nominated and Clio Gold Award-winning producer for Best Original Music for the Nike "Freestyle" TV spot. As a producer-composer, he's also worked on projects for the Stadium Rally Cry for The New York Knicks, Mets, and Yankees. Drummer and Founder of The NYC Peech Boys.
Through his company, Breakthru Productions, he continues to produce music while also serving as a consultant for playMYmusic.FM, working with long-time colleague, Rosie G. Wanting to know what drives him in his pursuit of aural achievements and what's on the horizon. Indispensable Music sat down with Steven to discuss the past, present, and future.
What was your earliest experience with music?
Earliest experience after just being a listener of all genres of music would be performing at Amateur Night At The Apollo at the age of 9 in a band I put together named The Shades Of Soul. We came in second place.
Who were your key influences?
Without question, in the beginning, James Brown, Ohio Players, The Jackson 5, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Barry White.
What was the impetus for you to start down this career path?
The energy I felt from Funk, R&B and Soul music was extremely moving for me. The combination of funky drum beats, simple but solid bass lines, synth lines and beautiful piano chords that enhanced incredible soulful male and female vocal melodies were just perfection and very inspirational for me. My appreciation for Rock & Roll and Classical music came a short time after that.
Tell me about the Peech Boys.
I was the drummer and also the Founder of the group. The short but true story and history is... I was asked to audition for a band named The Total Eclipse by their bass player Darryl Short. We knew each other for years because we grew up on the same block in Teaneck, New Jersey. He moved to Teaneck years after my family did and his family actually bought the house that the legendary jazz trumpeter Nat Adderley and his family, who are dear friends of ours, previously lived in. I got the gig and became their drummer and was traveling back and forth from the Bronx which was where I moved back to in 1976 after leaving Teaneck.
It was during rehearsals that I met Bernard Fowler who was the lead singer in T.E. At the same time, I’d been playing drums in a band in NYC with no name that I also put together after meeting Francis (a bassist) and BJ (a guitarist) in a Bronx apartment building that we all lived in on Sedgwick Avenue. I took the people from both bands that I thought would be the core of one solid band, and with everyone in agreement, put them together and we became SNATCH.
Fast forward we were signed by Jimmy Inner to Millennium Records, distributed by RCA, and released a single which was a remake of "Another Brick In The Wall" by Pink Floyd. The B-side was "Stand Up” written by myself and Bernard. The record company hired legendary DJ Larry Levan to remix "Brick In The Wall" to hopefully get club success, but it didn’t work. However, it led to Larry embracing the band and using his power in the industry to get the song “Don’t Make Me Wait” (which was written by Bernard and BJ) a single deal on West End Records for the newly named group The Peech Boys (name change another story!). The success of that single led to an album deal with Island Records and the band was signed directly by Chris Blackwell. And that truly is the short story!
You then went on to production. What made you switch gears?
The switching of gears for me to move forward focusing more as a producer was based on everything I learned from the politics of being in a band in the music business at that time and from some of the circumstances that existed to that point. The reality of creating music, being at the forefront with business for that music and working with people that want to be on the same page creatively and business-wise made it clear that Producer was the best possible way for me to achieve those goals.
What is your process and how has it evolved?
My process stays the same for the most part when I work with known or unknown artists because it has worked well for us overall. I communicate with people first to see where their head is at with music, lyrics, and direction as an artist. I play beats for them in the area they conveyed, and more often then not they pick several and start the writing process. Once we’re on the same page with music and lyrics and we’re are ready to start recording, I become more focused on diction, cadence, inflection and the energy in their performance. All of those steps never change with me, and I won’t let them because that’s how magic is captured. My process is also the same when I’m producing instrumental music for Television, Film, Corporations and Online Campaigns. The thing that really makes me evolve is when technology makes sounds change in music and when music changes based on time, people, age, etc
What inspires you?
Scoring high energy music for movies, feature films, video games, and professional sports. Also, working on projects with known and unknown artists that have intelligent, thought-provoking lyrical content and continue to hone their skills regardless of the level they might be on.
What music are you listening to now that makes you fall in love all over again?
Mostly incredible classics in No Particular Order… Bob Marley, James Brown, Sly and The Family Stone, Kiki Gyan, James Taylor, Peter Tosh, Prince, Michael Jackson, The Delfonics, The Dramatics, P-Funk, Luther Vandross, Public Enemy, NAS, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Graham Central Station, KRS ONE, George Michael, Ice Cube, The Isley Brothers, Ohio Players, Earth Wind & Fire, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Rush ( Neal Peart one of my favorite drummers!), MOP, EPMD, Return To Forever, Al Green, Steely Dan, Steele Pulse, The Beatles, Bob James, Bob Dylan, Boston, Gang Starr, Edwin Birdsong, Minnie Riperton, Jay Z, Peter Gabriel, The Police (Stewart Copeland one of my favorite drummers!), Tower Of Power, Tribe Called Quest, Tom Petty, Slave, Mandrill.
What artist would you really like to work with?
In no particular order and regardless of time and status of any kind, this is a short list off the top of my head that are still alive… Nas, Damien Marley, Stephen Marley, Jay Z, Mos Def, Eminem, Drake, LL Cool J, Common, J. Cole, Lauren Hill, KRS One, Lupe Fiasco, Celo, Ludacris, Rakim, Fat Joe.
What’s next for Steven Brown and Breakthru Productions?
The constant, overall goal is to stay healthy, keep learning, and elevating my music production and business skills. Then to get and stay busy with quality projects and people. A large percentage of my focus will be on securing work in the music licensing business. I also have several corporate opportunities in discussion, and I’m looking forward to closing some of those deals early in the new year. I was also asked recently to get involved in an international music project and to use both my music and business skills. Things have been moving forward nicely thus far with that, and it is very positive in terms of giving back and helping people in need, so I hope and pray that happens too.
You can learn more about Steven "Boogie" Brown at his site, breakthruproductions.com.