DIY Producers are the Future of Music

Tommy Newport © 2018

Gone are the days of needing to assemble a full band to make an album. Artists of all genres are embracing a do-it-yourself attitude when it comes to producing music because it saves a ton of money and it’s autonomous. Now you can simply record your music on your laptop with software like Logic Pro, Ableton, FruityLoops and GarageBand. In the indie rock scene, Kevin Parker — the mastermind behind Tame Impala — is one of the most notable musicians behind the DIY movement. Parker writes, arranges, records and produces the music of Tame Impala himself and performs live with a group of touring musicians. The influence of Parker’s DIY style and the growing availability of at-home recording software have helped to create the rise of DIY musicians.

Tommy Newport

Tommy Newport © 2018

18-year-old Oliver Milmine, better known as Tommy Newport, is a shining beacon in this growing trend of do-it-yourselfers. He has two projects — Milmine and Tommy Newport, both of which are produced by him.

“I compose everything. I do what’s called multi-tracking — it’s pretty popular in this day and age because you can just use a laptop and an interface and you can record each track one after the other, you don’t have to record a whole live band,” says Milmine during our conversation on Tempo Radio.

“You just start out with a bass guitar and then you add a regular guitar and pianos and you just kinda add layers as you go,” says Milmine. “I do the drums on a MIDI keyboard with my hands, so they’re pre-recorded sounds. So on the keyboard if you press one of the keys it’ll make a kick [drum], if you press the other key it’ll make a snare. So I basically record all of my drum-breaks with my hands on a keyboard.”

When asked about his thoughts about the genre leaning toward a more DIY future, Mimine had this to say:

“So like the biggest artists in indie rock; Kevin Parker, Mac Demarco, Homeshake — they multi-track. It’s easier, it’s all there. When you’re an artist, it’s a lot easier to just have to rely on yourself and when you have a way to do that you’re going to choose that every time. It’s also a thing with money as well because you could spend thousands of dollars recording in a studio with your whole band for a month or you can buy a laptop and an interface and that’s it.”

Goth Babe

Goth Babe © 2018

Griffin Washburn, better known as Goth Babe, is another wickedly-talented DIY producer. Washburn spends his time traveling the country in his camper, chasing rocks to climb, waves to surf and wilderness to conquer. Between all of the outdoor activities, Washburn records material for his Goth Babe project using the same multi-track process.

When asked if he believes that the alternative scene is becoming more DIY, Washburn answered, “100%. You can go to Guitar Center or Best Buy and end up spending like 200 bucks and record an amazing record rather than going and spending 200 bucks in a studio and it would get you an hour or something. I think the most spent on me with a manager, with a huge discount, was like a few grand for a day.”

Washburn continues, “After that recording session I ended up getting Ableton and I’m just more happy with the stuff that I’ve made over the few thousand spent on a day of recording. Rather than telling someone else how I want things to specifically sound, it’s nice to just like do it myself.”

“I think that the major market will still be in the studio, but I think all this new stuff like trap music will continue to be made in bedrooms and that’s what’s getting number ones right now,” says Washburn. “You can make a $30,000 track on Ableton. That track can make you that much money quickly and who knows how much money these trap artists are making? It’s absurd. They’re making it with Ableton and FruityLoops and probably a microphone they got at Guitar Center for like 100 bucks and it sounds like it’s supposed to sound.”


Album artwork for Blackstallion’s “Light Scraps” (2018) ©

The spirit of DIY self-production is alive and well in the city of Reno, with artist Blackstallion. Nathan Lachner, also known as Blackstallion, is a graduate student here at UNR and also one of the best DIY musicians I have ever heard.

Inspired by poetry and experimental music, Blackstallion provides a refreshing take on alternative music, all while producing it all himself on his laptop. “With Paradise [his first release], I was using FruityLoops and I was basically just composing instrumentals through FruityLoops and using a lot of digital instruments. So I would use synths and program the drums, and basically it would be all digital with instrumentals and I would just lay a guitar and vocals on top of it.” Through these recording methods, Blackstallion achieves what he calls a “colder” sound. Blackstallion’s lyrical content covers topics ranging from day to day life in Reno to transcendental meditation and poetry by Pablo Naruda.

DIY production is the future of all musical genres and will only become more popular amongst musicians. It’s easier, cheaper and produces typically more cohesive product. Though it may not always offer the type of warm sound that you may get from tape recording, you can still achieve top-notch audio quality — proven by all of the aforementioned artists. Not only is the practice of DIY production observed in the alternative music scene, but also in the hip-hop community with “Soundcloud rappers,” as well as the metal community with projects like Shadow of Intent and Mire Lore. With the DIY method of production reaching nearly every genre imaginable today, I foresee it becoming more and more popular among rising musicians as recording software becomes cheaper and even more accessible.