New York producer Gobby is a pretty straightforward guy. He enjoys making weird sounds that somehow get molded into a shape that makes sense. However, to say that "he lets his music do all the talking" would not only unfairly paint him in a pretentious light but do a disservice to what might be the greatest descriptions of a collection of tracks that I've seen in a long time.
Returning to underground experimental label, UNO NYC, Beats by Gobby 2 introduces itself as "the essential soundtrack to play to your pet geckos in the morning or to practice tricks on your Tech Deck," and if that set-up doesn't at least pique your curiosity then feel free to stop right here.
A 20-song collection of sketchs, ideas, and mood-setters, Gobby's latest offering is an intentionally meandering rummage through the bottom of a cluttered desk drawer. Turning up hastily crumpled sticky notes, brightly-colored knick-knacks, and half-eaten hard candy covered in an ample coating of lint, what you actually end up with is more than just a pile of disconnected artifacts but rather a portrait of the artist, idiosyncrasies and all. Ranging from dreamy layers of synths ambling through forests of fuzzed out samples to anxiety-inducing piano keys crawling up the base of your spine, turning the screws ever tighter, Beats by Gobby 2 covers a lot of ground while still managing to retain its author's distinctive fingerprint.
Sitting in a friend's apartment/makeshift studio with a cat needily rubbing against my legs, Gobby and I commiserate over our respective times as dishwashers. To this day the smell of a Panera Bread nauseates him. Having grown up just 20 feet outside the Boston city limit, Gobby is surprisingly easygoing for someone that lives in one of the most stressful cities in the country. Ahead of the Valentine's day release of Beats by Gobby 2, we caught up with the eponymous producer to chat about beat tapes, modes of thought, and comics.
To start off, why a beat tape?
Well actually, this thing was supposed to come out in 2015, Charles [Damga of UNO NYC] and I just kind of kept forgetting. So it's been like sitting around.
What was the process like for writing the record? Why beats, specifically?
There's always different types of shit that I'm making on computer and then usually with the beats it's like if I'm feeling like making a beat then –– beats are different. You can write a song that has parts, and beats can do that too, but you could have a beat in two seconds and then just kind of keep hacking away at it until it becomes something. You just kind of do it and then stop. I don't know how to get more specific than that.
I've always thought of beat tapes as being like a producer's sketchbook.
Were there any specific artist beat tapes that inspire you?
Hmmm, no. But I am remembering like in high school the J Dilla beat tapes. That was a long time ago but I was thinking about how on those, they were super sketch-booky in the way that they're demos and it seemed like he was using the same drone sounds. If you would make an album you would want made things to sound dynamic or different but he was just like 'here are the bass drums' and snare drums are literally just like markers for where the sample gets chopped. He's just like 'if you want this we can develop it into something but this is all you're going to get until then.' That's what I thought was going on.
How do you go about putting the tape together as a cohesive release, then?
Well, I put all my shit on iTunes because I use Logic so I bounce it directly there. I like to listen to my own shit a lot just because it kind of cancels out and it's like you're not hearing anything because [gestures to the thrum of the room around us] this whole shit. So I just put that on and not have to hear yourself as well as the outside world. Eventually, I have a bunch of playlists of different types of stuff that I think it should be in. The orders get changed, new playlists get made. It's kind of like waiting until certain tracks disappear and finding the ones that I actually care about. It's kind of like if I was writing in a notebook notes but never looking back at them and it's only if the same note, if I keep reading that, I'm like 'oh this one.' Certain songs just fall away.
What is it then like to revisit this material that's been on the backburner for so long?
I don't know, I'm kind of like, 'oh sweet! It happened.' It's hard, it's one of those things, I don't know....It kind of gets me amped to do it again. I don't want to neg it but I'm about to. I'm like 'oh well, I could have done this. I could have done that.' I guess that's what's cool about having something that's a sequel, you're like 'oh I didn't do that the first time.' But also in beat-making, for me, there's a really rapid vibe to it because I just do it and then fall asleep. It's just a pattern. That part's cool about it. There's a lot of things that I use in beat stuff though that has applied [to other things] that I've been able to use.
There's always kind of a....what's the word? Being a musical tourists, latching onto genres and being like 'yeah, ok. I'll do this.' Then getting annoyed with people who were for some reason only that would annoy me like when I was younger. Now it doesn't, I'm just like 'oh that's cool.' For myself, I would have this sort of bitterness or being like 'why was I just doing that?' I'm not trying to jump around. It's a pollinating type thing where you're jumping around as many styles as possible, copying as many people as possible should be encouraged. Not in the same genre though. It's already all in there. You should have your own ideas if it's the same genre. You should see where the people in other genres have are having these same ideas and
Translating those principles over?
Yeah, there's a lot of words I'm forgetting. When I'm like walking around I sometimes think about this. But I wonder if I'm not if I'm even actually thinking of words? I mean I'm just a guy.
Well that makes sense, not every one thinks in concrete terms. As a musician you might think more through sound and associating that with emotion or understanding, we think in a lot of different ways that only make sense to ourselves.
Yeah, I mean that. Yeah, it sounds pretty goofy. Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah.
Everything is like sort of gray. Gray is so dull though, I hate that...
It's non-binary. We tend to think things are black or white, when in actuality they can be both, neither, and a mix all at once.
It's like a constant battle, this genre thing. I want to slip in literally every direction. And I like it when people do. I like hearing that. I wouldn't hold anybody to that but I like it when sounds when genres can slip with that non-binary thing, like slip into something else and just go. There's just different ways to go about letting that happen. I would say that if it's just that, people wouldn't be so strict.
What ways do you go about doing that?
When I'm working on something on the computer you can just let it play and just do other stuff, like draw or something. Usually I like focus on the parts that I am confused about and let that play out. I put a lot of unfinished songs or even stuff that's barely anything on my phone and I listen to that over and over again. I write notes.
Do you ever write a beat or song with a specific artist in mind?
No. not even. I imagine that's why most people would probably have trouble with it. You know with [Mykki Blanco], we were living together at the time. I would be like making something in my room and he'd like poke his head and be like, "What was that? All right word!" Then I'd stop doing that and give it to him. It's really up to someone else to make it a song because I don't really care otherwise. I just like bouncing it, having my playlist and then it's like 'oh sweet, I really like the way that that part loops.'
Although I listen to a lot of that '-type beat' shit, you know like kids are making? They imagine it like that. I assume that they are like writing two rappers' names that they think people at the moment are Googling on YouTube. It's like A$AP Rocky and this other thing and someone else like 'Tyler the Creator Beat Sale, Link in bio! We can work something out.'
How did you get into illustrating?
I like MAD magazine a lot. I would go to a library and reading the '60s comics, which took a lot of unwinding after seeing all that shit. I was always doodling, always kept a sketchbook in high school. There's always the Fantasia shit too. I would listen to the Grinch on tape a lot so I think that's why I have a cross, I'd read the book but I'd listen to the tape more when I was a kid or a baby.
What strikes me about Beats by Gobby 2 is how amorphous the whole thing is.
I think it's also the way I make music, I like shoot myself in the foot a lot. I just don't want to repeat what other people, I'm okay with repeating myself but I don't want to really repeat what anybody else is doing. I want it to move. I think that's what really makes an album for me. The narrative is the fact that it just keeps shooting itself in the foot.
How do you go from doodling in you high school sketchbook to designing a print for Gauntlett Cheng?
I don't know maybe it's like social media has always been good. It gets really annoying and sometimes I would just like to go away from it, delete it, and then come back. But that's probably the only way, like I've always been posting drawings but I've self-printed. I was really into Fort Thunder stuff when I was younger in Providence. After getting into the '60s underground comics it's like that shit's been going on since then and now it's become a completely different thing rather than like a bunch of like acid-head assholes writing. I loved it at the time because I was a kid and I had all this weird aggression I was like 'oh fuck yeah. Fuck it up!' Then you would see the shit from the '90s and like the early 2000s and it's just about '90s shows. I've been listening to a lot of Dungeon Synth.
What is Dungeon Synth?
You've not heard of Dungeon synth? I think it's from like, and don't quote me on this, because I keep forgetting but Dungeon Synth is the guy, Burzum, when he was in prison, made this like ambient album that was pretty much just metal on a keyboard. I think what it became after that was music that people would make for their Dungeons & Dragons stories. A lot of it is just like dark ass, bassy new age. I found this YouTube channel where the guy is like really committed to giving you stuff from all different decades. It's like really simple, or sometimes it's not, but usually is. Its using really simple sounds just as storytelling.
A lot of this stuff sounds like Chief Keef without drums. I'm serious. If you take out the drums it just sounds like he's just using strings and basses and it just sounds like this medieval music. It makes no apologies. I was trying to listen to Ennio Morricone, the guy who does spaghetti western music. What i'm trying to bring in, in terms of beats and simple to understand music, the way that songs or symphonies change everything, how it can worm around it's way in a story in terms of tempo and keys or whatever. It's just like I click around and stop and sort of mix, speed up and down, making stuff on different computers. Making beats over and over again has helped me chill out in a way that I can do anything and still bring two things together to make it a linear style work. The dungeon synth stuff has kind of helped with that since the Beats by Gobby 2 thing was done.
What do you hope comes across people that hear Beats by Gobby 2?
I want to be able to connect the the fact that the beat stuff that I was making stuff at first like making shit on a computer to now where I'm not just doing that. I'm not just making beats all the time. I'm not like a beat dude. I like different notes and strings and stuff.
You're a man of refined wave forms.
Refined yes. Actually no, that never matters. I remember when I first was working with Charles [Dagma] I never understood the difference between a .wav and an .mp3 because my ears were already fucked up. I can't hear the detail. It's like if someone who is making images had really bad eyesight. I'm just kind of going any direction until it sounds cool. I'm not particular.
Listen to the PAPER Premiere of Beats by Gobby 2 out now on UNO NYC.
Photography: Adrian Martens