"....2020 will be a spectacular year for our eardrums thanks to theDGTL and all the talented rappers who have blessed his beats" -Respect My Region Voted top producer in 2019 (PNW), theDGTL crafts a sound rooted in high energy, grunge influenced beats and cinematic aesthetic, featured on Ebro, Uber, Vans, and across the PNW's rising hip hop scene
Centered around production and songwriting, theDGTL is a collective quickly gaining attention in the Pacific Northwest's fast rising hip hop and electronic scene. Led by executive producer Jake Hillard, our sound is defined through a vast array of musical experiences over the last two decades, drawing influences from Jazz and Soul and fusing them with Electronic and Trap elements. Dubbed by Darryl Crews (Nicki Minaj, Lil Mosey, Lil Peep, Will Jordan) as a bridge between Grime and Trap, we work with a vast network of artists in the greater Seattle area and LA, utilizing our diversity as musicians to create a sound that is dynamic and continuously evolving. Growing up influenced by Mike Dean, Pharrell Williams, and J dilla, our genre is heavily defined by our Hip Hop roots, but makes way for an innovative and unique energy that moves with the artist's direction and intent. Juxtaposition, Movement, and Ownership of Creative Decisions are pillars of our mantra, and our goal is to utilize our experiences in the industry and as studio owners and musicians to realize the full potential of your vision as an artist.
In addition, we specialize in saxophone features and horn lines in hip hop, soul, and electronic. A former student at Berklee College of Music, Jake Hillard's playing has been featured across the country with soul groups like The Soultanz, Mistadc, and the Muzikmakerz.
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Interview with theDGTL
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: My career path began as a saxophonist. Growing up I was always at the top of my class in music, continuously pushing myself to be better and making the push that many make to take the plunge. I received a World Scholarship Tour Award and went to Berklee College of Music, where I discovered music production, which I promptly left school to pursue. Over the last 13 years, I have developed my sound through several albums and countless beats, starting to make headway several years ago in Seattle. Currently theDGTL is capitalizing on an excellent year: we opened Catalyst Lab Studios, which serviced over 50 artists and mixed, mastered, produced, or recorded and touched over 100 songs, culminating in a Producer of The Year Award from West Coast Industry Blog: Respect My Region. Alongside that, we finished several albums with our main collaborators and are currently working on our release for our main collaborator, Nobi's forthcoming album: produced, mixed, mastered and co written by theDGTL.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I am really proud of Fulminate, the debut album by my main collaborator Nobi. I produced, recorded, mixed, mastered, wrote, and performed across this entire project, and working so closely with an artist as talented as he is to create a cohesive project that really embodies who he is as an artist is one of my greatest accomplishments to date. The ability to see a project through from its early concepts to a final product that will lead us to the next step in our creative paths has been the greatest challenge of my life and utilized ALL of my experiences in music. We are proud to say that we work with artists committed to cause and community and we think our current roster of exclusive collaborators demonstrates that perfectly.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Not currently, but if I find James Willets, one of my mentors, on here I would emphatically recommend him for mixing; along with Phillip Peterson for Production.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Different tools for different jobs but we never would turn down a big format room.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: We promise to always work for the artist and to make the artist the star.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: To watch an artists vision come true and know that our process and talents aided that process is the greatest source of professional joy we can think of. That and the moment when people's heads start nodding while we are hashing out ideas and beats in the studio, we definitely live for that moment that leads to the creative energy peaks and rushes we all get during the creative process.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: I get asked a lot about the overall process of releasing and marketing strategy on top of production questions. Our goal is to work with artists to create campaigns that are designed around their needs. Other than that, we get asked about how we write, and if we are completely attached to any certain idea or sound. Our answer is not necessarily, we tend to leave no stone unturned, and are always down to try an idea, suggestion, or edit and see what sticks.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I think the purist mentality is an overall farce. There are certain producers and engineers that value their craft too much, I ask is there a point where you add too much value to a song? Can you learn something about yourself from only artists on your talent level? Can only a top tier talent make a hit? The answer is a clear no to me. The creative process knows no talent, no status, no accolades.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What are your immediate goals as an artist? Are you currently looking for production for an album or for a single? If album, can you tell me the direction of the project?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Our rates are reduced and largely oriented towards consistency. We believe the best results come from the week in week out grind, and providing that creative structure has worked wonders for most of our clients.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My saxophone My computer An Mpc A Microphone A really really good internet connection
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Raw, Grunge, Distorted, High Energy, Nostalgic
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Thundercat, I really dig his style and his diversity as an instrumentalist, songwriter, and beat maker would make us a great and dangerous collaboration in the studio. I also love playing sax with bass players, I'm putting THAT jam on my bucket list.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: As producers, we tend to get boxed in especially when we find a sound that we really believe in. That identity can get challenged by clients asking you to make something or a style that is out of your range. Remember: its just as important to push yourself out of that comfort zone as it is for the artist to delve outside of theirs. The sign of a great producer is the ability to float between genre while retaining their sonic fingerprint.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Hip Hop, R&B, Electronic, Soul, Funk
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My ability to fit the song and the mood perfectly. It really changes from song to song, whether its a hook i wrote, or a way that I produce an artist's vocal. That and the ability to execute the bigger picture: I work with several artists that I am executive producing and executing the entire process down to marketing and rollout.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: We bring an open mind and a platform to bounce ideas off of. My principle as a producer is: "I want you, the artist, to clearly define intent," Once that is solidified, we support the role through production, engineering, or writing. This can take many forms for us, and through over a decade of making beats, producing and making songs, we are able to turn on a dime based off of what the artist is looking for. Sometimes we sample, other times we are making a sound from scratch and incorporating live sounds.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: In the moment. We pride ourselves in the ability to create fluidly and are not afraid to make a song, beat, idea, or melody on the spot to kick start the creative process. Our last session with Karma Knows started with an influence (Dancehall) and quickly took form once we found our pocket. Once the song idea is hashed out and we know our direction, we have a somewhat dialed in process for achieving a sound that is tailored to the song at hand. We seek refinement, but look to preserve the energy in the moment: that spark that made you fall in love with a song or a motif, thats the most valuable asset to us.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: We have a balanced studio set up in the Headquarters of Rainier Ave Radio, a community center and radio station. We run a 2.1 yamaha system, and have an arsenal of plugins. Our mic's are a tlm102, and a shure sm7, which provides enough of a difference in sound that we rarely find ourselves needing more than those two. We also center a lot of our sound around analog synths, and are currently in love with a Moog Grandmother.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Mike Dean is an easy influence to start with: his musicality is derived from his background as an instrumentalist, and his bold sound that is centered around analog synths and 808s draws from that experience. We are truly inspired by our collaborators, especially Nobi and Karma Knows. theDGTL was actually formed as an online collaboration over seven years ago between me (Jake) and Vito Maserati, who is still a main collaborator specializing in drums.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Production/Beatmaking, Engineering, and Songwriting. We also are receiving more request for full content development utilizing our network of visual artists along with marketing teams and connections into the industry.