Trust in Rusty. Hire a veteran record producer to bring life to your musical ideas. Review: "Rusty is beyond phenomenal. Aside from his limitless talent, he pours his love, time, and care into every element of the music he works on. And what makes him that much more special is that his collaborative and cooperative abilities...."-BlankOddest
For 10 years, I have been a member of the Surf School label, a music production and rap crew based in Brooklyn which is responsible for writing dozens of songs for major label artists including The Weeknd, French Montana, Action Bronson, Wiz Khalifa and many, many more. This long term collaboration has resulted in one Platinum and a handful of Gold Record achievements for myself and members of the team. During this time, I also worked full time as a freelance music producer for independent artists in NYC, developing their sounds, and building their catalogs and careers. I moved to Los Angeles in July 2019.
I was born in Brooklyn to a cellist mother and drummer father. My grandfather played piano for Sammy Davis JR. I started playing drums at the age of 5, and started playing guitar and doing music production from the age of 15. I then attended the music conservatory at SUNY Purchase College in Westchester, NY, where I got a degree in Music Production in 2008-2009, and took on the name Rusty Mack while playing drums in a number of bands on campus. I then returned to NYC and teamed up with super producer Harry Fraud and started a recording studio in 2010.
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- Smoke DZA & Curren$y * Curren$y - "100 Spokes" * Smoke DZA - "Loopy" ft Chinx * Action Bronson - "72 Virgins" ft Big Body Bes * Action Bronson - "Strictly 4 My Jeeps" * Talib Kweli - "Upper Echelon" * Mhz "Spaceship" ft Camu Tao
- Danny Brown * Smoke DZA - "Butta Rice" * French Montana "Saucy" * French Montana "Say Goodbye" ft Belly * French Montana "Salam Alaykum" * Harry Fraud - "Mean" ft Action Bronson
- * French Montana - "A Lie" ft. The Weeknd & Max B
- * French Montana - "Nervous"
- * Dave East - "Maneuver" ft French Montana
- * Smoke DZA - "Badabing's Theme"
- * Action Bronson - "Mean" ft French Montana
- * French Montana - "Suicide Doors" ft Gunna
- * Wiz Khalifa - "Yea Yup" ft Young Deji
- * Shy Glizzy - "Ohana"
- * Action Bronson - "Swerve On Em" ft A$AP Rocky
- * Curren$y - "Modena Moves" ft French Montana
- * Smoke DZA - "14 Packs" ft Curren$y
- * Meyhem Lauren - "Venetian Loafers" - ft Conway
- * Action Bronson - "The Chairman's Intent"
- * Papoose - "Pickin up Bags" ft Fetty Wap
- * A$AP Twelvyy - "Yea Yea Yea"
- * Smoke DZA - "Stage Five Steamer"
- * French Montana - "Brick Road"
- * Smoke DZA - "Heard Dat"
- * Smoke DZA - "Morals" ft Snoop Dogg
- * Curren$y - "Bales" ft Young Roddy
- * Fat Trel - "How U Feel"
- * Curren$y - "100 Spokes"
- * Smoke DZA - "Loopy" ft Chinx
- * Action Bronson - "72 Virgins" ft Big Body Bes
- * Action Bronson - "Strictly 4 My Jeeps"
- * Talib Kweli - "Upper Echelon"
- * Smoke DZA - "Butta Rice"
- * French Montana "Saucy"
- * French Montana "Say Goodbye" ft Belly
- * French Montana "Salam Alaykum"
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Interview with Rusty Mack
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: In 2020, I really got back to basics, and focused on myself. After a decade of giving my best ideas away to other peoples projects, many famous and many not, I pulled back, and created a new sound to call my own finally. Now in 2021 I plan on using my network to help bring that sound to the people who can appreciate it in a collaborative basis.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: A huge catalog of instrumentals and demo songs for shopping around.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog! A real guitar cannot be replicated. A real bass cannot be replicated. A human voice cannot be replicated. Even the best digital synthesizers are just emulating analog stuff, and same for the compressors, EQs, reverbs, etc. Everything that is and ever was good in analog can be emulated in digital, but nothing in digital can surpass the sonic quality of the originals! That being said, I do love editing in a DAW, and I do love all the innovation in digital, and if someone can achieve what they're trying to convey in digital, nothing wrong with that. I just find that even a basic cassette tape has more interesting tone and warmth than even the most life-like emulations.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I just never give up. That's it. I don't care how much of a challenge it is. Nothing is impossible to achieve sonically, as long as the artist is giving their all, I will certainly not be the weak link. I go, and go, and go, until greatness is achieved. I am in dogged pursuit of sonic greatness that results in making the artists and their listeners feel whatever it is the sing is trying to convey.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I just love making music, and I am always finding new challenges! It keeps me curious, my mind stimulated, and I am always chasing some new cool feelings of some cool chord progression or some weird way the bass can bring out a new color in a chord, or some really warm snare tone. These are the things that help me sleep good at night! Throw some chorus on that acoustic guitar so I can be happy!
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: How many years have I been doing this professionally? I usually say 10 or 15 years depending on what exact skill they're asking about. Have you worked with any famous people? My credits include The Weeknd, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, and many many more. You can see my name in the Spotify credits. I was not always in the room when the songs were being made, but my stuff got used one way or the other.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: The biggest misconception is that certain things can be skipped over or done in a shortcut fashion. Sorry there are no shortcuts in music. Trying to cut corners in terms of budget, especially, will mean you're basically throwing any other money you spend out the window. Also, another big misconception is that you can just go viral off of one song with no marketing. I hate to have to be the one to dispel that myth to anyone who thinks otherwise, but I unfortunately have to break that news to people all the time.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What is your vision for this project? What is your style / genre? Who are your influences? What is your writing process? Do you prefer to work from scratch? Do you have other music you've already done or are you just getting started? Who would you like to collaborate with in the industry? Are you singing or rapping? Do you prefer to use Auto-tune? And of course... What's your budget!
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Adjust your expectations! Coming into a project is a huge endeavor, and will take up a ton of time, resources, and energy. Be prepared to sacrifice a lot of personal stuff, and pay a lot of money for every single part of the process from production to mixing to marketing and everything in between. The money is not just for production, but also for marketing. If you're not prepared to spend the next 3-5 years and many many thousands of dollars on your music career, this is not for you! You've got to want it really, really bad.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Telecaster, Serum, Linn Drum, P-Bass, and a Multitrack recorder of some kind!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started at the age of 5 playing drums, and I am 35 years old. I played in bands and did a bunch of local studio production in NYC growing up and when I was 25 I got my first real step into the business when I befriended super-producer Harry Fraud. For 10 years we shared a studio in Brooklyn, resulting in a very fruitful creative and professional relationship which garnered us a small handful of Platinum and Gold records, and dozens of more placements as writers and producers. Now I have moved to Los Angeles after 10 years of that, and taken my accreditations, and my real in-the-trenches experience and taking a swing at making the music I always wanted to make: interesting dark pop music with a retro aesthetic.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I love the retro, and I love the pop-aesthetic. My sound has evolved from the underground boom-bap, to the dark retro-pop, and I am in love with it! I used to be really boxed into the whole New York underground rap scene, but as a musician I always knew I had a lot more to offer, and now I am just enjoying being free and messing with all the different tempos and feels that pop and classic sounds like stuff from the 80s and 90s has to offer.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I want to collaborate with my favorite producer Andrew Watt, and his team of writers and musicians and artists. I look up to him greatly. We met once briefly at his event years ago, and he left such an amazing impression on me. It basically changed my way of thinking, because I saw what was possible, after living a somewhat sheltered existence within a very narrow frame of the music business. Seeing him in his element was like seeing a dragon in full wing-span.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: It has to sound good. Nothing else matters. People aren't listening to music thinking about what had to be done to make it, they are just trying to have a personal connection to it. So the process is secondary to the results. Whatever you have to do to get something vibing, that's cool.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I am known for my work in rap and hip hop, but my heart really lies in the pop world.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My interpersonal relations are strong. I prefer to really connect with the people I work with, who often become like family to me. The workflow is also a strong point, as I am able to shift between different scenarios whether it's writing from scratch, or using a prepared piece.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: My ear has developed an aesthetic that I am confident I know exactly what kind of sounds I hear in my head and how to get them into the records. I also have a collaborative spirit. I like to ask questions and let my collaborators answer them, rather than provide all of the answers. I also am not tied down to any specific genre, and can seamlessly shift between them. I am a huge fan of chord progressions, bass notes that give new color to simple chords, and leaving space in an instrumental for vocals. I am also a huge fan of song arrangements, figuring out where the hooks go, using pre-choruses and bridges to spice things up, and always happy to see where we can shoehorn a 1 or 2 bar break in an otherwise straightforward arrangement.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: It really depends. For myself, I always start with chords! And I am not bashful about using cheat codes to find interesting chord progressions. Whatever it takes, lift some from an old song and rearrange, or use a chord generating software, or play one from scratch on the guitar or keys, there's nothing off limits to me in the world of chords. Once I get an A section, B section, and C section with chords, I arrange it out like: Intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, etc. And that's the backbone. The rest is pretty easy for me at this point. I just record myself playing an instrument to each section and take the best loop that will stay out of the way of a vocal. Once I have my instrumental ready to write to, if I am to present ideas to an artist or a writer, I usually have 3-6 ideas prepared for presentation and let the artist pick their own favorite, which could depend on their mood, or their vocal range. If the artist prefers to go from scratch, I use the same process, just start the idea with them in mind, and them present, and always asking if they like what I am doing. If they say yes, I keep it, if they say no, I try something else until I get a yes. I usually take a more hands off approach to lyric and melody, and only step in when the artist seems stuck, or is lacking a strong enough vision that needs a little push. If the artist wants me to help them fins lyrics and melody, I can do that. My favorite part though is helping to find harmonies! That's a fun challenge for me!
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have a small home setup running Pro Tools with Waves, iZotope, etc. I also work out of a small handful of studios in Los Angeles. I prefer Neumann mics, UA or Avalon pre-amps, Apollo interfaces, and i like Focal speakers. I currently use my '99 American Fender Telectaster with locked tuners, and wavetable synth Serum to do most of my instrumentation. I like using old school drum machines as well like Linn, Hoener, Boss, Korg, or Roland machines.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: The Weeknd, Andrew Watt, Roger Troutman, Mac Miller, Mac Demarco, Daft Punk, Trent Reznor, Harry Fraud, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Thundercat, Bruno Mars, Aaliyah, Freddy Mercury, Earth Wind & Fire, Adrian Younge
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I am often tracking vocals, mixing, doing custom song production, selling beats, adding guitars or synths to other peoples music.