Part 1

Name: Reggie Dokes
Nationality: American
Occupation: Producer, Label Founder at Psychostasia Recordings
Current Release: Reggie Dokes & Brian Neal’s ‘Detroit Luv’ EP is out soon on Psychostasia Recordings
Recommendations: Vinyl, The Art of Making Records by Mike Evans. Music, Detroit Luv EP on Psychostasia Recordings.

Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this 15 Questions interview with Reggie Dokes, make sure to visit his facebook profile to stay up to date with his release schedule.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started producing music in 2001, which is the year my label Psychostasia Recordings was introduced to the dance world. My musical influences are varied: Sting, Earth Wind and Fire, Commodores, Aretha Franklin, Theo Parrish, Kenny Dixon Jr., Carl Craig, Derrick May, Osunlade [See our Osunlade interview] and especially Juan Atkins. Whatever genre it is, if it is soulful, unique, meaning that it does not sound like a lot of the garbage that is out there - that is what inspires me.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

For me, originality is very important. As an artist I do listen to others for inspiration and or motivation, but copying someone else's style is not a good way to go. How is one to stand out ? I think because there is less originality, it just hurts the industry as a whole. When I first started putting out music, my aim was not the dance floor. I knew that would probably hurt me in the beginning, but I did not care. For me it was about taking this risk and leap of faith. I knew eventually that some folks would catch on, then I would just progress from there.

What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

My first compositional challenge was not a challenge at all for me. When it comes to this music I am very organic with the creation part. The only formula I stick to is maybe a 20 to 25 second intro to make it DJ friendly, then I just go with how I am moved emotionally and or spiritually.

What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

My first studio set up was the XL studio with the eight outs and a simple Roland keyboard. Then I moved to the Yamaha Motif which had some awesome sounds back then. My first DAW was Reasons 5, which was a great learning experience for me. Once I started collaborating with my musical genius brother Pirahnahead, I switched to Fruity Loops or FL studio. The size of my studio is very small, so I am very low end. I learned very early from Kenny Dixon Jr. that less is more. So I am not this huge keyboard collector, nor do I have a specific preference of gear.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

 I like the idea of being able to create music in a DAW, obviously it makes the process of creating a lot less complicated. However, there is nothing like that human touch or infusion of soul.

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

Recently I graduated to Ableton Live. I come from a musical background, my father was a musician and music teacher for 25 plus years, so I like to think a lot of his creativity rubbed off on me. I initially started playing viola, then guitar, and eventually formally trained on concert snare, which led to me playing drums. I am pushing myself heavily to incorporate more live instrumentation in my work. For me as an artist and DJ that is the next level. The digital is fine, but at some point for me, I had to take it a step further and bring together both live and digital.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

When it comes to collaborating, I am old school. I prefer to be with that person in the same room jamming it out. I just like being able to feed off of that person's live energy and spirit. I like sharing ideas, use that as a foundation, and just jump in with both feet.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Working at home doing music full time and having a family, there is no typical day for me, it varies, depending on the needs of my family. My lovely wife and I home school our son, so the family needs come first during the course of the morning. Then I will check my emails concerning the label and future DJ gigs. Creation time usually begins at night time for me, by this time our son is finished with home school and I can make as much noise as possible.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

For me, whatever is going on in my life or around me has a great deal of influence on my music. The saying, "art imitating life" is something I believe in. Therefore, I try not to separate the two, life and music are one with me.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

When it comes to the creative process, I try not to force it. Sometimes I will take a break for a few days or even weeks, before I get back to creating. When things start to get stale for me, I have to walk away and do something totally different. Being away from the creative process allows for life experiences to seep in and hopefully inspire me. Sometimes, I have to ease back into the process by listening to music from artists of various genres to inspire me. Other times it is a conversation I have had with a family member, or seeing an image that will spark the creative juices again.

I am not sure if I subscribe to an ideal state of mind to create with, I just flow with the emotions and or feelings I am having at that moment while creating. However, I do start my day with meditation as a form of keeping me focused and in the moment, being present, being in the moment is my objective.

How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

Some of my best work has come from improvisation. I listen to a lot of modern jazz and hip hop. Improvisation keeps it fresh for me, and sometimes the most unique experiences occur because of it. When it comes to electronic music I am very organic with how it flows. I don't go in saying I want this part to go for four measures, then stop, no formula for me. It is the intro, then it is all fair game to me. My attitude, let's go see what happens.

How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?

Sometimes I will build an entire track around a unique sound. It can become my starting point in many instances, because it will sometimes spark something wonderful in the end for me. I recall this one time I had this futuristic, spacey sounding effect, and because of that inspiration, it dictated the kick and tempo.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?

Without question, a sense of hearing is a blessing in the art of creating music, but when one has that experience of the senses overlapping, it can bring about something amazing. It is said that music is one of the few disciplines that actually uses both sides of the brain. Here we have an art form that opens the receptors or enhances and strengthens  our intellectual capacity.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

As an artist, I feel like I have a responsibility to express from time to time my concerns of what is going on in the world. Since the majority of my discography is instrumental, I give my tracks titles that may spark some interest, or shed light on what I am feeling at the moment. One of my latest EPs released on Rawax out of Germany is called Black Lives Matter EP. As a black man in America, I am concerned and aware of how people of color are treated and viewed by some in law enforcement. This was an issue that became a huge part of my experience when creating this project. For me, I don't want to separate my views or feelings on certain political, environmental, spiritual or social issues, when it comes to my artistry. My artistry is meant to challenge, inform and inspire.

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?

I have never really thought about where music could be, beyond it's current form. However, I do feel to a large degree, that the technology has produced a plethora of lazy producers. Many of these producers feel that after pushing one button on a machine, that they have created a master piece. Too many of us  depend so heavily on the technology that much of the music has lost it's soul. Keep it simple, challenge yourself, study different genres of music. We cannot allow technology to evaporate that essence of creativity we have been blessed with.