What up, my people. Sir Veterano in the house!
Sir Veterano was climbing the ladder of success as a prominent hip hop producer, in the mid 2000s and early 2010s. Then, in 2013, the California native, who grew up outside of San Francisco, decided to call it quits. He had released The Latest and Greatest Vol. 1 mixtape, a well-regarded doo-wop themed instrumental album, as well as a DJ series of West Coast funk, with mixtape mavens 2DopeBoyz.com, In spite of his growing fame, Veterano decided to walk away from all of it, and put his life in order, something that many would lack the courage to do.
Veterano had worked with a Hall of Fame crew of emcees over the years, including Murs, Kool G Rap, Ras Kass, Planet Asia and Mad Skillz. In 2018, the stars and planets aligned once again, and Veterano needed to scratch his creative itch. He dug out his old gear and began creating new music. The result of this creative spark is The Gathering, his new album, which again features some of the best rhyme artists in the game, spitting over Veterano’s dense, funky beats.
The first cut on the album is “Funeral Music,” is a big, booming track, featuring Ras Kass and Bishop Lamont, and it announces Veterano’s return like a two by four to the head. Other highlights on the record include “Cocaine Rap,” with the always psychedelic Murs, “Reputable,” with the knock-out trio of MC Eiht, Planet Asia and the underrated Mitchy Slick, and “The Discussion,” with MED. Underneath the Lootpack and Stone’s Throw- affiliated word smith, the music burps and squiggles, as if Pac-Man broke out of the console and commandeered your brain and your ears. Planet Asia returns for “Diadora,” a musically complex song, which ends with some toasting by, Big Youth? (Spot that sample!) The Gathering should be required summer listening. Blast it from the rooftops. Blast it from the car. Hell, point your speakers out of your window and blast it at your grouchy neighbor. (He’ll thank you!) And, when you’re finished blasting, put on your headphones and nod your head. Then…blast it again.
This interview has been lightly edited for publication. Photo of Sir Veterano courtesy of Sir Veterano.
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you everyday?
Sir Veterano: I grew up being exposed to all genres of music. My mom was a fan of rock to jazz to French Bossanova to chamber music and beyond. Because I was given an early education into music itself, music became an important part of growing up. It felt natural that I would take an interest into creating music. It wasn’t until I got to high-school that I took that knowledge and curiosity and put it towards a music culture I grew up in, in California. Broadly speaking though, general curiostiy into creating something from scratch inspires me daily.
BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Sir Veterano sound, how would you answer, in one sentence?
SV: An ever maturing style of hip hop.
BSM: Where is your favorite or usual place to work/create? Home? Studio? Room in your crib?
SV: All of the above.
BSM: Are you a crate digger? If you are, where is your favorite place to dig? What was your greatest find? If you’re not a crate digger, has crate digging become unnecessary? Is there a good substitute for digging into crates of old records and finding a treasure? Some of the younger producers seem to have given this up.
SV: I used to be a big crate digger coming up. Started with the typical records like Bob James’ catalog and got deep into Library Music in the later years. So no, I don’t actively dig anymore, but I do have people who dig for records professionally and I usually get samples from them when I need them. Personally these days, I prefer to create everything from nothing utilizing live instrumentation, vsts (Editor’s note: virtual studio technologies) and so on. However, I always dirty it up with reel to reel effects, tape coloring, filtering all sounds to give it that crate digging vibe. I say just do whatever works for you. There is no wrong way.
BSM: What is your preferred music production software?
SV: Image-Line FL Studio, plus a surplus of vst plugins.
BSM: What is your favorite audio gear or instrument?
SV: I do virtually all things on my computer, utilizing real instrument plugins. However, I have a lot of random percussion instruments that I utilize regularly.
BSM: What is the one non-musical item that you must have with you when you are working?
SV: All I need is my cat, Ruth. I’m a simple man.
BSM: What track or album are you most proud of and why?
SV: I’d probably have to say that my latest release The Gathering is my most prideful work to date.
BSM: Is there a current artist that you’d like to work with? Who is that person, and why?
SV: Difficult question because there are so many. One artist I’ve always wanted to work with is Kool Keith. He embodies everything I love in an emcee and more. Unique style, lyrical, and humorous. Kool Keith is 1 of 1.
BSM: Name a favorite music artist or a music artist that you admire. Why is the artist your favorite/do you admire him or her?
SV: I’d have to say I’ve always greatly admired The Alchemist. His music has been consistently high quality since the late 90’s, he works with everyone, puts out his own projects, but never compromises his styles.
BSM: Favorite music to listen to when driving, relaxing, or chilling?
SV: Usually relax to experimental electronic music like Bjork, neo-soul, doo-wop, funk, Sade (she is her own genre), French Bossanova, etc.
BSM: Do you get creative inspiration from forms of art other than music? What other types of art inspire your art, or name artists in other mediums who inspire your own creativity?
SV: That’s a good question because I definitely do. I love the feeling of being moved by creativity. Robin Williams is inspiring. Dave Chappelle, Sebastian Maniscalco, Mike Epps…all stand-up comedians that I get inspired by. Anyone who takes their craft seriously, emits sincerity, can be felt by the fan, and I want to have the same affect on others. The desire to be the best version of themselves is always gas in the tank for creativity.
BSM: Can you pick one track from The Gathering and describe how you put it together? Walk us through the magic of Sir Veterano: your chopping, slicing, dicing, remixing and re-construction magic. Show us the guts of what you do on one track.
SV: Being that 90% of this album is sample free, I don’t have many examples of sample flipping. However, the [single] “Reputable” came together in an interesting way. The beat itself doesn’t have samples, but it originally had a drum break in there. I ended up reprogramming the drums myself to replace the drum break. After the beat was done, I sent it over to my label owner, Kwa Nguyen (Fresh Yard Records), along with some other beats. Well, Planet Asia was recording the song “Diadora” off my album in San Diego and Mitchy Slick ended up heading over to the studio where he was recording. They were hanging out and Kwa played the “Reputable” beat. The song then just happened organically that night.When I got the song back, it didn’t have a hook and all I could hear was MC Eiht. After having a discussion with my manager, Walt Liquor, and Kwa, we decided to reach out to Eiht to see if he was interested in doing a West Coast posse cut and the rest was history.
BSM: You released “The Story of 1000 Snares” in 2013, then radio silence. What happened, and what prompted you to jump back into the game?
SV: Around 2013, I essentially fell out of love with music. My interest in making music starting trickled off in 2011, but by 2013 I was done. I needed to focus on my personal life and getting things in order. I was about to be married, about to turn 30, I looked at my life and I wasn’t happy with anything at that moment, except my wife. In hindsight, I’ve realized that I wasn’t able to be happy in music because I wasn’t making myself happy outside of music. Around later 2018, I started to feel the desire to make music. I fired up the old music equipment and started messing around. After a week or two of getting the rust off, I reached out to my manager, Walt Liquor, and label owner Kwa and told them I was making music again. I made it clear that I wasn’t looking to do anything serious, but that I was around again. Well, they had other things in mind. It wasn’t more than a month after contacting them that we already were recording songs. Main point is, my life at that moment was pretty fulfilling in 2018. I had to reach that point of fulfillment to allow music back in. Today, I’m very grateful to be where I am.
BSM: What do you know about the music industry now that you didn’t know when you took a hiatus from creating? How has the technology of music creation changed in the years that you were out? How did you respond to this change?
SV: Well, when I stepped away, the music business was transitioning to be more about personal branding. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to make it all about me and didn’t want to present myself in a way to impress others. It’s not exactly my personality, so there was some natural conflict. Now that I’m back, I’m all on board with the new ways of doing things. I had to shed the grumpy old man in 2013 to transition to 2020. I feel like I’m a rookie again. That distance from when I left and where I am now did some good.
BSM: You worked with a disparate group of artists on The Gathering. Do you create beats for a specific artist, or do you create and let artists choose the beats they want to spit over? How did the collaborations for The Gathering work?
SV: I created beats in bulk for this one. Some were tailored for certain artists. However, when I did send beats to each artist, I hand picked what would go to them based on what I wanted to get out of each artist. These days I make beats targeted for each artist since I’m releasing my own projects.
BSM: Other than The Gathering, upcoming projects? Shout-outs? New tracks/single releases?
SV: I have multiple albums being created right now, behind the scenes, at the moment. None of which I can share, but I can assure you they will be of the same caliber of The Gathering. Besides that, I’d like to shout out to my wife, who walks with me through all these ventures, my manager, Walt Liquor, my label owner/business partner Kwa, every artist on The Gathering and extra special shout-out to Backseat Mafia for connecting with me!
Purchase The Gathering from Fresh Yard Records:
Connect with Sir Veterano on Bandcamp: