Interview: Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes

March 6th, 2015 | By

Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes

A few months ago I was randomly talking about drum breaks on twitter and had a quick dialog with a mutual follower. In the midst of talking about the Skullsnaps I realized who I was having the conversation with – Matt McGinley, co-founder and drummer of Gym Class Heroes.

Shocked that a member of such a high profile group was humble enough to talk drum loops with a little known producer from Jersey, I decided to push my luck and ask for a quick interview. To my surprise, he agreed and was happy to do it! Turns out, Matt just released a new project via The Drum Broker so it coincided perfectly.

I don’t know crap about actual drumming (other than playing Rock Band a few years back lol) so I asked a bunch of questions that he probably wasn’t used to hearing. Enjoy!

1. For the most part, all the drums used in hip-hop at one time came from other genres (rock, funk, disco, etc). Do you think there is such thing as a “hip-hop drummer“?

Interesting point. I would say that the feel and spirit of conventional hip-hop drum programming, sampling, etc. is pretty evident in some players – Quest Love, Chris Dave… though I’m not sure if they label themselves as such.

2. When you first started out, what artists/songs inspired you / did you model yourself after?

Initially, it was the music that I had access to around the house. Both of my parents were transplants from the American South, having moved to New York a year before I was born. I seem to remember them having a lot of early southern rock – Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, etc. But they also had a shit ton of Motown – Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Temptations, Sam Cooke, etc.

In my first week of high school I met Travis McCoy. We pretty immediately began trading music with each other. Jeru the Damaja, KRS-One, Wu Tang, Rage Against the Machine, Deftones, Das EFX, Souls of Mischief, Devin tha Dude, Black Star, Company Flow (and on and on…). A lot of these albums have been massively influential on my drumming (and my musical perspective in general).

3. When you were laying down tracks with Gym Class Heroes, were you replaying breaks? Replaying what someone laid out on a drum machine? Or were you creating everything from scratch?

The process varies. Initially, we were very into this idea of organic – mainly because we were limited to the few instruments that we had access to. So we were taking the feel and approach of hip-hop music and voicing it through what we had to work with – drums, bass, guitar, a microphone, and a busted ass PA system. This has not been the case in recent years. My drum sounds are a blend of organic + programmed elements and breaks. Sometimes those things are added at mix to enhance the feel of what’s happening in the song – and other times they may originate from a demo or skeleton version of the song. Again, it varies.

4. Do you have a record collection or are you more a digital guy? If you have a record collection, what are some of your gems?

I prefer the clarity and accuracy of vinyl – though that’s not exclusively how I listen to music. My collection is small by most standards, but I always have one or two records that I’m searching for. For awhile I was looking for an original pressing of The Rolling Stones ‘Sticky Fingers’ album – the one that Andy Warhol designed with an actual zipper on the jacket cover. I eventually did find it – for like $18.

5. What are your top 3 favorite “drum breaks” and why?

• Skull Snaps – “It’s a New Day” – Such an immediately recognizable groove and the mix on those drums is beautiful.

• Paul Simon – “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” – Technical, tasteful – all feel.

• Led Zeppelin – “When the Levee Breaks” – Bonham hits the drums so hard, yet he had tremendous feel for the groove. Anytime you can find an isolated drum break of his to sample from, DO IT – just don’t try to clear that motherf*cker. $$$

6. What made you want to put out a drum break comp?

For years I had been recording drum breaks in between other studio sessions. The theory is that once you’ve got a drum kit mic’d up and dialed in you never want to let it go to waste. So I had all of these breaks which I would just pass around within my circle of friends and producers. Musicians, and especially producers, tend to be pretty secretive about their sample libraries. It’s understandable. But I love the collaborative element of music – and was really inspired by what The Drum Broker was doing. Giving well known producers the option to open up their vaults and share their personal stash of drum samples and sounds with other producers, songwriters, etc. It’s kinda like getting access to Mario Batali’s spice rack or something.

7. What should producers expect from Coffee Breaks?

The goal with Coffee Breaks was to create a collection of drum breaks in the spirit of classic funk and hip-hop records – but offer producers more flexibility and options. Each break has corresponding drum fills – chopped and ready to drop. I also wanted to incorporate one-shot drum samples. We isolated each component of my drum kit (kick, snare, hi-hat, rimshot, etc.) and recorded them at multiple velocities & articulations – making it super easy to augment, enhance, or straight up re-write any of my breaks. I wanted each break to have it’s own feel – it’s own place – so each break was mixed independently. So what you have is 23 loops that sound as if they’ve been pulled off 23 different recordings! To capture that ambience, we used a pair of overhead’s and a room mic to record these drum sounds. Each break was then re-amped into a tile bathroom to add subtle, organic reverb. And finally mixed onto reel-to-reel tape by Timmy Rickard (Bap to the Future, Tape to Dub Plate, Dirty Arse Drum Breaks).

8. How do you feel about the frequent use of the Roland 808 drum kit in popular hip hop?

Is it being used more than usual?

9. Gym Class Heroes has always been one of those genre bending groups that at any given time has been called hip-hop, alternative, or pop. Did you embrace that or did it cause issues?

Although I think our music is rooted in hip-hop – I would say that we’ve always embraced the idea that we’re categorically ambiguous. Initially, record labels were pretty scared of that – I suspect that since they didn’t have an existing blueprint to follow they were apprehensive to take the risk. Ultimately, we found a great team of creative people that were willing to be a part of something different.

10. You will soon be working as Ryn Weaver‘s full time drummer. Will you be sneaking any funky breaks in her tracks?

We’ll see. I love what she’s doing musically – and it’s nearly impossible to approach the drumming from any conventional place. In some songs the drum production is more densely layered than others – so it’s about obsessing over those layers, determining what voices get the priority, and then making it happen.


I want to thank Matt again for taking the time to answer these questions. Anyone who wants to hit him up, check out his twitter @Mattydookis. Also, make sure to check out that Coffee Breaks comp!

Matt McGinley - Coffee Breaks

  • Share on Tumblr

Houseguests - What So Never The Dance

February 28th, 2015 | By

I know most of my followers are used to me posting breaks or my new music, but I decided to switch it up and try something new. This time, I’m focusing on a rare piece of wax from inside my crates – Houseguests “What So Never The Dance Pt. 1 and Pt. 2“.

For those that don’t know, the Houseguests were comprised of mostly dudes that just left James Brown‘s backing band including Bootsy Collins, his brother Catfish, Clayton Gunnells, Frank “Kash” Waddy, and a few others. Some of the band would later join George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic thang, and eventually become Bootsy’s Rubber Band.

This single was released in 1971 on a small indy imprint in Cincinnati, Ohio – Houseguests Records. The band recorded a second single on the same label the following year. By that time, Bootsy had met up with George and was working on Funkadelic’s America Eats It’s Young.

The song is pretty well known as it’s appeared on several compilations, BUT not the version I uploaded. It’s a full 1 minute longer than the comp version and also a mono mix. Admittedly, the comped version does sound better but you get to hear the raw funk (and a little sloppy playing during a break down) that you miss out on in the compilation version.

It should be noted, there was an alternate version of this 45 released credited to “Houseguess“. I think that is the rarer of the two. Either way, enjoy some raw funk!

  • Share on Tumblr

GoFundMe for “Amen Brother”

February 23rd, 2015 | By

If you listen to Hip-hop, jungle, several UK dance sub-genres, or even TV commercials, you’ve heard the “Amen Brother” drum break performed by The Winstons. Despite being used in hundreds of songs, the original writer of the track never received any compensation for it’s use. Well, a DJ from the UK decided that wasn’t right, and started a GoFundMe page asking for donations to Richard L Spencer (the song writer of the original track).

What started out as a $1500 goal has now raised over $15,000! Yes, it’s still very small in comparison to all the millions the song probably generated, but it is still a great gesture for someone who can’t afford the legal fees to sue every artist that used it.

If you would like donate to the cause, GO HERE,

  • Share on Tumblr

Havoc - Uncut Raw (Ill Tal Remix)

February 11th, 2015 | By

Here we go again… I’ve entered yet ANOTHER remix contest. At this point, I feel like I enter one every week! Hopefully I win one of them, right? Anyways, this one comes courtesy of and The Drum Broker. This time, producers have been tasked with crafting a remix to Havoc’s “Uncut Raw” off the 13 Reloaded album.

Instead of going with a dark, piano-driven Queensbridge-esque beat, I took the track in a totally different direction. Probably a while since Mobb Deep appeared on a hardcore, jazzy, boom bap beat but they sound good to me. Check it out!

  • Share on Tumblr

Block McCloud & Reef the Lost Cauze - Up In Sweden (Ill Tal Remix)

January 27th, 2015 | By

Entered another remix contest because why not?! This one is courtesy of Creative Juices and DJ Connect. Winner will be announced early February. I’ll let you know if I win.

  • Share on Tumblr

Common - Ghetto Dreams

January 25th, 2015 | By

The Fellows were a little known group out of Detroit from the mid-60’s. Hoping to make it big, they entered a talent contest hosted by a local radio station / Motown at the Fox Theater – and they won. The attention allowed them cut a single with Solid Hit Records. The single must have not done well and the group never recorded another single.

The single is extremely hard to find for 2 main reasons. 1 – there are a lot of collectors of non-Motown Detroit music and 2 – the single was co-written/co-produced by P Funk legend George Clinton (also features guitar work from Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel). If that wasn’t enough, the intro was looped for classic Common cut “Ghetto Dreams“.

Ghetto Dreams” was produced by long-time Common collaborator and Chicago-native No I.D. for the album – The Dreamer/ The Believer. No I.D. looped the intro and added some hard hitting, heavy on the swing drums, with some scratches in the background. The cut also featured a guest verse from Nas and even spawned rumors of a duo LP. Go check out the original.

  • Share on Tumblr

Interview: Funkmaster Wiz

January 16th, 2015 | By

While songs about drug use and lyrics meant to shock audiences are common place today, in the early 1980’s they were unheard of. Enter emcee Funkmaster Wiz, best known for his single “Crack it Up / Can’t You Take a Hint“. While the average hip-hop listener may have never heard of him, he paved the way for generations of rappers like Tyler the Creator, Bizarre of D12, DMX, Onyx, and countless others.

I was lucky enough to interview the pioneer himself and fill in some missing pieces of early Hip-Hop history. Topics covered include how he got signed to Tuff City, the inspiration (and reaction) to “Crack it Up“, being incarcerated, trying to get at Funkmaster Flex, and his relationship with Aaron Fuchs.

The interview clocks in at a little over 30 minutes so it’s a long listen, but it’s definitely worth it to anyone who is interested in the early days of hip-hop. One of the most important takeaways from the convo is how many of the early artists were taken advantage of and despite being pioneers, have almost nothing to show for it. Although the interview can be a little depressing at times, Funkmaster Wiz is forever the Optimist (prime).

For those who want to learn more about the Funkmaster, get in contact, or just get familiar with his music, check the links below.

Radio Show:
Twitter: @FunkMasterWiz
Shahada Lockett

  • Share on Tumblr

Cru - Bluntz & Bakakeemis

January 4th, 2015 | By

Charles Earland - Snake

With the success of movies like Shaft and Enter the Dragon, movie studios were looking to cash in on the kung-fu and Blaxploitation craze of the mid-70’s. The movie Dynamite Brothers tried to combine both, pairing up a kung fu master with a dude from Watts, L.A. (way before Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker!)

I’ve never actually seen the movie, but the soundtrack was done by Jazz master Charles Earland on Prestige in 1974. It’s a mix of funky jazz fusion with a few elements of rock mixed in. Several other Jazz greats play on the album including Jon Faddis and Eddie Henderson.

The track “Snake” is an 8-minute, tripped out jam heavy on the synths and bass. At the very beginning there is a short bass loop that would become the foundation for Cru’s “Bluntz & Bakakeemis” off the Dirty 30 album.

The beat was produced by Yogi, who after his stint as a member of Cru, did a lot of production work for Bad Boy. Check out the original to see how he flipped it!

  • Share on Tumblr