DJ/producer Preservation has made a name for himself in the rap world over the past decade. The New York native has crafted beats for the likes of Lord Jamar, Wu-Tang Clan and Yasiin Bey.
Preservation’s work with the artist formerly known as Mos Def led to production credits on his 2009 album The Ecstatic. Preservation remixed the brilliant album to give it his own sound and titled it The REcstatic. The REcstatic allowed Preservation to dig into the vaults and introduce new fans to some of his best work.
Old Numbers is a collection of songs produced by Reservation with guest vocals by Jean Grae, Edo G, Jemini the Gifted One, 32 FX, Milly Mango, Yahzeed, Minnesota, and Yasiin Bey.
Preservation spoke to usedview.com about remixing Mos Def’s critically acclaimed album, The Ecstatic, his admiration for filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and his new album, Old Numbers.
SS: Explain the title of the new album, Old Numbers.
Preservation: It’s a collection of old songs of the last 7-to-8 years. I’m just kinda playing on numbers and the old style of saying a song, you know, “it was a great number.” So I’m just putting it all together. It’s basically a title to say what the album is about but not really say it. Just today someone told me they just got it—they didn’t realize it was about old songs. The image for the cover has a play in it as well. The Einstein equation on the train, and trains have a thing in my life as well with my father. It all came together at the same time, nothing too deep though.
SS: The album is really musical. Do you work mostly with samples or live instruments?
Preservation: This record is primarily samples but I do a lot of stuff with instruments. Again it’s a lot of older tracks but lately I’ve moved into mixing, blending, and masking a lot more. A lot of these songs are coming from a time where I was taking chunks and putting things together in sample form. This record is sample based for sure but the other stuff that I’m working has a lot of instrumentation on it.
SS: What beat-making equipment do you use?
Preservation: I have a bunch of different things. As far as drum machines my main set up is an MPC 60 linked to an ASR-10. I’m sequencing on the 60 and putting drums on there and samples on the ASR. There are a couple of SP-1200 tracks on the record. The one with Edo G and Gemini, it’s actually Edo’s SP. I mess with the 1000 a little, keyboards, and live bass. I keep it vintage with analog gear.
SS: Talk a little about the single ‘Disorderly Conduct’.
Preservation: 32 is a group that I’ve worked with for a while. They’re cats from Queens that I’ve known for a good 15-20 years. We just made songs here and there. That song was special to me because I love how they were going back and forth. They do that a lot. It’s rare nowadays as far as groups are concerned. We’re lacking that back and forth and trading bar for bar. That was one of that tracks where they did that the most and it was kind of showcasing that they are a group with some history. As far as putting the video together, the title led the way for the video with them causing trouble in Queens
SS: What inspired you to remix Mos Def’s The Ecstatic album?
Preservation: I had given the acapella to some people and someone remixed ‘Quiet Dog Bite Hard’. I have a close relationship with Jan Fairchild who mixed his last four records. I took a shot at ‘Quiet Dog’ and I liked it so I got as couple more just to play around with. I’ve never taken a shot at remixing, I’m not a remixer and I’ve never focused on that. I enjoyed the process. It was challenging and had a lot of little mountains to climb. I started out with the ones that only have lyrics without singing because they’re the easy ones. You place a beat under it with the same tempo and it’s good. When the singing ones came up you’re trying to find the right pitch and energy. The Ecstatic was sample based so I wanted to keep each track sample based and with that feel of the original. More like revisiting it than doing a different track. The inspiration came from those first two little things that I was doing. There were a lot of challenging moments where I thought I wouldn’t be able to do this thing but I pushed through. I wanted to hear the whole thing as if he were to ask me to do the whole record. I wanted to try to get in his head as to what he was looking for from the tracks he got from everyone else and do my version.
SS: What’s the inspiration behind the song ‘O’ on the new album?
Preservation: That was Dreddy Krueger’s inspiration. That’s one of the songs that was released in the past that I wanted to reintroduce because I think it got lost. It was on the vinyl only of Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture: Think Differently. I did all the interludes on that album with Jim [Jarmusch]. We did it one day. We picked unique and interesting beats and Dreddy had this idea of getting famous quotes and have Jim read them because he has such a unique and interesting voice. They know each other through GZA and RZA and the whole film world. They worked with each other on Coffee & Cigarettes and Ghost Dog. I was just thankful that I was there to lay down the instrumentation to it. For me personally it was special because I’m a Jim Jarmusch fan, not only from Ghost Dog but his whole catalog. I’m a film head so me doing something like that with him was real special.
SS: Who is the one emcee you want to hear rhyme over a Preservation beat that hasn’t had the chance to yet?
SS: Give me a couple.
Preservation: Nas of course, and Dave and Pos from De La. I was with them yesterday so that could be something that could come into fruition. I think Bilal is someone else I’d like to do something with as far as singers.
SS: What’s next up for Preservation?
Preservation: I have this instrumental project that I’m going to release for free in September. I have a project with an emcee that we’ll try to release in January. I don’t want to speak on it too much because it’s a group kind of thing. We’re working and seeing where it goes. If something is not concrete and in its final stages I don’t really want to blast it out. I got an EP with one of the emcees on the album, this kid Yahzeed. He has a unique EP; it’s a short fifteen-minute ten song EP with each track going into each other—it’s interesting.
For the label I’m talking to other artists. I want to put out some Punk stuff, Soul stuff, and Jazz stuff. Me and Chris “Daddy” Dave have been collaborating. He’ll send me a track, I’ll sprinkle some stuff on top of it and he’ll send it back with some other stuff. Maybe some Jazz fusion stuff, whatever comes naturally and we’ll take it from there. As far as this record I just wanted to get it off my chest. I just wanted to release certain songs that I’m close to and set it off with that. With The REcstatic I wanted to show my skills as a producer. With Old Numbers the tracks are special to me but some people might think they sound dated. For me they sound timeless but The REcstatic, the samples are heavy and rare and the record heads will appreciate that. It shows certain things and where I’m at a little more up to date and we’ll move on from there.
Purchase: Preservation – Old Numbers