Check out this interview, courtesy of Pitchfork Media, of a kid I’ve been hearing about for a second now, actually through friends of his, and was actually was a part of the iStandard Producer Showcase a few years ago.
MP3: Clams Casino: “Motivation”
Hip-hop producer Clams Casino— aka 23-year-old physical therapy student Mike Volpe– just released his first beats tape for free online. But he’s been chopping drums for about 10 years, first for fun and then for an increasingly high-profile group of rappers including web sensation Lil B and Soulja Boy. The recent mixtape highlights his signature style, which combines thick, East Coast snare and bass hits with blurry, almost-new-age-y samples. It’s an intoxicating sound that recalls singer-producer How to Dress Well’s Xanex’d approach to R&B (though Volpe has never heard HTDW’s music).
Currently residing in Nutley, New Jersey, Volpe is the son of a musician father and started playing drums at six. After making beats in his spare time in high school, he started messaging MCs on MySpace in 2007 and simply “sent beats to whomever answered.” He’s currently interning at a hospital full-time and doesn’t have any big rap-producer dreams. “I just do it for a hobby,” he told me in a recent phone interview.
Even so, his self-titled tape is now being released on vinyl by experimental label Type (Grouper, Jóhann Jóhannsson), and he’s got more than 200 in-progress instrumentals taking up space on his hard drive. Some of those will end up on another beat tape he plans to release in the coming months.
Click on to read our Q&A with Volpe and listen to more of his music:
Pitchfork: When and how did you come up with the hazy production style featured on your mixtape?
Clams Casino: The first thing I remember doing like that was a remix of Mobb Deep’s “Got It Twisted” in 2006. Soon after that, I was in a beat battle and I made another beat like that, and it turned out really good. It just went from there. Lil B’s “I’m God” was the one that got the biggest reaction, so I started doing more shit like that.
Lil B: “I’m God” (produced by Clams Casino)
Pitchfork: How did you hook up with Lil B originally?
CC: I sent him a message on MySpace around September 2008 and he gave me his e-mail a few weeks later. I sent him a few things and he ended up freestyling on one of them. I just kept sending him more stuff.
Pitchfork: Have you hung out with him?
CC: Nah. I’ve never even met him. I talk to him on the phone here and there and we e-mail and text all the time, though. I’ve been to the two recent shows he’s done in New York City, but I’ve never hung out with him. For the first show, I bought two tickets online a month before but I had no idea it was going to sell out, so a few of my friends couldn’t get in. I went in for half of the show but then I had to leave early.
Pitchfork: Your samples aren’t really obvious, for the most part. How do you find them?
CC: Well, the sample in “Motivation” is based on a 30-second clip of a voice and some noise in the background that I found online. I just search for free sounds– that’s how I get all my drum sounds. I try to cut stuff up as much as I can to make it my own; when I really chop something up a lot and make it totally different, I feel really good about it.
Like, my beat “Realist Alive” samples the song “Hometown Glory” by Adele– it’s not a weird source, but I just make it sound weird. To find things to sample, I used to just type a random word– like “blue” or “cold”– into LimeWire or BearShare and download the first 10 results. I had no idea who the artists were or anything.
Clams Casino: “Realest Alive”
Pitchfork: I went back and listened to some of the songs on your mixtape with the rappers on them, and I liked the instrumentals better most of the time.
CC: Yeah, I hear that a lot. I didn’t even really think about just putting the instrumentals out until I did this mixtape. I don’t really listen to instrumental hip-hop at all; I have RJD2‘s Deadringer, but that’s probably it. Now, all I want to do is put out instrumental stuff.
Pitchfork: Have any more well-known rappers hit you up for beats recently?
CC: Not really. Though, around Christmas, Lil B texted me like, “Soulja Boy wants you to send some sample beats through.” So I sent three beats and Soulja put them out. We were supposed to do a whole mixtape together but it never happened. Honestly, that’s one of the things that makes me want to do instrumental stuff, too. Because people tell me to save something for them and then they never rap on it. The beats just sit around for months. It’s frustrating.
MP3: Clams Casino: “Numb”
Pitchfork: Are there any rappers that you’d really like to work with?
CC: Number one is probably Cam’ron. I feel like he would fit my beats best. I’ve tried to reach out to him on Twitter but I haven’t been able to get in touch. My other favorite rappers are Lil Wayne, Lil B, Juelz Santana, and 50 Cent. And my favorite producers are Young L from the Pack, Alchemist, Heatmakerz, and RZA.
Pitchfork: Finally, is clams casino one of your favorite dishes?
CC: I don’t know if I’ve ever had it, honestly.
Originally Posted by Ryan Dombal on March 31, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.