Q&A with Ben Ogilvy

Scene&Heard: What is Ghost Notes?

Ogilvy: We’re a production team. Basically, we make beats for rappers. We officially began in the summer of 2005, but before then my cousin and I had played music together for a long time. He’s about to finish his masters in piano performance at Wesleyan, and I’ve drummed for jazz and rock combos for most of my life. So far, we’ve made beats for local rappers and some people on the LA underground hip-hop scene. Of Mexican Descent used one of our beats for their song “All Turn Native.” It’s on our MySpace.

S&H: What kind of music do you make?

O: We make hip-hop. We aim for classic-sounding, jazzy, worn-in, gritty hip-hop, and we work only with samples. Only by sampling old records can you get the crackly, old funk sound that we want. Records have their own character and you cannot mimic it. You have to let the things age. Basically, we sit down at a computer and turntables. We go to a stack of records, pick one out, put the needle down until we find something we like, either texturally or melodically, and then we record it into a computer. That’s sampling. Slowly we layer and build-up these sounds into a beat. We make hip-hop from a jazz and soul grounding. We make driving beats. We sample because we want it to sound as if the dust has settled on the records.

(More after the jump)

S&H: What is hip-hop at Yale?

O: As far as I can tell, Yale doesn’t have a hip-hop scene. There was that one group, 108 Tongues. There are a couple of kids who are doing their thing. So basically, there are individuals, not a community, and I think everyone can agree on this. I don’t know if this will ever change, if a community will ever develop. I go back and forth. It’s so easy to say that and Ivy League school can’t have a hip-hop scene. I mean, most people see the music as a little bit gendered, a little class-specific, and a little bit race-specific. So I don’t know.

S&H: How do people respond when you tell them that you’re a Yale student who is trying to make a career in hip-hop?

O: I usually don’t tell other hip-hop artists that I go to Yale, or at least I downplay it. It’s an awkward position to be in, somehow, because a lot of the people we work with come from such different backgrounds. Oddly, though, it’s the people who have no relation to hip-hop who find it the most strange. They’re like, “But you’re a white kid from the suburbs.” Sure, the music is associated with a group, class, but it’s also a really popular thing. I don’t know. I like the music I make. I don’t know. Sure, there are certain things that I can’t say or do, but I can act my own way and just make the music. If the music is dope and people are into it, what does it matter if I’m white? Just know your place and do your thing with that. As long as you’re not trying to be anything you’re not, it’s cool. You have to represent something real, stand for something artistically.

S&H: What does Ghost Notes represent artistically?

O: (laughs) We’re getting there. My cousin and I still sometimes struggle to get at that sound, that feel that we can say is the essence of Ghost Notes. For the album, we have made tracks that are specifically designed to work well with the rappers that have agreed to put down songs for us. From what we’ve gotten back, they worked. The rappers we got are pros, and they just went to town.

S&H: So who’s rapping for you?

O: We’ve got some guys from the LA underground scene, and we’ve got a lot of local talent. Right now, we have Micah9, from Freestyle Fellowship. We have 2Mex from Of Mexican Descent doing a track. We have Icon the Mic King. We have Ceschi and his brother David Ramos. From the tracks we’ve finished, they’ve all just killed it. It’s going to be good.

S&H: And you think the album will be out by winter?

O: Hopefully. I mean, you never know, these things can get snagged anywhere in the process, but that’s what we’re aiming for. We’ll have a listening party when we’re done.

Listen to Ben’s music at http://www.myspace.com/ghostnotesproduction

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