Artist Feature: Phonix Beats
Darius Barnes, professionally known as Phonix Beats (or simply Phonix), is an American record producer and songwriter from Los Angeles, CA. Following the footsteps of his father, (established musician/producer John Barnes, who worked extensively with Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, and Bill Withers, amongst many others) Darius began a career in music production and became known for his successful recordings with artists such as J. Cole, 50 Cent, Bryson Tiller, Fabolous, Trey Songz, and many others.
How did you start out making music? How did it all begin?
I was born into a musical family, so music was apart of my life from the very start. I began playing drums and singing at an early age. My parents always had a studio so I learned how to use vintage equipment, tape machines (reel to reel), patch bay etc.
I began playing around with my fathers LINN 9000 drum machine around 11 years old and my brothers MPC 2000xl around 13. I always wanted to produce music but being so young it wasn’t like it is today where you can just plug up and play – it was way more involved. Around 16 years old my fathers friend came over the studio (Inner Sound Studios) and had the very first version of Reason. He showed me how to use it and I was hooked immediately. I loved how I didn’t need outboard gear to make music and the stock sounds (Reason Sound Bank) where absolutely amazing. 18 years later me and Reason have grown to new heights. I am now a Grammy nominated producer and the CEO of a new recording label “FANKLUB ENT.”. Who would’ve known it all started with Reason.
When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
It depends on the situation. On one hand I will open up a Redrum and begin constructing a solid drum pattern that I know I’ll for sure want to use and further produce. On the other hand, I will go through melodies, sounds, and or samples. I like to use the NN-XT for my loops/ samples because for me it’s more complex than the NN-19. Once I have the melodies locked in place I create the foundation for the composition (Drums).
What are your tips for new producers wanting to start out making music?
Have fun at all times and DO IT EVERYDAY !!!! You have to work hard to master your craft but it’s worth it. You will create your own musical identity that will be exclusive to only you. Kinda like a finger print.
Do you have any special Reason production trick that you always use?
I love to use the Combinator to create new sounds from scratch. It can be strenuous if you’re not a patient person. I will spend days, even weeks just solely creating new sounds, in search of new musically creative discoveries. Some I can make on the fly, some take a slower process.
How do you get started with a new song? What sparks your creativity?
Anything can spark my creativity, honestly. I can be walking down a street and a sound from a passing truck with a chain hanging off the back can trigger a whole beat in my head instantly. I am never unplugged from the world so because of that anything from nature, random sounds, other music, TV or video games can cause me to jump on my computer and make music.
What do you do when inspiration just isn’t there? How do you tackle writer’s block?
I used to just push myself through, no matter how frustrating it would get. That ultimately wasn’t good for me because I would feel more empty trying to force music and it would show in my work. Nowadays, I do things like step away from music completely. I’ll read, travel, meditate, cook etc. There are so many aspects of life that you miss just sitting in the chair cranking out music like a factory machine. You must enjoy other parts of life because it plays a vital role in your musical development. music is a life path and music is free-spirited at heart. We must strive to be that as well, to make timeless music.
What are your best tips for producers and beat makers wanting to get into the business?
Always make sure you finish your product. Always have a strong mix not matter how tough it is to get it done. Find an artist / writer that compliments your sound. Work diligently to create your sound with him/her. If you’re doing placements. study the artist and understand their sound so that you are familiar with their capabilities.
ALWAYS HAVE FUN !!!! Because it reflects in your music.