Professor Fox - Class is in session

Posted by Zachary Sutter on

DPTR got to sit with Zak Jablow aka Professor Fox at his studio and learn what it takes to map your way around the music industry. Jablow has worked his way to become one of the top people to see if your looking to find your sound. He's worked with industry favorites, taught classes at Columbia, secured national commercials and is hungrier than ever to produce more music. We get to see what drives this beat making, song producing perfectionist to continue to create and have the latest on his new project WØ؃H∆µ5.

Professor Fox released"AMEN" today  


How did you become involved in music production?

Originally after taking AP chem and bio in high school I wanted to become a doctor. I went to the University of New Haven in Connecticut for a year and decided "this sucks;" and dropped out. I started working for my dad and made some money that I put toward building a home studio. I was living in Baltimore at the time, and Baltimore wasn't poppin, Yung Joc wasn't even on yet. I needed to get somewhere that was thriving. I enrolled in Colombia. I really hit the ground running once I got to Chicago, I met the right group and we would play music for each other.Hearing their ideas and talents drove me to step my shit up. I came from a rock and folk background. I applied those tricks and tools into the hip hop world. I gained a lot of insight from losing beat battles. It was back to the drawing board. As I grew more confident in my abilities, I just went full force and never looked back.

Did you have any mentors in the business? Yes, the Guy who wrote the song “ASS” Kosine, of Da Internz; for Big Sean took me under his wing and introduced me to the right people in Chicago. He showed me the ins and outs of writing pop music, he helped me spread my wings. Once he left for LA I knew I had some big shoes to fill.

How have you been educated in production? I love this question, I didn't really learn too much in college. For me, the networking trumped the classroom. Kosine from Da Internz gave me the best knowledge outside of the classroom he would take me to beat battles, his Boiler room studio on the west side, and even just drive around in his old Buick and tell me my beats suck. He would just completely tear my shit apart. PAUSE. He was really constructive about it though, he'd send me back to the lab then we’d meet Sundays in his car and break it down again until the sound was right.

How hot is the Chicago music scene right now? I would say our 15 minutes are drawing to a near. We had a huge huge run the last 3 years with Chief Keef, all of GBE, Chance the fucking Rapper just exploding. We had four artists listed as freshmen of the year! That's huge. But Record labels are beginning to remember that Chicago has so much more than rap, bands like Gemini Club are playing lollapalooza, Vic Mensa formerly of Kids These Days is back at lollapalooza, tall walker and carbon tigers are about to blow too! Being in Chicago right now is a great place to blossom and gain attention. There’s so much incredible music in the city and I’m so stoked to be a part of it.

What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations? It changes almost every month, as soon as I hear a new sound I immediately run to the studio and try to recreate it. I'm constantly on HypeMachine and Spotify trying to learn how certain sounds are created and reverse engineering them until I say "ahh yes i can do that." My staples are always going to be Simon and Garfunkel / Damien Rice / Eric Clapton / Stevie Wonder / Joni Mitchell / made in heights / Queen. My list could go forever, if it’s good I’m loving it. Cashmere Cat has been putting out some incredible stuff.

Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception? I’m really inspired by sounds, I have 7 hard drives full of just sounds. I like to think of myself as very diverse, I will literally spend hours listening to kick drums only, until I find something that sparks my ear and then build from there. If you were to watch me work you would be bored to tears. Lately I’ve been really inspired by anime. I’ll record a whole show and randomly make chops and record a sound to build a beat around.

What is your current studio set-up? I was working out of a series of commercial studio for years and they began double booking me so I decided to get my own. Not even a week goes by and Snoop Dogg / Biggie / R Kelly's engineer calls and says “I just had a kid and I'm moving to the burbs, I gutted my garage and and turned it into a studio but I'm not going to be there, do you want it?” I decided to check it out and its a fully functioning treated, built from scratch studio. The day I walk in, none other than George Clinton and Parliament Funk are sitting on the couch eating a shrimp platter and that was it, I said I was taking it. We are currently working out of the converted garage, everyone that comes over feels like they're at home and appreciate the vibe. I've been there going on 3 years. In June I hope to move to the biggest and newest studio in Chicago which is right now under conservation.

What's the vibe in your studio when you're with an artist? We go for the approach of make yourself at home. A lot of times we have people buy a day and come in and do whatever they need to do. The vibe is super relaxed, we don't typically charge by the hour.

What is your favorite new recording tool? Oh man, I don't know how new it is but its a sampler called Geist. I don’t pay for all my software but when I do that means I really like it and I definitely paid for this one.

Favorite Plug-in? It is just a run of the mill reverb that I've built my own presets in. It’s called Tru-verb, it literally makes my records my records.

Directing Videos? I like to offer a full service if you fuck with us you're going to get all the people we rock with.

Fav instrument to play / fav instrument to use on a track? Piano to play / drums on track

What are you listening to right now? Cashmere Cat, Supreme Cuts, Mø, and Made in Heights - I really want to work with those guys.

How did you first connect with Da Internz and Chance The Rapper? Kosine was a teacher of mine at Columbia and he taught a class called hip-hop beat making. At the time I knew my beats were terrible but I guess he saw something in me that made him want to help me become better and that's exactly what he did. I came from a more rock background, he would invite me to his studio and I would play guitar on his records and help him with drum sounds. In exchange he just opened the fucking world for me and that's how I got in with Da Internz.

I got hooked up with Chance though my manager Robbie Muller, the mule to my fox, we had been working with Kids These Days on a song called “don't harsh my mellow” and chance was at the recording session. Chance's 10 day was still an idea, he had a tape circulating called 5 day that he brought to the session. We both listened to it and knew this kid had something. During the recording for kids these days, chance was wildn'out so hard that he actually broke a keyboard, after that I was like this is my favorite kid in the world. Robbie and I reached out to him about coming back to the studio and we got to work. I have 3 outstanding songs with chance that will prolly never see the light of day. Or will they? Time will tell.

What is distinctive about a Professor Fox production? The drums, I would like to think that no one has drums like I have drums. I always work from the drums up. I have a depth to my records that just makes it "feel" like a fox record more than it makes it sound like a fox record.

How does producing your own music compare to working for someone else? I’ve never been selfish enough to actually follow through on my own project. Woofhouse has been brewing for the last 8 years. Ever since I was 13 I've been writing songs but have just given them away. Now I feel is the time I release some of my own material, I'm at the place right now where I have the artists and resources.

What can we expect from Woofhouse? I'm a huge fan of this Chicago sub genre witch house, its been a huge inspiration for me as well. I've taken witch house and put my own spin on it. Traditionally witch house is dark, brooding and heavy. My touch is a bit more light hearted and inspired heavily by my puppy sofie.\

Do you have a favorite musical project that you've worked on? Yea, but I feel like everyone I've worked with is going to be really fucking mad if I answer that question but I’ll do it, fuck it. There this artist SKYLR and she literally moved here from Iowa just to work with me on her project. Before she moved she’d drive from Iowa, have a session then drive back, that’s dedication. She was like putty in my hands. I could do whatever I wanted. We created about 30 songs until we had what felt like a unique and complete sound. I feel she’s a true reflection of where I am currently as a writer, producer, and composer.

What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from you in 2014? I'm doing the entire ShowYouSuck album. It's called Rad. And it's just that, Rad. Also Thelonious Martin, a crazy talented producer and beat maker came to me to overlook and produce his project Wunderkid. It's also going to be Rad. One of my favorite bands, Carbon tigers and I will be setting foot in the studio together this summer to create some incredible sounds as well. It's going to be a great year for me.

As a producer, what do you think is the number one mistake newbie artists make in the studio? A lot of people will come in with high expectations and they don't come prepared. They want a certain sound from an album I did right off the jump and I have to explain to them that I rehearsed with that band or artist for 5 weeks crafting and tuning those sounds. I have to explain that a hit record didn't just happen, you have to practice and toil. Before paying me, make sure you record yourself and take a listen, understand to the best of your abilities how you want to achieve a sound and come as prepared as you can.

What drives you to make your passion your full time to job? I wake up and have to get ideas out. I'll be out drinking and be at my quasi happy place and I’ll just bounce, back into the studio. If I'm not creating I feel really shitty about myself, if I know I didn’t do my best I can't sleep at night. Everyone has a work ethic but I think mine is better, if i hear something that blows me away I have to crack that code and find that sound and I won’t stop until I do. It's a double edged sword. It's a quick way to earn a check but also a really good way to have girlfriends despise you.

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UPDATE; In the midst of crafting singles and albums for the likes of Eryn Allen Kane, Show You Suck, and Thelonious Martin, Professor Fox dropped this little gem in our mailbox last weekend. Covered in Honey is a "WoofHaus" Remix of Future's latest single Covered N Money. Check Covered in Honey here, Fox also added the instrumental

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