Category Archives: Features

Talking with Grammy Winner Steve Pageot

Steve Pageot

Gold and Platinum plaques, a Grammy award and negotiations to work on Michael Jackson‘s next studio album – these are credentials anybody would be more than proud of. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for producer/engineer/musician/composer, Steve Pageot. He’s definitely making major moves and is a mogul in the making.

You’re based in New York, but you were actually raised in Montreal. Do you think having been raised in Montreal influenced your music in any way?

Yeah it has. Because I grew up in Montreal I was able to listen to all types of music. You know, Montreal is a very multi-cultural city. So by being around different cultures, you learn about different backgrounds and wherever you go in Montreal, if it’s on Victoria, you’re going to hear reggae music; if it’s on Cote-Des-Neiges Street, you’re going to hear hip-hop music; going downtown you’ll hear European music, you feel me? So I grew up being accustomed to these different styles of music.

Your father is a musician as well. I heard he had you playing the guitar since the age of 3. Was he strict with you in a boot camp/Jackson 5 type way or was it more of a relaxed environment that gave you the freedom to follow your own path?

It was the Jackson 5 bootcamp. I was an only child and he was trying to make the Jackson 5 with just me. [laughs] It wasn’t easy at all. I think the minute I came out of my mom’s stomach, he had plans for me. Thank God later on my brothers came into the picture and took some of the slack for me. My brother Ric’key is a piano player and he’s actually the musical director for Cirque Du Soleil‘s Delirium show. My youngest brother, Tony, he’s a drummer. He goes to music school at Vanier College in Montreal. My mom bought us the instruments to learn and my father taught us how to play and developed us as musicians. So we’re really a musical family.

In the past, you’ve said that you play the flute on every song that you produce. That’s your signature sound. What made you choose the flute as opposed to another instrument?

Well, after playing the guitar, I started playing the recorder in elementary and when I went to high school, they weren’t teaching the recorder; they had the concert flute. I switched to the concert flute, learned to play it and I’ve been playing it since. It was only right for me to play the flute on every record I produce, you know. To be different, to bring something different to the table. And so far, it’s been a success for me.

Coming from the background of being a musician first, how important do you think it is for a beatmaker to know how to read music?

It’s very important because if you’re mixing… okay let’s say if you have a loop, and you’re trying to put another sample to a loop, then if you’re a trained musician, you’re going to notice that certain samples won’t go with the loop or with another sample, just because your ear has been trained. But you find a lot of beatmakers, they’ll just put loops together and most of the time the loops are going to crash. Or they’re going to try to mix the sample with an acapella and it won’t even make sense, because the harmonies are not going to mesh.

Do you think producers in the traditional sense of those who produce, direct and arrange a song, will become less and less in demand as software and equipment become more affordable for beatmakers to enter the game?

No, because at the end of the day, it’s the real musicians who are going to make it happen. A software can’t make a beat for you. You need somebody with the knowledge of music to make something happen, to make real music. The beatmakers who don’t really know how to make music, they don’t last forever. They’re hot one minute and then the next year, you don’t hear about them. Somebody like Babyface, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – 20 years from now they’re still going to be making music because they know the fundamentals. Even if you come with a new software, you’re still going to need somebody like them or like myself, to take that software to the next level

You taught yourself how to work the boards and become an audio engineer. Nowadays, you’re teaching at SAE in New York. Having seen both sides, would you recommend a newcomer to the game to go to school for audio engineering, or would you recommend them to go buy the equipment and teach themselves?

That’s a good question. Well, I would tell them to do both. There are certain things that they teach you when you go to school, the technical stuff. But when you learn on your own, you’re learning by trial and error. You get your hands dirty. It’s going to teach you the process of using music equipment. Even if you’re doing it on your own, there’s a lot of reading. You’ve got to put more hours into it, compared to if you were to go to school.

How did you break into producing music for movies, television and video games?

This is how it happened – In 1999, a friend of mine introduced me to a lady who was working for Arista Records. I introduced myself; I told her I produce records and also compose music and she told me about a friend of hers who lives in her building who’s a jingle producer and he’s looking for composers because he has too much work. So the next day, I sent my package to her and she sent it to the jingle producer. He called me a week later and told me he would like to meet me. I played him some of my scores and he loved them. That’s how I got into the game. But working with him, he taught me how to make music for jingles. Making jingles and making records are two different things. In a jingle, you’ve got 30 seconds or 60 seconds to put all your ideas together. But making a record, you’ve got about 4 minutes to express yourself. So by me doing jingles, it made me work faster and smarter. So now when I do records, it doesn’t take me that long to make. Then with the experience of that, I got into making music for TV – for MTV and VH1. But it all started with the jingles.

Is there more money in producing for avenues like television and video games as opposed to producing for artists?

Oh yeah. With a 30 second jingle, I can make $30,000. Actually, there’s a book coming out very soon by Wendell Hanes called The 30/30 Career: Making 30 Grand in 30 Seconds. I wrote a chapter in there about mixing – the difference between mixing music for records and mixing music for TV. That should be coming out very soon.

You won a Grammy in 2003 for your work with Aretha Franklin. That’s a big look! What kind of effect did that have on your career as an engineer and producer?

It made my situation become legit. My phone calls get returned. When people talk to me, they speak to me in a very respectful way. Because of that Grammy, I get free equipment from different companies. Right now I got like 10 major endorsement deals. So it’s a respect thing. Actually, I won the Grammy in 2004, but it was for something I did in 2003. So I got the Grammy in 2004.

What artists are you working with right now?

Right now, I just finished working with this female singer named Jade Ewen. She’s signed to Sony London. I wrote and played the flute on 3 records. And I just signed this girl named Sahara. She played Georgia in the movie Akeelah and the Bee. She’s a 16 year old singer from Los Angeles.

You just signed her? You have a label or production company?

Yeah, I have a production company, Pageot Productions. So I’m going to do her material and then go and shop a distribution deal for her.

Describe a typical day in your life.

A typical day in my life is like.. [pauses] waking up at 7 o’clock. I work out, and then from 9 o’clock it’s the phone calls, making sure I handle my business, you know. Find out who’s doing what, what they’re working on. And then from 12 o’clock, I’ll start making tracks for MTV and VH1. After that, I’ll practice the flute for a couple of hours, and then I’ll have artists come in and work on songs or demo songs. Then at night time, I’ll work on my mixing. It’s a full day for me. From 9-10 o’clock until 4 o’clock in the morning, I’ll go out and party and network, and then back at it again.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Man.. the hardest part of my job, is trying to filter all the ones that’s trying to b.s you. There’s so many people out there who say that they do things, but at the end of the day they just know somebody who knows somebody else who can do something. So, them b.s’ing you makes you waste your time, thinking that they’re the ones who are going to come up with something for you, but they don’t. I think that’s the hardest thing.

Work aside, what artists are you currently listening to for your own pleasure?

Right now, Michael Jackson. I love listening to Michael, you know. Actually, I just signed a management deal with Michael Jackson’s managers, Frank DiLeo and Terry Harvey. So they’re managing me now, and we’re in talks to bring me into the studio for Michael Jackson’s next studio album. I’ve been listening to a lot of James Brown lately and Stevie Wonder. I’m going back into the old school. There’s always something you can learn from it. You gotta know what happened in the past to go into the future.

What’s next for you? What goal do you wish to accomplish next?

You know what I’d really love to do? I’d really love to go around the world and do seminars. Teach people how to play music. Show them that you really got to go to school to learn this music in order to be respected. Don’t just take a drum machine, start playing it and think that you’re a musician. You know, just how all the old school people did; like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, they all went to school to learned how to play music. If you want to go down in history, just do the right thing, you know. My goal is to become the new blueprint of producers. Like what Quincy Jones was to us, I want to be that producer for the next generation – and for this generation.

You can find Steve Pageot at Make sure to tell him you found him through!

Steve Pageot in the studio

Select Discography

Music Score – Rob & Big Seasons 1,2 & 3 (MTV) – 3rd season currently airing every Tuesday at 10:30pm
Music Score – Miami Ink (A&E)
Music Score – Run’s House Season 2 (MTV)
Music Score – Breaking Bonaduce Season 2 (VH1)
Mixing – Garnier Fructis Commercial with Memphis Bleek
Engineering – 8Ball & MJG “Gangsta” (GOLD PLAQUE)
Engineering – New Edition “All On You”
Engineering – ESPN New Year’s Eve Special with Kanye West
Engineering – Aretha Franklin “Wonderful” (GRAMMY WINNER)
Production – Bone Thugs N Harmony “Call Me”
Production – Krayzie Bone “War Iz On” ft. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt & Layzie Bone (PLATINUM PLAQUE)
Live Instrumentation – Talib Kweli “Listen” (Flute)
Live Instrumentation – Planet Asia “It’s All Big” (Flute & Keyboard)

Industry Talk With Bad Boy A&R Conrad Dimanche – Part 2

Conrad Dimanche

Earlier this week I featured Part 1 of my interview with Bad Boy A&R, Conrad Dimanche.

Below is the second half of the interview, where we discussed artist development, the importance of songwriting and… jerk chicken.

What do you look for when somebody pitches you a demo or somebody is trying to pitch you an artist?

Well some of the normal things that I always ask if the artist isn’t there and somebody’s talking to me about the artist; how old are they, what type of music, what’s the weight, how’s the personality, how long have you been working with them, what do they do for a living…things like that. I kinda check their character.

On top of asking about the music or before I hear the music, I kind of check different things about the person’s character, because no one wants to have a headache artist.

Are you able to hear past bad production or a bad engineer when listening to an artist and hear their individual talent?

I can definitely hear talent past bad mixes and bad production – just hear somebody who’s great with melodies or just a distinctive tone, even if the music is all fucked up. Just the wordplay that they use, be it a rapper or singer. I’ll be able to pick that out – past the nastiness.

Realistically speaking, how often will Bad Boy sign an act?

Well, there’s no science to that really. It’s just really as they come along. If we found 15 incredible artists that we love in one year, we would sign all 15 of them. I mean, if the budget permits really, because it comes down to having the money at the time for that quarter. You might have to wait until the next quarter and have an artist sit tight, if they’re gonna still be available. But there’s really no limit to that. It’s just about how our passion is for that artist

What steps do you take when developing an artist?

Artist development – there’s a lot of time spent in the studio I would say. This is before media training and making sure the look is right and getting a stylist in, but it’s a lot of time spent in the studio, just pinpointing the direction. You might test out and try different things, different songs, before we nail it. Because you could really build an album from one song.

Once you get that one song and figure okay this is it, we build off of that. And all the songs are going to be different, but there’s going to be a sonic continuity throughout the album that you could really find from one song.

How important is live performance when signing or developing an artist?

Live performance? Shit, I mean that’s very important. That sells a lot of records when an artist can put a show on. It can make or break an artist really. You could have a great album and great singles, but if you can’t do your thing on stage man, they’re gonna throw rocks at you. [laughs]

How important is it for an artist to be a songwriter? Is that a deciding factor for you to sign an artist?

Not really, but it’s definitely a bonus. It’s not a deciding factor – it can be, but it’s not a dealbreaker. If you have an incredible artist with an incredible voice but he or she can’t write. More so for a rapper. A rapper, I feel, needs to be able to write their own stuff. Especially because their budgets are usually smaller than an R&B act or a Pop act. So it’s like, where you might have the money allotted to be able to pay writers to come in – it’s not really a luxury most of the time with rappers – unless it’s somebody like Puff, where we’ll use budget.

What do you think about that though? In every genre of music, we acknowledge the fact that singers have songwriters. Yet in hip-hop, it’s taboo to have somebody write your lyrics. Do you think it’s unfair to rappers?

With rappers, I think a part that plays in that is as a rapper, you always want to have your street credibility, so if you have somebody writing about things you were supposed to have experienced, it kinda takes away your credibility. Somebody else gave you those words, you didn’t really experience all that shit.

What do you do to get over a creative slump?

I don’t have creative slumps.


I promise you, I don’t.

So let’s run through a few quick questions. I’ll ask you something and you just say the first thing that comes to mind.


Favorite Artist

Now or of all time?

Of all time

Michael Jackson

Favorite Song

That’s hard. I have so many of them. I can’t pick just one.

Favorite Food

Probably Jerk chicken.

Oh, and lasagna.

Favorite Gadget

That’s gotta be my Blackberry.

Favorite Website

Rap or R&B

[laughs] Good music

Lil Wayne or Jay Z

Lil Wayne

Chris Brown or Omarion

Chris Brown

Creativity or Marketability


Old School or New School

Old School

Industry Talk With Bad Boy A&R Conrad Dimanche – Part 1

Conrad Dimanche & Moe Arora

I’m not a journalist by any means, but I had a chance to sit down and speak with Conrad Dimanche recently and figured why not interview him for the site.

For those of you who are not familiar with Conrad; he’s the Senior Director of A&R for Bad Boy Records. He’s responsible for all the music that comes out from Diddy’s music machine

During our conversation, we spoke about getting into the field of A&R, developing artists and the challenges he faces on a regular basis.

When did you first become interested in hip-hop; as a fan and also professionally?

Oh man as a fan, that would probably have be [pause]… 89…88. I was just a kid. MC Spoonie G, Flash and the Furious Five. As a business, that was 95. I started making the transition like 94-95. That’s when I picked up my DJ. I started off as a manager [for] DJ D-Lyfe.

There aren’t any programs or schools that teach you to be an A&R; how can someone get their start in the A&R field?

Well absolutely, I would say as an intern. That’s the only way I have ever known anyone to get their start because you it’s not like something you can go to school for. You can’t go get a Doctor’s degree in A&R.

It’s only the experience and learning how to make music. A&R is more than making music, more than signing good acts; it’s a lot of business that goes in between. A lot of business.. you can read about the business, but it’s nothing like the experience also. It’s also a lot of managing relationships. The most powerful A&R is the guy who can pick up the phone and get the hottest producer on the phone, the hottest artist on the phone and get them to the studio like that.

Is there something in particular you look for in an intern? A certain kind of background maybe?

Well you know I don’t try out interns too much in the A&R department. I find that a lot of people are not built the way I was built and the way Harve [Harve Pierre, VP of Bad Boy Records] and Puff are built. The grind you have to do, what you have to be willing to sacrifice to do it. A lot of interns that I’ve tried, they’re there for a few months and then they’re gone, telling me they’ve got to get a job and they don’t even have a family. So me, coming from the perspective of a person that… I had a family and gave up everything to work for nothing to follow my dream. It’s like, you’re telling me you need a job because you can’t buy lunch for yourself and I couldn’t buy dinner for my family – I can’t even understand that.

Describe a typical day in your life.

A typical day, I get up about 9 in the morning, I jump right on my Blackberry; emails make the world go round today. Man, a bunch of phone calls – I deal with all the artist managers, the artists themselves, the producers. So I spend my day having meetings with producers, writers… in the early part of my day; once I get into the office.

3–4 o’clock there’s recording sessions. The artists come in; at Bad Boy we have our own home base studio, Daddy’s House. I live at Daddy’s House; I’m rarely in the office. So I have all my meetings [with] writers and producers, in the early part of the day. When the artists come in we start recording. In between that time, I’m on the phone. Damn near all day – walking in and out of the sessions, checking on the sessions. I work very closely – hands on – with the artists and the producers. I’m not a producer that makes beats, but I work very closely telling the producer, what the sound is supposed to be, what’s the sound for every artist. It’s almost like a director for a movie, picking out the scenes and making sure the casting is correct. But it’s really just building the movie, which is the album – from the first ad lib that’s laid to mastering and sequencing the album.

There’s a lot that goes in between; there’s a lot of negotiating with the producers, keeping the artists in pocket… even [laughs], even consulting the artists. Sometimes I’m like their psychologist. You got a roster of 20 artists and everyone has different personalities, all their managers have different personalities, they all have different issues with the company – so it’s like I have to put out the fire, keep the creative juices flowing, keep all the negative talk to a minimum and keep everyone with a positive attitude no matter what’s going on or who’s cheque might’ve been late or whatever happens – and deliver the albums on time and within the budget.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Probably the hours. The hours and just keeping up with somebody like Puff – the pressure of constantly having to deliver great records. Any A&R’s job, it’s like you’re only as hot as your last hit record or your last great album. Fortunately, I think it was 2006 into 2007; I had three number one albums – in the one year. So I maintain and bust my ass, but I think the hardest part is just keeping up – stamina. Just keeping it going.

How do you find new talent?

Music is the gas for any record company to move forward. Without music, there’s no marketing, there’s nothing to promote. If that’s the gas, then I gotta pump premium gas into our machine constantly. And with that is constantly having fresh new songwriters, fresh new producers, from all over the world. So I gotta get out there, and when I can’t get out there, I keep a network of people all over the world who keep their ear to the streets for me and let me know when there’s something I need to listen to. And then, I’m just the first line of defense that takes it to Puff; just the first pair of ears and if I think it’s good enough then I take it to him.

What are some of the craziest stunts people have pulled to get their demo to you?

Oh man, people have snuck into the studio, bought a one-way ticket from wherever they were coming from and don’t even know how to get back. I’ve seen people sleep inside of their car, parked in front of the studio for days at a time, until they could get somebody to listen. I remember one guy had a big long t-shirt on – it was white and it came down to here [stands up and reaches to his knees] and it just said “I Make Beats” on it.


I stopped. I listened to his beats on his walkman, cause I thought was cool. It was a real innovative idea – you make beats, well let me hear something. I just walked up to him like “let me hear something”. So that was cool.

Click here to read the second half of my interview with Conrad Dimanche.