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 www.myspace.com/stevepageot. Make sure to tell him you found him through makingthemogul.com!
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)