Following the release of new single “Paranoid” from the movie soundtrack for Trap City featuring Omar Gooding, Sa-Roc and G.V. Prakash Kumar, music producer The ATG has been a fast rising star in the Detroit music scene. Having had the opportunity to work with the likes of D12’s Swifty McVay on several projects, and getting his beats heard by actor and rapper Omar Gooding, the music producer’s unique creative abilities have quickly been making the rounds in the inner circles of the business.
Unknown to Omar Gooding at the time, instrumental submissions he received from an anonymous music producer were The ATG’s latest work. Impressed by the beats, he started to incorporate them on his next project for “Paranoid” before the two had formally met. After which, the two had the opportunity to meet, and began to collaborate on several songs.
Upon the release of “Paranoid,” the first single from the Trap City soundtrack, the music video attained more than 1 million views, and has received critical acclaim for highlighting the important themes of the movie, which touches on police brutality, stereotypical portrayals of African Americans in the media, as well as the constant fear that many have from racial profiling.
Discover more about The ATG’s career journey, his inspirations and reflections on the new soundtrack for Trap City, as well as his upcoming projects.
How did you first get started in the music business and what were the key moments that turned everything around?
The ATG: I always wanted to be in the music industry, and I wanted to make music and have people listen to it.
There’s a film called Devil’s Night that was filmed in Detroit. The director wanted to take advantage of the fact that D12 was also, you know, from Detroit and they used devil imagery so it was a perfect fit. I was making music on the side and I had the chance of an informal meeting with Swifty McVay from D12, and I let him know that I do music production for fun, but I wanted to be a creator. He said “Let me checkout some stuff” and I showed him some tracks, and he really liked one of the instrumentals I made called “Lone Wolf” at the time, but the song that we released is called “Strong Enough.”
And then with “Trap City”, when I first came onboard, I didn’t have a lot of say but I sent in a few instrumentals. The director didn’t know who I was when he got them. It was basically a test of my abilities if you will but he liked some of them and chose some, and that’s how it started. And that’s how I got into the business.
As an artist, what messages do you want to share with the world?
The ATG: I haven’t quite got to the point where I can express my own artistry, but I want to highlight the intentions. I want to create something that highlights whatever we’re trying to emphasize.
Who inspires your musical style?
The ATG: A lot of people. I think my number 1 influence is Dr Dre because I feel like what he does is very minimalistic but at the same time, it comes from the sound selection, audio engineering and composition of the song. I really respect that Dr Dre doesn’t have to play a keyboard or any instrument for that matter to be a producer. What he does is he comes up with the concept of the song, and writes pieces in order to create the best track possible.
Kanye West is another inspiration and for a different reason, I find him very inspiring because what he does is he takes different musical influences and he’s able to create one cohesive musical composition out of it. He’s able to combine multiple styles of music and create his own genre, and I aways respected his risk taking – especially the use of autotune. Autotune was used by people like Cher, but I think Kanye West really took autotune and weaved it into the composition of a song. I don’t think anyone has used it quite like him; using a guitar amp and autotune to turn a human voice into an instrument. It’s pretty groundbreaking if you ask me.
I also think Hans Zimmer is very good at doing 2 things. One is, he’s well known for his very bombastic sound. Very gigantic sound. I think he’s the face of modern film score and very inspiring in that aspect. But he also does the opposite. He does very ambient pieces of music. He has two extremes, and both are inspirations to me.
All the famous composers as well such as Philip Glass, he’s a minimalist. Very inspiring. I like what he did on “Candyman.” Of course, Mozart. The way he’s able to create these intricate melodies is amazing to me. Beethoven. Even with 3 notes alone he can create incredible music. Those are some of my inspirations..
How do you come up with your tracks? What drives you when choosing to make a song?
The ATG: Right now I’m actually trying to develop a sound that’s kind of cinematic. I want it to sound like a film score but at the same time I want it to be accessible to people. I think Ludwig Göransson, he’s actually doing something similar right now. Great minds think alike so they say right?
Usually I have a concept in my mind. For “Paranoid” I was thinking I really wanted something that’s epic and emotional. I wanted it to sound like it was a struggle against a greater force. That can be oppression, tyranny or some greater enemy, or whatever you want it to be. That’s the feeling I had when I made it. So, whatever instrumentation I chose and compositions I chose, and the choices that I made were to create that kind of story. Or another way of looking at it, is I am trying to create a world for listeners to enter. I have a lot of unreleased music. Sometimes I want to create something that sounds oriental, like “Day of the Samurai” so I try to do research on what instruments were used during that time period, and geographical locations to create that world. So music that’s world building and story-telling.
From the perspective of the music video “Paranoid” which you worked on recently, what was it like to work on that production? How did the story come about? How was it conceptualized?
The ATG: With the video I do have to admit I didn’t have too much say in what the story of the video was but what my role was is recommending that we have the cinematographer from “Devil’s Night.” I knew if we wanted to have a good music video we needed good cinematography. And on a side note, actually before getting into music I wanted to be a film director, and I still do, but I felt music is easier to do by yourself – but I realized you needed a strong production for the song to be presented properly, so we invested effort and of course money at getting the cinematographer to join us to help us create this video.
In relation to what the video is about, it generally follows the idea, the storyline of the movie (Trap City), but what I think was really striking was Sa-Roc’s part. I think it’s very symbolic of the imprisonment, industrial complex themes. I don’t want to give too much of my own interpretation away. I think you can look into and say that African Americans living in the United States are only seen as people in handcuffs. That’s one way you could look at it. People see them as criminals and obviously that’s prejudice but that’s what I see.
Would you say that’s the stereotypical way of how African Americans a presented?
The ATG: Yes. It’s bringing to light the visualization of this very negative stereotype but also bringing attention to the fact that black people are being incarcerated in disproportionate numbers.
The song is really about police brutality, and how this creates paranoia in the lives of African Americans. They’re more likely to be persecuted for minor criminal offenses and it’s also about that constant fear.
What are your upcoming projects?
The ATG: I’m planning two projects that I would like to release. One is more commercial, a showpiece if you like. I’m trying to get in contact with some pretty big artists, and we’ll see what happens on that front. I just want to create songs that I think people should hear the production style I am trying to create. I’ve been very inspired by Christian Theology and Greek mythology as well as various tales from around the world. So I kind of want to create a conceptual album that tells the story of this character who encounters these various trials and tribulations in a mythological setting, and I want the music to sound very mythological, biblical. It’s going to be pretty hard to pull off but I’m going to try. I’m probably not even doing it justice by describing it but I think the concept is pretty interesting. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.