We chat with the eclectic music producer on processes, influences and gear behind his collaborations on Soundation.
What do Deadmau5 and Timbaland have in common? They’re both platinum-selling producers. They have several world tours under their belts. They’re Twitch regulars and they’re among many musicians raving about beats from the San Francisco-based producer Oksami when he submitted his demos to their live streams.
The producer, developer and entrepreneur has garnered a loyal following ever since he started his YouTube channel in 2018. From flipping samples submitted by his audience to just idea hopping and mashing beats on the go, Oksami’s videos have raked up to almost three million views to date. We recently caught up with him to talk collaboration and social media success.
I’ve heard that you’ve been using Soundation for professional sessions. Any collabs you can divulge?
I’ve used Soundation with a few producers including Vaughn Oliver of WeAreOliver, Jupe, and others. Mostly I’ve been using it for sessions, where we try and make instrumentals for other artists. It’s been way faster than sending stems through email!
How do you usually use Soundation for sessions?
I’ve ranged from using Soundation as a general shared folder for stems to arranging out full tracks and building entire songs. Usually I’ll make my sounds in Ableton and continuously import/export from Soundation so that I can work with a reference. My collaborators and I end up having copies of the same project on different DAWs as well as a shared space in Soundation, which is really convenient.
In one of your videos, you said that it’s not until you got Ableton that you started producing because the learning curve with some other DAWs is too high. What’s your take on Soundation?
Soundation’s been really easy to pick up coming from Ableton, especially as I’m mostly working with stems. Very excited to see some of the upcoming workflow and quality of life changes – should make things even quicker.
What other DAW and gear are you using alongside Soundation?
I use Ableton and a ton of MIDI instrument libraries on Kontakt to get realistic guitar, string, and brass sounds from just my keyboard.
What’s your process for collaborating?
I usually start off with chord writing. I’ll write some sort of bare bones instrumental loop to get everyone started and we’ll each start building off from there, like drums, harmonic development, etc.
Many heavyweight producers have reacted to your beats. How important is getting feedback from other producers?
When I was starting out, general feedback was quite important to me because my ears were untrained and I didn’t know what sounded off.
However, over time, I noticed that I started to seek validation from feedback as well, which was unhealthy. I’d treat feedback as a useful tool but it can absolutely destroy your productivity – you’ll end up overpivoting to fit the feedback rather than just going with what you had.
When I seek feedback nowadays I’m either looking for surgical feedback on a specific part of the track or just an overall vibe check. I think off-the-cuff feedback is the best. The initial ideas and feelings from someone are worth a lot to me and less so whether they like the specific snare sound or EQing.
You mentioned that your dream collabs are Anderson Paak and Frank Ocean. What is it you’re looking for in collaborators?
Honestly I’m not sure yet. Ultimately the one thing I’m trying to do is learn something new every time I’m in a session. The dream collabs are people who have deeply influenced my sound up to this day, so I have very little doubt I’d learn a ton from working with them.
Any favorite collabs of all time?
While not perfect, some of my favorite collabs have been with people who’ve changed the way I write music (Louis Futon, Robotaki, SMLE, Vaughn Oliver of WeAreOliver, etc.) Working with each of them has brought new light to my weaknesses as a producer and inspired a ton of new ideas on my own.
What’s a “good” collaboration in your opinion?
The best collaborations leave you with lasting knowledge.
In one of your videos, you mentioned that in music production “not only are there rules, but you need to figure out a way to make those rules unique to your own personality”. What’s your approach when it comes to making funky, R&B-infused lo-fi hip hop music you’re known for?
I strongly believe there are no rules but rather some general guidelines which help you structure your writing and production when you’re starting out. When I say “make the rules unique to you”, I mean that you’ll inevitably start bending those guidelines in ways unique to your sound. I think it’s subconscious actually – my hybrid stylization occurs because I’m not able to perfectly follow the “rules”.
What inspired you to make music content for social media?
It was more of a reaction to picking up some momentum this year. It seemed worth trying, if only to strike while the anvil was hot. I wouldn’t say it’s my main focus but I’m pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it has been to share my content and process with more people.
Many aspects of your music making is social. You joined several beat battles (Congrats for winning Kenny Beats Battle!). You flipped samples from viewers. Your EP literally came to life in front of thousands of people. What are your thoughts on the impact of social media on the music industry?
I think all this validates how important its social aspects are. The golden era of SoundCloud was a prime example of this, where anyone could be propped up into the limelight from its network effects. Spotify doesn’t feel as strong – you’re not able to comment or repost things to your own audience as easily, so it feels a bit more sterile.
I see Twitch as sort of a geyser for this pent-up social demand, especially since concerts have been shut down. It’s perhaps a testament to how we’ll try and find any outlet for our social needs, especially in music.