The “future-soul” dubstep producer talks about his SMOG Records debut.
If, perhaps, MTV’s new talk/reality series and “Jersey Shore” spinoff, “The Show with Vinny,” has been on your television, it’s likely you’ve heard its theme song, “Hypem” by DJ/producer Atlantic Connection. Like Vinny, Atlantic Connection, born Nathan Hayes, is also from the East Coast (Boston, not Staten Island). Hayes is now based in Los Angeles where he has worked on a number of MTV shows as a music supervisor or producer, including “Made,” “When I Was 17,” and VH1’s “Basketball Wives.” He has also landed a deal with SMOG Records, the dubstep label that serves as home to 12th Planet and has released tracks with other dubstep luminaries like Skrillex, Kill the Noise and Doctor P. Atlantic Connection’s “The Limit” EP released last week and in its honor, Hayes has created an exclusive mini-mix for CODE that offers a taste of his own tracks as well as a few others.
If you think you know dubstep before you’ve heard Atlantic Connection, you’re in for a surprise. Hayes refers to his genre-bending sound as “future-soul,” citing influences like J Dilla and LTJ Bukem. And it doesn’t end there: Dee Lite, Crystal Waters and pop songwriter Cathy Dennis are all featured on a minimix he made exclusively for CODE. You can check out the mix along with “Catalyst” below as well as our Q&A with Hayes.
Tell us about how “The Limit,” your first release on SMOG Records came to be.
This EP began with a refocus on old school soul. I had to make a strong effort to find samples. And I created a lot of samples. I’d play a Rhodes [keyboard] chord, then layer a hi-hat, a crash, and a horn on top of it, then export those sounds and create a ‘70s funk band-type sample. In realizing that I wanted to go back to that original sound and reconnect with my early drum & bass and hip-hop roots, I focused on a sexy, soulful, bassy, 140bpm sound, then took it a step further and added hip-hop vocals and elements of current trap hip-hop.
The actual EP started with [the track] “Perfect (Straight from the Hood),” and when I’d finished a handful of tracks I hit up Drew [Best] at SMOG, as we’d been talking about doing music for a long time. I didn’t think that anything I’d produced to-date was really appropriate for their brand, but I sent Drew a batch of music, and he replied within the hour. From there, the tracks evolved to being an EP, and I’ve been working with other SMOG artists on doing remixes and other related projects. It’s a good feeling.
You’ve referenced funk, soul, your previous releases, and cite quite a few legendary artists as influences. Tell us a bit about how these influences and thoughts factor into your production process.
I go back to my roots. I find myself reconnecting with what I have always been in love with the most when it’s time for me to pursue a new project. Instead of following the trends, I go with what I know and love because it pulls out who I am and authentically showcases my capabilities to the world.
What would you say to the upcoming producers who are struggling with following a trend or finding their own sound?
Go with what you know, you love, and what’s in your heart. So many of these artists are more or less mirroring trends. I get it: in the concept of art, imitation is the biggest form of flattery. However, if you want to have longevity to your music, it’s important to find who you are. Showcase your honesty. Stay true.
Speaking of longevity, tell us a bit about some upcoming projects you’re working on. What’s next after this EP?
We actually opened for Robyn at the O Music Awards in the Fall of 2011, where I was introduced to Rose Hart and since then I’ve been remixing for [Hart] and doing some original work. We have a single we’re recording and putting a video together for, which I’m excited about as it will be my first video.
- Atlantic Connection - "Perfect" (SMOG)
- Atlantic Connection - "Push it to the Limit" (SMOG)
- AC x Ce Ce - "Finally" (bootleg)
- Atlantic Connection - "Soundkilla" (SMOG)
- AC x Deee-Lite - "Call Me" (bootleg)
- Atlantic Connection - Mirrors (unreleased)
- AC x Crystal Waters - 100% (bootleg)
- Atlantic Connection - Just Like (unreleased)
- AC x Cathy Dennis - Touch Me (bootleg)
- Atlantic Connection - Catalyst (SMOG)
- ATU - Slow (AC Edit) - unreleased