For her eagerly awaited new album, Florence Welch teamed up with one of the world’s hottest producers. Emile Haynie and Florence herself describe the making of High As Hope.
As much as I love working with artists and orchestras, brass sections and incredible session players, there’s nothing I like more than sitting in a room full of equipment, and making beats and new sounds and chord arrangements, and trying a new keyboard or drum machine, or new plug‑ins. I’ve done hip‑hop for many years, and the process was to sit in a room with some records and some samplers and make beats, and show them to rappers when I had the opportunity. It was bedroom production, and I’m still into that.”
Thus speaks Emile Haynie, whose own journey from “bedroom production” to being one of the world’s most in‑demand producers has been remarkable. Twenty year s ago, he was a teenager growing up in Buffalo, New York, who regularly got into trouble with the local authorities and spent a lot of his time in a room under house arrest. They say every cloud has a silver lining, and in Haynie’s case, this resulted in his having nothing to do but make beats in his bedroom, using whatever equipment he could lay his hands on.
The beatmaking skills that Haynie developed in his mis‑spent youth were a first step in a career that has led, so far, to two Grammy Awards and five Grammy nominations, and a credit list packed with big‑name artists like Eminem, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars, the Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Pink, Drake, London Grammar, Mark Ronson, fun., Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, FKA Twigs and many more. Normally working behind the scenes, Haynie is likely to be in the news this Summer as the main co‑producer of Florence + The Machine’s fourth album, High As Hope, which looks set to be one of the most talked‑about releases of the year.
“I got into hip‑hop when I was about 10 years old, and by the time I was 12 I was obsessed,” recalls Haynie. “I tried to get my hands on every cassette and mix tape that I could, and was just hoarding all these different sounds and songs. Next I saved up to buy a double tape deck, and started making mix tapes, using my dad’s record collection. I got more and more creative with that, and started selling these mix tapes at school. Around that time, in 1992, I watched the movie Juice, and it was the first time I witnessed the arts of DJ’ing, scratching and mixing, and I became totally obsessed with that.
“By the time I was 14 or 15, I really wanted to know how beats were actually made, but I had no idea about production until I met a guy in my neighbourhood called Jeremy Cochise Ball, who had a rap group with a deal with Payday Records, one of the main rap labels at the time, which also released Jeru the Damaja, Gangstarr and Showbiz & AG and so on — tons of amazing groups that I was listening to constantly. Jeremy had a small studio with an Alesis ADAT and an Ensoniq EPS sampler and some speakers, and I watched him work with that and that was it. I was completely and utterly obsessed with production from that moment.
“I continued to spend a lot of time sitting in a room with whatever equipment I had, and got really good with turntables and mixing and scratching, and when I was 15, Jeremy lent me his EPS, which is a kind of one‑stop workstation, and which was all I needed. You saved your music to a disk and then loaded things up with these disks. A year later I got some kind of digital four‑track recording machine, I can’t recall which, and eventually I got the Ensoniq ASR‑10, a classic hip‑hop sampler, which I still use to this day.”
Around 1999, Haynie moved to Queens, New York, and did odd jobs to make ends meet. He was still working hard on making beats, using the ASR‑10 and an E‑mu SP‑12 drum machine, and later, its successor, the SP‑1200. Both E‑mu machines were 12‑bit with a 26kHz sampling rate, and samples in the SP‑1200 could be 2.5s long. To lengthen this, beatmakers would sample 33 1/3rpm records at 45rpm, and then play back the samples at a lower speed, thereby obviously greatly increasing the crunchiness of the sound. (“I would even sometimes spin the record very fast with my hand to make for longer sample time!” laughs Haynie.)
“I’d be going on the F‑train,” Haynie recalls, “lugging the ASR‑10 and the SP‑1200, one under each arm, on my way to studios. I also had a CD burner, which was a big deal at the time, and I’d visit record stores and record conventions and underground hip‑hop shows,...
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