Meet Needlz and Donut: a likely pairing created in an unlikely way.
The two became partners and a subsequent production powerhouse after Donut tried to buy a studio sampling workstation from a Craigslist ad placed by Needlz.
With various hits under their belts collectively, including Jeremih‘s hit “OUI” single, the duo has seen their fair share of the industry. Check out what they had to say below.
Describe the creative process you go through when it comes to putting a record together?
Donut: It varies depending the style of the song. If it’s emotionally driven, I’ll focus on the chord structure. If it’s more uptempo, or I’m inspired by something specific, I’ll load up a bunch of sounds and go from there.
Needlz: I work when I feel inspired. I come up to the studio and begin gathering drum sounds. Drum sounds get me going. Even if I’m doing something emotional and chord based, I start with drums. Collectively we work in separate spaces. We’ll get to a certain point that we swap music. If there are five ideas, I’ll start and then he’ll finish. It’s rare that we do every step together.
To Donut: what has the transition into a bigger part of the industry been like for you since teaming up with Needlz?
I started my career in my early 20s and started my production career in 2005 with Pharoah WIlliams, Pharrell’s brother. They took me in, treated me like family and I learned a lot from them. I also spent time in the Timbaland camp and picked up a lot of information from that time as well.
“OUI” and the partnership with Needlz has definitely opened more doors. It’s dope to work alongside a partner with great energy and produce hit records. It’s a dream come true.
What’s the most significant difference between when you’re creating a track individually and when the both of you are working on something?
Needlz: Donut can do more ideas per hour. Whereas I am very methodical in the way I work. It comes very easy to him.
Donut: When we’re in the creative process together or with an artist, we’ll talk ideas back and forth. On the creative side, we each have our own headphones, working at our own pace, producing our own music. In the end, we get together and keep whatever’s the best product.
Is there ever a time when you two just can’t agree on a certain chord, sample, or entire track? How do you guys typically handle that?
Needlz: Nah, we’re usually on the same page. We respect each other’s creative vision. There are times where I may not 100 percent like something, but at the end of the day, he’ll add something, one last touch to make it make sense for me. For the most part we agree.
Donut: It really flows. There’s never a big push and pull. We’re usually getting both of our ideas out on canvas before we switch it. So, it produces a perfect partnership.
How did you each, respectively, get into the business of producing individually, and how have your processes and your ways of creating changed as you began working together?
Needlz: I started as a DJ and was at NYU working on a Master’s in Music Business. I knew I wanted to do something with music. I took an internship at Bad Boy. Around that time I was producing. One day I got asked what my side hustle was, I said production. From there, they asked me to start sharing some of the things I was working on. Soon after, they began sending my music out with the other in house producers.
That was an important period from me. It solidified my love of music and a desire to create. But, it also let me know the areas of the industry I didn’t want to be a part of.
Donut: Like I said, I’ve been blessed to be around people who were open to letting me in and share the game with me. Our working together hasn’t required that we alter our creative process. We continue our individual approach and collaborate in the end.
As R&B and Hip Hop evolve and become more and more converged every day, what’s your technique for keeping your sounds relevant?
Donut: The “Fade In” technique is the signature sound for Needlz & Donut. In order to separate ourselves from other producers, we include a couple of signatures to make sure that our sound is distinctive. A strive to stay sharp and push the envelope and ensure the way we set ourselves apart from other creatives.
Needlz: The one thing we work to make sure of is that our sound isn’t regional. One that translates and works for every audience. Nothing extra pretty or rough. Very user friendly.
What would you say was your favorite track to produce together?
Donut: “Lonely Island.” There’s the musical versatility there and hard drums. Our collective knowledge of pop and the experience with some hit records in that space, allows us to bridge that gap.
When you begin to see the direction that a track is going, do you ever visualize the kind of artist that you see performing over it?
Needlz: All the time. Every track we have at least 2 people in mind that can do it. It’s getting it to them is a different story. Donuts’ management, Fakeworks, have assisted with the placing records. Then, we get the direct requests from labels and managers. Because we create music for multiple genres, our submissions tend to bridge the gap between urban and pop. It keeps us competitive and helps us keep our production in front of artists and labels.
Your production isn’t too uniform and it does vary. Is there anything that you feel is a definitive element of your collaborations?
Donut: The sonics. Timbaland is an artist that always gets the sonics award. I feel like there aren’t too many songs on the record that focus on sonics. We have managed to capture the sonics. I think it’s also a percussive sound we have in “OUI” that’s present that really identifies us. Most of the records are about love and positivity.
What are your favorite methods or programs to put in use when it comes to making your beats?
Donut: As it relates to method, it’s important that we work separately to get the full idea out. As creatives, the most important thing is the ability to fully communicate the vision. Creative collaborations can get hard if each artists’ vision isn’t being respected. We complete our thoughts, THEN, get together to narrow down and finish with the best end product.
Needlz: We’ve also switched back to hardware. MPC Touch, UAZ and Pro Tools. Incorporating the old and new. Blending old hardware symphs with new plugins. It gives us endless opportunities.