Sean Cooper graduated in the first week of January in 2015. He stopped by on his way to the studio to talk about his road to success.
What started you down the road to making music?
I grew up in the church in Chicago Illinois. I was playing drums by the age of 3, and a lot of my family members, my grandfather, my grandmother, were musicians. My mother’s side of the family as well as my grandfather’s side of the family. Eventually, it was just in our blood. We played music because we saw our parents playing music, and I took a liking to it. Drums were the first instrument that I liked, and it was easy for me. After a while, I started playing in churches, and rising through the ranks in the church music scene. My cousin and I, known as Child Prodijay would play, and our names got out and began circulating.
How did playing in the church evolve into writing beats and producing tracks?
When I was 16 years old, I was approached by a group of people in my neighborhood to create beats for them. That night I made 30 beats, many using the TR-808 drum machine. It was an original piece of gear, and I still have it. I stayed in my room while doing these beats, and recorded them to ToneMaster cassette tapes. I took these tapes to them, and they were floored. A week later, they stopped by my house and gave me two pairs of Air Jordans. From that moment, I knew I wanted to do this for a living. My friends in school supported me throughout school, and reinforced the fact that I create music.
What was one of your first jobs after graduating from school?
My brother Percy Bady, when I turned 17, invited me to join him in his work. He was the music director for a lot of artists, including R Kelly. I was on tour as his roadie, and also worked as his keyboard tech, and I paid my dues. Part of me wanted to complain, but in the end I powered through it. I realized that it was like The Karate Kid. Not everything that he did was related to Karate, but it built his foundation to become a martial arts master. Not everything that I did after school was related to music, but I built a foundation on all of these experiences.
What inspires you to write a beat?
Nothing. I don’t sit down and think that I am going to write a type of beat. It is whatever I feel, and has no expiration date. Call it NED, No Expiration Date music. That means you can play the song twenty or thirty years from now, and it will still resonate with listeners, like Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall record. That is my reference go-to record. We don’t make music to be played on the radio, we make music that people will remember what they were doing when they first heard it. I don’t want to make music for the now. I want to make it for the later. I love making music that make people dance, and like to call it Life Music. It deals with life issues.
After coming to school here, it was a refreshing course for me. I was bitten by the teaching bug here, and hearing different people’s testimonies is what drives me. When I came here, I fell in love with teaching. Music has taken me so far, and I have been able to mix with great people and travel to great places. Now I want to give back. I moved from LA back to Chicago, and wanted to teach young people about the life that I have lived through music, and how music saved my life. It kept me off the streets. In 2019, I plan on opening a new school for music in Chicago. Money doesn’t drive me. Fame doesn’t drive me. Success isn’t what you can obtain materialistically, but what you have done with your life and with the people around you. I’m growing a lot, and it shows in my music.
What is your favorite instrument?
I’m a strings man. I love strings, and I study them. There are beat makers and producers and it is true, beatmakers make beats, and don’t explore the possibilities of what they can learn by studying the old school stuff. In addition, I love using analog gear. I use the 808, the 3000 and the MPC-60. I love analog gear. I have a Prophet, and still have an ASR, Talk Box, DX1 and the Mellotron.
Who is someone that inspires you?
I have always been mesmerized by DJ Quik. He is one of the most ingenious hip hop producers. When you are a producer, I don’t think you can really be categorized under one genre. Quincy Jones did R&B, pop and jazz. He was a producer. A producer produces music, no matter what genre it is, he is going to make it happen. Some people produce music for one minute, and then they’re out. Art imitates life, and life imitates art.
What is something that you learned at The Los Angeles Recording School?
Frequencies. I learned in depth how to use frequencies when mixing. You can feel it. Once I got here, I learned how to make an intricate mix. You might start with a preset, but that is only the beginning. If I have a kick too loud, it can clash with the bass line. Understanding frequencies helps all of these elements work together to make a great mix. I study to this day funk music for mixing inspiration. I also learned how to create new sounds while a student here. It is so easy to use pre-made sounds on your tracks, but if you create your own, they can never be reproduced by someone else.
What is a piece of advice that you would like to share with those looking to follow in your footsteps?
Study. Study your craft. Even if somebody says you can’t do something, do it anyway. If you keep pushing, anything is possible. My grandmother and grandfather taught me when I was young. Be true to this art, this craft. Don’t cheat it, and enjoy the process. The process is what is going to teach you. Never stop learning. Learn how to read a contract, and know business lingo. Don’t give up everything. You have to value yourself, and make music your business.