Dutty Artz Studio Knowledge: The Critic Inside w/ Matt Shadetek

Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek shares his insight about creative methodologies and talks about how to overcome your inner criticisms while in the studio or on the stage.

The Critic Inside

Having written the first of these articles on the subject of Production Speed Dating, and gotten some great feedback on it from some of my friends and colleagues at Dubspot, I feel encouraged to talk more about creative methodologies. Hank Shocklee (the incredibly influential producer of Public Enemy) posted a link to an article via Twitter about ‘How to Create Creativity’ which I recommend (see link below). In it, there was a quote that got me going.

“Sir Ken Robinson, a 20th-century thinker in the development of innovation and human resources, claims that by the time kids became adults, most have lost their capacity to be creative; they have become frightened to be wrong – they get educated out of creativity.” ~ How To Create Creativity by Martina Skendar

The concept of becoming frightened to be wrong is something that I think holds back many people from entering creative disciplines, as well as those of us who have been doing this for a while. One of the concepts of the Speed Dating methodology is to temporarily silence the inner critic and simply create by separating the creating and editing stages into different work sessions. In beat-making, the time and thought-consuming work of arranging and mixing are similar to the process of revision or editing in writing. This concept is an important part of the process, and one I would argue is critical in defining one’s artistic identity. However, this process of editing, revising and discarding ideas can conflict with the free and uncensored expression of ideas that are necessary to be creative.

It takes a great act of self-confidence and a willingness to risk being hurt by people’s rejections to do anything truly creative. What I mean by ‘truly creative’ is not simply art that is accomplished, well done, or skillfully executed, but surprising, fresh, unheard-of, or new. Many people are content to simply make something that sounds ‘professional’ or ‘just like a track by artist x’ whom they and others admire. Being creative is to go beyond just creating something skillful, which of course is difficult and has it’s own challenges, and to add something new to the artistic or aesthetic discourse: something no one has ever heard before. In order to do this, however, one has to first overcome that awful little man on your shoulder muttering: ”You’re no good. This sucks. They’re all going to laugh at you.”

This thought is The Critic Inside. The Critic Inside can be a formidable enemy and not just in the arena of creating things, but also in the subsequent and necessary steps of getting that product in front of the people, to be enjoyed and judged and sometimes attacked by the critics outside. Your fears are not for nothing after all, the critics outside can be worse than The Critic Inside, and will sometimes say outrageous, untrue and hurtful things about you. I can personally attest to this having received my share of scathing and factually inaccurate reviews. I am at least happy to inspire some passion, even if it’s venomous. But it still hurts. I always take it personally. Fuck you, you stupid critics!

The French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard once said that critics are like soldiers who fire on their own troops. He also said that the best critique of one film is another. He was a critic himself initially, so that sort of muddies the waters on the first point, but the second is one I really take to heart. Words to live by.

These justified and well-founded fears are the primary sources of all kinds of creative dysfunction. As producers or artists, we all know fellow creative types who are stuck at various stages of the process. The first, and probably worst off, are those that are simply too scared to create anything at all, unable to stand up to the critic inside and say “shut up I’m working! You’ll get your chance to pick it apart when I’m done!”

The next are those who are able to start things, and don’t we all enjoy the optimism of new beginnings but when it comes time to finish things may freeze up. Finishing things mean that they are now sitting there vulnerable and ready to be judged, not just by the critic inside but by others as well. You can spot these people because every time they play you something they will say: “Oh, but, of course, this isn’t the final version, it’s not mixed down” or whatever other excuse they are using to prevent you from critiquing their work on its own merits. They are afraid that they are not ready for their work to stand on its own two feet and stand up for itself.

The third type, which I include myself in sometimes, are those who finish tracks, are quite happy with them, DJ them out and give them to friends, but allow them to pile up and not release them. Happily I am not wholly in this category as I do release things occasionally, but the truth is I have many more tracks than come out, and many of which are definitely good enough to release. The problem for me is that fear, especially in releasing an instrumental which I produced alone, with no collaborating producers or vocalists, that in doing so there is nothing to hide behind and people will not just judge my music but they will judge me. Look out for my solo instrumental album Flowers coming soon, ha! I’m making progress in this department.

My friend and collaborator DJ /Rupture, aka Jace Clayton, and I were discussing this on a trip down to Washington D.C. recently to DJ with our singer friend Jahdan Blakkamoore. Talking about a planned new series of digital solo singles by myself on our label Dutty Artz, I explained my fear of releasing my instrumental work as I describe above. Jace gave me an excellent analogy that really helped me to think about this and feel more brave in the face of critics both inside and out. The metaphor that he gave me was that releasing music is like a conversation. You can say something weird, inappropriate or off-key and have an awkward moment, but you can always recover by saying something better, wittier, more charming, more appropriate immediately after, and then continuing in that direction. People will forgive and forget as long as you keep talking. The only thing that you absolutely mustn’t do is fall silent and remain so.

 


About Matt Shadetek

Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary Dancehall, UK Funky, and Dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.

Matt’s early love for Hip Hop and Dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit “Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).

Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature Reggae-Dubstep-Rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, UK Funky and Garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.

Connect with Matt on Twitter | SoundCloud | Website

 


Logic

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Or if you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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  • Tweets that mention Dutty Artz Studio Knowledge :: ‘The Critic Inside’ | Dubspot Blog -- Topsy.com
  • 4/26/2010

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by rico and rico, Dubspot. Dubspot said: Production Tips :: @DuttyArtz co-founder @MattShadetek talks about creativity :: http://bit.ly/shadetek [...]

  • contakt
  • 4/26/2010

Another great one! I loved the speed dating one, this one too.

Please keep writing, some amazing insight in these.

  • shiftee
  • 4/26/2010

I love this series of articles!

  • El Nou Mon
  • 4/26/2010

Thanks a lot for this, Shadetek. This is a really great column and, once again, you have totally hit the nail on the head. Keep it up.

  • “That awful little man on your shoulder” « Dream Essence´s Digital Land
  • 4/26/2010

[...] · Leave a Comment One of my very favourite Brooklyn-based producers, Matt Shadetek, wrote this post about creativity and the fears our society, starting by ourselves, imposes to be truly creative. I [...]

  • THE CRITIC INSIDE - Matt Shadetek
  • 4/26/2010

[...] reading this article over at the Dubspot Blog where it originally appeared. Posted by Matt Shadetek on July 16th, 2010 :: Filed under [...]

  • Zen Calligraphy and The Art of Music Production | Dubspot Blog
  • 4/26/2010

[...] creative people we can learn a great deal from this. Going back to my piece The Critic Inside you can take the student in this example as the inner censor and experiment with the speed dating [...]

  • Zen Calligraphy and The Art of Music Production | Matt Shadetek
  • 4/26/2010

[...] creative people we can learn a great deal from this. Going back to my piece The Critic Inside you can take the student in this example as the inner censor and experiment with the speed dating [...]

  • Maya
  • 4/26/2010

Matt this is great!

  • Matt Shadetek
  • 4/26/2010

thanks Maya! Long time no see! Glad you enjoyed the article. More coming soon!

  • Iain
  • 4/26/2010

Strange i should read this today of all days. Finally got my tracks up on Soundcloud and am quite nervous to what the reaction will be. Let he chips fall where they may.

Great article and words of wisdom. Definitely gave me a positive boost.

  • Creative Strategies for Artists: Advice & Production Tips from Matt Shadetek | Dubspot Blog
  • 4/26/2010

[...] The concept of becoming frightened to be wrong is something that I think holds back many people upon entering creative disciplines, as well as those of us who have been doing this for a while. One of the concepts of the Speed Dating methodology is to temporarily silence the inner critic, and simply create by separating the creating and editing stages into different work sessions. In beat-making the time and thought-consuming work of arranging and mixing is similar to the process of revision or editing in writing. This is an important part of the process and one I would argue is critical in defining one’s artistic identity. However, this process of editing, revising and discarding ideas can conflict with the free and uncensored expression of ideas that are necessary to be creative. [READ FULL ARTICLE HERE] [...]

  • Matt Shadetek» Blog Archive » Zen Calligraphy and The Art of Music Production
  • 4/26/2010

[...] creative people we can learn a great deal from this. Going back to my piece The Critic Inside you can take the student in this example as the inner censor and experiment with the speed dating [...]