The Black Eyed Peas - Tim Izo Orindgreff

Tim Izo Orindgreff is a multi-instrumentalist in the Black Eyed Peas Band. He’s also an enthusiastic Akai Professional artist, performing with the MPC5000, MPK49, MPK25, LPK25, and EWI USB with the Peas. We spent some quality time with Izo.

Akai: Tell us a little about your background and how you got the gig with the Black Eyed Peas Band.

Izo: I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. I started playing clarinet in fifth grade and added saxophone and flute in middle school. After high school, I attended Berklee College of Music for a year and graduated from Kansas State University in 1995.

I first met the Black Eyed Peas in ‘97 at a weekly underground hip-hop show that I used to play woodwinds in, called Breakestra. They had just signed their record deal with Interscope and were finishing their first album. From there I did some recording with them and Will.I.Am.’s solo projects. My first stint touring with the Black Eyed Peas was in ‘99 when I filled in for now-musical-director Printz Board on horns. Printz had busted his lip wide open and could not play. I think I was only out that time for about two weeks. I toured with Nikka Costa for a while and continued to do session work in LA for Dr. Dre, Macy Gray, Nate Dogg, Mariah Carey, and others.

In 2002, the BEPs decided to change the live touring line up, and added me playing sax, flute, acoustic and electric guitars, keys, and MPC. I think my ability to play so many different instruments helped me land this gig.

Akai: How did you learn your craft?

Izo: I learned by doing, over many years of good (and bad!) gigs, recording sessions, and tours. The fellas always give me a hard time about the fact that I have done so many odd gigs over the years. I’ve worked with The Temptations, on a rodeo circuit, Barnum and Bailey Circus, on cruise ships… the list goes on and on. I think I learned something from each of those situations, whether it was what to do or what not to do. My first gig was with a dance band playing sax, flute, and clarinet, at 16, playing Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey… even Guy Lombardo. Oh, yeah, I did that gig too – Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, although it was a ghost band by that point.

I left high school straight to Berklee, where I burned out and went back to Kansas. I learned from that as well. You’ve got to have fun with what you do, or else do something else.

I learned a lot about the MPC from Printz Board, who is a great friend of mine, and musical director of the Black Eyed Peas. He used to live with an MPC in his bunk on the tour bus. For real. He definitely exposed me to it as he was using it heavily in hip-hop production.

All four musicians in the Black Eyed Peas, known as the group “Bucky Jonson”, play a number of instruments, so we are flexible in how we approach these songs live. Sometimes I run my horns through effects to make them sound less like horns and more like synths. As far as the MPC5000 in the show, I use it to play back samples and I use the built-in synth.

Akai: How does Akai Pro gear fit into your setup and how do you use it?

I use the MPC5000 with either an MPK25 or MPK49. Sometimes I use it to drop additional drums and loops. Sometimes I use the Note Repeat function for that electro/dance build-up effect. Sometimes I use the Q-Link faders for filter sweeps or crescendos. I just got an EWI USB and an LPK25 and I’m checking them out right now to find ways to work them into the show.

Akai: What made you interested in the MPC5000 for live performance and what's your favorite part of it?

Izo: I have been using some version of the MPC with the BEPs live since 2002. It started because it was a totally live and flexible way to avoid having to use playback tracks for samples, background vocals, loops, and drums. I started with old MPC2000XL. I moved to the MPC2500 because I couldn’t take the unreliability of Zip disks. And now, I love the MPC5000 because of my new favorite feature, the synth.

My favorite part of the MPC5000 is definitely the synth. I am using this on a lot of the new album songs. It is so fully tweak-able – I love it! I also like that I can have my MPC and a little MPK on stage and have so much power and so many options sonically at my fingertips without taking up a lot of space. This is a big plus for someone like me who has so many instruments on stage in a little space around them. My area of the stage already looks like a pawnshop!

Akai: The Peas' mega-hit, "Boom Boom Pow", makes extensive use of the MPC on stage. Tell us about that.

Izo: I use the MPC on “Boom Boom Pow” to play the chorus parts where the bass and the vocal are together. The recording is such a distinct, complex layer of sounds that when we started rehearsing, it was near impossible to recreate sonically. So we took the original files from the Pro Tools session, bounced down the bass and auto-tuned vocals into a wav and imported it into the MPC. It sounds just like the record, only played live. I chopped the line into four different pads corresponding to the four pitches in succession in the line, “Boom Boom Boom.” I do a lot of chopping four or eight-bar lines into sections of either one beat or one bar and then playing them in succession. If you have each pad cut off the previous sample, you have a little flexibility tempo-wise for live performance of longer recorded samples. Like the Fergie song, “London Bridge,” that Tower of Power horn sample I play back on four pads, one beat at a time.

I also play back the “let the beat rock” samples on “Boom Boom Pow.” And once again, sounds just like the record, right?

Akai: What do you do when you're not on the road with the BEPs?

Izo: Presently, I am working on scoring a multimedia movie/stage production of “Dracula” for a theater in Northern California called the Imagination Theater. I am having fun with spooky sounds right now. Some of them are from right inside the MPC5000. I am also a proud new father and loving every minute of it.

Akai: Any advice for someone who wants to become a touring multi-instrumentalist?

Izo: I think the most important thing to never lose focus of is that all instruments are essentially just tools, like hammers or saws. Tools that help us complete a specific job of conveying the language of music. To me, it is more about learning music as a whole than learning how to play four or five instruments. First, one has to hear it in their head and comprehend it before conveying it through one of many tools. I think that developing your ears and theory should come before your fingers.

Akai: That’s what we like to say: We create the tools. You provide the inspiration. Thanks, Tim.

Artist's Akai Pro Gear

The MPC is a totally live and flexible way to avoid having to use playback tracks for samples, background vocals, loops, and drums... [and] I love the MPC5000 because of my new favorite feature, the synth.
-Tim Izo Orindgreff, Black Eyed Peas