Hailing from Rancho Cucamonga, California, the Avila Brothers got their big break producing tracks on Michael Jackson’s record label, MMJ Music, for artists including the female soul trio, Brownstone, and went on to write and produce songs for rap pioneer, Ice T.
The Avila Brothers’ multi-instrument proficiency and knack for creating unforgettable hooks have made them two of the most sought after producers in the music industry. Their long résumé of hits includes Grammy Award® winning tracks by Usher, Mary J. Blige and Chaka Kahn.
Beyond record producing, the Avila Brothers have created music featured in acclaimed television ads by GAP and crafted original music for films including Mo’ Money, A Million To One and The Fighting Temptations starring Beyoncé Knowles and Cuba Gooding Jr.
As one half of this acclaimed duo, IZ Avila has had a huge influence on the sound of contemporary music. Known throughout the music industry as a master architect of innovative beats using his drum, bass and turntable skills, IZ Avila has produced tracks for many of the biggest names in music including Janet Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Yolanda Adams, Mya, and Toni Braxton.
IZ recently visited Akai Professional headquarters and we took the opportunity to sit down with him for this exclusive interview:
Akai Professional: What was your first piece of AKAI gear?
IZ Avila: MPC60!
AP: What did you like about the MPC60?
IZ: I liked it because at that time it allowed you to sample stereo, where as other drum machines were either mono or didn’t have the swing thing together. MPC60 allowed you to have the swing, shuffle 16 tuning…It just had the works at that time.
AP: How do you use the MPC in production?
IZ: MPC in my production has pretty much been the nucleus of everything from sampling to sequencing. Its pretty much the stone in my production role because I’m running everything into that drum machine and creating from there.
AP: What was the most recent album you used the MPC on?
IZ: Usher’s Raymond vs. Raymond, Monstar, and Mars vs. Venus.
AP: What makes the MPC stand out in your mind?
IZ: The one thing about the MPC is it's just SOLID. It has a certain confidence about it and it just sounds warm and full. I think that more than anything, you put that against any other drum machine, and it's just solid.
AP: Is there anything unique about the MPC that you couldn’t do with anything else?
IZ: One of the tricks that I have done with the MPC is where, if I don’t have a base sound at the moment, what I’ll do is pull the ¼” half way out of the sample input and sample like a buzz, and filter that all the way to zero and D tune it and it is like a sub base and it will blow speakers.
AP: What was it like when you won your first Grammy?
IZ: Man, that was like when there is clouds and then all of the sudden the sunshine appears... it was like...WOW. At first it doesn’t hit you and then all of the sudden, like months later, hey there is a Grammy in my living room; where did that come from? There is no other feeling like it. You never think your music is going to take you that far, and when it does, it catches you off guard.
AP: What performers would you like to perform with?
IZ: I’d love to get in with Stevie Wonder, Prince, HIP-HOP would have to be Tribe called Quest, De La Soul. Those are definitely some of the artists I’d like to get down with.
AP: Who are your favorite artists today?
IZ: I would say one of my MPC hero’s to date that really took this machine and created masterpieces with it is J Dilla. He did things with the MPC and made it like it was a real band playing. He was the only dude I know who was able to freak that machine.
AP: What are you doing for the rest of 2011
IZ: I hope to get in a vacation somewhere! After that, to make lots more music for all of my music lovers out there. I’ve got a lot to look forward to; I’m working on my brother's record, going back into the studio with Usher and Anthony Hamilton and some artists of our own that we are really going to focus on this year.
AP: What advice do you have for aspiring producers?
IZ: For all you aspiring producers, I would say get your thick skin together and it’s a long ride but it’s one of those things that you want it to be a long ride because at the end of the day, trust me, you’ll appreciate it way more. As far as your craft just dedicate 110% of yourself to it and everything else will come later. The spoils… and everything else will come as long as you apply yourself and put in that dedication and hard work.