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Behind the Boards With... Harry Fraud

Behind the Boards

By Slava Pastuk

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Harry Fraud is a man of many musical talents and well-connected friends, but it would be unwise to think that he's made it to where he is just by knowing the right people. After grinding in the industry, he found his lane as the weirdo-collaborator that has assisted most of the emerging New York talent in recent years, but uncovering his own abilities and an audience to accept them was just the tip of the iceberg for Rory Quigley. The Italian, Brooklyn-bred beatsmith—who avoids speaking in clichés whenever possible—took some time between showing his parents around town to speak with Noisey about Saaab Stories, guitar solos, and the challenges of organizing his music.

Noisey: Do you have any favorite cuts on SAAAB Stories?
Harry: I think it's definitely one of those joints where I'm pretty attached to everything we did. We have so many songs that I'm really fond of, so all of them are my favorites.

At only seven tracks, it seems slightly short. Did any tracks not make the cut?
When we decided to put out the EP through a label, it was restricted to that many songs, and we picked the songs that we thought would fit together best in that amount of tracks. We could put out another SAAAB Stories tomorrow with the amount of content we have, and it's not a matter of this song being better than that song, it's just a matter of them fitting how we wanted. We wanted this to be a very "diverse" project—and I hate this word because people use it so liberally—but we really wanted to experiment with it. If you listen to it, you can hear Bronson using different types of flows and different beats than what he typically puts on his records.

Do you know what the finished product will sound like when you give him the beat?
Nine times out of 10, we're sitting there working on it together, so I'm not sending him the beat via email with instructions. The whole time, he's letting me know what he likes in the beat and what he doesn't and how to change it so that he can rap a certain way on it. We're both giving each other a lot of input. But with "Alligator," the first half was a beat we had worked on together, and I was in Florida when he wanted to write to it, but I wasn't around, so I just said go for it.

Between you and Bronson, who is more open to criticism?
We criticize each other all day; we're terrible to each other. Our whole group of friends is really off-putting for a new person to step into. But as far as musically, one thing that Bronson and I share is that we really understand each other. Since we actually hang out and don't just make music, it makes the process easy-going. And he's an artist I know I can play anything to. Nothing is too left-field for him. That's how a lot of Saaab Stories came about: I would just play him weird shit and he would vibe out and see if he catches something. Up until now, a lot of producers would have given him the typical, '90s boom-bap type beats, and we wanted to stay away from that. I'm his excuse to try new things, because I'm a really weird producer who will do whatever.

Do you learn a lot about obscure sports references and wrestlers hanging out with him?
We all came up in the same era. We all grew up watching and playing sports in New York sports' golden era when the Knicks were crazy, when the Yankees won all those championships. With Wrestling, that was the "real" wrestling era before it all got exposed. When Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant were popping that's when wrestling was in its hay day.

So does Big Body Bes really talk like that?
He's beyond that. I'm not even lying when I say that's him toned down. 

To me, that's definitely a candidate for 'best slick talk' on an album next to Diddy.
Nobody talks that shit like Bes. He's the next age. Puff can talk some shit, I'll give it to him. He's an animal on records when he starts talking and his voice is all distorted and he's just going in. But Bes is the new king. He's the one.

What beat are you most proud of producing?
I wouldn't even have one. The newest beat I made is the one I'm most proud of. This is an ongoing single piece of art for me, I could never separate it. It's like asking me who my favorite artist to work with. I love working with Bronson for his own set of reasons. I like working with French for a different set of reasons. I love working with Smoke Dza because of what he does.

Speaking of French, I noticed you weren't on Excuse My French. I thought that was weird considering you were pretty instrumental in his rise, so why wasn't there a Harry Fraud beat on there?
It's not that we didn't record a bunch of stuff. It was just from the business side of things where shit just got fucked up regarding sample clearance and what not. Shit got really fucked, but that's still my bro. The thing that people don't understand about me and French is that we could ever not be good because it's beyond the music. We sat there and worked hard in the studio with no heat, so we're beyond the glamorous music shit. I don't take anything like that personal since I know it's all business; he's my brother for life. I know people were offput by that, but we're going to come back with something spectacular. I don't want to talk to much about it, but French and I are going to drop something soon that will shut people up.

Do you have a favorite musical instrument?
The guitar is something I've always been very close with, just because my father was a talented guitar player. He has this one guitar that's an old sunburt Les Paul custom and it has a bunch of little stickers that I put on there when I was just a year old. I've been strumming the guitar since I could use my hands. My dad was the kind of guy that would pull out the guitar and play it anywhere—after dinner, at a BBQ, anywhere.

Do you play?
I'm not nice, but I strum a few chords

What's your favorite guitar solo?
For my time, it would have to be anything off Guns N' Roses's Appetite for Destruction because that was the first album I remember having. The thing with guitar solos is that they're all so good that it's hard to just pick one out. Each guitar solo is so unique that you can like all of them for a different reason.

What do you use to make your beats?
I use anything. The beats center around Pro Tools, that's the hub, but I can flip beats on my iPad at this point. Anything I know how to use I'll record a beat on it. With Saaab, we went the multi-media route. There's samples. There's live bands. There's drum loops. There's everything. I used to be like, "Yo, I only make beats on a MPC 2000XL." And that's because I said I was a purist. But deep inside I was just nervous because it's daunting to think of how much stuff there is out there, but you have to figure out what suits you best. But I'm always picking up new shit.

That's the great thing about music in general. If you understand the theory of how you particularly construct things and dig deeper than just the surface where you understand your process as an artist and you can hone in on the steps of your process, it becomes easier. I can pick up anything and make a beat on it. It doesn't have to do with the equipment, it has to do with my mind and how I know I make music.

Do you have any classical training in regard to music theory?
Oh yeah. Luckily, I went to private schools where I was always doing something musically. If I wasn't singing in chorus, I was playing the sax. If I wasn't playing the clarinet, I was doing musical theory. I always went to schools where you had to be enrolled in at least one music class. And that's really a testament to my father who busted his ass to make sure I was in that artistic environment and my parents did a great job of enriching that part of my life. My mother was a singer, and that was so instrumental to my artistic development. I'm happy where I am with my music currently, but when I was really young I had this piano at my house and I still wish that I would've pushed myself harder at that. I'm good at it, but I wish I was great. I sit with some piano players and I'm in awe at what they can create.

Does that quest for perfection play into your process right now? How long does it take you to be happy with a beat?
I have beats that have taken me three years and beats that have taken me three hours. I pull up old shit all the time. I've got loads of hard drives at my mom's house and shoeboxes full of disks, so sometimes I'll just go in and pull out some sounds.

At what age did you realize you wanted to go into producing heavily?
I realized it around high school, but I wasn't exactly sure yet. I was just wilding out in highschool, doing drugs and all that. But I knew I wanted to go into music. To get into college, I submitted these four beats that I had made on the sampler with the drum machines. That was the first beat CD that I made, and when I got into college my dad got me Pro Tools and I just started making beats in my dorm. Regardless of where I lived, I was always recording, and it just developed into a professional thing where I got better at it.

People used to not want to give me my credit because my shit always sounded different and the people in the scene at the time were snobby to "different" sounds. I thought weird was good, but people didn't. So I just thought that if I could blend my weird shit with what people were expecting to hear, then I might really have something. I started literally playing a beat from someone that I liked and then playing my sounds right after, just to see what I was missing. It took me a long time to get to there, but once that happened I knew it would be huge. 

What's your favorite Brooklyn era?
I would say the '90s, of course. My favorite Brooklyn era is definitely not right now, I can tell you that. I think it's lost some of it's edge. Brooklyn used to have it's own feel where it was separate from Manhattan, but now it feels like it's all merging. 

What's your least favorite thing to come out of Brooklyn?
The smell from the Gowanus Canal

Do you download music illegally?
What does that even mean these days? I don't really download much music, period. I support people, I still go out and buy hard-copy CDs. When I listen to music it's either on my iPad where I can stream it, but if I ride around in my car I like to have a CD with me.

So what's the last CD you bought?
Last run I did I bought Excuse My French, Talib Kweli's Prisoner of Conscious, Monster by REM, Alice In Chains (self-titled) and Paid In Full by Eric B and Rakim. I was proud of that purchase. That's a lot of good music.

Who was the last person you were in studio with?
I can't tell you. It was one of the big homies from Miami.

Oh ok, Trick Daddy. What are you working on now?
I put out the High Tide EP with Scion and we're putting out an LP with some monstorous new stuff attached to it. That's coming in August. Smoke DZA and I are working on another project. I'll be on Bronson's new album. French and I are in the studio. I'm in the studio with MMG. And I'll be out in Cali soon trying to do some shit for Wiz Khalifa. 

You sound busy.
I've been working hard for a decade, it's just more high-profile now. Right now is not the time for me to have down-time.

Action Bronson and Harry Fraud will be performing at Noisey's next rap party on June 25th at Santos Party House. Grab tickets here.

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