You may or may not know this, but Valentino Khan is a boss. Besides taking amazing press shots that even Rick Ross would be proud of, he’s produced beats for the likes of T.I., 2 Chainz, and B.o.B., and most recently he’s been reveling in the success of his collaboration with Diplo (“Bubble Butt”), remixing the likes of The Bloody Beetroots and Felix Cartal, and still finding time to release a number of free goodies via his Soundcloud. Naturally, we had to chat with Valentino and get him on board for this week’s installment of the Nest HQ MiniMix series, so read on for an engaging interview about producing for industry giants, collaborating with Diplo, his first Australian tour, and much more, as well as a pumping minimix with a few exclusives just for us here at Nest HQ.
You’ve been producing for quite some time now for other artists as well as under your own moniker. Do you find it more gratifying making music for yourself, or do you see just as much enjoyment when your music does well without your credit being at the forefront?
They’re both cool in different ways. When I’m making music as the artist myself it’s awesome to be able to literally make whatever I want. As mainstream as the whole EDM scene has become, it’s still underground in terms of pushing boundaries and breaking new sounds. I think creating things in that world and being surrounded by peers who are doing the same is always very refreshing. It’s always great to be appreciated and it’s more satisfying when you’re delivering a sound that hasn’t really been heard before.
However, when you’re doing something for an artist, I feel you have to maximize their potential within the confines of a track. You’ve got to leave space on your beat for their vocals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dumb it down. If you look at the beat I did for B.o.B., there’s a ton of layers and instruments involved. It’s almost like a symphony orchestra. At the same time, there was a ton of room for him to deliver this one huge verse and show off his lyricism.
On the other hand, if you hear the song I did for T.I. & 2 Chainz, my production is simpler but still effective in my mind. There’s a lot of ways you can approach it, but the gratification comes when you’re able to create something that is coherent but sounds great overall.
To me, the satisfaction comes through taking on a song or a project and nailing it. If you get way too caught up with the appreciation of your music, you’re going to lose yourself.
It seems like you and Diplo have been doing a good amount of work together. How did you initially link up with him and do you have any new tunes with him coming out you can tell us about?
I did a release on Mad Decent called “Rukus” (with Will Bailey) and the day it came out, he hit me up. I actually was at the zoo in San Diego looking at snow leopards when he called me. We talked about working on some music, and months later “Bubble Butt” was born.
It was nice to put a twist on the traditional Major Lazer sound. It wasn’t originally supposed to be a hip hop record, but it ended up that way. It’s probably not something you’d typically hear on their albums but it still has a bit of dancehall influence. It’s more of a crossover record into “airplay” hip hop. I think it’s dope that it’s been getting a ton of mainstream radio play considering that Major Lazer is kinda known as this cool EDM-dancehall act that takes chances.
In terms of future collabs with us two, all I can say right now is stay tuned!
The Khan Down Under tour kicks off next month in Australia. How exciting is it for you to be doing your own headline tour over there? Have you played Australia much before?
It’s really rad. It’s my first trip to Australia so I’m glad we’re kicking things off in such a big way. I’ve got some time off in Sydney in the middle of the tour so I’m looking forward to hanging out there and soaking up the city. It’s nice whenever you can have that to break up a trip when you’re constantly in & out of cities.
I’m definitely maxing out my credit card on expensive restaurants. So if anyone has any recommendations, please tweet them at me.
While most of your productions live in the Bass/Trap/Moombah world, you’ve also been known to put out music in multiple other genres. What is your musical bread & butter? Or in other words, what’s your favorite sound to make in the studio?
I don’t have one particular sound I like to make. The fun part of doing this is you can be as versatile as you want and I pride myself on that. I set out a challenge for myself a while ago to do everything and do it well. I think producers boxed into only one sound or are overly concerned with what their “brand” is. I just want to make great music. It probably is harder to quickly connect with a core audience when you make so many different genres, but I’m appreciative of the fact that I’ve been able to overcome that.
The interesting part for me is balancing both my hip hop productions and the EDM stuff. You have to go into it with completely different mindsets when you’re making them. Then within the electronic music you’ve got so many different sub-genres that there’s so much possibility in terms of what you can create.
I’ve been on a 128 BPM house kick as of late and I’ve been really intrigued by being unique within that space. Still, I always want to make a variety of music and put my own stamp on it.
Give us a handful of artists outside of the dance music world that have helped shape you as a musician.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that was full of great music. My parents always played cool shit. I’d be two years old and dancing to James Brown and Prince in the living room. I grew up on hip hop and would even wear my clothes backwards like Kriss Kross when they first came on the scene.
That being said, I would say that hearing the work Timbaland, Dr. Dre & The Neptunes was the first time I knew what a producer was. Ever since I was a kid, I was always more drawn to listening to the beat over the artist for some reason. They definitely paved the way for people like me to get appreciated as the guy making the music behind the performer. First I had an interest in it, then I realized I was good at it and then I realized that’s all I wanted to do, no matter the cost.
My first exposure to modern electronic dance music was hearing “Waters Of Nazareth” by Justice after my brother played it in his room. That was the first dance record I couldn’t stop listening to. After a bit, I got into artists like Boys Noize & The Bloody Beetroots and then had the urge to start making it myself.
The first task was figuring out the standard “intro-build-drop” song structure. Coming from a hip hop background, the musical changes are very rigid and often abrupt, so I would be picturing songs in loops and segments. Producing a new genre definitely opened up my mind. I’d definitely say that doing each genre has been a positive influence on the other. I’ve learned a lot just from being in those two worlds and incorporating & infusing my influences into one another.
What else is coming up for you that we haven’t touched on? Any releases or big shows on the docket for this fall?
I’m definitely going to be putting together at least one proper EP before the end of the year. I’m finishing music and making new stuff. I just want to put out something I’m really proud of that makes sense musically.
Also, I’ve got some amazing collabs I’m working on right now. I can’t say who yet, as none of them are finished, but I’m excited to wrap them up and share them soon!
As far as shows go, if there’s one in particular that I’m looking forward to playing it’s a show on 9/27 at LIGHT in Las Vegas with my dudes Skrillex & Jack Beats. I’m doing some festival dates in the fall but unfortunately the lineups can’t be announced yet.
Finally, tell us a little about this MiniMix you’ve put together for us. With only 30 minutes, track selection is pretty key…
It’s so damn hard picking only 30 minutes of music! Even in my live sets, if I play for 90 minutes I always want to play for two hours. I always regret it when I’m not able to squeeze one more song in there.
The tunes I picked are from a bunch of different genres. That’s the way I like to DJ live. Many of these are tracks I’ve been playing out and I also threw in a couple of unreleased exclusives in there from myself.
I sincerely hope everyone enjoys the mix and my long-winded interview.
01 Gesaffelstein – Control Movement (Valentino Khan Bootleg)
02 Moska – Sick Kick (Wiwek Remix)
03 Alvaro & Mercer feat. Lil Jon – Welcome To The Jungle (Original Mix)
04 Tinie Tempah feat. 2 Chainz – Trampoline (MONSTA Remix)
05 Showtek & Noisecontrollers – Get Loose (Original Mix)
06 Valentino Khan – ??? (ID) ???
07 Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike – Mammoth (Heroes x Villains vs. Carnage Festival Trap Remix)
08 Valentino Khan – Cavepaint (Trap VIP)
09 Kill The Noise – Rockers (Bro Safari & UFO Remix)
10 Valentino Khan – The Dip (Original Mix)
11 Kill The Noise – Mosh It Up (Original Mix)
12 Showtek – FTS (Original Mix)
13 Valentino Khan – Luxe (Valentino Khan’s Trap Myself Remix)
14 Crookers & RVBRA – POPTHAT (Original Mix)
15 Chuckie – Who Is Ready To Jump (Valentino Khan’s Warhorn Remix)
16 Lazy Rich – Brainfreeze (Original Mix)
17 Felix Cartal feat. Koko LaRoo – Young Love (Valentino Khan Remix)
18 Autoerotique – LZR FNK (Original Mix)
19 Jesse Slayter – Bleesh (Original Mix)
20 Major Lazer feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga & Mystic – Bubble Butt (Produced by Valentino Khan & Diplo)