Not content with solely producing music, today's alumni Aidan Burke is the owner of Beats by Burke; an online platform that offers his music on a broader spectrum. We sat down with Aidan to chat about his business, his early life with music and how Bram Stoker's Dracula helped inspire his latest release…
Tell us a little about your journey into music, how you first got into making music and what led to where you are now?
I came from a musical family: My mum being a violin and harp teacher, and my dad used to play the flute, guitar, drums and he used to build harps. My brother is a metal head and played guitar as well. So I was always surrounded by music. I learned to play drums when I was young but it wasn’t until my mates introduced me to Dubstep, Techno and House at the age of 15-16 years old that I figured production was my true calling in music. What led to where I am? A few parties and some countless hours in front of the computer screen.
How did you find out about dBs Music and why did you choose to study with us?
I was searching for one year courses, as I had completed a three years of study in Ireland and dBs popped up. This was one of the only options to cater to people like me who hadn’t gone the traditional BA route.
Coming to Bristol from Dublin is quite a leap. What motivated you to study with us here?
Coincidentally my parents lived in Bristol before my brother and I came along. I told my mum about the course and she recommended Bristol. I was also massively inspired by the likes of Pinch, Kahn, Neek, Boofy & Hi5Ghost, Ruffhouse to name a few. There was just darker, evil sound here which I was obsessed with before I moved here.
You recently released your horror-tinged single ‘Bram Stoker/Dracula’. Could you tell us a little more about how those tracks came together?
Bram Stoker - I was listening to a lot of Earl Sweatshirt and he had a track with Vince Staples called Centurion; it has a very recognisable sample from David Axelrod. I decided to flip it into a 140 tune for the UK guys to spit on. I was also reading Bram Stoker's Dracula at the time. During the search for a name I spotted the book on my desk and the rest is history.
Dracula - I had been watching some horror movies, which is where the sample came from in the intro. I tried to put that sample into several tunes for a year before I made Dracula. I knew the sample was special and the track had to meet a criteria for it to warrant that sample. The day I figured it out, it was a Sunday morning after four days straight of sound design, the main ‘drop’ was ready and from there I knew the sample would fit the intro. My housemate even knocked on my door asking, "what the f*** was that tune?"
Has literature always played a part in inspiring you creatively?
Certainly in the past two years, but in all honesty inspiration comes from everywhere with me; movies, books, conversations, walking, lifting weights, sometimes I’ll even hear a bus drive by and I’ll spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out how to reconstruct that sound.
Can we talk a little about your business Beats by Burke? How did the idea first come about and grow into what you have now, and how does the service work?
I love the American scene as much as I love the UK scene. I’ve always wanted to produce a multitude of music as well and not just slamming horror inspired Grime/Dubstep crossovers. I read a book called the Bedroom Super Producer by J.T. Cloutier, which proposes a model of licensing music online as a means to make a living. It seemed like a great idea because now I don’t need to rely on the old model of people buying my music solely for the love, now I can market to people who require music as a service.
The service works on a site called BeatStars. There’s a built in contract system, once a customer buys a lease or exclusive rights to a track, they receive a contract and the music piece instantly. I still receive publishing royalties once the artist/client/content creator releases their project using my music.
With this business I can receive advance payments for my catalogue of music online rather than a payment after break-even for costs or sales/steaming. The music is available! It isn’t in a vault waiting around for release at a labels discretion. I also have a wide variety of music that wouldn’t either fit on the labels within the sphere of music I’m known for.
My clients can vary from TV/movie production, YouTubers, rappers, singers and many more. There is a massive market of people who need music, not just people who want to buy digital copies of your product to DJ with or to listen at home. For me, I figured it was the best way for me to utilise the skills learned in university.
Alongside your work as Burke you also work at Idle Hands. How long have you been there?
This summer it will have been three years. I’m glad I got to work at the old shop before we moved. A lot of history in there.
How has working in that environment helped you develop as an artist?
Outstandingly so. I’ve met lots of prolific people in the music industry, gotten a lot of real talk about what’s actually involved in the industry; not the glam life promoted on Instagram. I’ve also got to hear lots of amazing music which broadened my horizons.
What are your must-have tools for creating music?
In my opinion we are the best tools for creating music. What works for me is a clear mind, a healthy body and a good night's sleep. I find it hard to make music when I’m exhausted, or when I’m stressed about something in life. I also find turning off my phone and focussing on the task at hand reaps the best results.
What one piece of advice has proved invaluable for your development as an artist?
There’s too much but the ones that helped me the most would be: Be patient. Practice every day even if it is only for 30 minutes. Get used to rejection. Don’t take anything personal. Split your sessions apart into sound design & arrangement. Be proactive. Make a schedule with your music goals (mixing, arranging, sound design etc.) and stick to it. Motivation gets you going, discipline keeps you going.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
My second vinyl BURKE 002 should be out August/September time. I have remixed JLSXND7RS & Armour which is forthcoming on DreamEater Records after the summer. I have a vinyl forthcoming on Encrypted Audio. I also have a tune forthcoming with Logan. I’m uploading beats to YouTube twice a week, I’ve just gotten a tripod and will soon be uploading beat making videos & tutorials. I’m also exploring the idea of a sample pack.
I will also be heading out to Oulu, Finland for a show at 45 Special alongside Killa P on 2nd August! You can find out more about the event here.