FEATURE: [MOTU]: Beyoncé At The Top Of Her Game
Beyoncé is on fire. According to Billboard Magazine, she's racked up major milestones in her career over the past 12 months, from appearances at the 2009 presidential inauguration to a worldwide tour grossing $53.5 million with no end in sight. Her latest album "I Am...Sasha Fierce" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last November with a string of Billboard Hot 100 spin-offs, including "If I Were a Boy," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and "Sweet Dreams." After bestowing their annual Woman of the Year Award on Beyoncé earlier this month at a gala event in New York City, Billboard's editorial director Bill Werde quipped, "It is theoretically possible that someone on some other planet had a better year than Beyoncé, but I'm not buying it."
We recently caught up with Kevin "Kwiz" Ryan and James "McGoo" McGregor Jr., who handle computer programming duties for Beyoncé's current "I...am" World Tour using a MOTU-based rig featuring Digital Performer and MOTU PCI audio interfaces.
MOTU: McGoo, how long have you been with Beyoncé?
McGoo: I started in 2002 with Destiny's Child and have been a part of every major tour with Destiny's Child and Beyoncé since then.
MOTU: And how did you get started in the business?
McGoo: My story: completely into music since I was three, grew up in the same neighborhood as Prince — that's right, number 28 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time! — and other greats like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Made myself useful enough to do everything with Prince, from playing percussion on tour, to two albums, to stage and production management.
James "McGoo" McGregor Jr. and Kevin "Kwiz" Ryan
Of course, in circles like that, you'll meet many great bands, and maybe even get to work with them. People liked my work so they invited me to work with them. I got the chance to work on a tour with a now great and dear friend, Eric Harris, who introduced me to DP and taught me pretty much everything I know, although, Kwiz is slowly releasing some of his DP tips and tricks to me, too, I must say.
MOTU: So one thing led to another and you've since had quite a bit of touring experience, yes?
McGoo: Yes, I've toured with many artists, including Destiny's Child, Boyz II Men, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Primus, Blink-182, Black Street, Beyoncé, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, R. Kelly, Kelly Rowland, Mariah Carey, David Sandborn, Tracy Chapman, Barry White, Maxwell, D'Angelo, Blue Man Group and the list goes on. I still talk with many of the musicians and techs from these tours and tell them what I'm doing, and the latest and greatest equipment I'm doing it on, and one of those is DP, baby......DP!
"While building up my label, Reach 1 Records, I'm discovering and coaching up-and-coming musicians on their sound, their image and their studio gear. Of course, I always recommend DP!"
MOTU: Sounds like you are connected to quite a network.
McGoo: Definitely. Working as a percussionist, backline supervisor and production manager with so many greats means I can share tips and news about equipment trends and breakthroughs with them. And even when we're not working together, I chat with other serious techs and musicians on the most recent gear. I've done programming for various artists (Prince, Maxwell and R.Kelly) and I'm currently working on tracks for several local artists. While building up my label, Reach 1 Records, I'm discovering and coaching up-and-coming musicians on their sound, their image and their studio gear. Of course, I always recommend DP!
MOTU: Kwiz, what is your background?
Kwiz: I started as a musician, first as a drummer for local NY bands, then later I started playing keys. I began producing and did my first record for an artist named Jeff Redd on MCA records and an artist named Tashan on Columbia records back in the early 90's. Later I got a production deal with Capitol Records and produced an R&B album for a group called the Earth Gyrlz. The group was critically acclaimed and did well in Europe, but once Capitol dropped their "Black Music" department, that deal came to a screeching halt [laughs].
McGoo with Beyoncé, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, aka Destiny's Child.
Luckily, the studio that I built from my production advances that I got from Capitol and Columbia allowed me to make a living recording and producing for local acts in New York. I ended up producing and engineering projects for MCA/Universal, and also briefly freelanced as an engineer in the now defunct Studio 57 on 57th St. and Broadway in Manhattan.
MOTU: Were you using DP at the time?
Kwiz: In 2000, I was introduced to DP by producer/entrepreneur Mark Hines.
We met on a project that we were both producing for MCA. Mark was using DP, and I was sequencing using an Atari 1040STE and SMPTE Track Platinum. With a degree in Computer Science from Princeton, Mark is a cat that I really respect. He convinced me that DP was much better than other DAWs out there.